Off to a disappointing 3-15 start, the Reds on Thursday decided change was needed to try to save the season. Therefore, Bryan Price is out as Cincinnati's manager, along with pitching coach Mack Jenkins.
Bench coach Jim Riggleman will be the Reds' interim manager, with Double-A Pensacola pitching coach Danny Darwin joining the coaching staff. Pat Kelly, who was manager of Triple-A Louisville, will be the bench coach. Both Darwin and Kelly were named on an interim basis.
The dismissals of Price and Jenkins follow an offseason in which the club had expections of taking a step away from rebuilding and toward contending. Cincinnati dropped 10 of its past 11 games, culminating in its worst start since a 2-16 record in the 1931 season. There have been shortcomings in all facets of the game -- pitching, hitting and defense. The first goal is to address the basics, general manager Dick Williams said.
"I think we're going to hit the ground running tomorrow with Jim in place and a couple new members of the staff, and we're very focused on creating a sense of urgency for these guys to perform now," Williams said. "We talk about rebuilding and there are things going on away from the field and in the farm system and investments in the franchise that are part of that rebuilding process. But when guys show up for work every day, they need to have a sense of urgency to win that day. They need to take care of the details on the field.
"They need to play hard. They need to play the game smart. They need to play it right. That, we can control. And we need to get this team playing that way because we know they have the ability to do it. So that is the short-term immediate focus."
Price, 55, joined the Reds as pitching coach before the 2010 season and was promoted to manager in '14 to replace Dusty Baker. Price had a 279-387 (.419) record, with much of that tenure spent while the club has been in a rebuilding process since the second half of the '15 season.
Along with former GM and current special advisor to the CEO Walt Jocketty, Williams informed Price and Jenkins of the change after the team arrived in St. Louis from Milwaukee after Wednesday's 2-0 loss.
"These are really good people, good baseball guys," Williams said. "Both handled it like professionals, the way you'd expect. They were good."
The club will conduct a search for a permanent manager later in the season.
"This is an organizational disappointment and we certainly -- nobody here feels that Bryan or Mack is a scapegoat for what happened," Williams said. "It's just that's the first step in the process of making this right and trying our best to fix things."
Catcher Tucker Barnhart believed blame for the bad start is shared by everybody. For a team loaded with young players, what can they do now to bring the necessary change?
"Everybody in the clubhouse needs to get better and do more," Barnhart said. "Even though we're off to a bad start, there needs to be a feel that we need to prepare and we need to expect to win every single day. It's no longer good enough to just get to the field and get ready to play. I think we need to get to the field, get ready to play and get ready to win. That's the first step in continued development."
The front office did not make any major offseason additions to address a rotation that recorded the fewest innings pitched in the Major Leagues and the highest ERA in the National League. Instead, the promising young pitchers already in the organization who received big league exposure for the first time last season were counted upon -- along with returning injured veterans like Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani.
While Bailey has performed well (3.42 ERA) despite an 0-3 record, DeSclafani has been out since suffering an oblique strain in Spring Training. Young pitchers such as Sal Romano (0-2, 5.75) and Tyler Mahle (1-3, 5.14) have yet to put together consistent outings. Luis Castillo (1-2, 6.75), widely discussed as a potential emerging ace after a breakout late last season, has not developed as expected.
Although the pitching staff has performed well in recent games, it is last in the NL with a 5.42 ERA and has allowed a league-worst 28 homers. There have been some bright spots. Raisel Iglesias (1.23 ERA, two saves) and left-hander Amir Garrett (9 1/3 innings, seven hits, one walk, 11 Ks, no runs) have been stellar out of the bullpen.
No one expected the massive offensive struggles from a lineup that produced last season and came into 2018 largely intact. But the Reds are hitting .220 as a team, having scored the second-fewest runs (54) in the NL. After hitting 219 home runs last season (sixth in the NL), they have hit the second-fewest home runs (11) in the league so far.
Injuries haven't helped, as third baseman Eugenio Suarez and outfielder Scott Schebler are on the disabled list, and Jesse Winker also missed some time. But key hitters such as Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton also are off to slow starts.
Cincinnati, which has been shut out four times already this season, is currently mired in a 19-inning scoreless streak. The Reds also lost by a 2-0 score to the Brewers on Tuesday.
Defensively, the team has been prone to lapses such as missed cutoff throws, poor routes and lack of execution. Even during the previous lean years, strong defense had been a constant.
Add it all up and Cincinnati was ranked last in the Majors with a minus-46 run differential.
"We felt like we had to act now and we couldn't afford to wait," Williams said. "I know it seems early in the year to some people and certainly it is early in the regular season. But we've been thinking about the 2018 season since the day the 2017 season ended and we had all offseason together to prepare. We were out in Arizona for six weeks [of Spring Training].
"We feel like we're well into the 2018 season and we've had a lot of chances to observe this group together and to see them get off to the kind of start that we had hoped, and it's not there."
Barnhart said he believes there is enough time to turn around the season and that the players won't give up on 2018.
"We've played 18 games. It's been a long 18 games, obviously. No one would tell you differently," Barnhart said. "But those are 18 games out of 162; we've got a long way to go."