Cincinnati's Price ready for managerial debut

Bryan Price has been waiting for this day for a very long time -- his first game as a baseball manager.

Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price during team workouts on the practice fields of Goodyear Ballpark.

Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Bryan Price awakened at 4 a.m. Wednesday, about 30 minutes before he usually awakens, "So I had about a 30-minute jump-start on the anxiety."

It was because it was the day of his debut, his first game as a baseball manager at any level -- his Cincinnati Reds against the Cleveland Indians in the first exhibition game of the spring.

Price, 51, a native of San Francisco, was drafted in the eighth round of the 1984 drafted out of Cal-Berkley by the Los Angeles Angels and made it as far as Triple-A and compiled a 31-19 minor-league record. He was slowed by elbow surgery after the 1987 season and pitched two more years before giving it up.

He became a pitching coach in the Seattle system in 1989 and he remained a pitching coach, including four years as pitching coach for Dusty Baker.

When Baker was fired, Price was elevated to the manager's office. And on Wednesday he was prepared to manage his first game.

"When I first got hired (last October) was when I realized the size of the job and so there were a lot of sleepless nights, nights when you get up and you can't sleep because I want to do this thing right and hope that everything is in order," he said.

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The first thing Price did was to assemble a coaching staff -- bench coach Jay Bell, hitting coach Don Long, pitching coach Jeff Price, third base coach Steve Smith, bullpen coach Mack Jenkins, coach Freddie Benavides and holdover first base coach Billy Hatcher.

"The best thing I've done (so far) is get the right people on my coaching staff," he said. "In the end this is a bad job to try to micro-manage. It is what has provided me with better nights of sleep."

He has had 12 days of preparation with his team, 12 days of drills and trying to inject his philosophy into the Reds.

"I'm really looking forward to this," he said. "I'm ready to go. You wonder as it leads up to games, 'Did you cover everything you want to cover, is everyone ready?' About four days into drills you're thinking, 'Let's just start playing games.'"

Instead of sitting in the dugout as pitching coach, Price is now in the dugout as the man in charge, the man with the final decisions, the man occupying the place where the buck stops.

"My focus will be on the communication with my staff, especially to the third base coach," he said. "I've spent a lot of time with Steve Smith (a man with 14 years of experience as a third base coach)," said Price.

Price, of course, will be feeling his way as exhibition games unfold and said, "Philosophically, how much do I want to put the game in motion right now, how much do I want to manage these early games or just let the guys play? I'll address the obvious game situations, but I won't get overly creative. I'll let the guys get used to seeing pitches and playing the game before we get too focused on situational baseball."

Price said the emphasis won't be on winning because nobody remembers who won the Cactus League and nobody wears rings that say, "2014 Cactus League Champions."

"You like to win because it always feels good to come back into the clubhouse with a win," he said. "That being said, this is more about getting ready for the season, seeing who can do what and who can't do what. It will be a classroom situation, we'll learn about them and they'll learn about us and themselves."