The Cincinnati Reds’ acquisition of Ken Griffey Jr. more than eight years ago was supposed to be a turning point for the franchise. Now that the slugger’s tenure with his hometown team is over, the Reds don’t have much to show for it.
After dealing Griffey for prospects at Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, the Reds resume what’s on pace to be their eighth straight losing season as they open a three-game road series against the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
Griffey was among the best players in baseball when Cincinnati acquired him from Seattle in February of 2000. However, age and injuries caught up with the outfielder, who played an average of 105 games in his eight full seasons with Cincinnati.
Griffey became the sixth player to reach 600 career home runs with a two-run shot against Florida on June 9, but he was batting a career-low .245 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs in 102 games when the Reds traded him to the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
“He’s a legend in baseball and this is an opportunity for him to be in a World Series,” Reds owner Bob Castellini told MLB.com. “… You have mixed emotions when you lose a guy like that, no question. He’s a Hall of Famer, a Cooperstown man and a Cincinnatian. You don’t do something like this without having a lot of different feelings.”
One of those feelings has to be disappointment, because the Reds haven’t finished with a winning record since Griffey’s first year with the club in 2000, and haven’t reached the postseason since 1995.
With eight losses in 13 games since the All-Star break, Cincinnati (51-58) appears unlikely to snap either of those droughts. However, the Reds did end a five-game losing streak with a 9-5 win over Houston on Wednesday night.
Adam Dunn homered twice, and is batting .340 (16-for-47) with six homers and 15 RBIs since the break. Twelve of his major league-leading 32 homers came in July.
Meanwhile, Washington has lost a season high-tying nine straight games. The Nationals (38-70) haven’t suffered through a longer losing streak since an 11-game skid from June 23-July 4, 1991, when the franchise was the Montreal Expos.
“We can’t sit here and pout,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after an 8-4 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday night. “We can’t sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to show up and play and just have some pride.”
Washington added injury to insult when Zimmerman left Thursday’s game after getting hit in the right hand by a pitch. X-rays were negative and Zimmerman is listed as day-to-day.
“We’re going to get younger for the last two months,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “We want players that are going to hustle and play the game hard and play the game right.
“We need to give younger players the opportunity - and we’re going to do that.”
The Nationals send Odalis Perez (3-8, 4.38 ERA) to the mound Friday. The left-hander was tagged for six runs in four innings of a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, and has lost three of his last four starts with a 7.13 ERA in that span.
Perez is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in six career starts against the Reds, who will counter with Homer Bailey (0-4, 6.52). Bailey, one of Cincinnati’s top pitching prospects, is winless between the majors and minors since notching a victory for Triple-A Louisville on April 30.
The right-hander gave up five runs and 15 hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 5-1 loss to Colorado on Saturday. He’s making his first career start against the Nationals.