The Siri streak

A class act in class A

By Marc Katz

I can’t seem to get out of my head what happened to Jose Siri recently, when he was working on a Midwest League-record 39-game hitting streak.

This was not at all in my mind what happened to Pete Rose when he was stifled to extend his National League hitting streak past 44 games in 1978.

Rose, tone deaf in so many areas, was angered that Atlanta pitcher Gene Garber chose to throw two change-ups in Rose’s final at-bat on Aug. 1, striking him out and ending the streak.

Rose thought Garber should have challenged him with a fastball, instead pitching to him, “like it was the seventh game of the World Series.”

Garber, a relief pitcher, had just entered the game and Rose was hitless.

“It was the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life because I was scared to death I might walk him,” Garber says in a newspaper interview years later. “I’d be a horse’s rear end and never live it down if I walked him to end the streak, so that made the situation a lot more difficult than it really was.”

Siri’s situation was different. Obviously, it was in the low minor leagues compared to the big leagues, but Siri was competing not only to add to the longest hitting streak in the history of the league, but to challenge the all-time minor league and baseball record of 69 games.

That was set by Joe Wilhoit in the way-back, 1919. Wilhoit, who eventually made the majors for four seasons, was in the Western League. Joe DiMaggio’s famous 56-game hitting streak for the Yankees in 1941 was also bested by Joe D in 1933 in the Pacific Coast League when DiMaggio hit safely in 61 straight games.

Siri was well short of those records, but he’s on the board. His hitting streak is ranked 19th longest in minor league history, and he should have had the opportunity to continue it.

Great Lakes chose not to pitch to him in his final at-bat in game number 40, even throwing the first pitch behind him.

Siri walked, and his hitting streak was over.

Dragons manager Luis Bolivar gave Siri off the next night, after which the just-turned 22-year-old outfielder hit safely in six more games.

This from a player who spent most of the previous five years trying to work his way out of rookie ball. Last summer, he played in 27 games for the Dragons, hitting a miniscule .145. In 83 at-bats, he hit no home runs. He knocked in three.

Sometimes you can find out from a hitting coach what went wrong, and what changed to get it right.

“It’s mental for him,” says Daryle Ward in his first year at hitting coach of the Dragons; he has been with Siri the last few seasons.

“He’s able to stay focused for a longer period of time. We always knew he had the tools.”

And then Ward dropped the hammer.

“He’s 75-80 percent of what he could be in the future,” Ward says. “I expect him to be an All-Star in the big leagues. His ceiling is pretty high.”

Siri was signed by the Reds as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. He played a year with the Dominican Summer League Reds before joining the Arizona League Reds in 2014. He was back in Arizona most of 2015,and also played three games in Billings; then he was tried last season with the Dragons and struggled.

Returned to Billings, Siri hit .422 in his first 16 games and was on his way.

Echoing Ward’s words, Siri admitted his main change from last year to this was “mentally. I am controlling my emotions. It’s a new day every day.”

Bolivar has shepherded the change.

“He’s just being himself,” Bolivar says. “He’s showing his ability. He could do something special.”

Baseball’s position players are ranked on five abilities: hitting, hitting with power, running, fielding, and throwing. They’re called the five tools. Siri is a guy considered to have all five tools, only until this year had not used them consistently.

Midwest League managers say he’s the best defensive outfielder in the league and his running skills on the bases are also the best.

Reading all the scouting reports on the internet, there may be some doubts about where Siri is headed. Shedding a label from early in one’s career is difficult. A player may show the ability to hit a home run, but not make contact enough to hit many. If his bat speed always moves through the ball instead of on it, what’s the advantage of bat speed?

So the Reds weren’t sure of Siri at the beginning of the season, and have kept him at Dayton to see how he’ll do in playoff – [meaning meaningful] – games in September. He certainly has shown enough to get promoted, but the Reds want to make sure, unless an unforeseen injury or other circumstance happens.

Reds farm director Jeff Graupe says he isn’t surprised at what Siri is doing, except, maybe, for the timing.

“I would say the results might have come up a little faster, but in terms of offense and what he’s done, he’s what we expected,” Graupe says.

Siri has a few games left at Fifth Third Field. A few years from now, he’ll be at Great American Ball Park.


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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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