The last-place Cincinnati Reds have decided to make a change in the dugout.
In a long rumored move Thursday morning, the Reds announced manager Bryan Price has been fired, effective immediately. Pitching coach Mack Jenkins was let go as well. Price had been on the hot seat going back as far as 2015.
President of baseball operations and general manager Dick Williams released the following statement Thursday:
"At this time, we felt a change needed to happen in order to begin the process of getting this team back on the right track. We realize it is early in the season but feel it is important to be proactive. In addition to these staff changes, we will continue to examine all aspects of Baseball Operations to ensure we are doing everything we can to improve."
Bench coach Jim Riggleman will take over as interim manager, the Reds say. Triple-A manager Pat Kelly will take over as interim bench coach and Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin will join the big league staff as "a pitching coach." The Reds say they will conduct a "thorough managerial search for a permanent replacement" later this year.
Price, 55, replaced Dusty Baker as Reds manager following the 2013 season after serving as the team's pitching coach from 2010-13. His first season as manager was the team's best -- the Reds went 76-86 and finished in fourth place in the NL Central in 2014. The club finished in last place every year from 2015-17, and went 279-387 (.419) under Price overall., among other things.
To be sure, expectations for the Reds were not high coming into the new season. The team has been rebuilding for several years now, and prior to Opening Day,. Cincinnati is off to an MLB worst 3-15 start this season, and they've been outscored 100-54 in their 18 games. Their minus-46 run differential is the worst in baseball. This is a bad team that has been even worse than expected.
The Reds have built a strong position player core in recent years, surrounding Joey Votto with quality players like Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, and Tucker Barnhart. The pitching has been another matter. The Reds have an NL worst 5.42 ERA at the moment. Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, and Brandon Finnegan have been hurt and/or ineffective in recent years, and touted youngsters Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle have struggled early in 2018.
As the Reds begin their search for a new permanent manager, expect Hall of Famer and Reds legend Barry Larkin to get consideration for the job. Back in January, Larkin told Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer he wants to manage in the big leagues one day, but only with his hometown Reds. He has managed in the World Baseball Classic and did interview with the Tampa Bay Rays for their managerial vacancy after Joe Maddon left a few years ago. Former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell is currently a scout with the Reds and could be another managerial candidate.
Riggleman, now 65, returns to the managerial ranks for the first time since resigning as Washington Nationals manager in June 2011 over a contract dispute. He's spent the last few seasons working his way back to the big leagues as a minor league manager and coach. Riggleman joined the Reds as third base coach in 2015 and had been Price's bench coach since 2016.
Not a single MLB manager was fired during the 2017 season. Price is the first manager to be let go during the season since May 2016, when the Atlanta Braves replaced Fredi Gonzalez with Brian Snitker. Six teams -- including three postseason teams -- did change managers this past offseason.