March 2009

Red Sox-Reds

Wanted to get the starting lineup up for you early. I’ll be back later with more info from the clubhouse. I was kind of hoping Jerry Hairston Jr. would be back in there today, but I guess he’s not quite ready for game action.

Taveras  CF
Keppinger  2B
Votto  1B
Rosales  3B
Bruce  RF
Hernandez  C
Dickerson  LF
Janish  SS
Cueto  P

Be back soon… –Jonathan Mayo

A-Gone is, well, gone

Alex Gonzalez legged out an infield single with one out in the second inning. He was taken out of the game before the bottom of the second began. Gonzalez, who has been making his way back from surgery on his left knee, pulled up a little lame after crossing first base and was visibly flexing his leg. He stayed on the basepaths, but clearly wasn’t running full speed when he went to second on Ryan Hanigan’s single or when he was forced at third on Edinson Volquez’s sacrifice attempt. We haven’t gotten an update yet on Gonzalez’s status, but I’ll pass it along once we know more… — Jonathan Mayo

Update: Turns out it wasn’t the knee, which is a good thing. He suffered a right hamstring strain (it was indeed his right leg he was flexing). We’ll have more information after the game.

March 23: Blue Jays-Reds

Here’s today’s lineup:

Norris Hopper CF
Chris Dickerson LF
Joey Votto 1B
Adam Rosales 3B
Jay Bruce RF
Jeff Keppinger 2B
Alex Gonzalez SS
Ryan Hanigan C
Edinson Volquez P

The Blue Jays will be using a DH in the game. Pretty sure that’s not fair, but what are you going to do?

A couple of notes…

  • Willy Taveras was originally slated to start in center today, but was scratched because of a sore leg. Nothing really to worry about. Evidently, he was playing catch with Johnny Cueto yesterday and got hit with one of Cueto’s throws, leading Dusty Baker to say: “You can see why he’s hard to hit; he’s hard to catch.”
  • Edwin Encarnacion has been dealing with a sore shoulder, so he’s not in the lineup today. “We have to get him right for the season to start, but we have to get him at-bats,” Baker said. He’s picked up just 27 at-bats all spring
  • All the World Baseball Classic participants are now back in camp. Jerry Hairston Jr.  had been done a while, but as has been documented, got really sick, and just got back to camp yesterday. Ramon Hernandez and Ramon Ramirez are back from Team Venezuela (Look for my story on Hernandez later on Reds.com). Look for these guys to start getting into game action on Wednesday. Ramirez threw only 5 1/3 innings during the Classic, leading Baker to say, “Ramirez is a little bit behind. We have to get him streched out.”
  • Nick Masset was told today that he’s back in the bullpen. Unofficially, the No. 5 starter competition has been between Homer Bailey and Micah Owings, but Masset was still officially in the mix. The right-hander has compiled a 6.59 ERA in 13 2/3 IP this spring. He had one terrific outing againt the Pirates in his second appearance, but had allowed 10 earned runs in his other four outings spanning 10 2/3 IP.
  • Brandon Phillips  wasn’t in camp again today, still recovering from the flu-like bug that sent him home on Saturday. The Reds are erring on the side of caution with those who have gotten sick to try to avoid an epidemic. Norris Hopper is finally back and in the lineup today. “Even if hes’ not sick, we want him to come in and then go back home,” Baker said. “He looked terrible. He had a temperature. He has to leave, then. This is what you don’t want. You don’t want that plague walking through here. Not this time, too close to the opener.”
  • The Reds will be announcing some cuts after the game. “It’s a tough day. I hate these days,” Baker said.   It used to be customary for cuts to be made in the morning, but Baker makes them at the end of the day. “There’s no good time to do it,” he said. “Some of the guys that are going to get cut, you don’t know who’s here to watch them. That’s how I feel about it. Personally, I’d rather let them play. They might even do well that day.” Yonder Alonso and Chris Valaika had big games the day they got sent to Minor League camp.

 That’s it for me for this morning. Enjoy your day everybody.  — Jonathan Mayo

Bradenton

I’m in Pirate City preparing for another exciting day of Grapefruit League option. Nice pitching matchup, though, with Ian Snell twirling for the Buccos and Aaron Harang going for your Reds.

Remember how yesterday I said that the starting lineup was more or less what you’d see on Opening Day? Today, not so much:

Darnell McDonald CF
Danny Richar  2B
Laynce Nix  RF
Jonny Gomes LF
Daryle Ward  1B
Adam Rosales 3B
Paul Janish SS
Wilkin Castillo C
Aaron Harang P

Bus just arrived here in Bradenton, where’s it’s a little brisk. The way the press box is designed here, the wind blows right into it and it might be the coldest spot in the Grapefruit League. Not complaining, mind you. Still beats the weather in my hometown of Pittsburgh, but I did have to break out the sweat jacket. I know, quite a tale of woe.

Here’s a question for you to ponder until next we meet: Which “long-shot” do you hope makes the 25-man roster when the Reds break camp? Leave comments below.

Some last-minute pre-game tidbits…(1:02 pm)

  • While the Reds are off on Tuesday, Bronson Arroyo will not be. He’ll throw in a Minor League game, then get Wednesday off.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr. finally made it back to camp today. Cincy Enquirer beat writer John Fay saw him before heading to the game here today. Dusty Baker confirmed that the flu he caught in Mexico really nailed him and that he’d lost 10-12 pounds. He was hoping to get some work in today and tomorrow and would ease back into game action later in the week. He’ll get some time in the outfield and infield, as he’s likely to be the guy to play some short when Alex Gonzalez needs a day off.
  • Speaking of Gonzalez, he seems to be getting closer and closer to full strength with the knee. He came out of yesterday’s game after seven innings, but wanted to stay in for all nine. “Just the fact he wanted to go nine tells me how he feels,” said Baker, who also felt he was running better yesterday than he has.
  • Rotation for the next couple days has been set: Edinson Volquez goes tomorrow against the Blue Jays. Arroyo, as mentioned above, goes Tuesday against Reds Minor Leaguers on the off-day. Johnny Cueto gets the start on Wednesday against the Red Sox.

Illness strikes again

Quick update… Brandon Phillips was sent home. Looks like he caught this bug that’s been making its way around the clubhouse here. From what I could gather, he was going to give it a go, then they took his temp and it came out above normal. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think Jeff Keppinger’s starting in his place. – Jonathan Mayo

Allow me to introduce myself

OK, now that Sheldon’s gone, I get to wreak havoc on his blog. In all seriousness, I only hope I can be an informative and entertaining as Mark is on a daily basis. For now, some pregame notes…

Starting lineup:

Willy Taveras CF
Alex Gonzalez SS
Joey Votto 1B
Brandon Phillips 2B
Jay Bruce RF
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
Chris Dickerson LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Homer Bailey P

From what I gather, that’s pretty close to the Opening Day lineup, with the obvious exception of Hanigan behind the plate. Obviously, that’s Ramon Hernandez’s spot once he’s done with his World Baseball Classic experience.

Expect just about everyone in the lineup to play all nine innings today. The exceptions are Hanigan and Gonzalez, who’s still coming back from the knee injury. Same deal for tomorrow, when the group that travels to Bradenton will basically play the whole way.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing pitchers hit. I’ve been down here a week and have only seen DH-play. I’m an NL guy — I like seeing the pitchers take their hacks. Also looking forward to seeing Homer Bailey throw. I first talked to Homer back when he was with Dayton (my main gig is covering the Minors). Sure would be nice to see him fulfill all that potential, no?

Quote of the morning, courtesy of Dusty Baker:

“It seems like we’re not hitting because we’re not getting hits.”

Thanks, Yogi… In all seriousness, he explained what he meant by saying that the team has been hitting the ball hard, but that hasn’t resulted in hits. You know, hitting balls right at people, unlucky breaks, not finding holes, that sort of thing.

OK, folks, that’s it for now. Don’t want to use up all my ‘A’ material on the first day…
 — Jonathan Mayo

Sheldon, out. (for now)

I’m leaving camp before the end this spring because I have to get back to Cincinnati to tend to a family matter. I expect to be back on the beat by Opening Day. Before taking off, I wanted to thank everyone who has stopped by the blog and got me rolling. I’ve really enjoyed doing it and we will continue throughout the regular season. Thanks also for digesting the large volume of stories on MLB.com/Reds.com.

The keys to the Reds beat are now with Jonathan Mayo for the rest of spring and he will also kind be enough to keep this blog going. So please keep checking back.

Here’s a quick review:

Best development: The fifth starter battle between Micah Owings and Homer Bailey has been extremely strong. Whoever doesn’t get the role will be good to have for depth because it’s rare for a rotation to remain fully intact for a whole season.

Most troubling development: Francisco Cordero’s struggles. The rest of the Reds bullpen seems in good shape but the bridge from starter to closer would be for naught if Cordero doesn’t get it together before camp breaks.

Best new guy: Jonny Gomes has been fantastic from the start of camp and would take a complete collapse for the Reds to even consider not taking him north. Besides his right-handed bat, Gomes has a clubhouse presence and credibility that this young team will need as it forges its identity.

Still needs to happen: When catcher Ramon Hernandez returns from the World Baseball Classic, he will have to take a speed course to get comfortable with all of the Reds pitchers. Hernandez did what he could before leaving and he will get a less-than two week cramming session before camp breaks.

Still needs to happen II: Alex Gonzalez and his left knee have appeared to be healthy and continue to pass tests. Gonzalez still hasn’t played nine innings yet and he will need to show his knee can withstand that grind over multiple days.

Still needs to happen III: Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion need to get into a groove. Both haven’t done much at the plate to this point but both are starting to swing better.

What I will miss most: Siesta Key, the sunsets on the beach, watching baseball all day (even the drills), fantastic weather (most of the time), Solarzano’s Pizza, Five Guys Hamburgers, the Coach and Horses Pub, Mexican food at Mi Puebo and of course — Gus’ on 12th.

Before I go, a couple of predictions.

Number of wins in 2009: 80
NL Central finish: third

What do you think?

Cordero to get more work

The Reds have devised a plan they hope will get closer Francisco Cordero back on track. Cordero will get more work and pitch in some extra Minor League games, including one on Saturday.

“Instead of being three days in between, or a couple, we’ll get him on more of a routine and see if he can get into a rhythm,” pitching coach Dick Pole said on Friday. “Right now, he just doesn’t have good flow to him.”

Last night vs. Boston was Cordero’s roughest outing yet with four runs, four hits and two walks allowed in one inning. Most of the hitters were Minor Leaguers. Pole said that Cordero’s velocity was in the 92-93 mph range in the game.

“You have to take into account getting adrenaline flowing during the course of a season,” Pole said of Cordero’s lower pitch speed. “Last year, his results were better so we didn’t pay attention as much to it. Looking back at last year, his velocity was about the same and then all of a sudden the last couple of times he pitched, he was popping up to 94-95.”

The difference between last year and this year is Cordero is trying to return from right ankle surgery. That is the pitcher’s push off foot and the source of his power.

“He’s going to get more action,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He didn’t throw a lot this winter to get his arm strength up. He couldn’t because of his ankle operation and he’s a little behind. We still have two weeks and he’ll get some consecutive days. The more he throws the stronger he’ll get.

“It doesn’t do any good to get concerned. All you can do is figure out how to get him back. Concern helps no one and worry helps even less. You just have to go to work.”

Maybe, but is anyone wondering whether Cordero will be ready for start of the regular season? He has has an 18.00 ERA (12 ER over 6 IN) with 17 hits and four walks allowed in his six games. If he isn’t improving, would a stint on the DL and some extended spring training help? That would mean David Weathers would step up and be the closer.

FYI — both Pole and Baker both said that Cordero’s ankle is healthy.

Postgame news you can use:

  • Johnny Cueto gave up two earned runs and six hits over five innings. No walks, one strikeout. A majority of the hits were bloopers and not hard hit. The exception was pitcher Russ Ortiz’s RBI single to center field off of Cueto in the second. After, he faced the minimum and retired eight of his last 10 batters, getting a double play and a caught stealing along the way.

“He threw the ball good. He had good location, good movement,” Baker said.

  • Nick Masset gave up two earned runs and three hits over three innings with three walks and one strikeout. The outing didn’t start well. Masset began by giving up Darin Erstad’s double and Lance Berkman hit a 2-2 pitch to the right field corner for a two-run homer ruled just inside the pole. Then Carlos Lee walked.Masset’s final two innings were mostly smooth.
  • Norris Hopper was scratched from the lineup because of bronchitis.

Kissimmee

It’s odd but it took until my last Spring Training in Florida to finally get to the Astros’ place in Kissimmee. The trip is a bit of a bear — about 130 miles and two-plus hours. I got to see the ancillary area outside of Disney and all of the non-Disney tourist spots/hotels/etc. The only mouse ears I saw, however, were on an electric transformer tower off of I-4.

I’m the only beat writer who made this trek. The others were probably smart to stay back at the ranch. The ‘A’ lineup also remained in Sarasota.

Reds lineup:

Hopper McDonald CF, Keppinger 2B, Nix RF, Gomes 1B, Jones LF, Rosales 3B, Janish SS, Hanigan C, Cueto P

Hopper didn’t make the trip but I haven’t learned why, yet. Darnell McDonald was inserted into the leadoff spot.

Nick Masset, Josh Roenicke and Pedro Viola are among those available from the bullpen.

 

Arroyo 'working those kinks out'

Facing the Red Sox on Thursday, it was a subpar night for Bronson Arroyo. In five innings, Arroyo gave up four earned runs and three hits, including two home runs. He also had four walks and four strikeouts.

Both homers, two-run shots by Jed Lowrie and Chris Carter, came in the third inning immediately after Arroyo walked a batter. He was trailing, 4-1, when he came out of the game.

“That’s what killed me. Quit giving them free bases, quit giving them two-run homers,” Arroyo said. “After the second inning, I was missing a little bit with my fastball, especially the sinker. I kept missing down, down, down. I got behind in counts and it got me into trouble. Next time, I will try to dial that in a little better.”

Arroyo had 1-2-3 second and fourth innings. Through four starts, totaling 15 innings, he has a 6.00 ERA with 12 hits, 10 runs and seven walks allowed and 10 strikeouts. Asked if he was comfortable with his spring to this point, Arroyo said he was.

“Any way you cut it – unless you’re a young guy trying to make the club, unbelievable numbers aren’t helping you and getting killed is really helping either,” Arroyo said. “I’m kind of in the middle of the road. I feel solid. I feel like the ball was jumping out of my hand pretty good tonight. I threw the ball by some guys. The breaking ball was pretty good. I got a little out of sync in the third and fourth innings. I didn’t feel comfortable throwing the fastball. That’s what we’re here for – to try and work those kinks out.”

  • Whatever kinks Arroyo has, closer Francisco Cordero clearly has more. It was another rough performance for Cordero, who gave up four earned runs, four hits and two walks in the top of the eighth. Nick Green hit a long RBI double to the center field wall and later a Minor Leaguer named Ryan Kalish smoked a three-run triple to the left-center field gap. 

Cordero was coming off of two-straight scoreless outings but he wasn’t fooling any of Boston’s hitters tonight. Now that “it’s early in spring” no longer applies, maybe it’s time for some concern to set in.

Over his six games, totaling six innings, Cordero has an 18.00 ERA with 17 hits, 12 earned runs and four walks allowed.

  • Two more roster cuts came after the 9-1 loss. RHP Carlos Fisher and catcher Craig Tatum were optioned to Triple-A Louisville. There are now 42 players left in camp.
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