June 2009

Reds select Leake

With the eighth overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, the Reds picked right-handed starting pitcher Mike Leake from Arizona State University.

“I didn’t know they were that interested,” Leake said on a conference call Tuesday night. “I’m grateful and happy that they were that interested.”

Leake, a 21-year-old junior, was 16-1 with a 1.36 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) for the Sun Devils this season. In 132 2/3 innings, he had 21 walks and 150 strikeouts. Arizona State is currently participating in the College World Series.

Here is what Reds senior director of scouting Chris Buckley had to say about Leake:

“He’s a very polished college pitcher with four pitches. The numbers are just off the charts. He’s a very good baseball player. He’s one of their better position players. This guy hit the ground running in college.”

“It’s his command and how polished he is. He throws four pitches for strikes. He can throw them at any time. He’s an outstanding fielder. He has an outstanding pickoff move. He has all the intangibles that good pitchers have.”

Leake’s four pitches are a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. His fastball runs 88-93 mph and can touch 94 mph. He’s smaller pitcher listed at 6-foot and weighs 180 pounds…but Leake admitted his media guide exaggerated a little. He’s actually 5-10 1/2.

“It’s always been a thing that’s haunted me,” Leake said of his size. “I don’t let it get to me that much. I know all you have to do is show what you’re capable of and it will pay off in the end.”

Because ASU is still playing, negotiations to sign Leake have to remain on hold until his school is finished. He did not sound as though he wanted talks to drag out all summer.

“I will be ready to do it once our season is over,” Leake said. “The sooner we can get it done, the better. We can build a better relationship that way instead of going back and forth at each other with different negotiations.”

As for where he could start, Buckley did not commit to a Minor League level. His innings count indicates he won’t likely be rushed up the system this year if he does sign before the Aug. 17 deadline.

“This is a guy that’s 16-1 so he’s pitched a fair amount of baseball this year,” Buckley said. “You don’t want to rush him or put him in a situation where he could get hurt.”

Leake has a MLBlog already…check it out.

*****

Here are the other Day 1 Draft picks by the Reds:

Compensation round, 43rd overall, RHP Brad Boxberger, USC.

Round 2, 57th overall, SS Billy Hamilton, Taylorsville HS, Mississippi

Round 3, 88th overall, LHP Donnie Joseph, Univ. of Houston

Here is the link to my wrap-up story on Reds.com/MLB.com.

 

*****

Obviously, it takes dozens and dozens of scouts for an organization to comb through thousands of eligible players and watch their games, do interviews, etc. It’s one of the most unsung parts of the industry.

For fans, anybody taken after round one (and even some of the first-round guys) will garner shrugs because no one but their parents and those scouts know who they are.

Researching a story I did for Day 2 of the Draft, here are some players on the current Reds 25-man roster that were late round picks.

No one on the Reds epitomizes late, late round success better than reliever Daniel Herrera. The lefty was a 45th round selection (1,345th overall) by the Rangers in 2006.

  • RHP Jared Burton was taken in the eighth round (248th overall) in 2002 by the A’s.
  • OF Chris Dickerson was a 16th round pick (471st overall) by the Reds in 2003.
  • RHP Carlos Fisher was the Reds’ 11th round pick (332nd overall) in 2005.
  • Outfielder Jonny Gomes was the Rays’ 18th round (529th overall) selection in 2001.
  • IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. was taken by the Orioles in the 11th round (345th overall) in 1997.
  • Reds ace Aaron Harang was a 1999 sixth round pick by the Rangers (195th overall).
  • SS Paul Janish was a seventh round (138th overall) of the Reds in 2004.
  • RHP Mike Lincoln was taken by the Twins in the 13th round (367th overall) in 1996.
  • RHP Nick Masset was an eighth round (244th overall) of the Rangers in 2000.
  • OF Laynce Nix was taken in the fourth round (124th overall) in 2000 by the Rangers.
  • IF Adam Rosales was the Reds’ 12th round pick (362nd overall) in 2005.

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Bruce rested, Baker on Taveras

Geez…did you guys ever turn out for a running blog thread in the two days I was off — one whole response — from corbi11. I’m overwhelmed, really. I think that might have the equivilent of hearing crickets. Oh well. Let’s move forward.

Corbi11 asked about Jay Bruce in that comment he posted and sure enough, Bruce is getting a day off from manager Dusty Baker on Sunday. He’s on a 2-for-32 skid, also 6-for-52, and has his batting average down to .212 with a .300 on-base percentage.

“He told me I’m going to sit with him [in the dugout] a little bit and learn some stuff,” Bruce said. “I’m going to take it in. I’ll be ready for whatever task I’m given when it comes to that time.”

Baker is a fan of stacking rest days with scheduled off days, which was why Bruce got this day off.

“It’s tough on you mentally when you’re not getting hits and you’re used to getting hits,” Baker said. “He’s been the better the last few days with pitch selection and not chasing stuff.”

Baker didn’t think the 22-year-old Bruce was putting too much pressure on himself.

“I think they’re putting pressure on him with how they’re pitching him,” Baker said. “Putting pressure on yourself has nothing to do with what you’re swinging at. He would have imploded by now.”

Bruce worked a walk that led to the winning run in the 11th inning on Saturday. After being in a 1-2 count, he fouled off two pitches and drew the free pass with a full count. He’s also had a rash of warning track drives the past couple of weeks.

“Somebody told me once that will never even out – balls hit hard vs. hits that you get,” Bruce said. “I can’t get upset about it. All I can do is hit the ball hard and let it take it’s course. The bottom line is I’m not getting any hits lately. I expect a lot out of myself and it’s been a struggle lately. I think it will be good for me in the end.”

Reds lineup:

Hairston 3B
Dickerson CF
Phillips 2B
Nix RF
Hernandez 1B
Gomes LF
Gonzalez SS
Hanigan C
Arroyo P

More news:

3B Edwin Encarnacion is going for a MRI on Monday. His left wrist is still sore after several days of taking batting practice. Encarnacion has been on the DL since April 28 because of a chip fracture in his left wrist.

As well as Dickerson has played in center field lately, someone asked Baker if Willy Taveras’ job was still safe. Baker bristled at the notion.

“I get tired of hearing that. I really do,” Baker responded. “First the season started and it was ‘how come Dickerson isn’t playing every day?’ Then Nix was doing good and it was ‘how come Nix isn’t playing every day?’ Whoever is doing good, why aren’t they playing every day? It doesn’t work like that. We’re a team. Everybody is going to play.

“It was get Hairston out of there and play Rosales because he was hot when he came up. Now [Adam] Rosales is a little colder and I don’t hear as many people hollering about playing Rosales.

“You don’t shove Willy. Willy is my center fielder. You just have to feel fortunate you have somebody like Dickerson that can play when Willy is unable to play.”

Personally, I believe that Dickerson plays center field defensively better than Taveras. But I agree with Baker’s point. Fans go hot and cold on people week to week by how they’re hitting and you can’t run a team like that, especially during a long season when you have to get 25 players through 162 games.

Post-game:

Too many innings to write a new entry. The 14-inning loss by a 6-3 score was a day about chances. The Reds were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 16 on base. For the three-game series, they were 3-for-31 (.097) with runners in scoring position and stranded 36 men on base over the series and batted .195 (23-for-118) as a team. 

Bruce did get a pinch-hit double in the 7th inning, by the way.

I will be covering the draft from Cincinnati, so no game updates. But I will be updating info here for the Draft, and on Twitter too.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

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Talk amongst yourselves.

There really isn’t much else to say about Thursday’s game. I will pull a page from my friend Seg Dennison and say just a one word statement:

Carpenter.

And one more…Pujols. (OK, that’s two)

That’s just about all that’s needed. Read my game story on MLB.com and Reds.com for the explanations and details.

I will be taking the first two games of the Reds-Cubs series OFF so no blogging or Twitter posts by me.

In the meantime, feel free to gripe about Thursday’s loss, the 2-5 road trip that was or wax poetic about this weekend’s games against the Cubs. Keep the thread running if you can, just keep it civil.

See you Sunday.

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Maloney to pitch Saturday

The easiest to figure out secret of the week is now official. Lefty Matt Maloney will make his big league debut and pitch on Saturday vs. the Cubs. Maloney was 4-3 with a 2.00 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A Louisville. He had a staff leading 67 1/3 innings and 58 strikeouts.

Besides earning the call-up with his numbers, the timing was perfect for Maloney. The 25-year-old will be pitching on his normal four days rest since he dealt a three-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts for the Bats on Monday. Homer Bailey pitched Tuesday and it wouldn’t have been prudent to have him work on short rest.

And for people who care about uniform numbers, Maloney will be wearing No. 56.

Maloney, who calls Columbus his hometown, was acquired in the deadline period trade that sent starting pitcher Kyle Lohse to the Phillies on July 30, 2007. Considering that the Phillies didn’t go far in the playoffs that season and  Lohse is now with the Cardinals, this is a plus-deal for the Reds and former GM Wayne Krivsky — especially if he can do well in the big leagues. Maloney is far from a power pitcher and throws his fastball in the mid-to-high 80s but relies on deception and off-speed.

In Spring Training, Maloney only pitched in two games and gave up four earned runs and six hits in three innings.

Trivia: Maloney will be only the second left-hander started for the Reds in 236 games. Adam Pettyjohn was the other when he started on the last day of the 2008 season vs. the Cardinals.

Reds lineup:

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

In other news, 3B Edwin Encarnacion could be close to heading out on a rehab assignment. Encarnacion was headed out to take another round on batting practice and has had no pain.

“When we get back home, they’ll check and see to where they can send me,” Encarnacion said. “When they say I’m ready, we’ll see where I am going to go. I am very excited. Now I know I can play. I feel no pain. I’m ready to go.”

Everywhere the Reds go on the road, manager Dusty Baker seems to have friends that visit his clubhouse office. On Thursday, it was former Giants starting pitcher Kirk Reuter, who lives across the border from St. Louis in Illinois. Baker wasn’t originally a fan of Reuter’s soft-tossing left-handed slop, even after he shutout the Giants in his big league debut with the Expos in 1993.

“He shut us out in his first start for Montreal. They asked me about and I said ‘we’ll see where he is in five years,'” Baker said. “In five years, he was playing for me.” (laughter, lots of it) He won some big games. He was a guy that could throw 90 pitches, 80 fastballs, and win.”

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Bargain signing of 2009?

Brandon Phillips was trying to compliment Laynce Nix after a great night where he hit two home runs, drove in four runs and saved a run with a nice left field catch in the Reds’ 9-3 win.

But read this quote and see if you pick up on the veiled shot of the night:

“It’s good to have a guy in left field that can hit the ball and who can catch the ball.”

I guess Phillips doesn’t miss Adam Dunn’s lackluster defense in left field. By the way, the Nationals and Reds play each other next week in DC.

Nix gave the Reds their first run with a solo homer off Kyle Lohse in the second inning. In the eighth, his three-run homer against Chris Perez put the game on ice.

This season, Nix batting .287 with six homers and 17 RBIs. Of his 29 hits, 18 have been for extra bases – including a team-high 11 doubles.

Signed for 600,000 this season after he made the Reds as a non-roster invite at Spring Training, is Nix the bargain of the season?

“He’s out there holding his own,” Phillips said. “Honestly, he’s underrated. It’s all about a guy getting a chance. He’s out there taking advantage of the chance he’s getting. We’re thankful he’s on our team. He’s getting some key hits. We’re really needed him today. He’s just doing it.”

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Kent Mercker in the house

Towards the end of last season when he was injured and retirement was near, someone asked reliever Kent Mercker what his next vocation would be. Without hesistation, he said he’d be “turning vodka into urine.” Everyone around him in the clubhouse laughed.

That was quintessential Mercker, who was one of the smartest and funniest players I’ve encountered in this game.

But he’s found a part-time gig that brings him around the Reds again. Mercker is here at Busch Stadium to make his regular season radio debut working with Marty Brennaman tonight and Thursday. He’s slated to do a handful of games later in the season. I can only imagine he’ll make for entertaining radio during the games. Let me know how he does.

The reason for the change: Chris Welsh returned home for his son’s graduation and Jeff Brantley shifted from the radio booth to TV with George Grande.When Mercker first got here, he didn’t know where to go — so he went to visit a familiar face, Dick Pole, who was by the Reds bullpen — which is usually a no-no for credentialed media.

“I will light him up for that,” Brennaman said. 

A few years ago when the Reds stayed near a decepit mall in St. Louis adjacent to Union Station, the stores were all T-shirt shops and fudge stores. One day Adam Dunn was given a white T-shirt with a photo of Mercker’s smiling mug on it. Above the picture read “World’s Greatest Teammate.”

On to some news…

Willy Taveras is out of the lineup again because of a sore right hamstring. Taveras’ inability to catch up to Nick Stavinoha’s sixth-inning drive to center field let two-runs score on the double, including the go-ahead run in a 5-2 loss. Taveras spent a while in manager Dusty Baker’s office on Wednesday.

“He’s about the same,” Baker said. “I had a long talk with him today. We’ll hopefully try it again this weekend some time against the Cubs.”

Chris Dickerson started in center field but Jerry Hairston Jr. was back in the lineup and moved up to the leadoff spot. Hairston missed the last two games with a stomach flu. Why was Hairston moved up?

“No. 1, I wanted to split up right-left-right-left,” Baker said. “No. 2, last year Hairston was an outstanding leadoff man.”

The Reds were 25-19 last season when Hairston led off.

“Hopefully we can get some of the same,” Hairston said. “Whether I leadoff or hit second, I know my job is to get on base. Obviously hitting second, I may take a few more pitches to give the guy in front of you an opportunity to steal a base.”

Alex Gonzalez was also given a rest after he made the last 11 starts. Paul Janish got a start at shortstop.

“He’s been playing a lot,” Baker said. “I don’t want Janish to be out too long. I thought about doing it tomorrow but that’s not fair to Janish getting one start and he has to face [Cardinals Thursday starter Chris] Carpenter.”

Almost forgot to mention — no starter was named on Saturday yet. Baker said it was definitely not someone already up here. That seems to all but point to Matt Maloney to get the start vs. the Cubs.

Reds lineup:

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

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That's 1-4 on the trip…

This really isn’t the way the Reds planned for this trip to go. A 5-2 loss has given them four losses in five games on the road trip through beer towns Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Along the way, they’ve lost Joey Votto (stress), Edinson Volquez (elbow tendinitis), Jerry Hairston Jr. (stomach bug) and Willy Taveras (right hamstring). Brandon Phillips (thumb) missed most of the first game.

On the decisive hit Tuesday, a two-run double in the sixth by STL’s Nick Stavinoha, Taveras froze for a moment and then couldn’t chase down the drive over his head and to the wall in center field. Even if he took a step in, a healthy Taveras would normally catch up to that ball. He missed the previous three games with a sore right hamstring.

“Ordinarily he runs that ball down and the score is 3-2 with two outs,” Baker said. “I guess we have to go back to the drawing board on him. [Chris] Dickerson will play center field [Wednesday]. I thought Willy was in better shape, leg-wise, than that. So we’ll have to take a little more time.”

Bronson Arroyo had a tough night — five earned runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. He threw 111 pitches, including 14 in one AB to Skip Schumaker. Drilling Yadier Molina in the back with a two-strike fastball in the sixth led to the Stavinoha hit.

“He’s looking breaking ball and I’ve beat him breaking ball all night,” Arroyo said. “If I throw a fastball anywhere on the inner-half [of the plate], he’s out. And I just tried to throw it too hard. It was a two-seamer and it just ran into his back. That was the catalyst that started the whole inning. Looking back, if I could take one thing back the whole game, I’d love to have that pitch back.”

And the Reds would love to have this road trip back.

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Volquez has elbow tendinitis

The tests on RHP Edinson Volquez are back. He has right elbow tendinitis and won’t do any baseball activity for at least 7-10 days. The Reds will put him back on the 15-day disabled list and pending MLB approval, will recall reliever Jared Burton.

Manager Dusty Baker was more relieved that Volquez’s injury wasn’t worse than it was.

“It’s not bad news,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s the best news it could be for bad news. There’s nothing structural or nothing in the joint.”

Volquez hadn’t pitched since May 16 because of mid-back spasms that put him on the DL for the firs time in his career. He threw in two side bullpen sessions while he was out and reported no arm trouble – before or after the back injury.

“He might have felt something and thought it might have been normal soreness or something,” Baker said. “If every time you felt something and you sat out, most of us would never play. He had never said anything to us about it.”

Baker held off making an announcement on who would replace Volquez in the rotation. His next turn would have been Saturday vs. the Cubs. At Louisville, lefty Matt Maloney pitched a three-hit shutout on Monday and is 4-3 with a 2.00 ERA through 10 starts. He would be able to pitch on his normal rest and it would be his big league debut.

The Reds could also opt to move Bronson Arroyo up and pitch him on three days rest. Homer Bailey, who came up for one unsuccessful start for the Reds already this season, is also pitching on Tuesday for Louisville.

What would you do if you were Baker and pitching coach Dick Pole?

It was raining cats and a dogs here at Busch Stadium but has stopped and became a pretty nice evening. Before I left for the ballpark, the hotel across the street from mine suffered wind damage and I heard a chunk of the building fell to the street. I don’t think anyone was hurt but there were a lot of fire trucks and TV vans. And the Starbucks awning at the side of my hotel was on the ground near the lobby entrance area because it fell off. Hopefully this all blows through so this game starts on time.

Reds lineup:

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

Encarnacion takes BP:

Edwin Encarnacion took batting practice on Monday for the first time since going on the DL April 28 with a chip fracture in his left wrist. Encarnacion also took BP indoors on Tuesday while it rained. Before hitting on Tuesday, Encarnacion still reported no pain from the Monday session.

“The next couple of days, we’ll see whether I can go play and what they’re going to do,” Encarnacion said. “They have to wait until I am between 90-100 percent and then I will go play somewhere.”

IF/OF Jerry Hairston was given another day off after being sick on Monday. Hairston thought his stomach illness may have been caused by food poisoning.

Minor League info:

1B Yonder Alonso had a nice first game at Double-A Carolina. He was 3-for-4 with two doubles a walk, two runs scored and three RBIs. Meanwhile, OF Chris Heisey continued his season-long tear by going  3-for-5 with two doubles and a home run. Heisey has a 10-game hitting streak, and a four-game streak of at least three hits.

Public service announcement from the Reds:

Friday night, the Cincinnati Police Department is expecting a crowd of about 50,000 to attend both the Reds’ 7:10 p.m. game with the Cubs and a sold-out Keith Urban concert next door at US Bank Arena…the CPD recommends fans who don’t have passes for the parking garages adjacent to those venues avoid driving on Second and Third Streets and instead use exits into the northern part of downtown (5th Street, 6th Street, 7th Street, Gilbert Road, Reading Road, etc.).

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Volquez hurt, leaves game

Reds starter Edinson Volquez could be hurt again. Volquez, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list to make Monday’s start vs. the Cardinals, lasted only one inning and totaled 24 pitches (14 strikes) in his first game back.

The word from the clubhouse: Volquez left the game with numbness in the pinky and ring fingers of his right hand. He will be evaulated in Cincinnati on Tuesday by team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek.

“It just comes down [to my fingers],” Volquez said. “It was just for a second and I didn’t feel it anymore.”

The Volquez line: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. With one out, he gave up back-to-back doubles to Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujols (RBI hit). He was on the DL with back spasms and hadn’t pitched since May 16 at San Diego.

After the Rasmus hit, the Reds knew something was wrong when Volquez started throwing a lot of breaking pitches.

“I threw about 10 curveballs in a row and I usually don’t throw more than three curves the whole game,” Volquez said.

In the past few days, Volquez had thrown two side bullpen sessions without any soreness.

Mike Lincoln took over for Volquez in the bottom of the second. The Reds gutted out a 5-3 come-from-behind win as five relievers combined for two runs (one earned) allowed over eight innings.
 
“We were talking about as Lincoln was warming up,” said Daniel Herrera, who worked two innings after Lincoln. “We said we had a lot of work to do. We all knew we’d have to pitch our weight in there. I’m glad we pulled out the win. It’s what our bullpen does.”

If Volquez is seriously hurt, reliever Jared Burton can be brought back to fill in and bolster the bullpen, which has 14 innings pitched in the last three games. Volquez’s next turn to start is Saturday vs. the Cubs but if he can’t make it — how does lefty Matt Maloney sound? Maloney threw a three-hit shutout on Sunday and is 4-3 with a 2.00 ERA through 10 starts at Louisville.

The Reds don’t need anymore adversity, especially on the heels of the Joey Votto situation. They will need Bronson Arroyo to go deep into Tuesday’s game after throwing a complete game the last time out.

On the resiliency scale for Monday, the Reds deserve a 10. What did you think of the outcome and how that win ranks up there this season?

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Burton demoted, Alonso to Carolina

To make room on the roster for Edinson Volquez’s return from the DL, reliever Jared Burton was told on Monday he was being optioned to Triple-A Louisville.

In 20 appearances, Burton has a 6.33 ERA. Of his 10 inherited runners, seven have scored. It’s been rough especially the last few outings. He’s allowed six earned runs over his last four innings.

“We know he has the stuff. We’ve seen it,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Burton. “They’re going to try and pitch him a lot. Sometime when you’re not doing what you know you can do, it’s a natural thing to lose confidence. We want him to go back, get his act together, come back and throw the way we know he can throw and come back with confidence and conviction.

“If he pitches the way he’s capable of pitching, it will be a temporary situation.”

In other situations, newcomer Carlos Fisher might have been the likely choice simply because of his lack of tenure. But Fisher has pitched too well since his call-up from Louisville to go back down.

Because of Josh Hamilton, many overlook that Burton was the other Rule 5 draft pick the Reds took in 2007. He emerged that season as a tough eighth-inning set-up guy and before he strained a lat muscle last summer, was even nastier against opponent.

“Hopefully you all know I’m not pitching the way that I can pitch,” Burton said. “For some reason, it’s just a little mental thing. I have to get a little confidence going and have some things go my way and get locked back in. I know what I can do. I know how much I can help the team when I pitch the way I’m capable of pitching.”

In other news, Willy Taveras still has a sore right hamstring but could appear later in the game. He should be back Tuesday. IF/OF Jerry Hairston is not playing Monday becuase of flu-like symptoms.

Another  transaction of interest for you: 1B Yonder Alonso was promoted to Double-A Carolina today. Alonso batted .302 with 7 HR, 37 RBIs 22 BB, 28 K and .378 OBP and .503 SLG for high Class A Sarasota.

Put me in the camp that does not believe Alonso should be promoted while Votto is out. Tearing it up at the Florida State League is a far cry from the big leagues. Had Alonso been posting those numbers at Double-A, I’d have no problem with him jumping two levels. Three levels? No. He was only Drafted this time last year. You don’t bring a guy in his situation up as a stopgap. When he comes up, it should be either as a September call-up or for good.

Reds lineup:

 

Dickerson 8

Rosales 5

Bruce 9

Phillips 4

Hernandez 3

Nix 7

Gonzalez 6

Hanigan 2

Volquez 1

 

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