CINCINNATI -- At this point, demoting J.J. Hoover might be the merciful thing to do.
Hoover is a good guy. A try-hard guy. A stand-up guy.
But it’s hard to imagine him getting himself straightened out at the big league level at this point.
Thursday night, the Reds put him in pretty much a no-pressure situation. He came in the ninth inning with the Reds leading 9-3. He gave up a monster home run to Chris Carter, the first hitter he faced. He gave up a rocket double to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who came around to score.
He got out of it from there. But his numbers are beyond ugly. 10.2 innings, 19 hits, 18 runs, 6 home runs, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts. His ERA is at 14.43.
The Reds ended up winning 9-5, but The Streak — capital T, capital S — lives on. The Reds’ relievers have allowed a run in 23 consecutive games. It’s hard to justify having some in your bullpen struggling as bad as Hoover in the midst of such a streak.
Reds manager Bryan Price might be Hoover’s biggest fan. But for the first time Thursday, Price didn’t dismiss the idea that the Reds can’t go much longer with Hoover.
“We’ll see,” Price said. “I pull for Hoov so much. I really want to see him get it turned around. But you have to see it. You have to see the ball coming out of the hand with good, clean, four-seam backspin and that jump to the fastball that gets by the hitter, the curveball that stays on the plate.
“Right now, it’s lateral. He still has a little work to do to get back on top of his game.”
Obviously, it’s more difficult to do that in the majors. Carter came into the at-bat with nine home runs. When Hoover left a 91-mph fastball over the plate, Carter hit it off the batter’s eye.
“It’s been a little bit more challenging (to find spots for Hoover) because I don’t want him to be in a situation where he's got to be so exact,” Price said.
“You know how I feel: You can’t get better not pitching. In the same respect, I want him in situations where he has the best chance for success. Tonight was one of those opportunities.”
The good news for the Reds was Hoover’s bad night came with a six-run cushion. But the idea is to build Hoover’s confidence. Thursday did not help in that regard.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.