March 2009

Dickerson trying to prove himself

Sometimes when you write a lot of stories, you can forget about them. Players however, don’t always forget. Many of them read what the beat reporters write and part of the gig is being accountable for writing it. So when I was talking to outfielder Chris Dickerson Wednesday about his good spring, he dropped this sentence my way:

“I’m trying to prove to you that I’m not an anomaly,” Dickerson said.

I had no idea at first what he was talking about. But he remembered a story about the left field vacancy that I wrote . I had to go look it up. On Feb. 10, I wrote:

“But there are questions about whether Dickerson’s numbers were an anomaly since they’re superior than anything he had previously produced in the Minors.”

So there you go. We talked about it today, I told him I looked up the story and everything seemed fine. But like many players, statements that carry even a shred of doubt about a performance seem to be something Dickerson uses as motivation. Batting .375 entering tonight, Dickerson has certainly had a solid spring and if he continues that way, I can’t see how he isn’t on the 25-man roster in April.

Last season Dickerson batted .304 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 31 games. He batted .287 at Triple-A Louisville and was red hot before his August call-up but is a .260 hitter lifetime in the Minors.

“People want to say that was just a great six-week performance and that’s it,” Dickerson said. “Just like everybody else, they look into the Minor League performance. I just want to come out here and continue to show people I can play and that I’m the same player I was those last six weeks.”

More on this story later on the web site.

News you can use:

  • Fifth starter contender Micah Owings acknowledged his less than pretty line in a Minor League game on Wednesday. (4.1 IN, 9H, 7 R, 6 ER, 5K, 1 HB)

“The results probably didn’t indicate how I felt,” Owings said. “The first three innings went well and I felt good. Looking back, I could have probably done a couple of things differently. Those guys were just swinging.”

“It’s not easy pitching against the young guys,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s a bigger deal for the kids to face them than it is for them to face the kids. You call home and tell them what you did. ‘Daddy, I think I’m ready.'”

Much of Owings trouble began after a bunt play when he made an error throw to third base. He also hit a solo homer in the game.

“The first at-bat was ugly. I saw three pitches, made three swings and sat down,” Owings said. The next at-bat, I broke my bat on the first pitch and fouled it off down the line. I got one of [Norris Hopper's] bats he gave me because I only brought one out there.”

  • Must have been some bat since Hopper also hit a solo homer in his Minor League game. Hopper isn’t known for his pop.
  • Baker plans to play all of his regulars for nine innings against the Red Sox, except for Alex Gonzalez, who is going six. None of the regulars will be on the Friday trip to Kissimmee to play the Astros. Ryan Hanigan isn’t playing today but will be catching starter Johnny Cueto on Friday.
  • We’re one day short of the three-year anniversary of Bronson Arroyo’s trade from the Red Sox to the Reds for OF Wily Mo Pena. It was former GM Wayne Krivsky’s first trade with the club. Still like it? Arroyo is 38-37 with a 4.05 ERA since coming to the Reds but he’s pitching 200 or more innings in all three seasons. It’s still a no-brainer to me and I’m sure Boston GM Theo Epstein wouldn’t mind a do-over. Arroyo gets to face his old team tonight — but Boston also didn’t travel its ‘A’ lineup.
  • In the clip ‘n save — Baker has liked very much what he’s seen from catcher Craig Tatum, who reached Triple-A last season.

“He’s one of the most improved hitters I’ve seen as far as approach and keeping things simpler,” Baker said. “He’s strong. He’s got a cannon for an arm.”

Tatum starts tonight and has benefitted greatly from Ramon Hernandez’s extended leave for the WBC.

Reds lineup:

Taveras CF, Gonzalez SS, Votto 1B, Phillips 2B, Bruce RF, Encarnacion 3B, Dickerson LF, Tatum C, Arroyo P

Red Sox lineup:

Baldelli CF, Lowrie SS, Wilkerson 1B, Bailey RF, Carter LF, Green 2B, Chavez 3B, Brown C, Lester P 

Not smooth days for Owings, Volquez

Courtesy of Larry “The Repairman” Herms from the Reds, the line for Micah Owings in a game vs. Rays Minor Leaguers in Sarasota:

4.1 IP, 9H, 7R, 6ER, 5K, 1HB (71TP, 51K). Owings also went 1-for-2 with a solo homer.

  • Obviously, that’s the first blight on what’s been an otherwise spectacular spring for Owings. However, sometimes these Minor League game results have to be taken with a grain of salt. Young hitters are usually thrilled to be facing a Major League pitcher and they come ready to hack at just about anything. I will hopefully talk to Owings tomorrow and try to learn more.
  • As for Edinson Volquez here in Port Charlotte, he pitched three scoreless innings but he had an uneven outing himself. Volquez gave up six hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He worked out of bases loaded jams in both the first and second innings. In the first, an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play by Pat Burrell saved Volquez. After getting a double play in the second, an error and two singles juiced the bases before Volquez struck out Carl Crawford. Volquez allowed two more hits in the third.

“I think I had too much power today. I was overthrowing a little bit,” said Volquez, who threw 71 pitches. “I don’t like feeling like that -with too much power. You don’t throw the ball where you want to throw it. I talked to Dick Pole about it and said I couldn’t control my pitches today. He said ‘just do the best you can.'”

  • It was a rough one for Bill Bray, who gave up six runs but only one earned. A two-error by Jeff Keppinger with the bases loaded extended the inning. Bray gave up a two-run single and right-hander Carlos Fisher took over and allowed Reid Brignac’s three-run homer. 

 

 

 

Hairston sick, lineups & news

It’s a breezy morning in Port Charlotte, where the Reds and Rays will play at 1:05 p.m.

Reds lineup:

Taveras CF, Dickerson LF, Votto 1B, Phillips 2B, Bruce RF, Encarnacion 3B, Jones DH, Keppinger SS, Hanigan C

P Volquez (Micah Owings, Jared Burton, Bill Bray and Arthur Rhodes will also get work)

Rays lineup:

Bartlett SS, Crawford LF, Aybar 2B, Pena 1B, Burrell DH, Gross RF, Kapler CF, Ensberg 3B, Hernandez C

P – Hammel

News you can use:

  • We learned late that Owings will not be here. He remained in Sarasota to pitch in a Minor League game. Results will be posted when I get them.
  • IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. is done with the World Baseball Classic now that Mexico is out. But Hairston is sick with a viral infection he picked up down there and manager Dusty Baker it would probably be Friday, maybe Thursday, before Hairston arrives.

“I told my trainer I don’t want him,” Baker said. “That’s the worst thing that can happen, especially this time of year, you can get a plague going through your clubhouse. I know he’s champing at the bit. I haven’t called him because I know he’ll try to convince me if I call him.”

  • Jacque Jones got a lot of extra at-bats as the DH in a Minor League game Tuesday. As you likely saw above, Jones is in today’s starting lineup. He’s entering the day batting .077.

“Jacque got seven or eight at-bats and hit the ball pretty good,” Baker said. “He hit a home run to left field, which is his stroke, and a couple of other hits. You can work on some stuff when it doesn’t count.”

  • Baker was asked about the comparisons people are making about the Reds being like the Rays of last year.

“A lot of people are going to compare you to the Rays if you have a young team,” he said. “It took them a while to get to this point, and a whole bunch of No. 1 draft choices to get to this point. But here and now, they have a good man at the helm and a good coaching staff. The Rays have given a lot of mid-range payroll teams hope.”

  • In the something I haven’t seen before at a ballpark department, a local animal control officer was in the seats behind home plate trying to catch a raccoon during BP. Using one of those long rods with a noose, he eventually caught the raccoon with the device and stuffed him safely inside a crate.

“He’s probably going to make raccoon stew,” joked Marty Brennaman.

 

Robinson to lead parade

From the Reds PR dept:

 

The Cincinnati Reds and Findlay Market have announced that Reds great Frank Robinson will be the Grand Marshall for the 90th Findlay Market Opening Day Parade on Monday, April 6, 2009.

Robinson will also be the Honorary Captain of the Opening Day game vs. the New York Mets.  

Robinson played for the Reds from 1956-1965. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1978 and Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1982.

Also making an special appearance in the parade will be Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo.

“We are very excited to have both a Reds Hall of Famer and a current Reds player in the Findlay Market Opening Day this year,” said Phil Castellini, Reds chief operating officer. “The parade is one of the oldest traditions in all of baseball, and it’s the first time in recent history that a current Reds player will be in the parade.”

Also from the Reds on Opening Day tix:

Opening Day Ticket Sale on Fountain Square
2,000 tickets available Saturday at 9 a.m.
CINCINNATI (March 18, 2009) — The Cincinnati Reds and Fountain Square have announced that
2,000 tickets for the April 6 Opening Day game will go on sale Saturday, March 21 at 9 a.m.
The Opening Day tickets include 1,000 “Standing Room Only” and 1,000 “View Level” tickets to the
season opener vs. the New York Mets.
Ticket prices are $22 for Standing Room Only and $29 for View Level.
There is a limit of six tickets per person. Cash and major credit cards will be accepted.
Fans interested in forming a line for the tickets can start at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Fountain Square
Management Group will provide overnight security.
These tickets are only available on Fountain Square, not at the ballpark ticket windows.
Reds mascots will make appearances on Fountain Square along with Reds partners and sponsors.
The Fountain Square video board will show two Reds spring training games live on FOX Sports Ohio
from Sarasota:
• Thursday, March 19 – Reds vs. Red Sox at 7 p.m.
• Friday, March 20 – Reds vs. Astros at 1 p.m.
From Thursday through Saturday morning, Reds-themed entertainment will be shown on Fountain
Square’s video board in addition to selected NCAA basketball games.
This is the second year in a row that the Reds have offered Opening Day tickets to fans on Fountain
Square. Last year’s tickets sold out in about one hour.
 

Rough one for Harang

Not a whole lot went very well for Aaron Harang during his Tuesday start vs. the Phillies. His line was 3 1/3 innings pitched and he gave up six earned runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts. A total of 11 batters came up in the second inning, where Harang gave up all of his runs.

Harang left the game in the fourth trailing, 6-0. The Reds went on to lose, 8-1.

Five of the hits were for extra bases — all doubles actually. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were both in 0-2 counts and walked. On top of that, Harang botched a sacrifice bunt attempt and popped out foul in the third.

“I never got into a groove. I didn’t feel comfortable out there,” Harang said. “I didn’t have that finish pitch today. They did a good job of hitting me. I threw some good pitches down and away and they were taking them to right field. I’ve got to get into a groove early on to stay out there for a while.”

“They were all with two outs, almost all of them,” manager Dusty Baker said of the runs in the second. “He’d get ahead of them and get two strikes and he just couldn’t put them away today. He lost his rhythm some in that one inning but we had to get his pitch count up though.”

  • After four-straight outings without a run crossing on his watch, David Weathers was tapped for two earned runs and four hits during his one-inning relief appearance.
  • In what had to be the most entertaining performance of the National Anthem I’ve ever seen, singer and Broadway producer Dale Badway sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and made it his own. Badway, wearing a suit with a bright green silky shirt, paced on the home plate dirt area. While punctuating each word in his tenor voice (or was it baritone?), he genuflected with dramatic hand gestures during each verse and alternated looks towards both dugouts. When it was over, he bowed and walked confidently off the field and high-fived Phillies players as the crowd of 9,202 fans cheered. This guy would kill at Great American Ball Park. A few of the Reds were visibly cracking up at Mr. Badway’s moxie.
  • While the Reds went with green hats for St. Patrick’s Day, the Phillies went with green jerseys and caps. 

Masset discussion, bullpen for Bailey?

It’s getting late in spring and in the previous blog post about the probable starters, Nick Masset’s name was nowhere to be found. Nothing has been determined officially, but all signs are pointing to him no longer being in contention for the rotation’s fifth spot.

Masset has a 6.75 ERA through four games, including three starts, totalling 10 2/3 innings.

“We have to sit down and talk about it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We might be making some decisions soon because there are not enough innings without ‘B’ games or split-squad games.”

It’s likely down to Micah Owings and Homer Bailey, who have both pitched well this spring. Owings has been nearly unstoppable. Baker caught the last couple of innings of Bailey’s minor league outing Monday (see previous post for line) and liked what he saw.

The big mystery could be the last bullpen spot. Masset, who has been a long reliever for a couple of years, is out of options. Bailey has no history as a reliever but isn’t out of the question to do it if Owings beats him for the fifth spot.

“Possibly. It’s something we’ve discussed,” Baker said. “It’s something that depends on what’s better for him in the long run – do we pitch him or make him the fifth guy? With the Dodgers and Giants, a lot of our top young guys started out as long guys – Dave Stewart, Bobby Welch, Pedro Martinez.

“A lot of it depends on who has options left and who doesn’t. There is a lot that goes into consideration as well as how you’re pitching.”

More news you can use:

  • Jay Bruce hasn’t hit well most of spring (batting .200 entering the day) but Baker wasn’t too worried.

“He kind of started this way last year too,” Baker said. “He was getting some hits early, but they were groundballs between first and second. His stroke isn’t really there because he’s fouling off pitches he would ordinarily put into play. He’s close. When you see him going to left field or up the middle that means he’s right there because he is not a pull hitter. When he starts trying to pull, that’s when most hitters get into trouble.”

  • Jacque Jones and Daryle Ward, who are both struggling offensively, were kept back in Sarasota to DH in Minor League games.

“They stayed back and hit extra and try to hope we can find their strokes.”

  • Alex Gonzalez and Norris Hopper will likely do the same thing on Wednesday while the Reds are in Port Charlotte.
  • Infielder Danny Richar probably had an outside chance at best to make it as a backup infielder. But despite some nice defensive plays, Richar entered batting .111 and was honest about his state of mind.

“I don’t feel like I’m playing the way I’m used to playing. I don’t feel confident,” Richar said. “I need to get that back. I’m trying to do too much. I need to play my game. Right now, I don’t feel like I’m playing my game.”

The Reds are wearing green hats for St. Patrick’s Day and several players had green shirts among their street clothes, including Brandon Phillips and Baker.

“Erin Go Braugh my brother,” Baker said to Phillips — both men laughed.

 

More cuts, news, lineups

The second wave of cuts came Tuesday morning. Here is the list provided by the Reds:

Optioned to Class AAA Louisville: RHP Sam LeCure, LHP Matt Maloney and RHP Robert Manuel.

Optioned to Class AA Carolina 3B Juan Francisco.

Reassigned to minor league camp RHP James Avery, IF/OF Wes Bankston, 1B Kevin Barker, IF Luis Bolivar, LHP Ben Jukich, C Chris Kroski, LHP Adam Pettyjohn and RHP Jordan Smith.

  • 44 players remain in camp.
  • Homer Bailey’s line from Monday’s Minor League intrasquad game was three runs and four hits allowed over five innings with one walk and six strikeouts. Bailey threw 73 pitches.
  • The probables for the next few days will look quite similar to the regular rotation: Volquez (Weds at TB), Arroyo (Thurs vs. BOS) Cueto (Fri at HOU) and Bailey (Sat vs. PIT)
  • Micah Owings will pitch out of the bullpen behind Volquez tomorrow. Don’t read anything into that.

Reds lineup vs PHI:

Taveras CF, Dickerson LF, Votto 1B, Phillips 2B, Bruce RF, Encarnacion 3B, Gonzalez SS, Hanigan C, Harang P

  • As you can see, it’s mostly what the Opening Day lineup looks like, minus Ramon Hernandez. Dusty Baker plans to keep Gonzalez in the seventh spot and Hernandez in the eighth spot.

“Preferably, I would like to hit Gonzalez in the second spot unless Jerry Hairston is playing,” Baker said. “That second spot is a very intelligent spot to hit in, a very unselfish spot. Dickerson might be a little young to do it on a daily basis but I’ve got him there to teach him how to do it on days when he will do it  — when to take, when to bunt. You’re a double leadoff man.”

Batting second requires a lot more running ahead of the big hitters and Gonzalez’s rehabbing knee isn’t ready for that pounding yet.

  • Weathers, Lincoln and Cordero are on the travel roster to pitch from the bullpen. Outfielders Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix are among those available off of the bench.

Sorry for being late, but here’s the Phillies lineup:

Utley 2B, Bruntlett SS, Ibanez LF, Howard 1B, Stairs RF, Feliz 3B, Mayberry CF, Ruiz C, Myers P

Rodan?

For today’s off day story, I focused on reliever Jared Burton. Here is a link to the feature.

Dusty Baker is a man of many interests and seems to know pop culture over multiple generations. I fancy myself knowledgable of pop culture but Baker got me on Sunday after I asked him what made Burton tough against hitters.

“Burton is very athletic and has great deception,” Baker said. “You watch when he spreads out. He throws that glove at you and looks like Rodan.”

 

200px-GojivRodan.jpgMy response (that wasn’t in the story) was “who?” Baker said “forget it” but after a few seconds, I realized it had something to do with Godzilla, or movies of that ilk. I had to look up Rodan in Google to write the story so I could accurately support the reference. It’s one of the things that makes this job fun — you never know what you’re going to hear.

To the left, is a picture of “Rodan” that I borrowed from Wikipedia.

 

Below is a picture of Burton.
burton.jpg
  

Cueto and Bray return

For the most part, Johnny Cueto looked pretty decent as he returned to action for the Reds following his stint for the Dominican in the World Baseball Classic.

Cueto gave up one earned run and four hits with one walk and two strikeouts against the Blue Jays.  The 23-year-old threw 73 pitches, with 42 strikes. Batters received first-pitch strikes 11 of 18 times.

A long first inning, including a nine-pitch at-bat with Scott Rolen, had Cueto use a total of 24 pitches. Cueto got Rolen to strikeout on a fastball outside the strike zone and returned to throw nine pitches total in the second inning.

“Johnny looked good,” catcher Ryan Hanigan said. “I was impressed with his ability to throw his fastball under the hands of righties on a consistent basis when we needed that pitch. He changed speeds well. I would have liked to see him get ahead a little bit more but what was positive for sure was when he did get into trouble, it wasn’t often, he didn’t panic and made pitches. He didn’t make mistakes when guys were on base.”

  • Reds manager Dusty Baker said the other day that Cueto would be the Reds’ No. 4 starter.
  • Question for you – does anyone think Cueto will move forward in his sophomore season? Any concerns after he went 9-14 as a rookie?
  • Reliever Bill Bray followed Cueto and worked one scoreless inning with two hits, one walk and one strikeout. Bray hadn’t pitched in eight days before he was bothered by a sore left hamstring. The last outing was his first one because he started late with a sore shoulder.

“The hamstring is great. Everything is good,” Bray said. “My shoulder was good 2 ½ weeks ago. I decided to go running in the outfield one day and it popped. I was kind of like ‘what next?’ But I couldn’t control that. It’s just great to be back out there.”

  • Nick Masset, the fifth starter candidate behind Owings and Bailey, gave up two earned runs and four hits over 2 2/3 innings. Masset walked three and struck out four. Not a great line but I can’t offer much insight since I was in the clubhouse during much of his outing. But that’s three lackluster games in four tries and I have to imagine he’s pitched himself out of the picture for the No. 5. He has a 6.75 ERA going so far.
  • Toronto won the game, 5-4, in the 10th inning. Carlos Fisher gave up a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th. It was the first run Fisher gave up after working 3 2/3 scoreless innings over his previous three appearances. 

 

Sunday in Dunedin

It’s a little patch of Florida with the Labatt’s beer flows and the Canadian maple leaf flag flies proudly — Dunedin. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the finer ballparks in the Grapefruit League and the ball is prone to flying out without much effort on the hitters part. I remember one day when the wind was blowing out and Eric Milton was pitching…you needed an abacus to keep score.

Until the bus gets here, this is the Reds’ lineup:

Hopper CF, Dickerson LF, Votto 1B, Phillips 2B, Bruce RF, Encarnacion 3B, Nix DH, Gonzalez SS, Hanigan C.

Cueto is the starting pitcher and Nick Masset is expected to follow from the bullpen. Bill Bray, who hasn’t pitched since he was up here eight days ago, is also on the travel roster.

Blue Jays lineup:

Inglett SS, Hill 2B, Bautista CF, Millar 1B, Rolen 3B, Lane DH, Snider RF, Barrett C, Adams LF

P Mills

Updated news you can use:

  • Dusty Baker still hasn’t defined specific late-inning bullpen roles but he is leaning towards carrying 12 pitchers early in the season, instead of 11. 

“We have to get Francisco Cordero together and see who our long man is,” Baker said

  • When asked if infielder Jeff Keppinger was in danger of not making the team because of a slow spring, Baker gave little indication that was possible. Keppinger had two hits on Saturday but came into Sunday batting .179 (5-for-28).

“He has a track record. That helps big time,” Baker said. “Kepp is a guy that plays a lot of positions. Things are always subject to change but you never really feel comfortable in this game. You have to continue to produce. I wasn’t worried about Kepp hitting. He can hit. He didn’t have his stroke. Everybody doesn’t get their stroke at the same time. You hate to make up your mind on spring Trainings only. You can get fooled. You have to go on track record, if he has one, and what he’s doing now. If he’s not hurt, there’s a good chance he’ll come pretty close to what he’s always done.

  • If Baker wanted to go in a different direction, Adam Rosales or Paul Janish would be two top alternatives. Both can play multiple infield positions. Rosales is batting .222 but Janish came in batting .300 and has made improvements offensively. He batted .188 in 38 big league games in 2008.

“I think I mentally took on the approach to slow it down,” Janish said.

Baker believed there to be more to it than that. Janish has put in the work the club asked of him.

“I’ve noticed that he looks stronger,” Baker said. “Every time I go in the weight room to work out, he’s in there. He’s working on his hands and his forearm strength.”.

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