July 2009

Crowded DL, Lehr next up?

A lousy road trip was compounded by the loss of two more players to the disabled list on Monday. The Reds placed starting pitcher Micah Owings on the 15-day DL with a tight right shoulder. Outfielder Chris Dickerson joined him there with a bruised right rotator cuff.

“I don’t have to have surgery. I’ve been down that road already,” said Dickerson, who said he was told he had a small tear in his rotator cuff also.

“Dickerson could probably be ready in 5-6 days but we’ve been playing short most of the year,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We can’t afford to go short.”

The Reds called up reliever Robert Manuel and utility player Drew Sutton to fill the 25-man roster.That means Friday’s starter is TBA vs. the Rockies. It just so happens that RHP Justin Lehr is Triple-A Louisville’s scheduled starter that same day. Lehr, who is 13-3 with a 3.31 ERA this season was just named the International League’s pitcher of the week (2-0, 1.88 ERA in two starts). Lehr isn’t on the 40-man roster that would require a second move if he is the one. Lefty Matt Maloney, who has already been up once earlier this season, is scheduled to pitch tonight for Louisville.

As for the outfield situation, the Reds are down to Willy Taveras, Laynce Nix and Jonny Gomes. Jerry Hairston Jr. can play all three spots and Sutton played right field for the first time last week in Los Angeles. Gomes was 2-for-16 on the last road trip and Nix, who just snapped a 0-for-11 skid, has struggled the last few weeks.

Baker was asked about Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs.

“They need to play,” he said, meaning they should remain in the Minors.

Currently on the DL for the Reds are: Jay Bruce, Ramon Hernandez, Edinson Volquez, Mike Lincoln, Wilkin Castillo, Danny Richar and Jared Burton.

Lincoln made his first appearance in the clubhouse since having cervical disc replacement surgery earlier this month. Other than a band-aid in the front of his neck, he didn’t look like a guy that just had a major surgery in that area.

As he often does each day, reliever David Weathers was hitting grounders to his young son, Ryan. But he called out to me and asked if I had heard anything new about him in the rumor mill. I hadn’t.

“I’d like to stay,” said Weathers, who has a one-year deal for this season and zero no-trade clauses. “I don’t want to go anywhere. But I have no control over it.”

Weathers didn’t believe the Reds were in full sell mode yet.

“If we get a sweep [of the Padres] or win three of four, that might make them think again,” Weathers said. “And what if the same people in front of us lose three or four in a row?”

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Gonzalez 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Encarnacion 5
Nix 7
Gomes 9
Tatum 2
Bailey 1

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The Pete Rose report

I’m sure many of you have read or heard about the NY Daily News story regarding Pete Rose. If you haven’t, the Commissioner reportedly is seriously considering reinstating Rose almost 20 years after he accepted the lifetime ban.

Such a move would make him eligible for the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee vote. As far as the Reds are concerned, they would be allowed to formally honor Rose with their own Hall of Fame honors, a No. 14 retirement, etc.

How do you feel about the possiblity of Rose’s exile from baseball ending? Is it time? Or should Bud Selig follow the letter of the law and not reinstate him?

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The Grand Slam.

In nine seasons of covering baseball, I’ve seen several dramatic moments but Manny Ramirez might have topped them all.

One pitch. One grand slam. A 6-2 Reds loss.

And on Manny Ramirez bobblehead night, no less.

Ramirez was not starting because of a bruised left hand that was struck on Tuesday night by a Homer Bailey fastball. In a 2-2 game after Bronson Arroyo loaded the bases with two walks and a single to load the bases with one out in the sixth, 56,000 fans licked their chops with anticipation.

Dodger Stadium roared when Ramirez appeared from the dugout to pinch-hit. It was even louder after he demolished Nick Masset’s first-pitch sinker. The ball even landed in the “Mannywood” section. Everyone knew it was gone on contact.

Mannywood, yes…but it was pure Hollywood. No script could be written better – for Dodgers fans. Rarely have a heard a ballpark be louder. They say they have laid back fans here, but definitely not on Wednesday night.

“That’s stuff I had seen out of Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “You go home seeing what you came to see.

“It’s about as dramatic as you can get — a grand slam on your own bobblehead night. First he was in the lineup and then they scratched him. He came in, saw one pitch and hit a grand slam. You don’t get more dramatic than that.”

Arroyo, who played with Ramirez on the Red Sox, wanted to face him. They had never faced each other before.

“I played with the guy long enough that I probably have an insight on his mind than anybody else here for sure,” Arroyo said. “But it’s Dusty’s call. It’s his job, not mine. … I feel like I would have got a double play ball and we would have been out of the inning. That’s the way you think about it. I don’t think anybody was worried about his hand. I know Manny. He’ll take a day off if he gets hit like that even if his hand is perfect. Don’t ever think when he goes to the plate that Manny Ramirez is hurt, because he’s not. If he was, he wouldn’t be standing in the box.”

From Masset, who was trying to induce an inning-ending double play.

“That’s pretty much where I wanted to put the ball,” he said. It just didn’t sink the way it normally does. It was middle-in. I was trying to jam him, get a groundball and get out of the inning. I basically tried to go at him with my best stuff and it didn’t work out.”

The only good news to come out of the sweep in LA (0-12 record since 2006), was the Cardinals have also lost three straight. The Reds lost no ground on first place and remained 5 1/2 games back. But at 44-50, they are a season-high six games below .500.

I’m off for the Cubs series….plenty to discuss I’m sure. Have at it.

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Gomes, Volquez and deadline

As he often does, OF Jonny Gomes likes to ask reporters if he’s in the lineup. Today, I was the one that told him he wasn’t. The Dodgers were starting right-hander Chad Billingsley and Gomes is the right-handed hitting part of Dusty Baker’s platoon.

Reds lineup:

Dickerson 9
Taveras 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Encarnacion 5
Hairston 6
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

One look at the stats shows this, and makes me wonder why Gomes isn’t in there more:

Gomes: .333 vs. LHP/.271 vs. RHP
Nix: .217 vs. LHP/.249 vs. RHP
Dickerson:  .257 vs. LHP/.271 vs. RHP

Gomes came into Wednesday batting .305 overall with seven homers and 20 RBIs.

“To tell you the truth about the numbers I have right now, if you would have told me a month ago with the role I have, I don’t think I would have been able to promise the numbers,” Gomes said.

To his credit, Gomes has never pouted or made a ruckus about not playing. He’s been the good soldier and remains a positive dude in the clubhouse.

“I want to be in there every day but I can’t control that right now,” Gomes said. “What I can control are my at-bats. You have to earn an everyday spot. In reality, I didn’t even make the team out of spring. To be where I am right now, I’m pretty pleased.”

But of course, no Major Leaguer aspires to a part-time role — accepted or not.

“I had no idea about this right-handed-left-handed thing until last year when [the Rays] brought in [lefty hitters] Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske for a platoon,” Gomes said. “My numbers kind of slid. But I made it to the big leagues in two-and-a-half years coming up the minor leagues. I was third in rookie of the year in 2005. In 2006, I hit 11 home runs the first month. You don’t do those things just facing lefties. I have to roll with it right now. It’d be easier if we were winning more ballgames. In Tampa, it was easier to get in there to do your role because we were winning ballgames.”

In other news: Edinson Volquez threw 45 pitches in the bullpen Wednesday and had no problems. It was all fastballs and Volquez said it was with “72 percent intensity.” Pitching coach Dick Pole said Volquez threw at “68 percent” on Monday…so there you go.

Volquez has a 65-pitch bullpen session scheduled on Friday in Chicago where he plans to throw fastballs and changeups. If all goes well, he could head out on a Minor League rehab assignment.

SS Alex Gonzalez is 1-for-9 in three games entering the night’s action with Triple-A Louisville. But his rehab assignment is slated to end and he will meet the Reds in Chicago on Thursday and be activated on Friday.

Baker heard about trades today involving Julio Lugo from Boston to St. Louis and Adam LaRoche going from Pittsburgh to Boston. He was asked if GM Walt Jocketty had brought anything up to him about possible Reds deals in the works.

“No, we’re not close on anything. We’re looking,” Baker said.

Are the Reds still hoping to make additions, rather than subtractions?

“I hope so. That’s where my mind is at,” Baker said.

Jocketty said the Reds’ rough run lately hasn’t altered his mood from buying to selling.

“Nothing’s changed,’ Jocketty said. We’re still trying to improve the club. We’re not looking for any short term fixes. I think if we do anything, it would probably be closer to the deadline because that’s where these things seem to develop. I’m going to try and do something that’s going to improve the club for the long haul.”

The Reds are still seeking a bat to improve the 14th ranked offense out of the 16-team NL ,but clearly aren’t willing to go the rent-a-player route.

“We need someone to help pick up the pace and pick up the production,” Jocketty said. 

It’s Manny Ramirez Bobblehead night and Baker said he’d likely take one with him when he leaves tonight. But he’d rather get out of Chavez Ravine with a win. It’s only been since 2005 when the Reds could say they were on the left-hand column in Los Angeles.

“The slogan today is one-for-L.A. We don’t want to be 0-for-L.A.” Baker said.

As for Ramirez, Baker is a fan — and not just because of his hitting ability.

“I like Manny. My kid likes Manny,” Baker said. “He has been very kind to my son [10-year-old Darren]. Manny sent over his over his training aid, which has helped my son a lot. I asked him about it and he sent over one in spring training. I thought it was pretty cool. It was a ring of balls with different colors on it. he practices concentration. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen.”

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Phillips not in lineup

The Reds Tuesday lineup is out and Brandon Phillips’ name is not on it, even though the Reds are facing Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf. 

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston 9
Votto 3
Gomes 7
Encarnacion 5
Hanigan 2
Rosales 4
Janish 6
Bailey 1

Baker and Phillips spent 20 minutes talking in the manager’s office Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t send messages,” manager Dusty Baker said. “If I want to say something, I say it. The easiest thing to do is hustle. I talked to Brandon and he said he thought he had a sacrifice fly. In this game, you should never assume. You can not assume they will catch the ball, ever.”

Phillips hit what appeared to be a routine first-inning fly to right field that fell in front of right fielder Andre Ethier. It still scored Joey Votto but Phillips was thrown out easily at second base. Had he come out of the batters’ box full speed, he would have probably had a double and the Reds would have had no outs.

“I messed up. I’m not playing. There it is,” Phillips told me Tuesday.

This was the only move Baker had and it was the right thing to do. No play in baseball is too small and although many players have often admired potential homers or put their heads down for a lazy fly ball, this time it bit Phillips and cost the Reds from extending a rally. He’s also been guilty of plays like this in the past.

Phillips was still considered available to pinch-hit or enter in a double switch.

“I’m not going to sacrifice the game for principle at this point,” Baker said.

On Monday, Phillips said not hustling would never happen again.

“We’ll see. I told my Daddy that a few times,” Baker said. “I said ‘I’ll never do it again.’ He said ‘I’ll make sure.'”

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Baker unhappy with Phillips

It will be very interesting to check out the Reds lineup on Tuesday and see if Brandon Phillips is in it.

Phillips was caught not hustling again on what he expected to be a routine fly out in the first inning. The ball was lost in the sky by right fielder Andre Ethier. Because he wasn’t running hard out of the batters’ box, Phillips missed a chance for a RBI double that would have put him on second with no outs and a 3-0 Reds lead.

“I was just happy I finally did something with runners in scoring position,” Phillips explained. “I hit a fly ball to get the run and I was satisfied with that. I hit the ball in the outfield and was ‘I missed it.’  I put my head down. I didn’t know he missed it until I looked back up. I could have done worse and not get the run in at all.”

Moments later, Phillips admitted his mistake.

“I messed up,” he said. “That’s my second time not hustling this year. It won’t happen again.”

The rally died and the Reds went on to lose, 7-5. Los Angeles scored four runs in the first and two in the second. The bottom line is no play can be taken for granted when your team is playing the best in the Majors and you’re winless at the ballpark for three-straight seasons.

After the game, Phillips and Dusty Baker hadn’t yet spoken. Baker was furious with his second baseman.

“We should have gotten some more in that first inning, big time,” Baker fumed. “You have to hustle on that ball there or it’s a totally different inning. That was a rally killer for us.

“We’ve repeated it many, many times. You have to play hard all the time. That was big, real big. We had them on the ropes and we killed the rally.”

This wasn’t the first time this season Baker has been unhappy with Phillips. In June at Kansas City, he ignored a take sign on a 3-0 and swung. It resulted in a rally-ending fly out.

“We’ve all talked to him until we’re blue in the face,” Baker said. “Evidently, this must have started long before I got here.”

If Baker really wanted to get through to Phillips, he should have taken him out of the game after the top of the first. That would have sent a clear message.

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Soaking up Chavez Ravine

I couldn’t see downtown Los Angeles all that well because of the smog, but I knew I was in the right place the minute I bore down on an In-N-Out burger and fries. Yeah, it’s fast food but there’s something about it I just like. It’s not as strong as Zip’s in Cincinnati or any Five Guys location but it is very, very good.

There’s nothing in the big leagues like walking into Dodger Stadium. They have you drive and park at the high end of Elysian Way and when you walk in, you’re literally at the “Top of the Park.” In the distance well beyond the outfield are the San Gabriel Mountains and it’s a rather stunning sight.

topofpark 072009.JPGThis park opened in 1962 and it’s amazing how they did it right just before the era of multi-purpose stadiums took off.

Just as I was getting settled in, Joey Votto was about to take early batting practice and yelled up to me “Hey Mark, tell everyone on Twitter I said hello. I’m enjoying Mannywood.” I asked if he was sure and since he was, I did. See — more incentive to follow me on Twitter.

A little while later, I could hear the unmistaken voice of legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully in the broadcast booth next door. A few years ago, I got to meet him when he popped into the visitor’s clubhouse. He offered his hand a huge smile when I introduced myself and probably like he’s done to millions before me, gave the feeling he was geniunely glad to meet me.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston Jr. 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Encarnacion 5
Dickerson 9
Hanigan 2
Owings 1

RHP Edinson Volquez completed his first bullpen session since going on the DL with elbow tendinitis. He threw 30 pitches with no issues.

“He threw about 68 percent velocity,” pitching coach Dick Pole joked. “He had no problems. In fact, I was kind of surprised he located the ball as well as he did for as long as it’s been.”

Up next is another bullpen session on Wednesday for 35 pitches. Then some more pitches on Friday. However, a return to the Reds rotation is still pretty far in the distance. He’ll have to go through a rehab assignment first, which won’t be a speedy thing.

“We’ll see where he is when he goes out,” Pole said. “It’ll probably be like a Spring Training thing, three innings and maybe five innings. As long as he’s been off, it will take more than one or two [outings.]”

New backup catcher Craig Tatum, fresh from Triple-A Louisville, was soaking up his first big league exposure and was loving every second of it, even the $60 taxi ride he took with Homer Bailey from the hotel to Chavez Ravine.

“It’s still just so surreal. I never expectred anything like this,” Tatum said on Monday. He was called up Sunday afternoon when Ramon Hernandez went on the DL. “They were making fun of me last night because I was waiting for my bag when I got off the bus. I didn’t know anything.

“I’ve never seen a stadium this big. It’s my first time in L.A. too. There’s a lot more traffic than Hattiesburg, Mississippi.”

As much as I like Dodger Stadium, you can’t blame the Reds for hating it. Who cares how nice a park looks when you’re coming in 0-9 over the previous three seasons? This is obviously a big week for the Reds — a strong showing vs. L.A. and the Cubs and they’re still in the race. Drop a 1-5 week while the Cardinals take off and it could mean the selling season begins.

Any predictions for the series, and the trip?

mannyand cueto 072009.JPG

Above — that’s Mannywood himself on the left talking with Johnny Cueto.

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Big win, two moves

Before heading west to Los Angeles, the Reds needed a win and series split in a big way. They got it with a 5-3 victory on Sunday because Jonny Gomes came through with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.

“It’s a big road trip coming up, a tough road trip. Everybody knows how tough L.A.is at home,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Especially on the Reds, who are 0-9 at Chavez Ravine since 2006. The last win came courtesy of Brandon Claussen on July 28, 2005 — that’s almost four years.

“As a team, we need to soak up that win and get it into our system. We need to try and start a little run,” Gomes said.

The Reds got the bad news about Ramon Hernandez that seemed expected. After Sunday’s game, Hernandez was placed on the 15-day disabled list. He will have surgery to clean out his left knee on Tuesday and miss 4-6 weeks. In the earlier blog post, was wrong about Corky Miller, which I should have realized since he’s not on the 40-man roster. Craig Tatum is and he got the call-up from Triple-A Louisville.

“He’s here to learn and play at the same time like a lot of the guys we have here,” Baker said.

With Wilkin Castillo out for the season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, the only remaining healthy catcher on the Reds’ 40-man was Tatum. He was batting .239 with three homers and 21 RBIs in 64 games this season for Louisville and this will be his first call-up to the Majors.

Another roster move also came down post-game. Reliever Jared Burton has been recalled and RHP Robert Manuel is going back to the Bats. Bats. Since being sent down on July 1, Burton was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in seven games.

Catch you on Monday from one of the coolest ballparks in the league.

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Hernandez hurting

The disabled list has become a crowded space on the Reds roster and the club is hoping that it’s not about to add another wounded party.

Catcher Ramon Hernandez has been bothered by a sore left knee and went for a MRI exam on Saturday. He’s missed the last two games and wasn’t starting on Sunday.

“I’ve had this for two months,” Hernandez said on Sunday morning. “I’ve been trying to play and gut it out and do what’s best. I’m trying to help and do what I can to play. Now it’s gotten worse.”

During a plate at the plate as he tried to score on Thursday, Hernandez was unable to slide and was easily thrown out.

“I slid in New York during the day game and it hurt so bad,” Hernandez said. “If I slid here, I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

If Hernandez went on the DL, Ryan Hanigan would obviously take over the starting job. The Reds recently traded for catcher Corky Miller in the deal that sent Norris Hopper to the White Sox. Miller is at Triple-A Louisville and would be the likely call-up.

“It’s not exactly how we planned it,” manager Dusty Baker said of Hernandez. “We hope it’s day to day. It’s not good.”

On top of the knee issue, Hernandez has also been nagged by a sore left hand for several weeks.

“It’s been better,” he said. “I’ve had some cortisone shots on it.”

Someone asked Hernandez if his mother ever told him not be a catcher.

“I told myself too. In the next life, I’ll be an outfielder or play soccer.”

It’s not like there was a need for more injury news but Baker also had another concern. OF Laynce Nix reported having a tight back and was receiving treatment. His status wasn’t known.

On the positive side, SS Alex Gonzalez left today for a rehab assignment at Louisville. If all goes as planned, Gonzalez, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow June 22, will meet the Reds in Chicago during Thursday’s off day and be activated on Friday.

Opening Day roster players currently on the DL: Jay Bruce (broken wrist), Gonzalez, Edinson Volquez (tendinitis) and Mike Lincoln (bulging disc in neck).

Others on DL: Wilkin Castillo, Danny Richar 

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Encarnacion 5
Dickerson 7
Gomes  9
Hanigan 2
Cueto 1

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Deadline talk, Volquez news

These will be the days when talk will often be focused on the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline. Bronson Arroyo has mentioned it in each of his last two starts and hopes management doesn’t start selling if the Reds fall out of it.

Arroyo mentioned that manager Dusty Baker had a talk with the team when everyone came back from the All-Star break.

“Dusty said in a meeting the other day that if you continue to win, they can’t remove pieces,” Arroyo said on Friday.

Baker said it’s a natural thing to think about this time of year.

“It’s something on every team’s mind at this point,” Baker said on Saturday. “There are buyers and sellers. The closer you are in the race, the tighter things are, you’re more in buying mode than selling mode. Everybody has a budget. Some budgets are larger than other budgets.

“That’s something that I tell every team I’m on, not just this team. I always say that every All-Star break. The Trade Deadline is only two weeks away. It wasn’t something that pertains to this team. It’s just a fact that’s true.”

With the Reds enterng the night 5 1/2 games out, what do you think will happen? What do you think should happen?

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Hairston 7
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Encarnacion 5
Gomes 9
Hanigan 2
Rosales 6
Harang 1

In injury rehab news, Edinson Volquez long tossed on flat ground again on Saturday. He made 30 throws at distances of up to 120 feet.

“They say 120, but you always go a little bit farther than that,” said Volquez, who has been on the DL since June 2 because of right elbow tendinitis.

The next step for Volquez: 25-30 pitches off of a mound on Monday at Dodger Stadium. The plan is to have him have three bullpen sessions — one every other day — before he heads out for a rehab assignment.

Volquez is eager to pitch again. Between his current DL stint and the previous one for back spasms, he’s thrown in just one inning since May 16.

“I can’t wait. I don’t know where the mound is right now,” Volquez joked.

“That’s OK, I will direct him,” Baker said. “It’s that hump in the middle of the field.”

Saturday was Edinson Volquez Bobblehead night. Volquez was checking out a ceramic doppelganger in his hands — only to notice a teammate had chopped off both of its arms.

“It’s kind of close,” Volquez said of the doll. “It’s got a better nose than I do. It’s got a straight hat.”

For Adam Rosales, this is his first big league game at shortstop. He didn’t play very much there the last couple of years after he had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow after the 2006 season. He played 25 games there for Triple-A Louisville last season and 11 times there this season — many of them after he was sent back down last month.

“Shortstop is what I came up as but I like all of them equally,” Rosales said. “As long as I’m out there.”

Catcher Ramon Hernandez did not start for the second-straight game because of a sore knee. Something was clearly off on Thursday when Hernandez didn’t slide trying to score during a play at the plate. He was easily thrown out.

“Hopefully, he’ll be better tomorrow,” Baker said. “That’s why he didn’t slide yesterday. I know a lot of people wanted to know why he didn’t slide. His knee is barking. He’s not fast, but if he doesn’t go all out, something is wrong.”

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