April 2009

Bring on May…

My off day story talked about where the Reds are as a team after an 11-10 record in April. This morning, a friend of mine emailed me this question:

“If you had said at the beginning of the season, ‘Would you be happy if the Reds were above .500 and in second place in the division at the end of April?'”

I’d bet you would say yes. And they should be based on some stats:

Cincinnati’s team batting average is .235, which is ranked 15th out of 16 National League teams. At one point, it was a Major League low .210. Their 78 runs scored in ranked 14th in the NL. Joey Votto, hitting .346 after playing in all 21 games, has been the lone constant in the lineup. Although tremendous effort was made to shore up defensively, the Reds’ 18 errors are third most in the league and their .977 fielding percentage is 14th.

While the Reds went 7-3 on a 10-game road trip with three series wins at Milwaukee, Houston and Chicago, they are 4-7 at Great American Ball Park after the just completed 2-4 home stand. The home series record is 0-3-1.

May could be a bear of a month. The Reds have 14 road games, including a west coast trip. Friday in Pittsburgh starts a stretch of 25 games in 27 days. 

So again, knowing what you know now, are you happy with where the Reds are right now?

Volquez gets it done

If you could write the headline, what would you say about Edinson Volquez? Or about Adam Rosales for that matter?

In a 3-0 victory, Volquez wasn’t the overpowering pitcher he usually is but had one dominant performance. He threw eight shutout innings (a career high) and dealt with just three base runners. He had one hit allowed (in the first inning), one hit batter and one walk. He threw only 106 pitches and at one point, retired 17 in a row. A total turnaround from the seven walk mess he had on Friday vs. the Braves (which included five in one inning).

Rosales was 1-for-2 with a RBI single up the middle that broken the scoreless tie in the fifth. He also drew a walk and added a sac fly in the eighth. He was cheered as he hustled everywhere on the field.

The Reds finished April with an 11-10 record and this home stand 2-4.

Baker on Volquez:

“It was a total turnaround. He had a good tempo going, took his time and he wasn’t rushing. He was concentrating on getting strike one and not just throwing it. He was pitching tonight.”

“Early in the game, he was throwing strike one. It’s important for strike one and not necessarily velocity. His velocity was 92-93 mph but he can get up to 96-97. It’s about control. That’s what he demonstrated tonight. He had that fastball working, especially down and away. If you can get that pitch for strike one, it makes it a whole lot easier to pitch.”

Rosales on his RBI single with Nix on third base and the infield in:

“That’s a situation you were born and raised to do. That’s your job to get him in. That’s what was going through my mind – get him in. when I got to two strikes, I had to change my approach a little bit. I wasn’t going to drive it but put some good wood on it.”

The Astros didn’t think too much of Volquez:

“I didn’t think he was on the top of his game,” said Astros center fielder Michael Bourn “I think he was OK. He left some balls over the plate for us. Some people made some good swings. I didn’t make any good swings, but on a regular (day), we’ll get to him. He has good stuff, no doubt. But I’m not going to say he was at his best.”

“I didn’t think he was all that sharp,” Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. “I thought he had some life to his fastball, but we had some pitches to hit. We just didn’t swing the bat very well. You have to give him some credit, but I didn’t think it was a one-hit type of performance tonight.”

What did you think? I think it was the Volquez people have been waiting for. He couldn’t have done much better than that.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Rosales starts, Phillips not starting

A very unique lineup for the Reds today. You’ve asked, correction, demanded to have Adam Rosales up here and playing. Done. Let’s see if he can keep his hot, hot hitting going at this level.

Brandon Phillips is getting his first day off after he was 2-for-4 last night. I will try to update with the reason behind it. He was 0-for-4 with a GIDP vs. Astros starter Felipe Paulino on April 19 at Houston.

Reds lineup:

Taveras CF
Hairston 2B
Votto 1B
Bruce RF
Hernandez C
Nix LF
Rosales 3B
Gonzalez SS
Volquez P

Update at 5pm:

Dusty Baker decided to give Phillips the day off today because it means a two-day break with Thursday’s scheduled off day. Baker decided not to change back after his decent night on Tuesday when he homered and hit a double.

“It was already planned before anyway,” Baker said. “A lot of times, probably 20 different times, I had a guy with a planned day off and then he has a good game and the next day doesn’t work out and I’ve wasted the plan. I said go work some more today and get tomorrow off and be ready Friday.”

 As for Phillips, he had some interesting things to say about the media coverage of hitting woes, which is doesn’t call “a slump.”

“I know I can hit,” Phillips said. “Everyone can’t start off hot like Joey Votto. Some people start off a little slower. I had a slow start in 2007 too. I wouldn’t call it a slump. I’ve been hitting the ball good. I just haven’t found any holes. That’s how I look at it.”

More quotes from Phillips:

“I love you guys. I have nothing but respect for all of you. But ever since you’ve been writing about me not hitting, we haven’t been winning. I hear a lot of people on our team that are worried about me, instead of worrying about the team. I’m going to hit. That’s how confident I am. That’s the type of player I am.

“In the beginning when I wasn’t doing anything, everybody was flowing and it was all about the team. It was all about winning. Then the next thing you know, people start writing about ‘Phillips is not hitting. Edwin is not hitting.’ Everybody started paying attention to me and Edwin and everybody lost focus about winning.”

In other news….

Chris Dickerson is feeling better and will take BP today (indoors since it’s been raining). Dickerson could be available to pinch-hit tonight but that was not a lock.

Laynce Nix’s homer in the eighth inning last night was his first long ball since Sept. 1, 2006, when he was with the Brewers. Of course, he’s only played a little over 30 big league games since then. He was in Triple-A most of the time.

“It seems like yesterday because I’ve hit about 50 in between then and now,” Nix said. “It just wasn’t in the big leagues. I didn’t feel like it’s been that long.”

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Harang vents again…a little.

The Reds find themselves staring at a potential 1-5 home stand and a three-game sweep to the Astros. Tuesday’s 8-3 loss wasn’t pretty in any sense and another source of anger and frustration for Aaron Harang.

“I don’t know what to say, really,” said Harang, who lasted only five innings and allowed six runs (five earned) on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts. “They came out swinging and I just couldn’t get it done.”

You may remember that Wandy Rodriguez and the Astros left Harang burning with a 7-0 loss on April 18 in Houston. In that game, he tossed a cooler along with a bat and glove. After a four-run Astros fifth tonight, Harang slammed his glove on the bench.

“I’m expecting to go out there and go seven or eight innings,” Harang said. “I made some good pitches. We brought the infield in [for Matsui] and I got exactly what I wanted to. Of course it goes right through the infield. It’s not their fault. It went right through the hole. There was nothing you could do about it. It’s kind of tough when you go out and are trying to get as deep in the games and you can’t get it done.”

The big glaring number that was the defense’s fault were three errors. Joey Votto made two errors on one play in the first inning and it let a run come home.

“We didn’t help him out very much. That hurt,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

For those who wanted to see Adam Rosales, no dice. Rosales made the on-deck circle twice but never entered. He was standing there when Alex Gonzalez flew out to end the game.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Encarnacion to DL, Rosales recalled

A little breaking news for you: 3B Edwin Encarnacion is headed to the 15-day disabled list with a small chip fracture in his left wrist. IF Adam Rosales was recalled from Triple-A Louisville and will be here sometime tonight.

In the previous post, Encarnacion was listed in the lineup and batting seventh. Dusty Baker scratched him when it was decided he should see Dr. Kremchek and get tested. Encarnacion has also been bothered by a sore right shoulder.

Jerry Hairston is starting at third base tonight. Darnell McDonald will bat seventh and play left field.

It was believed that Encarnacion suffered the injury during a swing in his final plate appearance on Monday vs. the Astros. An MRI exam on Tuesday afternoon confirmed the fracture. He will be in a cast for one week before being re-evaluated.

“You never know until you do extensive tests,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We don’t know if he did it on the last swing yesterday or before. I know I saw him wince after his last at-bat.”

Encarnacion was in a 0-for-12 skid and 1-for-his-last 28.

Also — Chris Dickerson was feeling better today after his head-to-head collision with Tejada last night but isn’t expected to return to action until Friday. Dickerson was awaiting results from testing he did on his vision, reaction time and depth perception.

“I feel fine,” Dickerson said. “There is no dizziness. There is still a little bit of a headache. The mental processing is a little bit hazy, I noticed during that test.”

New Reds lineup:

Taveras 8, Hairston 5, Votto 3, Phillips 4, Bruce 9, Hernandez 2, McDonald 7, Gonzalez 6, Harang 1

Also get Reds updates on Twitter.

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon 

Game started on time after the rain moved out. 

Reds vs. Astros 4/28/09

The tarp is on the field at GABP and it’s been raining most of the day in the area. Showers and thunderstorms are in the evening forecast. If there is a window in the forecast to play, I’m sure the Reds decision makers will wait for it.

After getting clocked in the head last night during the Tejada collision, Chris Dickerson isn’t starting today. But that likely has as much to do with Astros using a lefty starting pitcher in Wandy Rodriguez. Dickerson was scheduled for more tests today after feeling woozy last night. Struggling Edwin Encarnacion was dropped from sixth to seventh. Encarnacion is on a 0-for-12 skid and is 1-for-his-last-28.

More details later when I have it.

After the 7-3 road trip, the Reds really need these last two games vs. the Astros so they can finish 3-3 on the homestand.

Reds lineup:

Taveras CF
Hairston  LF
Votto 1B
Phillips 2B
Bruce RF
Hernandez C
Encarnacion 3B
Gonzalez SS
Harang P

Minor League news from the Reds’ Jamie Ramsey:

IF Adam Rosales (Louisville) last night vs. Indianapolis collected 3 more hits to lift his batting average to .426…he’s currently riding a 10-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in all 16 of his games…since 8/3/08, he’s reached base safely in 27 straight games he’s played for Louisville…he ranks among IL leaders in most all offensive categories.

Daryl Thompson (5.2ip, 4h, 3r, 1bb, 1hr) earned his first victory, at any level, since 7/13/08…Robert Manuel with 2.0 perfect innings of relief … Yonder Alonso hit a grand slam yesterday for Class A Sarasota.

Don’t forget that you can also get Reds updates on Twitter.

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

No beating Oswalt, again

A great effort by Johnny Cueto was for naught as far as the Reds dropped a 4-1 game to the Astros. On the heels of his seven scoreless at Chicago last week, Cueto allowed one run and seven hits over seven innings. Last time, he had zero walks. This time, one walk. You have to be encouraged by his improved command and aggressiveness.

At least Cueto didn’t get a losing decision but too bad for him that the Reds were predictably neutralized by Roy Oswalt much of the time. They also hurt themselves with three double plays induced by Oswalt, including one by Brandon Phillips for a 6-4-3 GIDP with two on and one out in the fourth.

A nice two-out rally came in the sixth. Laynce Nix hit his fourth double of the season. Joey Votto (who else?) was clutch with a RBI single that tied the game at 1-1. The bases were later left loaded when Edwin Encarnacion tapped a ball that spun in front of the plate and was tagged out.

Francisco Cordero was brought out in a non-save situation in the top of the ninth to hold the game so the Reds could rally in the bottom half. Cordero gave up three-straight hits to open the inning, including Hunter Pence’s two-run double off the wall. Pence’s hit came on a 0-2 pitch.

Chris Dickerson came out after the fifth inning. In the bottom of the fourth, he had a head-to-head collision with Miguel Tejada while trying to break up a double play at second base. Dickerson has concussion-like symptoms and will be tested again Tuesday before being cleared to return.

The Reds might have used up all the capital they gained from the 7-3 road trip. After three crowds near or more than 30,000 over the weekend vs. Atlanta, Monday’s attendance was 12,365. It was 81 degrees at first pitch and a perfect night for baseball — so weather was no excuse.

Dickerson quotes:

“Everything was real spotty. It was like going from HD to regular television. Nothing is sharp and I was out there and couldn’t see the hitter’s face. The ball was splitting and coming apart almost. Looking out in the stands, everybody kind of meshed together. I knew that was definitely going in the wrong direction.”

I’m doing alright. My vision is coming back a little bit. Right now, I feel a little drowsy. I just want to sleep. It’s not as hard to focus, which is a good sign. I just had to answer simple questions like ‘what happened yesterday?’ It almost took me a while to answer but I got it.”

Cordero quotes:

“You’re going to have days like that. The thing I’m not happy about is because of the way Cueto pitched. He gave our team a chance to win a ballgame. That’s why I’m a little upset with myself. I should have made better decisions and better pitches. Cueto was unbelievable.”

Don’t forget that you can also get Reds updates on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

 

The homestand continues…

I’m back on the job again after taking the Braves series off, so sorry for no new blog posts since Chicago on Thursday. I actually ended up missing the flight to O’Hare but was fortunate to be put on a later one with an alternate airline.

Reds lineup:

Taveras CF

Dickerson LF

Votto 1B

Phillips 2B

Bruce RF

Encarnacion 3B

Hernandez C

Gonzalez SS

Cueto P

News you can use:

Dusty Baker said he spoke to Brandon Phillips, who didn’t hustle out a drive to right field. Phillips thought his fifth inning drive to right field was a homer but it one-hopped at the wall. A would-be double became a single.

“We already addressed it,” Baker said.

Bill Bray (left elbow strain) was in the clubhouse today. He’s been rehabbing at Kremchek’s clinic and will throw a bullpen session tomrrow. Bray hopes to rejoin Triple-A Louisville soon.

Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion and Phillips are still the only players to play every inning of every game. Baker has plans to eventually give two of them breaks. Guess who isn’t the one?

“I’ve got something in mind,” Baker said. “But Votto, he doesn’t need an off day. I’ve always been told if a guy is hot, you play him until he stops being hot. You get all you can while you can get it.”

RHP Homer Bailey was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Week. As you likely know, Bailey tied a Triple-A Louisville franchise record by notching 15 strikeouts vs. Toledo on Sunday, including stretch of nine in a row. He was 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA and 18 Ks in two starts last week.

In the they could be jinxing themselves department: The Reds game notes mentioned that the club hasn’t had to make a roster move since the final cuts the day before Opening Day. This is Day 22 of the season and the team hasn’t gone more than 21 days to start a season without a move since May 14 1985 (Day 37), when Alan Knicely and Ron Robinson were recalled and Dann Bilardello and Carl Willis were optioned to Triple-A Denver.

Try using that nugget at the next cocktail party or sports bar.

Speaking of bars, Sister Daedalus and other “displaced Reds fans” in Washington DC are gathering at one to watch the game vs. the Astros on TV. Click here for the details.

7-3 trip, Will you show up @ GABP?

This will have to be a short postgame post. I’m currently in a cab with John Fay trying to get to O’Hare for a flight that leaves in about 70 minutes. If traffic stinks, we could be hosed.

The 7-1 win over the Cubs meant a lot to the Reds. It gave them two of three in this series and was the right exclamation point for a 7-3 road trip.

Joey Votto was 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and two RBIs. Votto is hitting .373 with three homers and 15 RBIs for the season.

Aaron Harang had a nice seven-plus innings with one unearned run allowed. He’s 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA.

“I think it was more of a message to ourselves,” Votto said. “As long as the road trip was, to be able to finish it off on such a good note and being able to go home with a winning record, and especially beating the Cubs, was big for us as a whole.”

Besides sending the message within, did this win send a message to the NL Central? The Reds are 9-6 now. And — did it send a message to you? Are you more likely to show up at Great American Ball Park this weekend or next week because of this trip?

Discuss. I’m off for a couple of days and will be back on Monday.

Almost home…

Being 6-3 on the trip is nice for the Reds but going home 7-3 would be even better for their morale I’d gather. The Reds haven’t won three consecutive road series since August, 2007 (over two trips) and haven’t won three series on the same road trip since Sept. 21-30, 2004.

Reds lineup:

Taveras, cf
Dickerson, lf
Votto, 1b
Encarnacion, 3b
Bruce, rf
Phillips, 2b
Hernandez, c
Gonzalez, ss
Harang, rhp

I talked to Walt Jocketty during batting practice about the Reds winning without any real hitting lately. At the moment, he’s not looking to make any changes. He’s not overly concerned.

“No because I know we’re going to hit. Guys like Brandon and Edwin and Gonzalez are not going to hit under .200. I think when the weather gets a little better, traditionally you see the bats get a little better. We just have to continue to pitch well, because that will be our formula – pitch well and play good defense. The bats will come. I’m not that worried about it.”

“We just have to stay with what we’ve got right now and see what happens. I’m not sure who is really out there.”

Adam Rosales had four more hits for Triple-A Louisville and raised his average to .409 in 12 games.

“You can’t ignore what he’s doing down there,” Jocketty said. “He’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do. At some point, we’ll have to acknowledge that. Right now as long as we’re winning, we’ll stay with what we’ve got.”

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