It was no surprise to see a large and loud turnout Thursday for the annual Reds caravan stop in Louisville, home of the club’s Triple-A affiliate — the Bats.
The panel of Reds included CEO Bob Castellini, Joe Morgan, Brayan Pena, J.J Hoover, former reliever Scott Williamson, prospect Phillip Ervin, and Marty Brennaman.
Also of no shock: the first question of the fan Q&A was about former catcher Corky Miller, a popular player here and the only Louisville player to have his number retired at Louisville Slugger Field.
Among other tidbits:
Pena has been working out in Miami with Cuban pitcher Raisel Iglesias. “He can’t wait for Spring Training,” Pena said of Iglesias.
Castellini was asked a question about Pete Rose and whether he would be around for the All-Star Game
“You’ll definitely see Pete Rose at the All-Star Game this year,” Castellini said.
During the hectic Thursday morning at the Reds Hall of Fame before the launch of 2015 Reds Caravan, manager Bryan Price had another positive update about first baseman Joey Votto and the first one since Redsfest in early December.
Votto, who missed 100 games last season with a distal strain of his left quadriceps, has been monitored by Reds strength and conditioning coach Sean Marohn during the offseason.
“The last report when Sean was up in Toronto earlier this month was very, very good,” Price said. “The strength was outstanding, the stamina was good and the agility. Right now, we’re looking to hit the ground running when Joey gets to Goodyear and being able to see with our own eyes where he’s at. I’m confident that he’s going to be ready to go.”
You can read more details on Reds.com/MLB.com, but veteran RHP Jason Marquis was signed by the Reds Wednesday to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp at Spring Training.
Marquis pitched for Reds GM Walt Jocketty rom 2004-06, when both worked for the Cardinals.
To me, this transaction falls under the low-risk, high-reward potential. Marquis did not pitch in the Majors last season after he had July 2013 Tommy John surgery (Dr. Tim Kremchek performed the procedure). He did make eight starts at the Triple-A level for the Phillies after being signed in June but was released on Aug. 31.
While the Reds are set at the top three spots, the guys competing for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots lack a lengthy track record. Marquis will have a chance to win a place in the rotation. The other candidates are Tony Cingrani, Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg.
So, there is a little more intrigue added to the mix with Marquis — who will wear No. 31.
For what seems like years now, I’ve been getting emails, comments and Tweets asking me about OF Felix Perez and when he might get a chance in the big leagues with the Reds. Perez, who was signed from Cuba in 2010, has been at Triple-A Louisville since near the end of the 2011 season.
Perez had a nice season for Louisville in 2014 — batting .280/.325/.450 with 12 home runs and 74 RBIs, 29 walks and 85 strikeouts in 122 games. He had an even nicer winter ball season with Caracas in the Venezuelan league batting .360/.393/.572 with nine homers and 38 RBIs in 56 games.
For the first time this spring, the 30-year-old Perez will be in big league camp as a non-roster player. He’s a left-handed hitter and in my mind, an intriguing option for the bench. The current Reds bench — Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker, Kristopher Negron, Eugenio Suarez and perhaps Jason Bourgeois — lacks power that could change games in the late innings. Brennan Boesch, another non-roster player, has big league experience and power and could conceivably be that guy. Donald Lutz is already on the 40-man roster and challenging for a spot — and will be out of options. Both Boesch and Lutz are left-handed hitters like Perez.
But if things break a certain way, perhaps Perez can be a factor for a 25-man roster spot with a good camp … or put himself in position to get a call-up when there is a need during the season.
PGA golfer and two-time Masters champion now has a connection of sorts with the Reds, albeit a distant one. It was announced on Monday that Watson bought a minority ownership stake in the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
Below is a portion of the Reds affiliate’s press release:
PENSACOLA, FL – The Pensacola Blue Wahoos today announced that two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson has purchased ownership in the Minor League baseball team located on Pensacola Bay. Born in Pensacola and raised in nearby Bagdad, Bubba has been a big fan of the Blue Wahoos, the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, since they moved to Pensacola. In honor of the partnership, the team will begin selling co-branded merchandise, a Bubba Dub Grilled Cheese, a double decker grilled cheese sandwich with crispy hash browns inside, and the restaurant and bar behind home plate will be renamed Bubba’s Sand Trap. Per team rules, the financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
“Ever since I went to my first Blue Wahoos game I have been a big fan of the team. I love the atmosphere, it’s such a great place to go with friends and family. I wish Pensacola had a team like this when I was growing up. There’s something special about pulling for the hometown team. It’s great that Quint and Rishy were willing to let me be a part of it. I look forward to a long and exciting partnership with them. I just hope Quint doesn’t get tired of my crazy ideas because I have been known to have a few. One thing I know for sure is that you won’t see me out there in a uniform playing. I already asked, and they said I can’t do that even if I own part of the team,” said Watson.
Bruce Baldwin, President of the Blue Wahoos, made the announcement earlier this afternoon at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. Following the announcement, Watson took two ceremonial swings from home plate – one with his signature hot pink shafted driver and the other with a Louisville slugger. Jamie Walczak, who pitched for the Wahoos last season, threw to Watson. Bubba is no stranger to the team’s home field, throwing out ceremonial first pitches and greeting Wahoos players and fans in 2012 and 2014 after each of his Masters wins. In 2014, he even wore the famed green jacket while throwing out the first pitch.
Reds pitcher Mike Leake avoided arbitration with the club by agreeing to a one-year deal at $9.775 million, a source told MLB.com on Friday.
Leake earned $5.9 million last season. This winter was his third and final time of being eligible for arbitration. He can become a free agent after the season.
The Reds have not announced a signing yet.
That leaves Chapman, Mesoraco and Frazier still eligible for arbitration.
UPDATE at 1:35 p.m.: The Reds announced they have agreed to terms with Leake and Cozart.
Reds shortstop Zack Cozart agreed Friday to a one-year, $2.35 million contract that avoids arbitration. This is the deadline day where teams and players exchange salary figures ahead of arbitration hearings next month.
Cozart was first year arbitration eligible and earned $600,000 last season. No announcement has been made yet by the club.
The Reds still have Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco, Aroldis Chapman and Mike Leake eligible for arbitration.
More to come…
MLB Network announced that the second installment of its new Bob Costas hosted series, “MLB Network Presents,” will focus on the 25th anniversary of a memorable 1990 Reds team.
The program, “Nasty Boys: The 1990 Cincinnati Reds,” will focus specifically on the three relievers known as the “Nasty Boys” in Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers.
The episode premieres on MLB Network on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. All three relievers were interviewed, as well as manager Lou Piniella, Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, right fielder Paul O’Neill, infielder Ron Oester, catcher Joe Oliver and starter Tom Browning.
Below is a clip from the program:
It was always believed that veteran catcher Corky Miller had a future in coaching when he was done playing.
Miller retired last season and on Wednesday, he was named a coach for Class A Dayton.
Here are some details via a Dayton Dragons release:
Miller will join manager Jose Nieves, pitching coach Tom Browning, and hitting coach Luis Bolivar on the Dragons staff. Miller will also visit other Reds affiliates on select dates in a catching instructor role in 2015.
Miller completed a 17-year professional playing career in 2014. On August 31, 2014, he became the first player in the history of the Triple-A Louisville Bats to have his number retired by the club. He is the Bats all-time career leader in games played, first appearing in a game with Louisville in 2001.
Miller spent parts of 11 years in the Major Leagues, mostly with the Reds. He also played for the Braves, White Sox, Twins, and Red Sox. He made his big league debut with the Reds in 2001 and played in his final Major League game in 2013 at age 37, becoming the oldest Reds player to start a game at catcher since 1951. He was originally signed by the Reds as an undrafted free agent in 1998.
“We are excited to transition Corky Miller onto our Minor League coaching staff in 2015,” said Jeff Graupe, Reds Director of Player Development. “Corky will be based out of Dayton and will split his time working with the Dragons and roving around our system developing our catchers. As a player, Corky was well known throughout the game as a terrific defensive catcher with outstanding fundamentals and quality relationships with his pitchers. He will be a tremendous asset for our young catchers to learn from.”
The Reds announced they would have 19 non-roster invites at big league camp in Spring Training when camp opens on Feb. 18 in Goodyear.
Here is the list:
RHP Nate Adcock, RHP Jonathon Crawford, RHP Nick Howard, RHP Michael Lorenzen, LHP Jose Mijares, RHP Jon Moscot, RHP Robert Stephenson and RHP Nick Travieso; catchers Ramon Cabrera, Kyle Skipworth and Chad Wallach; infielders Ivan De Jesus Jr., Irving Falu, Josh Satin and Neftali Soto; and outfielders Brennan Boesch, Ryan LaMarre, Felix Perez and Jesse Winker.
Below is the full camp roster: