Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 9/25/12
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CINCINNATI -- Acting manager Chris Speier needs to wear a stovepipe hat instead of a baseball cap and add a nickname in front of his signature: "Honest Chris Speier." First of all, he honestly wishes he could return to his bench coach position and not be acting manager. He wishes manager Dusty Baker was still leading the team. But that isn't going to happen for at least six more games. It was revealed Tuesday that when Baker was about to be released from a Chicago hospital last Friday after tests for an irregular heart beat he suffered a mini-stroke. So he was detained until Sunday and while he visited the team both Sunday and Tuesday he did not put on his Cincinnati uniform. He returned home before the game began. And the timetable for his return won't be until next Monday when the Reds finish the season with three games in St. Louis, meaning Speier will manage the next five games. He has managed the last six, including Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. When asked if he wanted the Reds to put together the best record in the National League so they could grab the No. 1 seed, Speier squinted his eyes and let his feelings be known. Supposedly, there is a benefit to being the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. It is called home field advantage. But is it really this year? Most think not. The team with the best record has to play on the road for the first two games and then the final three games, if necessary, will be played at home in the five-game National League Division Series. Hey, Hertz may be No. 1 and Avis may be No. 2, but Speier says he wouldn't mind being No. 3. "You know what seed I'd like to be?" Speier said, raising his voice about three octaves. "I'd like to be No. 3. I'd like to know that the other team is coming to me, that I have two games at home first." But snickered twice, breathing quickly out of nose and then added, "But that's not the scenario that this team is about -- winning or losing games (to adjust its seeding). We're going to try to win every game because we're playing teams that are hot. And we're going to try to do everything we can to knock teams out (Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis -- all wild card contenders)." It's a touch-and-go question Speier has to address for the next five games as he leads the team. Will he rest his players for the playoffs. Will he drive them hard to try to get the No. 1 seed? "There is a fine line there," he said "The main thing is that you want your team healthy -- the first and foremost thing so we can go into the playoffs as healthy as we can be." But? "We have to be as ready as we can be, too," he said. Right now left fielder Ryan Ludwick, third baseman Scott Rolen and catcher Ryan Hanigan are absent from the lineup with injury assortments -- none serious, but niggling enough to keep them benched. So Speier is carefully monitoring them, but knows that at some point they need at-bats to sharpen up for the postseason. "That's that fine line of intensity at-bats, innings played, pitches pitched that we have to monitor," he said. "We are going to try to win every ballgame that we can. That's how I look at it as a manager." Rolen has missed a couple of starts so he can rest the shoulder and back issues that have flared off and on all season. "He said he felt good today, but I said, 'OK, let's give him one more day,' said Speier. "That's another of those fine lines between health and at-bats. He wants at-bats, needs at-bats. And we need to do that without jeopardize his health. "We're monitoring that as we go and (left fielder) Ryan Ludwick is the same way (groin pull)," Speier added. "We need to get him healthy, get him 100 per cent, but get him at-bats down the stretch." Catcher Ryan Hanigan is a bit beat up after a home plate collision over the weekend and a foul ball that crash landed under his hockey mask. He did not play Tuesday. "He got banged up pretty good, even though he is a tough son of a kid," said Speier. "He got hit in the Adam's apple and the collarbone. He'll catch Wednesday so we can get into a situation where we don't have a catcher playing a day game after a night game." The pitching rotation has been adjusted this week. Mike Leake was skipped and the order is Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey, the four guys who will pitch in the NLDS. "The way we have it set up now you can see we can carry it through to the playoffs (Cueto, Arroyo, Latos, Bailey). You can say this is how it is going to be in the playoffs and you'll probably be pretty close," said Speier. So will Leake, who hasn't missed a start all season (8-9, 4.73) be left off the postseason roster? The Reds say that has not been determined. "I don't know, I haven't heard a thing, they haven't talked to me about it," said Leake. "Whatever they want me to do help I'd be willing to do. I know I haven't done anything to earn one of the four starting spots. But I could pinch-run or bunt or be a guy who could pitch if the game goes 14 innings. Whatever they want."
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