Cincinnati fired its fifth-year manager on Thursday because of a 3-15 start, the first managerial change in the major leagues this season. The Reds hadn’t changed managers so early in a season since Tony Perez was fired after 44 games in 1993.
It’s the first time since 2002 that a manager has been fired in April, according to ESPN. Four managers were fired that April, including Phil Garner after an 0-6 start with the Tigers that matched the quickest hook in major league history.
Price managed a rebuilding effort that relied on rookies more than any other team in the majors during his tenure. The Reds have lost at least 94 games in each of the last three seasons while finishing last in the NL Central.
Although the Reds have been patient with their coaching staff during the rebuild, their worst start since 1931 prompted the change.
“We felt we had to act now, we couldn’t afford to wait,” general manager Dick Williams said during a conference call. “I know it seems early to some people and it certainly is early in the regular season, but … we’ve had a lot of chances to observe this group together and see them get off to the start we’d hoped, and it wasn’t there.”
Bench coach Jim Riggleman will manage the team on an interim basis, the fourth time in his career he’s been promoted during a season. Riggleman also has managed the Padres, Cubs, Mariners and Nationals. He’s expected to be a candidate for the full-time job. Williams said the club will pick its next manager later in the season.
Riggleman said his focus will be “to really put an exclamation point on the details of the game.” Eight of the Reds’ losses have been by two runs or less.
Second-year pitching coach Mack Jenkins also was fired Thursday. Triple-A Louisville manager Pat Kelly will be the bench coach, and Danny Darwin was promoted from Double-A Pensacola to serve as pitching coach.
The move came during an off-day in St. Louis. The Reds are coming off back-to-back 2-0 losses in Milwaukee, the first time they were blanked in consecutive games since 2015.
“We’ve got to show up for work every day,” Williams said. “They’ve got to have a sense of urgency to win that day. They have to play the game hard and play it smart and play it right. We have to get this team playing that way because we know they have the ability to do that.”
Price was given the job of leading the Reds during a massive overhaul. They were 279-387 under Price, who got the job when Dusty Baker was fired after the 2013 season for failing to get beyond the first round of the playoffs.
The Reds suffered significant injuries during spring training that contributed directly to the bad start. Top starter Anthony DeSclafani is sidelined indefinitely with a strained oblique — he missed all last season with an elbow injury — and left-hander Brandon Finnegan has been limited to one start by a biceps injury.
The offense also has taken significant hits. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez got a $66 million, seven-year contract during spring training — Cincinnati’s first significant deal during its rebuild — but he broke his right thumb when he was hit by a pitch and is sidelined indefinitely. Right fielder Scott Schebler also is out with a bruised elbow.
Price was given the job of presiding over the team’s painful transition from contender to rebuilder.
Cincinnati won the division twice during Baker’s six-year tenure and went to the playoffs three times, but couldn’t get beyond the first round. Baker was fired after a wild-card defeat to Pittsburgh in 2013, and Price was promoted from pitching coach.
The Reds lost 86 games in Price’s first season, and the organization decided to begin a massive overhaul that involved trading every star player except Joey Votto and Homer Bailey. They’ve brought up rookie pitchers before they were ready to fill in while DeSclafani, Finnegan and Bailey were hurt.
Thirty-two Reds players have made their major league debuts in the last three seasons, the most in the majors. In the last four seasons, they’ve had a rookie start 254 of 504 games. Rookies made a club-record 110 starts in 2015, when the Reds lost 98 games.
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