GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Lou Piniella added a little jewelry to accent his Reds uniform.
“I’m wearing this World Championship ring that we won here in ’90 with a lot of pride,” Piniella said.
Piniella, 72, was on the job Wednesday as a senior advisor to the president of baseball operations. It was the first time he was back in a Reds uniform since 1992.
“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” he said. “It feels great, actually. I’m looking forward to being here for a few weeks in the spring and joining the team from time-to-time during the season.”
Reds CEO Bob Castellini and President of Baseball Operations Walt Jocketty approached Piniella at Redsfest in December about returning to the fold.
“We all thought it would be a good marriage,” Piniella said. “You know I had Bryan (Price) as my pitching coach in Seattle, and I think the world of him. He did just a great job for me. I’m going to help him in any capacity that I can. I’m going to help Walt a little bit with the evaluation of these young players and there’s a plethora of them here and also, maybe get involved a little bit with Don Long and the hitting.
“I look forward to this, it’s exciting. I’m thankful the owner Bob Castellini got me back here. He’s tried to get me back here over the years in different capacities. The timing never worked out. I’ve always been proud of my association with this organization, a lot of history and a lot of tradition. It’s the only World Championship I’ve won as a manager. I’m extremely gratified being here.”
Piniella will be in Goodyear until March 12. His role is a work in progress. Obviously, he can help Price — but how specifically?
“We’ll see,” Piniella said. “Look, I’m here for whatever he needs me to do. I don’t have anything specific in mind. I don’t think Bryan does either. I’ll talk to him from time to time and help him any way I can. He’s a good baseball man. There’s no question. He’s young manager. I think having an experienced bench like (Jim) Riggleman will help him. He’s got a good coaching staff.
“It’s a just a question of getting these kids to believe in themselves and play hard on the field every day, stay away from the errors. Don’t beat yourself. Go from there.”
Piniella thinks that pitching could carry the Reds further than people expect, although he acknowledged it will be tough.
“It’s a tough division,” he said. “Look at the Cubs, the Pirates and the Cardinals, they had the three best records last year. It’s not going to be easy. Young clubs can go out and play hard, get established and make their own identity. They’ve got good, young pitching here…
“Anytime you’ve got good young pitching, you’ve got a chance.”
With youth comes enthusiasm and optimism.
“It’s fun coming to camp knowing that jobs are open as opposed to coming to camp as a younger player and knowing your chances are very limited of making the team,” Piniella said.
Piniella will also serve as the grand marshal of the Findlay Market Parade on Opening Day.
“I look forward to that. Cincinnati, the Reds are bigger than life there,” he said. “I didn’t realize that until I became the manager of the Reds in 1990 with the parade, the opening day – it’s just a wonderful, wonderful, experience.”
Piniella is a legend in Cincinnati — not only because he’s the last manager to win a World Series, but because of his colorful persona. He’s the guy who tossed first base in anger and fought Rob Dibble.
“Oh God, those are the things I like the least,” he said. “Every time some manager has a little short circuit on the field, ESPN and the rest of the networks right away roll out my stuff. Look, I wish that I hadn’t done those things. Truthfully, they’re somewhat embarrassing as I’ve gotten older. But, listen, film doesn’t lie. If I see it and I see it coming, I usually switch the station. I don’t want to watch it.”
Piniella has managed since he retired in 2010. He says he doesn’t miss it.
“No! I really don’t,” he said. “You know, I’ve had a few chances to get back in, but I enjoy watching the game. I enjoy watching it from just a fun aspect of enjoying the talents of the players and the competition on the field. But I don’t miss being involved in it on an everyday basis at all.”