GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Manager Bryan Price made his first statement toward creating his own culture with the Cincinnati Reds, although he won’t be autocratic about it.
The Reds will not be the hirsute Boston Red Sox, they will not look like scraggly mountain men. Price is asking, not demanding, that most of the facial hair that sprouted mostly on the bullpen members last year be trimmed neatly.
He doesn’t want them retreating to the days of Bob Howsam and The Big Red Machine — no facial hair at all, no beards, no mustaches — but he doesn’t want them looking like a guy who spent five years in the outback with no razor.
"We’re going to spend some time with our core group of more established players and talk about what we feel is important, not just from my perspective, but a team and organizational perspective," said Price, who wears neither a beard nor a mustache.
Bryan Price says Corky Miller and his mustache will be ‘just fine’ under the possible facial hair rules.
"You can, but I don’t think you’ll be terribly successful, if you try to turn back the clock in the clubhouse too far, but I believe in our initial policy that facial hair is fine, but keep it under control," Price added. "We’re just maintaining a policy that was already there."
Price pointed out that the team has had players with long hair — Bronson Arroyo with his long straight blond hair and Johnny Cueto with his dreadlocks. "That wasn’t a problem but we had some beards getting out of control. So let’s pull in the reins on that. And Corky Miller is going to be just fine," Price said with a laugh, referring to the popular catcher with enough hair to hide his face entirely.
• Cueto’s hair wasn’t the only subject rampant in the clubhouse early in camp. Cueto did a first-day interview in English, without a translator, something he did not do during his first five years with the team. And he only had to ask an interviewer one time to repeat a question and said, "Tell me again."
At one point he smiled and said, "I’m doing English by myself. I want to do it myself. That’s better. I understand more people better now. So I’ll try with Tomas Vera (his usual translator) as my backup."
When asked if it was another step in Cueto’s maturation process, Price said, "That’s a great question because when you are talking that way about Johnny, you could be talking about Mat Lataos or Homer Bailey or Mike Leake or Aroldis Chapman. They are all young players who got to the big leagues at a very young age, maybe a little bit prematurely.
"But they are getting here and developing not just as pitchers but as people. When you have guys so talented at such a young age you form an opinion of a young person and sometimes we extract that dynamic out of the equation when we evaluate them as people and that’s not fair," he added.
"In Cueto’s case he is absolutely latching on to that role of being in a place of more leadership and trying to be a bigger part of what is going on here," said Price. "And you are exposing yourself when you do something you are not comfortable with, like Johnny speaking English to you writers. To have a willingness to offer it up, to say, ‘Hey, I want to do this,’ speaks a lot about that maturity."
It was only the second day of camp but the inevitable question arose already: Who is the Opening Day pitcher?
Price laughed and said, "Let’s just get through the early part of spring training. I have an idea of what I want to do, but I want to make sure our guys are healthy. Latos has been banged up, Cueto has been the man and continues to be the man, but we have to make sure he is healthy. Homer Bailey has turned his corner to be top of the rotation. Personally, I love Johnny Cueto at the top, but there are other guys I’d be just as happy with."
So, the short answer? If Cueto is healthy, he’ll pitch Opening Day March 31 against the St. Louis Cardinals.