Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Ryan Hanigan faces old team, Reds

CINCINNATI — Memories?

For sure.

Ryan Hanigan has tons from playing parts of seven seasons in the majors with the Reds, the first 12 of his pro career in the Cincinnati organization until being traded to the Rays in December, and now coming back as a visitor starting tonight.

"I'm excited," he said. "It'll be fun. I've got a lot of memories there, a lot of good experiences."

He got his first big-league hit at the Great American Ball Park, dashing in from the bullpen across the field — "I don't know how smooth that was" — straight to the on-deck circle, then lashing the first pitch he saw for a double in a September 2007 game.

He hit his first homer there the next August, in his first game after being called back up; caught the second of Homer Bailey's no-hitters there; clinched playoff berths there.

"I was wearing red for a long time," Hanigan said.

Motivation?

Some.

Hanigan, 33, understands why the Reds traded him, that they wanted to make Devin Mesoraco their primary catcher and weren't going to pay Hanigan big bucks to be a backup. Plus, getting traded to a contending team such as the Rays, then getting a three-year, $10.75 million deal (with a 2017 option), made for a pretty good outcome.

"I get it," Hanigan said. "I've been around long enough to see these type of things happen. They treated me well over there. It's not like I'm (ticked) off or anything."

But, still …

"I don't want to be vindictive or anything like that, but, yeah, you want to go back and play well," he said. "You always want to play well, but there's a little more when you're playing against a team you played for for a long time. So there's a little bit of that going on. But at the end of the day, I just want to win the game, win the series and enjoy the experience."

Though Hanigan is handling it well, former teammate Bronson Arroyo said the Reds will regret trading him. "I was a bit surprised," said Arroyo, a former Hernando High standout now with Arizona. "He wasn't making a whole lot of money — they didn't want to pay him $2 (million) to $3 million. To let a guy like that go, I think over the long haul you definitely will feel the impact."

An advantage?

Maybe.

Though it will be a little different coming in as the enemy (for example, he has never been inside the visitors clubhouse), Hanigan — who likely will start Saturday and Sunday — is certainly going to be familiar with the ballpark and the Reds players.

"I think I'll feel comfortable playing the game," he said. "Obviously I've got a little inside track on some of the pitchers and hitters, so the scouting report will probably be a short one."

The Reds pitchers, and former pitching coach now manager Bryan Price, still rave about the job he did.

"A lot of our success from a pitching perspective came from the job Ryan did with our pitching staff," Price said this week. "Our guys liked to throw to him. … He could make adjustments, call the right pitch. There's something special about that. He has a very good rapport with the pitching staff."

Hanigan is still close with some Reds pitchers, including Bailey, who will present him with a watch commemorating that second no-hitter. But the relationship will be different this weekend, especially as Hanigan stands in the batters box wearing gray.

"I know how their ball moves, I can tell you that," he said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]ay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

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