April 2009

Hairston hurt, Reds lose 9-7

You had to wonder how long Jerry Hairston Jr. would last in tonight’s game after fouling a ball hard off of his left ankle in the fourth inning. It looked very painful and replays showed Hairston yelping in pain right on contact.

Hairston was replaced by Darnell McDonald in center field before the top of the sixth and was later diagnosed with a “tight left lower leg.” It turned out that the fourth inning incident wasn’t what took him out.

“That one killed but went away,”Hairston said. “But the one that caused me to go out was the one I hit in the first inning. I hit it right in the calf. I hit it pretty good right in there and it just locked up.”

It wasn’t a pretty night for either starting pitcher — Edinson Volquez or Mike Pelfrey. Volquez threw pitch economy out the window — 107 pitches over just 4 1/3 innings (60 strikes). He gave up five earned runs and six hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

Two-out scoring chances hurt Volquez. He walked David Wright with two outs in a 24-pitch first inning. The next batter, Carlos Delgado, smoked a 438-foot homer into the right field seats. There were two outs when the Mets got a double and back-to-back walks by the seventh and eighth hitters to load the bases before Volquez escaped. But he used 32 pitches that inning.

The Reds had a nice first inning while sending nine up against Pelfrey, who was fooling no one while throwing 44 pitches. Joey Votto crushed a grooved fastball into the left-center field seats for a three-run homer.

But missed chances galore buried the Reds, none more than the ninth inning when Francisco Rodriguez had the bases loaded on two walks and one out. Alex Gonzalez struck out after going 2-0 and Laynce Nix just missed hitting a grand slam. The ball was caught at the warning track.

Some post-game quotes:

Dusty Baker: “We still fought back and had action at the end there. We had Frankie on the ropes. His control wasn’t there but he got it when he needed it.”

Joey Votto: “It’s frustrating but I still feel very optimistic about the team. I think as good as their bullpen is and supposed to be, we keep battling and made it pretty uncomfortable for them at the end.”

Laynce Nix: “I hit it solid. I was under it just a little bit. I would like to be in that position again and square that ball up.” 

Gomes to play for Louisville

When Triple-A Louisville opens it season on Thursday, outfielder Jonny Gomes will be on the roster. Gomes accepted the assignment on Wednesday instead of choosing free agency.

“He’s down there,” GM Walt Jocketty said.

It was stunning to me when Gomes was cut, but I split Florida before he really declined. Despite hitting .250, he still led the club during camp with four homers and was tied for second with 12 RBIs.

If Gomes gets hot at Triple-A, I could envision a quick return. I think the Reds bench is lacking a guy that can be a game-changer in the late-innings.

More news you can use:

SS Alex Gonzalez felt no ill effects with his left knee after going all nine innings Monday in poor conditions.

“I feel good. I don’t feel any soreness,” Gonzalez said. “Any time you play nine innings, your body feels like you got punched by somebody. I didn’t feel like my body was heavy and there wasn’t any kind of pain. I was working in Miami five days a week [in the off-season], groundballs, hitting and running. I worked all year, especially for that.”

Manager Dusty Baker hasn’t decided if he’ll play Gonzalez Thursday with a day game after a night game.

“We’ll see how he comes out today,” Baker said. “If we have a big lead, hopefully we can get him out today and get him back in tomorrow. We’re going on how he feels. We just told him he’s on the honor system and tell us the truth because we have a long way to go.” 

OF Jacque Jones was released when the club did not have a spot for him in Triple-A.

OF Willy Taveras is out of the lineup again tonight because of the flu. He could be available to pinch-run. Jerry Hairston Jr. is starting in center field and leading off while Chris Dickerson is in left field.

The Reds took their team photo today. The picture will be given away to the first 40,000 fans attending the 4/24 game vs. the Braves.

Have a favorite Reds pitcher? Vote to decide which one will be a bobblehead for a July 18 giveaway.

Civil Rights Game press conf.

Today I covered the press conference that announced the MLB Beacon Award winners during Civil Rights Game weekend June 19-21 in Cincinnati. The game, between the Reds at White Sox, is on June 20.

The Beacon Award winners are Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby and Hank Aaron — some pretty huge names.

During the press conf, I was amazed by the group of former Negro League players. It’s pretty cool to have that history in one room, along with Frank Robinson.

“That’s a tremendous lineup,” Robinson said of Ali, Cosby and Aaron. “It’s too bad they couldn’t get somebody to hit fourth. That’s a great group.”

Robinson was a 2008 Beacon of Life winner. Below is a picture from today with Chuck Harmon, the Reds’ first African American player, Robinson and FSN’s George Grande.

 

grande-harmon-robinson.jpgAnd here is a group shot of everyone at today’s press conference: 

 
CRG-group.jpg

Among those attending the press conference today were:

                   Frank Robinson – Cincinnati Reds and National Baseball Hall of Famer
                   Dusty Baker – Manager, Cincinnati Reds
                   Phil Castellini – Chief Operating Officer, Cincinnati Reds
                   Jimmie Lee Solomon – Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, MLB
                   Rick Walls – Executive Director, Reds Hall of Fame and Museum
                   Chuck Harmon – First African-American player for the Cincinnati Reds
                   Don Johnson – Negro Leagues Veteran
                   Tom Turner – Negro Leagues Veteran
                   Ron Warren – Negro Leagues Veteran

No word on Gomes, yet

I briefly talked to GM Walt Jocketty after a press conference about the Civil Rights Game and asked about Jonny Gomes. Jocketty said that he had not heard from Gomes’ people if he would report to Triple-A Louisville or opt for free agency, per the choice in his contract.

The Bats’ season begins on Thursday so I’m gathering that would be Gomes’ deadline.

One down, 161 to go

Who’s written the season off after one game? That’s a common occurance after an Opening Day loss, especially in Cincinnati. Just remember, it’s one game and only the first game. Obviously, the opener is a bigger deal around here, it doesn’t mean the season is over already.

While there were some negatives to take away from the 2-1 loss to the Mets, I will start with my positives:

  • Alex Gonzalez looked pretty good and played all nine innings in lousy conditions. He also made a nice diving stop to his left on Johan Santana’s second-inning groundout for the third out. Dusty Baker considered not playing Gonzalez because of the weather.

“I considered it but he probably would have shot me after he’s been out a year and a half,” Baker said.

  • The late-inning bullpen effort was strong. Arthur Rhodes and David Weathers each threw a perfect inning. Francisco Cordero was throwing 94 mph and gave up one hit in a scoreless ninth.
  • Aaron Harang had a high pitch count of 114 but mostly got out of jams. He only gave up one run and seven hits. Of those seven hits, two were infield hits, three were bloopers and there were two solid hits – including the homer by Murphy.

The negative:

  • The outfield defense was sloppy. Darnell McDonald and Jerry Hairston Jr. seemed to get crossed up. I think Willy Taveras makes a couple of the balls McDonald didn’t get to.
  • I know Johan Santana was pitching for the Mets, but just three hits in the game isn’t a good sign for those of us (me included) worried about whether the Reds will have enough production to be real contenders.

Dusty Baker post-game quotes:

“Our outfield is still learning the range of each other. They’re learning the speed of each other. We’ll get it together. I love our outfield. They’re not going to be too many balls that drop in.”

“He usually leads the league in strikeouts. A lot of people don’t get a lot of runs against Santana. Aaron matched him except for that home run he gave up to the youngerster we don’t know either. There weren;t many negatives today. People look for negatives when you lose, but they played a good game and beat us today.”

“I love the way [Harang] pitched. His zip and velocity were back. He had a sharp breaking ball. He got some tough hitters out in some tough jams.”

Harang on throwing a lot of pitches the first game:

“I was up to 100 pitches at the end of spring. It was definitely hard to pitch in those conditions. Johan had the same situation to deal with. You want to have enough feeling in your fingers to keep track of the ball.”

Harang on the conditions — 37 degrees and raining:

“They’re up there trying to keep their hands warm but they’re not out there trying to throw a ball with numb fingers. When it gets cold like that, the ball gets real slick and you might not have your best stuff. Now that I think about it, hitters have a little more of an advantage.”

If you were at the game, or watched on TV, what did you think?

 

Opening Day news you can use

Still raining at the GABP…the tarp is on the field.

Earlier this morning, Bronson Arroyo threw a 40-pitch bullpen session and still wants to pitch on Thursday as originally scheduled. Yesterday, Manager Dusty Baker moved Arroyo back to Sunday and has Micah Owings going on Thursday.

“Trust me, everything is negotiable,” Arroyo said.

As for the session itself, no problems.

“Ask Porky [Lopez] or Dickie Pole what he thought,” Arroyo said “My arm feels great. I usually throw a little bit less but I threw a really hard one just to let them know I’m not full of it when I say my arm feels fine. I’m ready to go. They will let me know.”

Bullpen coach Juan “Porky” Lopez caught Arroyo’s throwing session.

“Bronson threw really good,” Lopez said.

UPDATE: Arroyo is starting on Thursday again. Baker changed his mind.

  • It’s never a good sign when a coach walks up to you wearing a surgical mask as a joke like Billy Hatcher did with center fielder Willy Taveras Monday morning. Taveras has the flu and isn’t playing today. Taveras hoped he could come back Wednesday after the off day Tuesday.

“I feel a lot  better today so we’ll see. It’s a hard case,” Taveras said.

  • Canadian Joey Votto has the quote of the day on today’s weather:

“We play hockey in this weather, not baseball,” Votto said.

First pitch was at 1:23 — 13 minutes behind schedule. Temperature was 37 degrees.

Here is the rotation after Monday:

Wednesday vs NYM, Volquez
Thursday vs NYM, Arroyo
Friday vs Pit, Cueto
Saturday vs Pit, Owings
Sunday vs Pit, Harang

 

 

Let's light this candle…

 

One look at Monday’s weather and the conditions seem more optimal for a Bengals-Jets game, but the calendar reads April 6 and it can only be Opening Day with the Reds and Mets. It’s pouring and frigid at Great American Ball Park. Temperatures are forecasted in the 30s all day with a chance of snow. I just hope they get this one in.

This is my fourth Reds opener on this beat and I’m always amazed about how much emphasis is put on this day. It really is an unofficial holiday for the whole region. The media coverage alone is wacky — with reporters and cameras often showing up from Louisville, Lexington, West Virginia, Lima, Dayton and other locales beyond Greater Cincinnati. When game two arrives, it’s crickets and tumbleweeds by comparsion with only the usual beat writers and maybe, the local TV and radio stations.

The windows in the press box will likely be closed — so much for we brave media. I remember my first year here in 2006 when it was also in the 30s. For his first day, my intern showed up wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt with no jacket (I told him to dress for the weather). The press box windows were open that day. From time-to-time, we have a good chuckle about the kid that was shivering in the press box on Opening Day.

Aaron Harang has been on the mound for all of my openers here. Obviously, this will be his first chance to really put his dismal 2008 behind him. What do you think, was Harang’s 6-17 record and 4.78 ERA last season just a glitch on his baseball card? Is it the start of something that should concern fans? Any predictions for Harang’s performance this season — wins and losses, innings and strikeouts?

I forgot to include this yesterday, but here is your Reds Opening Day roster:

PITCHERS (12)
61 Arroyo, Bronson …………… RHP
51 Burton, Jared ………………. RHP
48 Cordero, Francisco ………. RHP
47 Cueto, Johnny ……………… RHP
39 Harang, Aaron …………….. RHP
52 Herrera, Daniel Ray ……….LHP
57 Lincoln, Mike ……………….. RHP
40 Masset, Nick ……………….. RHP
33 Owings, Micah …………….. RHP
53 Rhodes, Arthur ………………LHP
36 Volquez, Edinson …………. RHP
25 Weathers, David ………….. RHP
CATCHERS (2)
29 Hanigan, Ryan …………………. C
55 Hernandez, Ramon …………… C

INFIELDERS (5)
28 Encarnacion, Edwin ……….. INF
2 Gonzalez, Alex ………………. INF
7 Janish, Paul ………………….. INF
4 Phillips, Brandon ……………. INF
19 Votto, Joey ……………………. INF
OUTFIELDERS (6)
32 Bruce, Jay ………………………OF
21 Dickerson, Chris………………OF
15 Hairston Jr., Jerry……… OF/INF
16 McDonald, Darnell ………….OF
17 Nix, Laynce ……………………OF
3 Taveras, Willy …………………OF

There is a lot of activity here today, including pre-game press conferences with Walt Jocketty, Dusty Baker and players. More later…

Roster set, OD lineup, Arroyo pushed back

The final roster decisions went down:

RHP Homer Bailey, LHP Bill Bray, C/IF Wilkin Castillo and IF Adam Rosales were optioned to AAA Louisville. OF Jonny Gomes re-assigned.

Bronson Arroyo’s Thursday starting assignment was pushed back to next Sunday vs. the Pirates. Micah Owings will start on Thursday vs. the Mets.

Willy Taveras is sick with the flu and will not being in the starting lineup on Monday. Here is Dusty Baker’s lineup:

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

The final spots went to: SS Paul Janish, OF Laynce Nix and Darnell McDonald and LHP Daniel Herrera. RHP Nick Masset will get the final bullpen spot.

Baker on cuts:

“This is a tough day when you make the final cuts, probably the toughest day of the year for me. There were a lot of guys deserving. You wish you could have a 28-29 man roster.”

On why Gomes was cut:

“That was real tough. Jonny started off this spring on fire and cooled off at the end. It was a situation that now that Willy Taveras is sick and a little bit hurt, one factor or another can affect someone else.”

Lastly, here was Owings’ line from his Minor League game today in Sarasota:

5ip, 5h, 1er, 0bb, 2k, 73 pitches

Here is what Darnell McDonald had to say. He was a big long shot to make this team going into spring. Now he’s in the starting lineup: 

“God is good. A lot of prayers were answered today. I’ve just been working hard to get to this point. I can’t even put into words what it means to start with the team on Opening Day. It’s 11 years in the making.”

“Now it’s just the beginning. It’s been a journey.”

Did he rate his chances going in?

“I’ve had 11 years and 11 big league camps. This is definitely the most at-bats I’ve gotten. Everyone going to big league camp goes there to make the team. It’s not like I rated my chances. I said ‘ok here is the opportunity to show a new organization what I can do and showcase my abilities and hope for the best.”

Finally, here is a picture of the Reds’ new HD scoreboard…pretty cool.

scbd-reds-dot-com.jpg

 

Janish, Herrera make it, Arroyo gets cortisone shot

Before the Reds workout at Great American Ball Park got going, some players that came north learned they weren’t going to be around for Monday’s opener.

Here’s what I know so far:

IF Adam Rosales and LHP Bill Bray were optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Jonny Gomes was reassigned to the Minor League camp. That last move totally shocked me. I thought Gomes was as good as in when I left camp a couple of weeks ago and will try to learn more about the thought process behind it.

That also means shortstop Paul Janish and lefty Daniel Herrera made the team.

“I’m excited and fired up to be here,” Janish said. “Being on the Opening Day roster, for whatever reason, has such implications to it, so it’s a good thing. It’s huge because it makes me feel like they have a lot of confidence in me too to start the year here.”

There are still some extra players in the clubhouse so I’m not sure on the final 25-man roster just yet.

Outfielders Laynce Nix and Darnell McDonald were both given new numbers (16 and 17, respectively) and were unpacking lockers. Looks like they’re in. 

RHP Homer Bailey is still here, as is RHP Nick Masset. That decision could come down to the health status of Bronson Arroyo, who has been dealing with carpal tunnel in his right wrist. Arroyo, who is scheduled to start on Thursday, is going to play catch during the workout. The results of that session could decide Bailey’s fate — Louisville or starting on Thursday for the Reds.

“I don’t know what they’re going to tell me but I’m telling you that I’m going to pitch on Thursday,” Arroyo said. “I think I’ve earned my stripes to look them in the face and say ‘I’m fine, give me the ball.’

“It’s just sore from the cortisone but all of the tingling is gone. I haven’t had this much energy in two years. I’m so pumped just to play catch. It’s the first time my arm feels normal in about three weeks.”

  • The Reds are showing off their new HD scoreboard today and the early reviews are solid. Not only that, they have LED displaying of out-of-town scores on the left field wall now. And those lousy looking flags that showed the standings behind the right field moon deck are gone (they actually blew away during September’s wind storm). In their place and in the same spot are an electronic display of the standings — much better looking.

 

  • FYI — I’m back on the beat again starting today after the extended time off. Team Sheldon did add a new member but he will need extended, extended Spring Training before he will be able to start learning to type and post on my blog.

 

  • I have to offer sincere thanks and gratitude to Jonathan Mayo, who filled in very well while I was out. His effort made it easier for me to get away and for me to catch up as I returned. Thanks as well to my boss, Jim Banks, for giving me the time off.

— Mark Sheldon 

 

 

Taveras and Herrera

Couldn’t get out of here without a couple of updates…

After getting hit by a Joey Votto line drive in the first inning, OF Willy Taveras came out of the game with a bruised right pectoral muscle. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow. Just what you want when you’re about to break camp, right? And no, the Reds aren’t trying to do this just give them a reason to sign Gary Sheffield…

How about Daniel Ray Herrera. He went another 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball today, allowing just one hit. That means he’s allowed no runs all spring and just three hits over 8 2/3 innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eight. I’d be very surprised if he’s not on the Opening Day roster over Bill Bray, at least for a little while.

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