Can feisty Schumaker light a much-needed fire under the Reds?
MAY 03, 2014 5:14p ET
CINCINNATI -- When a team is malfunctioning, sputtering with leaky seals on the cylinders, it sometimes grasps at any fresh face.
Never mind that he is a role player, an extra guy, somebody to pinch-hit, somebody to play back-up outfield and back-up second base.
Schumaker was activated off the disabled list for Saturday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers after separating his shoulder making a diving catch attempt late in spring training.
Schumaker, 34, is only 5-10 and 195 pounds, but there are some intangibles that dangle from his body. He comes to the Reds from a winning organization, signed as a free agent after spending eight years with the St. Louis Cardinals and last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He brings feistiness and clubhouse presence, a professional who plays with his hair on fire, plays the game write.
Well, consider this. During his second game on rehab for the Class AAA Louisville Bats he was ejected from a game. Who does that on rehab? There was a controversial play at second bas in the second inning. The play was over and done with, but after the inning as he ran to his position in center field he had some final pointed comments at the umpire. The umpire took umbrage and Schumaker became a seven-inning spectator.
He is also a guy who cares about the feelings of his teammates. To make room for him, the Reds designated for assignment outfielder Roger Bernadina. Schumaker made a point to stop at Bernadina's locker for a short chat.
When he was asked if he is fully healthy, ready to play and contribute, Schumaker said, "I'm ready to go. I wouldn't jeopardize somebody's spot on the team if I didn't feel like I was ready to compete. I'm not a player that feels right about that kind of stuff.
"We're good enough here without me so it wouldn't be fair if I just came on to play," he added. "I'm ready to go."
Schumaker is a career .285 hitter with a strong defensive legacy and displayed that trying to make a diving catch in a meaningless spring training game that cost him more than a month of the season 29 games.
Asked if he had a chance to test his shoulder with any dives, he smiled and said, "No, I haven't tested that. But that's something we'll see when it happens. I am not going to let a ball fall. I'm not as worried about it as I was a few weeks ago."
Schumaker won't go so far as to say he is in mid-season fitness and at the top of his game, "You are never content, whether you are coming off the DL or you are in mid-season form. Once you think you've figured it out you go for an 0-for-20 slump. So I never saw I'm totally good to go."
What discouraged Schumaker was that he is with a new team and wanted to display his wares uninterrupted.
"It's tougher being on a new team," he said. "You want to make a good impression with the guys, the management. For that to happen in spring training, that late in spring training, it was pretty frustrating. You want to do everything you can to prove your worth. Then not to be able to play one game and it is May already is tough."
Schumaker knows his new team is 13-16, 7½ games behind the Brewers. He knows his team has been shut out four times by minuscule margins, three times by 1-0 and once by 2-0. He knows his teams is hitting only .248 and is ninth in the league in runs scored.
"I don't think it's me to turn things around," he said with a laugh. "We have some really good players in here. My role is off the bench. We're just a few big hits away from rolling. I just hope I can do some things to help.
"They've been to the players three of the last four years, a really good team. The pitching staff has been unbelievable (well, the starters). We're just a few hits away. Our offense is proven. Hey, if you look around there are a lot of guys struggling, not just our guys. Our big boys will come around pretty soon and it is going to be a lot of fun."