There will be no blog posts here while I take some time off to recharge with my family.
I will be back at it on Friday. Meanwhile, there will be daily coverage of the team on Reds.com/MLB.com.
Not a very good day for the Reds, who were handed a 9-0 blanking by the Cubs.
“It wasn’t a pretty ballgame,” manager Bryan Price said. We weren’t sharp. It just wasn’t a good game. There’s nothing really about it, no redeeming pieces.”
Some news and notes:
*Billy Hamilton walked to begin the bottom of the first and stole second base and third base on consecutive pitches by Jason Hammel. Hamilton 6-for-6 in steal attempts this spring. Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel said he did Hamilton a “favor” by walking him.
“I’m going to try not to do that during the season,” Hammel said.
When Hamilton stole second, he took advantage of a drop by catcher Welington Castillo on a third strike to Zack Cozart.
“He stole third base on me,” Hammel said. “I felt like I was pretty quick. I was slide-stepping at first, and he didn’t really go. Welly bobbled the ball on the potential strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out. I don’t know what kind of jump he had there. I felt we held him pretty good there. He stole third base off me. He’s obviously going to be threat. It’s a good place for him in the top of the lineup.”
*Reds pitchers issued eight walks in the game, but it was a particularly tough day for reliever Logan Ondrusek. He walked his first four batters and forced home a run. Two more runs scored next on a single up the middle. Ondrusek was lifted after getting the first out with a strikeout. Trevor Bell finished the inning and kept more runs from scoring.
“He just lost his release point,” Price said of Ondrusek, who entered the day with two scoreless innings and two hits. “There’s a lot of moving parts with that kid at 6-8. He was coming open. His head was pulling off the target. The head is the most important part of the delivery. You’ve got to see a target to hit it. There was a lot of movement with his upper body. He was trying to make all the adjustments. It doesn’t happen too often where you struggle like that to throw strikes, especially a guy like Logan. I don’t anticipate we’ll see anything like that again.”
*On the other hand, Hammel loaded the bases on walks in the first inning but escaped without a run crossing.
*The morning workout featured the return of pop fly drills, which was not easy to do in on a windy Saturday at the complex. As a coach fired the balls skyward around the field with a pitching machine, there were an impressive 29-straight catches without a ball dropping in. They were going for 50 in a row. Joey Votto was yelling the count out each time and how many were left (ie: “That’s 20, 30 to go!”). Unfortunately, Votto was on the hook for the streak ending when he missed a ball that swirled in foul territory. Then Jack Hannahan missed the next one.
*First pitch temperature: 75 degrees.
Had it been the regular season on Friday, new Reds manager Bryan Price might have been really been put through an emotional grinder in his game vs. the Mariners. The Reds blew an early 8-0 lead but still managed to come back for a 10-9 victory. Fortunately, it was only a Cactus League game and not a day where everything counted.
When asked he might handle a blown lead and bad loss in the regular season on Saturday morning, Price recalled a crushing Reds loss in 2010 at Atlanta, which was probably the one of the toughest losses the team has taken the past four years.
On May 20, 2010, at Turner Field, the Reds blew a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth for a 10-9 walkoff loss. The end came on pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad’s grand slam against Francisco Cordero. The ball actually bounced off of left fielder Laynce Nix’s glove and went over the fence. Just a brutal loss. What then-manager Dusty Baker did next was something I hadn’t previously heard about.
“I think the best thing that happened there was we flew to Cleveland after that game and he had a mandatory meeting at the lobby bar,” Price said. “Everyone had to get a drink and we had to say ‘OK, that one is over with. We go back to work tomorrow.’ We beat Cleveland the next day, which kind of got the bad taste out of our mouths – the bad taste that was left over that the alcohol didn’t kill.”
By everyone, Price said Baker had players, coaches and staff fill this lobby bar.
What did now manager Price learn from the experience?
“You don’t want to get used to [losses] but you have to be resilient enough to get past them,” he said. “And they do happen. Anyone that’s been around the game long enough know that those happen. It stinks when they do but you can’t let them stay with you. Winning the next day makes a difference. It was a great idea. It was ‘let’s not let this carry over to tomorrow. It sucked but we’re beyond it and it counts as one loss.’ Let’s go back out and be ready tomorrow. … I thought it was a really good idea by Dusty to do that.”
Got some postgame items for you following Friday’s 4-3 split-squad loss to the White Sox:
*Jay Bruce hit his first homer of spring, a two-run shot with two outs in the first inning. Bruce wasn’t cheated as his drive against Felipe Paulino cleared the right field fence, and the patio, and a sidewalk — before clanking off of an outside fence of Goodyear Stadium.
“It was awfully nice,” said Reds bench coach Jay Bell, who managed the home squad while Bryan Price traveled with the other group. “I know this is Arizona…but that was a blast. It’s fun to see his timing. His timing is starting to get right there. He’s been swinging the bat good. There’s been a few guys that have really kind of come on strong. We’ve got another few weeks, hopefully it gets even better. It’s going to be exciting watching him this year.”
*Lots of Cincinnati connections on the field today for the White Sox. There were two former Reds — Adam Dunn and Jeff Keppinger. LHP Eric Surkamp is a Moeller High School product. Surkamp pitched two innings … Dunn had two RBI singles — both were screamers.
*Even if it was a Spring Training contest, Bell enjoyed getting to manage the game. It had been a little while.
“I did it whenever I was bench coach with Arizona. It’s fun,” Bell said. “It’s nice to get back out there. That’s my job. My job is to manage everyday anyway – I don’t get to put the signs on. It’s nice to get out there and give the signs Bryan is going to use to the third base coach this year.”
*There were a lot of hard-hit balls today, even though the Reds had only seven hits. (Chicago did too and had nine). Bell credited hitting coach Don Long’s efforts.
“Donnie has a great job with the hitters. The approach has been fantastic,” Bell said. “The results aren’t always there. One of the things Bryan is doing is preaching process over results right now. You always love winning, no doubt about that, but there is a particular process he wants us to utilize prior to getting in the regular season so we can go through an entire season with the good approach. We want production over anything else this year.”
*Strange error of the day: Brayan Pena stole second base in the top of the fourth. Catcher Tyler Flowers was charged with an E2 on the throw. Why? There was no one covering second base and the ball went into the outfield while Pena advanced to third base.
*Over at the other game vs. the Mariners, Chris Heisey was 2-for-3 with two home runs and four RBIs. Brandon Phillips was 2-for-2 with a solo homer and three RBIs.
*Looked like another tough day for RHP Daniel Corcino in Peoria. In the sixth, Corcino gave up five runs, three hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning. His spring ERA through three games is 58.50.
*The game stories are on MLB.com/Reds.com. I will also have a notebook item on Mike Leake’s spring debut, which went well. He threw 27 pitches over two innings and reported no issues with the abdomen strain that scratched his outing on Sunday.
Here are a couple of items from the Reds’ 3-2 loss to the Giants on Thursday:
*In his second start of spring, LHP Tony Cingrani worked three scoreless and hitless innings with three walks and three strikeouts. Two of Cingrani’s walked batters were eliminated by his slick pickoff move — although on the first one, Brandon Belt was going anticipating the first pitch.
“I felt like I was over-striding a little bit,” Cingrani said of his outing. “I was trying to get too much on the ball. I felt pretty good.”
Through two starts, Cingrani has allowed one hit over five scoreless innings. At this point, he is still working on his mechanics and pitches.
“I’m trying to get that breaking ball over early in the count,” Cingrani said. “I’ve put a little pressure on myself to do that. I’m trying to locate the fastball and fine tune my mechanics.”
Manager Bryan Price was pleased with how Cingrani’s secondary pitches are developing thus far.
“We went into this spring with an emphasis on getting a stronger feel for his slider and his changeup,” Price said. “I thought his changeup was excellent today and he took some risks with his breaking ball. He threw a 3-2 breaking ball to Sandoval for a walk. He tried to use it backwards on 1-0 and 2-1 counts that got him into a little bit of trouble because he missed with them. The shape of his breaking ball was better.”
*RHP Chien-Ming Wang followed Cingrani. His line: 3 ip, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Pablo Sandoval led off the fifth inning by hitting a 3-1 Wang pitch for a homer to right-center field.
*I had a conversation on video today with Billy Hamilton. You can watch it below.
*First-pitch temperature in Scottsdale: 74 degrees.
*Before heading over to Scottsdale, here are a couple of items from the complex in Goodyear…
*Mike Leake (abdomen strain) appears ready to start on Friday in a split-squad game vs. the White Sox. Bryan Price is just going to be extra sure before committing.
“It looks good. We’re optimistic that he’ll be able to pitch,” Price said. “We’re going to get through today, go out and play catch and make sure everything is good. We don’t want to put anyone in a high risk situation. He has got to feel 100 percent.”
*Neftali Soto has been not just getting hits, but tattooing the ball to the opposite way. Soto hit a home run to right field in Wednesday’s night game vs. the Dodgers. He’s batting .571 (8-for-14) through his first six games. Obviously, the first baseman is blocked by Joey Votto but Soto is trying to increase his chances of making the team as a third catcher.
“He’s a guy doing early and late work on his catching and trying to be a viable option maybe as a third catcher and even better than that,” Price said. “His work day is as long as anyone here right now.”
*Jason Bourgeois (right hamstring strain) is playing his first game today vs. the Giants. He is the DH and the hopes is he will soon play in the outfield again, and at second base.
The Reds altered their lineup by adding Todd Frazier, who was not originally scheduled to play.
Reds lineup vs. Giants
A. Diaz 4
Positive news for two Reds starting pitchers on Wednesday.
Mat Latos threw off of the mound for the first time since his left knee surgery on Feb. 14 to repair a meniscus tear. Latos threw 20 pitches, including five changeups. The rest, he said, were two-seam and four-seam fastballs.
“Everything feels fantastic,” Latos said. “I expected a little bit of soreness while I was throwing or to feel it once or twice. I didn’t feel anything while I was throwing. My mechanics were a little off. The ball was up but that’s to be expected. I’m almost three weeks late.”
“I let go for the last one and cut it loose and didn’t feel anything in the knee or the elbow. That’s a plus.”
Latos is already scheduled to have another bullpen session on Saturday. As for his readiness for the start of the regular season, he did not know.
“I’d love to be there against St. Louis for Opening Day and the next away series [at New York],” Latos said. “Am I pushing for it? Yes. But there’s nothing I can do. It’s out of my hands.”
Leake was throwing two mounds over from Latos and seemed to be having no issues as well. His first start of spring was scratched on Sunday because of a minor abdominal strain. He is now scheduled to start on Friday.