Schumaker goes from adversary to attention-getter

Cincinnati Reds left fielder Skip Schumaker is grabbing the attention of his new manager Bryan Price.

Joe Camporeale

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Every team needs a player who cares not about his personal numbers and loves it when he finishes a game with a dirty uniform and the knees of his pants ripped open.

If the manager says, "Go up there and get hit by a pitch," he goes up there and sticks his elbow in harm’s way.

With the Cincinnati Reds, that guy is Skip Schumaker. He is the kind of down-and-dirty player who was despised by the Reds when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals but is a guy a team loves on its side.

When Reds manager Bryan Price was asked about a player who has grabbed his attention this spring he quickly said, "Skip Schumaker," whom the Reds signed as a free agent to a two-year contract.

And he is talking about a role player, a guy who will play some outfield, play a little second base and do a lot of pinch-hitting.

"I enjoy every minute of watching Skip Schumaker play," said Price. "His defense, his defensive positioning, his movement in the outfield, his talk, his communication on the infield."

Even a routine single in a game this week grabbed Price’s attention, "A base hit he got off Paco Rodriguez (Los Angeles Dodgers). It was back through the middle and he hung in there against a tough lefty."

Schumaker stands tall on a baseball field even though he is only 5-10 and a muscle-packed 195 pounds.

"He is just a tough kid whom I really enjoy watching, but that’s not really a surprise to me," said Price.

Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

March to Opening Day

Don’t miss Reds Live Spring Training on FOX Sports Ohio

What Schumaker brings to a clubhouse and on the field are facets that are not measurable by sabermetrics, are not quantified by his statistical accomplishments, although a .285 career batting average is notable.

"He is real. Statistical analysis to define somebody’s character and what their style of play brings to a club won’t show in a statistical report," said Price. "Both evaluation styes have value (statistics, character)."

What doesn’t compute on any statistical analysis, "Is his work ethic, what is his style of play, tell the guys around him. It sets a tone on what selflessness looks like," said Price. "He is that type of guy.

"He is talented, too," Price added. "This isn’t just a guy without any skills who wills his way to be good. He has skills and knows how to utilize what he has. He is very productive for a guy who doesn’t have gaudy numbers."

Price said Schumaker knows how to move outfield teammates into proper defensive locations, advance runners and take an inside pitch for an HBP (hit by pitch), as well as finding a way to hang tough against lefthanded pitchers to lead off an inning with a base hit.

"He is not a guy who sits anywhere in the lineup where he is going to be a run producer," said Price. "He sets the table or he is at the bottom of the order — not in that three through six spot. The best way to state it is that he just makes the guys around him better and that’s special for a guy who has been a bench player and a platoon player."

Schumaker says it is forgotten history that when he was with the Cardinals in 2010 he was extremely vociferous about Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto in the clubhouse after the infamous brawl.

It was ignited by a skirmish at home plate between Brandon Phillips and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina that escalated to a free-for-all during which Cueto kicked St. Louis backup catcher Jason LaRue in the head.

"There was reason to be upset, plus the fact neither team much cared for each other to begin with," said Price. "There’s no carryover. We compete with them for the division and that lends itself to even more intensity in the series. But I don’t see it as a bad blood series. It isn’t a Dodgers-Giants series with Juan Marichal carrying a bat in his hands. We respect them and know we have to beat them to compete in the division, the team to beat."