June 2009

No explanation

Bronson Arroyo could have dropped the term “carpal tunnel” every few sentences as an excuse for his poor pitching of late. He did anything but. However, Arroyo couldn’t offer any insight to what’s been behind his recent slide after another rough night during a 6-2 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Arroyo mentioned the other day to reporters that he was contemplating off-season surgery to repair the injury to his right hand/wrist.

“My hand is fine,” said Arroyo, who was given a cortisone injection to treat the injury in April. “It’s been pretty good all year. I have to fight it on a daily basis but today it was real good compared to some other starts. … I’m having a hard time getting into a groove.”

Check out these numbers: Arroyo leads the NL with 20 home runs allowed. He gave up 29 all of last year. In June, he is 1-4 with a 6.81 ERA in six starts. Over 33 innings this month, Arroyo has given up 43 hits and 25 earned runs, including his previous outing in Toronto when he gave up seven runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings.

The Reds had little chance against Dan Haren. Until Jay Bruce lined a two-out single in the fifth off Haren to break up the no-hitter, no Reds hitter got a ball out of the infield.

By the way, Bruce saved a run with another perfect throw from right field when the game was still scoreless. In the second, he absolutely nailed Chris Young trying to score from second base on a two-out single. Bruce’s throw beat Young by five or six steps. Young didn’t bother to slide. He had no chance at all. That put Bruce into a tie for the Major League lead with nine OF assists this season.

That’s it?

Joey Votto played his first home game since returning from the DL and revealing his personal issues. What was the reception like for Votto when he batted in the bottom of the first? — a polite applause just like it was any other at-bat.

I really thought there would be more than that — especially with all of the interest about the reasons behind his absence during the 22 games he was away. Were people more interested in the intrigue, false rumors and inneuendo than the actual truth about why Votto was out? The truth, I thought, was pretty compelling and it was courageous for Votto to share. 

Guess most fans just weren’t that impressed. Too bad.

Volquez, Encarnacion updates

Hopefully no one has abandoned this blog for good after I took four days away. I liked seeing the dialouge continue while I was on hiatus. I hope that keeps up, whether I’m on or off.

RHP Edinson Volquez (right elbow tendinitis) got some good news on Monday after his latest exam with medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek – he can throw again and will on Friday.

The bad news is Volquez has to start from square one again — long tossing from the relatively short distance of 60 feet.

“He checked my arm and he stretched my arm,” Volquez said of the Kremchek exam. “He turned it that way and the other way. He said I could throw. He said he’s going to check my arm every time I throw. He’ll be here to make sure everything is OK.”

Volquez said he was surprised to have been shut down over a week ago.

“I didn’t feel any pain when I threw. The MRI showed the inflammation,” he said. “It’s been hard to be at home watching the games. You get mad. I’m screaming at the umpire on TV.”

In an odd bit of news, 3B Edwin Encarnacion (left wrist) was given a day off this afternoon when Triple-A Louisville played Gwinnett County. Louisville is off on Wednesday, which makes it weirder since that wipes two days of a 20-day rehab assignment. The apparent reason was that Encarnacion had played the last nine days in a row during and it was just a break and no more. The rehab can last as late as July 10 while the Reds are playing the Mets in New York. He’s already eligible to be activated from the 60-day DL.

It wasn’t expected that Encarnacion would return before the end of the current homestand, which concludes on Sunday.

“I’m not counting on it,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Optimistically, hopefully by the road trip.”

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston 5
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Hernandez 2
Bruce 9
Janish 6
Arroyo 1

The lineup is missing three of the Reds’ hottest hitters. Jonny Gomes is hitting .381 over his last five games and .367 over his last 17. Chris Dickerson is batted .467 over his last 11 games and Ryan Hanigan is batting .321 for the season.

“You can’t play everybody,” Baker said. “I have a plan on how to keep them sharp and productive for themselves and us at the same time. We knew that could potentially happen when we started. You don’t have a good team unless you have too many good bodies.”

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Votto comes through

Who else could have saved the Reds like Joey Votto on Thursday?

In a 7-5 win, Votto was massive with a 4-for-5, three RBI game. His seventh-inning home run was the game-winner and it was huge for the Reds.

  • It helped prevent a Toronto sweep.
  • It saved Johnny Cueto after he blew a 4-0 lead.
  • It helped the Reds take advantage of losses by the Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs. They picked up a game and are now only 3 1/2 games out in the NL Central despite a 35-36 record.
  • It also stopped a four-game losing streak.

“I was running out of material,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s the hardest thing about losing, talking after losing.”

During his long ball, there were a smattering of cheers among the 15,329 fans at Rogers Centre for Votto, the hometown guy. Many were probably aware of his personal issues that were revealed on Tuesday.

“I always want to play well, definitely in front of family and friends I wanted to play well,” Votto said. “But had I had that big game tonight and we would have lost, it would have been really disappointing to left here swept. Getting the ‘W’ was far more important.”

Votto admitted life wasn’t back to normal yet, but it was getting there.

“The beautiful thing about baseball is there’s always a new day and always a game, one after another,” Votto said. “It kind of parallels life sometimes. Every single day, you always get a new one. It’s nice feeling good without having to think of the problems I’ve been having.  Yesterday was a good step and today was an even better step.”

  •  I’m off this weekend while the Reds are in Cleveland.

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It's Homer

To no one’s surprise here, Homer Bailey will be recalled from Triple-A Louisville to be your Reds starter on Saturday vs. the Indians, the club announced Thursday evening.

This obviously doesn’t have the same cache as it did in 2007 when Bailey was the next-big-thing that everyone clamored for. This will be the 23-year-old’s sixth big league call-up.

Why does this call-up have the potential to be different?

1. Bailey is on a seriously good run —  4-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his last five starts, with three of them lasting at least eight innings. He’s allowed one run over his last 38 2/3 innings with seven walks and 38 strikeouts.

2. With Edinson Volquez likely to be beyond the All-Star break, Bailey has about a month to prove himself. That should give him enough of an opportunity to get comfortable and show he belongs.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston Jr. 5
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Gomes DH
Hernandez 2
Bruce 9
Janish 6
Dickerson 7
Cueto 1

For those who were curious, this is the first time this season that Joey Votto has batted fourth. He did it 18 times in 2008.

Brandon [Phillips] is good against left-handers and Joey is just coming back,” Dusty Baker said. “I had it the other way around but changed it.”

Edwin Encarnacion is 3-for-14 (.214) through his first four rehab games at Louisville but has two homers and five RBIs. Encarnacion was 2-for-5 with a homer on Wednesday while playing third base.

“I heard he did pretty good. He hit a home run to right field, which is a pretty good sign,” Baker said. “We need him to be a ribbie man. The .214 part doesn’t bother me because he hasn’t been hitting. He’s turning his concentration up with runners in scoring position.”

Baker didn’t expect Encarnacion to return when the Reds open the next home stand on Tuesday.

“I don’t think so. His stroke is different than Joey’s. Plus Joey had a number of at-bats, and stuff. You don’t want him to get here and struggle.”

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Toronto = bad for Arroyo

For whatever reason, pitching in Toronto hasn’t been good for Bronson Arroyo.

“Not since I switched over to this uniform. I used to do alright here,” he said.

His line during an 8-2 loss to the Blue Jays: 3 2/3 innings, eight hits, seven runs, six earned, with three walks, two strikeouts and THREE HOME RUNS.

Guess it could have been worse for Arroyo. On June 24, 2008, in what was one of the worst outings in Major League history, he gave up 10 earned runs and 11 hits in just one inning.

Arroyo’s ERA in his last two starts here: 30.90.

“I’d much rather face these guys at our park next time,” Arroyo said. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Both times I’ve been here, it’s been a struggle. It just seems like they’re swinging at everything on the plate and taking everything off the plate.”

Toronto’s hitters seemed to know what was coming. Aaron Hill jumped on a first-pitch breaking ball for a two-run homer. Vernon Wells attacked the very next pitch — a fastball. The next thing the Reds knew, they were down 5-0.

It was another demoralizing night for the lineup. They got just two hits over seven innings against Scott Richmond, who retired his final 14 in a row.

“We were kind of behind the eight ball from the very beginning,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It makes it tough, especially when you’re not scoring a lot of runs. You can only get behind so much early.”

Big picture: Reds are 34-36, two below .500. They’ve lost four in a row and 9 of 12. Something needs to turn, and soon.

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Return delayed for Volquez

The Reds recently learned that they will be without Edinson Volquez for longer than expected. Volquez was shut down from throwing after a second MRI revealed there was still inflammation on the flexor mass muscle that connects the forearm to the bone by the elbow. The first MRI taken in early June when Volquez went on the DL with tendinitis didn’t reveal as much because he still had some swelling.

“I guess they found things that were more serious than anticipated,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s in good spirits so I guess that’s where it starts. It’s not serious enough to operate.”

Team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek will examine Volquez again on Tuesday but Volquez was told not to throw until the inflammation completely subsides. That will push back his return date, significantly.

“With a starting pitcher, you need time to build back up and rehab starts,” head trainer Mark Mann said. “You’re probably talking beyond the All-Star Break.”

“It just means it will take a little longer but we still expect a full recovery,” GM Walt Jocketty said. “You have to make sure it heals completely. Those things generally do.”

The Reds have still not named a starter to pitch on Saturday at Cleveland, which was the spot Volquez and first replacement Matt Maloney occupied.

“Nah, you guys name him,” Baker said.

OK, paging Homer Bailey. He is scheduled to pitch on Saturday for Triple-A Louisville so it lines up perfectly.

In five June starts, Bailey is 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA. In 38 1/3 innings, he’s allowed just seven walks with 38 strikeouts. With the news that Volquez will be out, this could be the best extended chance Bailey will get to prove he belongs in the Majors.

“Whoever starts on Saturday needs to give us some quality,” Baker said.

Reds lineup

Dickerson 8
Hairston Jr. 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Gomes dh
Bruce 9
Hernandez 2
Richar 5
Arroyo 1

Other news of the day:

Jocketty is keeping an eye out for some offensive help on the trade market but it’s been quiet.

“There’s not a lot of action going,” Jocketty said. “There are too many clubs that feel they’re still in it.”

Baker spent today working again in the cage with Willy Taveras, who did not start on Wednesday.

“If we have to go down there every day, he’s going to get it,” Baker said. “We weren’t wrong in our assessment of what we needed.”

Danny Richar got a start at third base, partially because he’s an extra left-handed hitter for the lineup against a right-handed pitcher. Baker said that Paul Janish would likely get a start at shortstop on Thursday and Jerry Hairston Jr. would move to third base.

Finally, Baker mentioned a chance encounter he had at lunch with former NHL player Shayne Corson at his Toronto restaurant. Why is that interesting? Because Corson had a long battle with anxiety attacks brought on by the premature death of his father at the age of 45. Corson played from 1985-2004, mostly with the Canadiens, Oilers and Maple Leafs.

“We had a really good conversation,” Baker said. “He had to skip a playoff game. I guess he went through it for a while.”

Obviously, the Reds have a player going through a similar issue in Joey Votto – who revealed his depression and anxiety issues on Tuesday.

“It’s very coincidental. It was almost planned,” Baker said of the Corson encounter.

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Votto's night, notes

Clearly Joey Votto isn’t entirely the cure for what ails the Reds. He was 1-for-4 in his first game back but his team notched just six hits in a 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays. Toronto had a 6-0 lead until the seventh.

Votto had a third-inning single — which he hit on the first pitch. He also had two strikeouts and a groundout.

“It was great having Joey out there,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He swung the bat pretty good considering he hadn’t played in a while. He’s going to get better every day.”

“I felt fine. My swing felt good,” Votto said. “I missed some pitches. I’m not going to say I’m rusty but it’s a little different hopping out in front of a big league pitcher than hitting batting practice and playing against A-ballers.”

Other notes:

  • Willy Taveras batted leadoff and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Danny Richar pinch-hit for Taveras in the ninth. In his last 26 games, Taveras is 11-for-106 (.104).

 

  • Chris Dickerson batted ninth and was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Dickerson is the Reds’ hottest hitter and is 9-for-12 over his current six-game hitting streak.

 

  • For those wondering why Ryan Hanigan goes back to sitting on the bench despite batting .325, check his clutch numbers. Besides his eight RBIs, he has a .167 average with runners in scoring position. Ramon Hernandez, who started 18 of the previous 20 games at first base while Votto was out, is a .292 hitter with runners in scoring position. Hanigan will get more chances to catch because Hernandez will need some breaks from the ever-increasing grind.

 

  • Edwin Encarnacion was the DH and went 0-for-4 on Tuesday for Triple-A Louisville during his latest rehab assignment game.

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Votto: 'I felt I was going to die'

Joey Votto pretty much laid it all on the table and explained the stress related issue that put him on the disabled list. His 52-year-old father, Joseph, died suddenly in August and that grief came to the surface this year. Here are some snippets of what he said.

“The first day back, I put that all on the back burner and just played baseball until the end of Septmeber. He was in my thoughts and I was dealing with it on a daily basis but as powerful a moment that was to lose your father so young, in a way, I did suppress it. From the beginning of the off-season until Spring Training, I was pretty severely depressed and dealing with the anxieties of grief, sadness and fear and every single emotion you can imagine everyone goes through. I habd a really difficult time with it. I was by myself down in Florida. I just was really looking forward to baseball. And when baseball started back up in February, I kind of did the same thing I did last August and threw it all on the side, threw all of my emotions on the backburner and just played baseball again.”

“I got sick in May. I had the upper respiratory thing. I had an ear infection. It was taking the time away from baseball and recovering from being sick was when the first time all my emotions I hads been pushing to the side, that I had been dealing with and really struggling with on a daily basis in the winter, they all hit me. And they hit me 100 times harder than I had been dealing with all off-season.”

Votto admitted that anxiety/panic attacks prompted him to seek medical help twice — once in San Diego and once in Cincinnati.

“I went to the hospital in Cincinnati when the team was on the road. It was a very, very scary and crazy night where I had to call 911 at three or four in the morning. It was probably the scariest moment I ever had dealt with in my life and I went to the hospital that night.”

“There were nights that I couldn’t be alone. The one night I was alone – the very first night I was alone – was when I went to the hospital. I couldn’t take it. It just got to the point where I felt I was going to die, really.”

On how the Reds handled his issue:

“Every single person in the Reds organization has done everything more than I could have asked for. They surprised me with how supportive they are in general.”

On coming back to play in his hometown of Toronto?

“Honestly, we could play in Timbuktu for all I care, just as long as I’m playing all nine innings and contributing. There’s nothing like health. I look forward to feeling healthy on a consistent basis.”

When did he know he was ready to play again?

“I was having such a difficult time getting through the night that once I felt like I could get through two or three nights of sleep without having the phone besides me and worrying about having to call the hospital, I felt like I could start playing ball again.”

How was Votto able to be successful this season on the field going through this?

“I think I’m a pretty good player, first of all. Baseball was my refuge. When I came on the field, I did my job, and did the best I could and focused on that. Then I went home and I was miserable. That was pretty much my routine every day.”

Is he worried about the stigma of stress disorders?

“I’ve been lumped into the Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis, Zach Greinke category. I’m not saying one way or the other about those guys because I don’t know what they’re dealing with. But I do know I’ve had a real struggle with my father’s passing. It’s really something I’ve had a real hard time with. It was my biggest hesitation coming out and letting people know, letting my teammates know. We’re supposed to be known as mentally tough and able to withstand any type of adversity. This is real life [stuff]. I couldn’t take it. I think a lot of people deal with this.”

On his relationship with his father in terms of baseball?

“He was a very important person. He would watch every single Reds game. He was the first one to teach me how to play baseball. I played catch with him on a daily basis when I was really young. He was a big fan. He was just in love with what I did and me. He was a great father to me.”

On being taken out of games in Arizona, San Diego and Milwaukee:

“I literally couldn’t stand up. The way you saw me in Arizona where Dusty had to walk me off was similar to the two other occurrences in Milwaukee and San Diego. Although Arizona was a pretty rough time, Milwaukee was by far the worst. I thought I was going to go crazy.”

 

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Votto officially activated

Greetings from Toronto…

It’s official now — Joey Votto was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. To make room for Votto, C/IF Wilkin Castillo went on the 15-day DL with a torn labrum. Castillo suffered the season-ending injury after he made a head-first slide on Saturday vs. the White Sox.

Check back here later for more and on Reds.com. Votto is meeting with the media in the Reds dugout at 4 p.m. ET today. It should be interesting to hear how much, or how little, he has to say about what’s been going on.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Gomes DH
Hernandez 2
Bruce 9
Rosales 5
Dickerson 7
Owings 1

 

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Votto is in Toronto

Joey Votto is in Toronto and will likely come off of the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday when the Reds open a three-game series vs. the Blue Jays. Votto took the charter flight with the team late Monday afternoon.

I was honestly a little surprised the uber-private would choose his hometown Toronto as the location for his return from the stress-related issue that’s kept him out since May 30. But he proved he was ready to play after three games with Class A Sarasota and Dayton (3-for-9 with a homer) and one intrasquad game.

It will be interesting to see how he handles questions from both the regular baseball beat reporters and the Canadian media, which had a big presence during Votto’s visit with the Reds last season.

The 34-34 Reds could sorely use Votto’s presence in the lineup after going 8-13 without him.  He is batting .357 with eight home runs, 33 RBIs and a .464 on-base percentage in 38 games.

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