Price determined that Reds understand his message

Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price (R) talks with relief pitcher Tony Cingrani (L) in the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park. 

David Kohl/David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI — Bryan Price realizes there are some realities when it comes to baseball. Pitchers are going to give up hits. Those hits are going to be home runs that tie games or give up leads from time to time. Fielders don’t always handle the ball cleanly. Batters don’t always get hits in clutch situations.

You deal with those realities every day. If you’re lucky those realities don’t show themselves too often.

What Price has a hard time dealing with the mental lapses he’s seen from the Reds too often this season, lapses that were abundant in Saturday’s 9-7 loss to San Diego, a game in which the Reds led 3-0 and then 7-3 before a third bullpen meltdown of the week resulted in their fourth loss in five games. It wasn’t just the relievers — in this case Ryan Mattheus, Tony Cingrani and Jumbo Diaz — who drew Price’s wrath. They just epitomized it Saturday.

Every team has its limitations and its weaknesses. What got Price so upset Saturday can’t be among them.

"Being on the field and being aggressive and appreciating every opportunity you have to be on the field playing baseball is very important to me," said Price Sunday morning prior to the series finale against the Padres. His tone hadn’t changed overnight. "You will not see me ever address a player for giving up a home run or making a physical mistake because that’s a part of the game. You do it enough and you’re probably not playing at this level. That all takes care of itself. That’s just not going to happen. It will always be based on what type of attitude and what type of effort we’re giving on the field. That’s the only time you’ll see me upset."

The Reds optioned Diaz to Triple-A Louisville on Sunday, replacing him with Nate Adcock. It couldn’t have been the only move they were contemplating.

"There are expectations, and with expectations there are consequences," said Price. "I think we have a very good group of guys but we have a few things to learn. I’m not very patient with that stuff. I’m not patient with guys that don’t appreciate the opportunity they have to play at the major-league level and play in Cincinnati. That’s just how I feel. That’s one thing that will get under my skin."

Diaz took the loss Saturday after giving up a two-out, two-run single to Matt Kemp in the eighth inning. The Padres had a runner on second and two outs before Diaz walked Derek Norris and Justin Upton ahead of Kemp. Diaz had given up a two-run home run in Philadelphia earlier in the week that cost the Reds a lead. He’s allowed five home runs in 23 innings.

Cingrani gave up his first home run of the season Saturday. Price wasn’t as upset at Yonder Alonso’s grand slam that tied the game, 7-7, in the seventh inning as he was Cingrani’s reaction. He walked the next batter, Will Middlebrooks, prompting a visit to the mound from Price.

When the manager heads to the mound it usually means a pitching change. Not this time, although that’s what Cingrani was thinking when he tried to hand the ball to Price. Price refused and delivered a pointed message to the lefty, who has walked 17 batters in just 22 innings this season.

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"I can’t impress upon you enough I think we have the physical ability to be very good out of our bullpen," said Price, "but the walks and the defensive approach we have to our late-game situational pitching has not been very good. We have to be better emotionally, not physically as a staff, as a bullpen."

In between innings, TV cameras caught Price berating the team, asking them in some not-so-polite terms to keep their heads in the game.

The Reds were starting to feel a little better about themselves after last weekend’s sweep of Washington but they are again fighting uphill.

"Can’t say it’s one of those game because it’s been happening a lot," said third baseman Todd Frazier. "It hurts. There’s no other way to put it. We don’t put two-and-two together. We can’t have one day the pitching staff doing well and then the hitters not doing well, and then vice versa. We haven’t really established, other than those three games against the Nationals, haven’t really established us as a team coming together and playing a whole game."

The Reds have committed to a youth movement when it comes to their starting rotation. That doesn’t mean they’re committing this season as full-blown rebuild project.

At least not in Price’s view.

"We’re playing with what we have. We knew the limitations that we had were we had to make some roster adjustments for some payroll flexibility, which led to some of the offseason moves, and it also created opportunities for these young guys when needed to come in and pitch. We knew this was our fallback.

"We can look at it in any way we choose to. I choose to look at it as a positive, that these guys have a great veteran team behind them… We have to see that as a positive not just for next year but for this year."

Price’s point Saturday was to make sure everyone on the Reds understands that message.