June 2009

Same ol' story

There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said. Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the White Sox was like watching a summer rerun. Good Reds pitching was trumped by no Reds hitting as Mark Buehrle dispatched them with seven scoreless innings. Aaron Harang has three quality starts and a rain shortened start this month and no wins.

Dusty Baker was a bit edgy after the game and wore the look of disdain. Here is a sampling of his postgame comments:

“That’s been a repetitive story. We’re trying to find a way to get some hits when they count and drive in some runs. Aaron pitched well enough to win today. I’ve gone over this many times. We have to produce some runs.”

“Here we are in late June and we’re still doing the same things we did in April and May. It seems like we’re not learning anything. I’m frustrated big time. The guys are frustrated too.”
“They blooped some balls in there early. Still, we have to score.”

“We’vre had chances. We’ve had opportunities. We have to get somebody to drive in some runs. Brandon [Phillips] has been pretty good but other guys – we give them a theory and philosophy on how to drive in runs.

There is a way. It’s frustrating to look up there and see a lot of zeroes or a one or a two. Last night, we scored but couldn’t stop them from scoring.”

That’s a 3-3 homestand that was winnable. The big loss was Saturday when the Reds blew a 5-0 lead and still lost as the White Sox made four errors. That hurt…a lot. Their record is back to .500 at 34-34 and four games out of first place. It’s not a bad place to be but they really need a certain someone to return to the lineup, meaning…

The Joey Votto watch will be on this week. Votto was 1-for-3 with a lined RBI single to center field and a run scored in his second game with Class-A Dayton. Nothing has been announced, but I envision Votto making his next stop at Double-A Carolina, which is home all of this week.

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Encarnacion starts rehab assignment

After 48 days out with a chip fracture in his left wrist, 3B Edwin Encarnacion is finally ready to face some real pitching in real games. For the time being, it will be at Triple-A Louisville, where he headed on Sunday for a rehab assignment.

Why Louisville? After Sunday and Monday’s games, the Bats have an eight-game road trip.

“That’s a pretty big step right away but at least the control will be better at Louisville,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He won’t have to worry about getting hit as badly as you do in some lower minor league places.”

Encarnacion was hitting only .127 in 19 games when he went on the disabled list April 28. So he has some work to do to get both game ready and get his stroke right again. He’s been taking BP here for a few days and was out most days taking groundballs.

After he was moved to the 60-day DL on Saturday, Encarnacion isn’t eligible for activation until next Saturday when the Reds are in Cleveland. Rehab assignments can last up to 20 days however and Baker seemed inclined to Encarnacion as much as he can to get right again.

“He hasn’t played in two months,” Baker said. “This is like going back to the beginning. It might be

worse than Spring Training. At Spring Training, you’re hitting every day most days. The pitchers

weren’t 2 1/2 months into sharpness like they are now.”

I know Reds fandom is very down on Encarnacion but his return, coupled with Joey Votto’s, will be a

boost for this team. Baker has mixed and matched a lot in the infield and the team has survived but

at some point, you need to see what can be done with the regular starting eight — and that includes

Encarnacion.

Agree or disagree?

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston 6
Phillips 4
Gomes 7
Hernandez 1B
Bruce 9
Hanigan 2
Rosales 5
Harang 1

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Votto 2-for-4 in Dayton

Joey Votto was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and a single for Class A Dayton is his rehab assignment game on Saturday. Votto also had a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored in the Dragons’ 8-7 loss to West Michigan.

Dayton plays again on Sunday.

Civil Rights Game ceremonies

I knew a top-notch ceremony would be held before the Civil Rights Game on Saturday but my expectations were definitely exceded. Everything was done well, but not overdone. It was really cool seeing Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby ride in from center field on golf carts and get standing ovations. Cosby wore a Homestead Grays Negro League jersey.

 

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Each icon, and MLB Beacon Awards honorees, had brief tributes to their lives on the big videoboard.

Reds players especially made a concerted effort to see Aaron up close after the tribute was over. David Weathers had his son, Ryan, pose for a picture with the former home run king.

BeBe Winans gave a stellar rendition of the National Anthem. In something you rarely see nailed perfectly, the flyover came right at the end of the song. It was three A-10 planes from Willow Grove Naval Air Reserve Station in Pennsylvania.

The uniforms for both clubs were throwbacks from 1964 — the year the Civil Rights Act was passed.

The White Sox were in solid light blue unis with black numbers…and numbers on the right sleeve. It was a bit unsettling at first, but kind of cool. The Reds had the white pinstriped caps going and in a twist you never see in MLB, the last names were under the numbers. I also think it was the color blue inside the wishbone ‘C’ on the front.

Frank Robinson was accompanied by five Negro League veterans when he threw the ceremonial first pitch. Tony Perez was doing the catching.

If MLB ever considers Cincinnati for an All-Star game, it just saw a strong audition. Commissioner Bud Selig is here along with what I was told was nearly 100 staff members from the league office.

 

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This was taken just as the ceremonies got underway.

 

 

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Taken during the National Anthem.

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Gonzalez to DL, have surgery

There were a lot of festivities and preparations for the Civil Rights Game on Saturday. But there was also baseball business that had manager Dusty Baker preoccupied.

Baker was unhappy because he had to put SS Alex Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list. Gonzalez has four loose bone chips in his right elbow and will need surgery — something expected to happen on Tuesday. He will likely be out for four weeks.

“He took a swing yesterday and his arm locked up on him,” Baker said.

Infielder Danny Richar and catcher/infielder Wilkin Castillo were called up from Triple-A Louisville. As part of the transactions, left-handed starter Matt Maloney was optioned to Louisville and third baseman Edwin Encarnacion was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. For those wondering, Encarnacion would be eligible for activation from the DL on June 27.

Maloney was 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA in three starts for the Reds, including on Thursday when he gave up six runs over 5 2/3 innings during a 7-0 loss to the Braves on Thursday. Because of a scheduled off day on Monday, the Reds won’t need a fifth starter until next Saturday at Cleveland.

Jerry Hairston Jr. started at shortstop on Saturday vs. the White Sox.

While the Reds took BP today (all wearing the Frank Robinson fan giveaway throwback jersey), Gonzalez was on the top step out of the clubhouse tunnel at the end of the dugout.

“What can I say? It’s tough luck,” Gonzalez said. “I want to be out there. I missed all of last season. To be out for a while this year is tough. I have to get it done.”

“I’ll come back in the middle of July and I hope the team continues to be in the race. When I come back, I will try to do what I’ve been doing this season.”

For those counting, Gonzalez is the third starting infielder to go on the DL for an extended period this season. Encarnacion hasn’t played since April 28 because of a chip fracture in his left wrist. Joey Votto has been out with the stress issue since May 30. And the one main infielder that avoided the DL, Brandon Phillips, missed five games with a hairline fracture of his right thumb.

“Remember in Spring Training when I said in order for us to win this thing we’d need everybody?” Baker said. “I hoped I wouldn’t be right but that’s how it is.”

 

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston 6
Phillips 4
Gomes 7
Hernandez 3
Bruce 9
Hanigan 2
Rosales 5
Cueto 1

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Dickerson starting, Inbox open

I am planning on doing another edition of the Reds Inbox (formerly called the Mailbag) for Monday. Please click on the comments section below this post to send a question that might be included. You can also e-mail them to mark.sheldon@mlb.com. Just put ‘Inbox’ in the subject area.

The Reds lineup is out and Willy Taveras is not leading off or playing today. It’s Chris Dickerson in the top spot and playing center field.

Dickerson 8
Hairston 5
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Hernandez 3
Bruce 9
Gonzalez 6
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

Reds manager Dusty Baker said it won’t be an extended break for Taveras, who is on a 1-for-45 clip at the plate and 8-for-94 (.085) over the last 23 games. The White Sox have lefty starters the next two games.

Baker revealed some displeasure with the second-guessing of his decision to stick with Taveras.

“I know he’s struggling but we tend to jump from one guy to the next guy on who we want to play or who is not playing or whatever,” Baker said. “First everybody wanted [Laynce] Nix to play instead of Dickerson or somebody instead of somebody else. They want Dickerson instead of Taveras. It’s a long season. You have to go with a guy’s track record too.

“Quite honestly, I’m getting a little tired of justifying who I play and how long and when. We’re doing what we can do right now.”

Speaking of Laynce Nix, this weekend he will get to play against his younger brother Jayson Nix, a bench player for Chicago.

“I don’t really get excited about too much but getting to play against him and see him in uniform, it will be good to spend some time with him,” the older Nix said. “It will be fun.”

Joey Votto, who went 0-for-2 for Class A Sarasota on Thursday, got six at-bats during an extended spring intraquad game in Sarasota today. It was believed he had two hits.

What’s the plan for Votto ahead? Sarasota is off for the Florida State League All-Star game.

“We’ll have to talk with him and see,” general manager Walt Jocketty said. “He’ll probably be out on a rehab for a while. He’ll probably move up a level or two.”

It’s highly possible that Votto could go to Double-A Carolina, who will be at home for five games starting on Monday. Class A Dayton is home this weekend but then breaks next week for the Midwest League All-Star game.

“I think he’s leaving today to go to Dayton,” Baker said.

Carolina seems even more viable a stop now that first baseman and 2008 top draft pick Yonder Alonso broke the hamate bone in his right hand. It happened while swinging at a pitch in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Tennessee. He is on Carolina’s disabled list.

“We’ll probably bring him here to be looked at. That usually requires surgery  but I haven’t heard for sure yet.”

UPDATE at 7:05 p.m.: Alex Gonzalez was a late scratch because of right elbow tightness. Paul Janish started at shortstop and batted eighth. Ryan Hanigan was moved up to bat seventh.

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Votto plays in Sarasota

As expected, Joey Votto started his rehab assignment for Class A Sarasota on Thursday night. Against Clearwater, Votto was 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout and played six innings during a 2-0 Sarasota loss.

Here is the boxscore.

Here is the game recap.

 

What to do with Taveras?

In the previous blog post, I mentioned Willy Taveras and his struggles and Dusty Baker’s hopes that fans will ease up on the uber-struggling center fielder.

Taveras is now 0-for-13 since getting a first-inning single on Tuesday that snapped a 0-for-32 streak. He’s in a 1-for-45 clip overall. He is now batting .219 with a .270 on-base percentage, dreadful and plainly inexcusable numbers for a leadoff hitter.

During his 0-for-5 day in Thursday’s 7-0 loss to the Braves, Taveras struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning. In the fifth with runners on first and second and no outs, he couldn’t get a bunt down and with two strikes, popped out to first base. That brought out the boos from the fans at GABP.

Baker was asked if it was time to move Taveras out of the leadoff spot.

“I don’t know,” he responded. “You’re asking me questions I really haven’t had time to think of. The problem is, I had Jerry [Hairston Jr.] leading off and he wasn’t getting on either.”

To me it’s a no-brainer…move Taveras down. Let Hairston try again, or go with Chris Dickerson.

If not Taveras, who should leadoff for the Reds?

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Passing time during rain delay

It looks we’ll have to kill some time since it’s raining at Great American Ball Park. All signs are pointing to showers being out of here by 1:30 p.m. ET. Rain delays have been too common in these parts. It’s the 11th Reds game that’s been delayed and the eighth one at GABP this season.

*UPDATE: Game scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m.

Here is the Reds’ starting lineup, with Ryan Hanigan moved up to the fifth spot.

Taveras 8
Gonzalez 6
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Hanigan 2
Bruce 9
Hairston 5
Rosales 3
Maloney 1

  • Fans have emailed and complained about Hanigan hitting eighth much of the time but don’t get used to this. It’s a one day thing since Ramon Hernandez is getting a rest.

“It’s the best lineup I could come up with,” manager Dusty Baker said Thursday morning. “Hanigan is swinging a pretty good bat and can do some things with them. I just told him to pretend he’s hitting where he always hits and do the same thing. Don’t do anything more.

“You don’t want too many lefties together or too many righties. You can bring in one [reliever] to take care of four guys. You want to make them strategize some.”

  • As for Hernandez, he was 1-for-27 over his last eight games. He’s also played first base for 15 of the last 17 games during Joey Votto’s absence.

“When I started catching groundballs, I stopped hitting singles,” Hernandez joked. “It’s unbelievable how everything changed around so quickly. It’s never easy.”

Hernandez picked out a bat and headed for the cage.

“Today I’m going to the cage and hit lefty,” the right-handed hitting Hernandez said. “Maybe it will fix the right side. You never know.”

  • Baker said that Hernandez would likely catch at least a couple of games this weekend vs. the White Sox since he’s a former American Leaguer with the Orioles and A’s.

“He knows those guys better than anybody that we have here,” Baker said.

  • Willy Taveras got his one hit in the first inning on Tuesday that snapped a 0-for-32, but has gone 0-for-8 since entering Thursday.

“Hopefully the people stick with him a little longer,” Baker said. “The razzing and stuff doesn’t help at all. I can understand it but it doesn’t help. It actually makes its worse.”

  • According to Baseball Prospectus’ latest rankings, the Reds have a 13 percent chance of making the playoffs. In the NL Central, the Cardinals have a 49 percent chance, the Brewers have a 35 percent chance and the Cubs are at 26 percent.

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Votto to start rehab assignment

It was just two words of confirmation but it was all that was needed to know that 1B Joey Votto’s path to returning to the Reds was headed to the next step. On the field Wednesday for batting practice, Votto was asked if he was going on a Minor League rehab assignment tonight.

“Yes,” he confirmed.

Where?

“Florida,” was the reply.

The Reds Class A affiliate and spring complex is in Sarasota, Fla. Votto also lives there in the off-season. He has been on the disabled list because of undisclosed stress related issues since May 30.

On Tuesday, the Reds start a three-game series vs. the Blue Jays in Votto’s hometown of Toronto. However, he is not expected to be ready in time. It’s not because the super private Votto would draw extra attention from the local media.

“He’d want to go there,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Realistically, Toronto is Tuesday. You always want to go home. If he left tomorrow, that’s not enough time. I’m probably thinking, realistically, [he'd return] after this road trip to make sure he’s super ready in all departments.”

Baker was aiming to have Votto come off the DL on June 30 when the Reds return home to play the Diamondbacks.

“If he calls and says he’s ready, for a young man he knows himself pretty good, and he’s honest,” Baker said.

To more than a few people, Votto appeared to have dropped some weight since he’s been out. He also was looking pretty good in the cage while he took early BP from hitting coach Brook Jacoby.

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