CINCINNATI -- When looking back at the first half of the 2016 Reds season, folks in Redsland will recite a litany of lowlights: The drubbings by the Chicago Cubs, including the no-hitter tossed by Jake Arrieta — a 16-0 loss no less. The nightly bullpen meltdowns. The Devin Mesoraco season-ending injury. Joey Votto’s struggles at the plate.
When your closer gets sent to the minors twice, as J.J. Hoover did, it’s never a good half.
We could go on and on... and on.
But we’re going to accentuate the positive here and give you nine highlights from the first half. No easy task, but here goes:
1) A (All) Star is Born
Adam Duvall’s the feel-good story of the season. He got his first real chance in the majors in his seventh professional season. It was a chance he had to earn. He made the team as part of a platoon in left field. He then won the full-time spot in left. He moved to the top of the home run charts with a monster May.
Now he’s an All-Star and will participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday.
You have to love Duvall’s story. He’s dealt with type 1 diabetes since 2012. He’s probably the only major-leaguer who checks his blood sugar seven times a day.
Duvall is quiet and soft-spoken, but he knew he could do this.
“I’ve done this every year,” he said. “I’ve put up some power numbers every year. I think it was making small adjustments to do it at this level. But, yeah, I’ve always thought I could do this.”
2) Cozart's Comeback
Feel-good story No. 2. Zack Cozart had the kind of knee injury in June of last year that ended careers of shortstops a generation ago.
“Twenty-five years ago, he would not have come back or they would have put him at a different position,” medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek said. “The things we have — the rehabilitation, the bracing, all the things combined together — what he’s showing out there is remarkable.”
Not only has Cozart come back, he’s having the best year of his career. He’s nearing a career high for home runs. He’s kept his average above .270, and he’s played his usual top-shelf defense.
The downside is that Cozart’s time with the Reds may be running down. He’s only under their control for one more year. The Reds will probably look to trade him before the Aug. 1 deadline.
3) Disco Dealing
It’s been a mixed bag for Anthony "Disco" DeSclafani. He missed the first two months with an oblique injury. But he pitched like an ace upon his return.
Five of his first six starts were quality starts. He went 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA in those starts.
DeSclafani looks like he’s taking the next step after an impressive rookie year.
4) Pete’s Big Weekend
The sellout crowds loved it. And Rose was great. He was humble, appreciative and mostly said all the right things.
It was wonderful to see the stars of the Big Red Machine one more time. The only downside was the absence of Rose’s good friend Joe Morgan, who is dealing with a serious illness.
5) Bruce's Big Half
Jay Bruce probably had the best first half of his career. He hit for average. He drove in runs. And he was consistent, something he’s rarely been able to do in his career.
The sad thing, from a Reds’ perspective, is that the best thing about Bruce’s resurgence is it has increased his trade value. Bruce is in the last year of his contract with a reasonable team option for next year. That almost certainly means he’ll be traded before the deadline.
6) Tony C’s Surge:
Left-hander Tony Cingrani had his struggles in the first half before settling in nicely. He’s been dominant since June 1: 17 innings, 10 hits, three runs. That’s a 1.58 ERA.
Cingrani could be the closer going forward — or a very effective lefty set-up man.
7) Stephenson’s Stint
Top prospect Robert Stephenson got a brief shot with the Reds — two spot starts — but he was impressive, winning both.
Stephenson has not dominated at Triple-A, but you wonder why he hasn’t gotten another chance in the big leagues given all the struggles on the pitching staff.
8) New No. 1
Amir Garrett, the 24-year-old left-hander, may top some Reds prospects list after the year he’s having. He started the year in Double-A and went 5-3 with a 1.75 ERA. He was bumped up to Triple-A and had a 2.89 ERA after three outings.
9) Wrigley Wins
The Reds won the penultimate series of the first half by taking the last two of a three-game series from the Cubs. Winning a series is never a huge deal unless you’ve gotten beaten silly as the Reds had against the Cubs. The Cubs had outscored the Reds by 61 runs in the first 11 games of the season series.
Will it mean anything? Hard to say, but it had to help with the confidence a bit. That could mean more highlights and fewer lowlights in the second half.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.