CINCINNATI – Pitching coach Bryan Price was first on the Reds’ list of manager candidates. Three hours of answering every question tossed his way ended their search rather quickly.
After one interview, it was over.
The Reds stayed in-house for their next manager, giving Price a three-year deal Tuesday that came with expectations that he’ll take them deep into the playoffs right away.
Bryan is exceptional, owner Bob Castellini said. We’ve been fortunate to be with him long enough to know how exceptional he is.
I can’t tell you how well this has fit in for us. We did not have to go out and do a search, he said. We had the person we felt could take this team deep into the postseason and then some.
Dusty Baker led the Reds to three 90-win seasons and three playoff appearances in the last four years, their best stretch of success since Sparky Anderson managed the Big Red Machine in the 1970s.
But Cincinnati got knocked out in the first round of the postseason each time.
The Reds fired Baker with a year left on his two-year deal after a final-week fade that included an implosion by the pitching staff.
Cincinnati lost its last six games, including a 6-2 defeat at PNC Park in the wild-card playoff against the Pirates. General manager Walt Jocketty said the closing slump was a major factor in the decision to make a change.
Jocketty considered two in-house candidates: Price and Triple-A manager Jim Riggleman.
Price got the first interview and impressed everyone so much that Jocketty didn’t interview anyone else.
I was convinced that Bryan was our guy just because of the past association we’ve had with him, Jocketty said. I think that to bring other people in just for the process of going through an interview – to me, I wouldn’t want that.
The job carries enormous expectations for the 51-year-old Price.
Given his four successful seasons in Cincinnati, he wanted to stay if possible.
It’s a team that’s capable of doing even more, Price said. I think we certainly should talk very optimistically about the three playoff appearances in the last four years, which were maybe somewhat discredited because we hadn’t gotten past the first round.
The pitching staff will have some changes, with starter Bronson Arroyo eligible for free agency. Left-hander Tony Cingrani made his debut last season and showed he could win in the majors but was sidelined by back problems in September.
Ace Johnny Cueto missed most of the season with shoulder problems.
The Reds have to decide whether to keep left-hander Aroldis Chapman as their closer or move him into a starting role. Price would have preferred making him a starter.