July 2009

Roster move, Lincoln news

The Reds made their expected roster move to get down to 12 pitchers. The odd man out was Josh Roenicke, who was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Infielder Drew Sutton was recalled from Louisville and expands the options on the bench. Sutton appeared in three games during his previous call-up and went 0-for-4. He was sent down on July 7 and returns after he spent the minimum 10 days in the minors.

In 10 games with the Reds, Roenicke was 0-0 with a 2.92 ERA. He retired eight of his 10 first batters and let one of eight inherited runners scored. He struck out a career-high four over two innings on Thursday vs. Milwaukee.

Reliever Mike Lincoln will be having cervical disc replacement surgery on Monday in St. Louis. Lincoln has been on the 15-day DL since June 17 because of a bulging disc in his neck. A prognosis won’t be known for Lincoln until after the operation, but I can’t imagine him returning any time this season.

During the off-season, Lincoln was re-signed to a two-year, $4 million contract.

Reds lineup:

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

Edwin Encarnacion has been getting it quite together at the plate lately and is finally poised to get his batting average north of .200. Encarnacion came into Friday batting .323 (11-for-34) with two home runs and seven RBIs in 11 games since returning from over two months on the DL. Overall, he was batting .196.

“I feel great right now,” said Encarnacion, who was 3-for-3 Thursday with a three-run homer and RBI single. “I’ve been working hard to get my timing back. Right now, I’ve got my timing. When I came back, I tried to do too much and didn’t come through the first two games. I thought back to taking it slow, being more patient and not trying to do too much. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

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Not the way to start 2nd half

Thursday was the start of an important, actually critical, 10-game stretch for the Reds vs. the Brewers, Dodgers and Cubs. Thursday’s 9-6 loss was not the way they wanted to start the second half.

Homer Bailey started out OK even after hitting his first batter of the game, allowing two walks in the second and even Prince Fielder’s three-run homer in the third. What wasn’t OK were the two walks he issued to Ryan Braun and Fielder in the five-run, 10-batter Brewers sixth inning. Those were killer.

“He was trying to challenge them but wasn’t finding the strike zone in that inning,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They’re pretty good hitters. That was a tough inning right there, a real tough inning.”

Bailey pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up a career-high seven earned runs and six hits. He walked four and struck out three. Many of the hits, other than Fielder’s, weren’t crushed. Nick Masset took over in the sixth and let all of his inherited runners home on a groundball up the middle and a broken bat single — not overwhelming but damaging all the same. 

Reds starters are 1-5 with an 8.46 ERA over their last eight games.

Some high moments: Joey Votto hit a mammoth two-run homer to the smokestacks in the bottom of the third inning. It traveled 471 feet and was the 12th longest HR in GABP history.

“Joey’s ball landed in Newport,” Bailey said.

In the fifth was about as neat a “web gem” as you’ll see. Craig Counsell hit a sharp roller to the middle. Shortstop Jerry Hairston Jr. scooped and flipped the ball with his glove. Second baseman Brandon Phillips caught it barehanded and turned the 6-4-3 GIDP.

The Reds, which have lost eight of their last 11 and five of the last six, are 42-46 — that’s four games under .500. The Cardinals were off so the deficit in the division is 5 1/2 games.

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No moves, Jocketty on hitter need

After three days off, the Reds reconvened at Great American Ball Park with their 25-man roster the same as it was before the break. No moves were made…yet.

The Reds still have 13 pitchers.

“For now,” GM Walt Jocketty said without elaborating.

“We’ll see,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Probably until [Friday]. There’s some technical stuff in there.”

As for finding a hitter outside the club, that quest will continue as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline rolls closer. With Jay Bruce out 6-8 weeks, there seems to be more of a need now than before.

“It could make it more pressing but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” Jocketty said. “We’re still looking for a hitter. The fact that Jay is hurt makes it more difficult for us to score runs. We’ve still got some guys that will get more playing time. Jonny Gomes will play more. [Jerry] Hairston could play more in the outfield. We’re certainly trying to do what we can.”

Jocketty seemed to be in agreement with Baker’s view from Sunday that the time is not now for outfield prospects Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey. Jocketty saw Stubbs play three times last week for Louisville and in Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star game.

“He’s getting close,” Jocketty said of Stubbs. “You don’t want to rush a guy and have him come up here and not be successful. We’ll wait until our people think the time is right. The worst thing you can do for a guy’s confidence is to bring him up here and he doesn’t perform well.”

The Reds were on the field extra early today doing early work, which is a typical thing for a team to do after a few days off. Players took infield practice, practice cutoffs and relays in the outfield, went over signs and of course, took batting practice.Among those on the field was SS Alex Gonzalez, who was throwing pretty well considering he had elbow surgery about a month ago.

“They say he’s coming back really quick. He’s at a point where he could probably go on a rehab assignment next week. It’s just a matter of the time he needs to play.”

In other injury news, Edinson Volquez could begin throwing off of a mound by next week.

And, OF Chris Dickerson was scratched from the lineup during BP. He was originally slated to bat leadoff and play right field.

Reds lineup:

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

One other late note: I learned today that 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Humberto Valor received a $690,000 bonus when he signed earlier this month. That was far below what some published reports were.

 

(Much needed) break time

One thing was clear during the Reds’ 9-7 loss to the Mets at Citi Field: it’s a very good time for them to disperse for the All-Star break.

The road trip ended with a 2-5 record, including two of three to a Mets team even more banged up than the Reds. Cincinnati is a season-high three games under .500 at 42-45.

Frustration bubbled over, especially for Joey Votto. The Reds first baseman was ejected in the top of the fourth inning for arguing a called strike three by home plate umpire Bill Welke that he felt was inside. Votto was allowed to vent at Welke for several moments before he was run.

It was the first ejection of Votto’s short career. Not a stretch to think it has something to do with his being called out on strikes six times during the road trip, including his last three at-bats in a row (twice on Sunday). Votto will return after the break, of course, but his 14-game hitting streak is on a permanent vacation.

“I’d like to thank Bill Welke for christening me with my first ejection,” said Votto, who had been ejected before in the minors. “I didn’t do anything or offend him in any way. I didn’t go below the belt. I had a basic disagreement with him as far as what was a ball and a strike. He’s a good guy. I don’t have a problem with Bill, at all. I just stood there a little too long and he ran me. He’s a good guy.”

Later in the game, Welke punched out Edwin Encarnacion on a called strike three in the eighth that stopped a rally. Good thing Encarnacion didn’t argue (the pitch looked high and inside to me)– the Reds were about to use up their whole bench.

The Reds could have used Votto’s bat at the end of the game. It was still winnable but a pair of seventh-inning homers against David Weathers proved to be the difference. After Fernando Tatis hit the second homer of the inning to left field, Mets fans became irate when the giant red apple didn’t pop out behind the center field wall.

Maybe Citi Field wasn’t ready for another homer so fast. Before Brian Schneider’s long ball that started the inning, the Mets had gone 80 innings without one. The last one was hit on July 2.

As bad luck would have it, the banged up Reds outfield caught another bad break. Right fielder Chris Dickerson left after four innings with back spasms. He’s day-to-day. Dickerson fully extended himself on an unsuccessful diving catch attempt on David Wright’s bloop single in the bottom of the third and seemed to need an extra moment.

It was a rough game for starter Aaron Harang: 3 IP, 8 H, 5 ER. He’s 0-5 with a 5.26 ERA in nine games since his last victory on May 25.

“I just didn’t have my location,” Harang said. “I was missing spots, falling behind and having to come back and throw strikes. They were out there swinging.”

Yep, it’s time for a break.

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Rosales up, what's next for OF?

Sorry for a late blog posting — but it’s been a little hectic and I fell behind. The first person I saw when I walked into the clubhouse was infielder Adam Rosales, who was recalled from Triple-A Louisville to replace the injured Jay Bruce.

It was Rosales’ first-ever time in New York. The closest he’ll get to Manhattan is flying over it.

“They called me last night at 11 p.m.,” Rosales said. “I got all packing done and took a 7:15 a.m. flight from Louisville. It’s been a long day already for me. I’m catching a flight after the game to go to Salt Lake City to see the family. I didn’t get the full experience. I saw the Statue of Liberty from the window of the plane, Manhattan and the Empire State Building.”

The Reds have some moves to contemplate over the All-Star break and expect them to recalibrate the roster some for the second half. They are currently carrying 13 pitchers and want 12. Another position player will be added, manager Dusty Baker confirmed.

The club is down to four outfielders — Willy Taveras, Chris Dickerson, Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix. Throw Jerry Hairston Jr. into the mix and that makes five. Hairston has been playing shortstop mostly with Alex Gonzalez out. Rosales played a lot of shortstop at Louisville and could go there with Paul Janish and free Hairston up the outfield.

Or the Reds could make a trade before the July 31 deadline. Baker was asked if Bruce’s injury made more likely a bat would be added from the outside.

“It depends,” Baker said on Sunday. “Everybody knows you’re in need and they want to get the better of the deal. It’s harder to trade now than ever before because most teams want your young players. [General manager] Walt [Jocketty] has already been on the phone already. We’ll see.”  

It didn’t look likely that Drew Stubbs or Chris Heisey would get promotions. Stubbs, Cincinnati’s 2006 first-round Draft pick, came into Sunday batting .279 with two home runs and 25 RBIs for the Bats.

“What does that equate to here?” Baker said. “He’s still trying to figure out his stroke. Let’s not rush these guys like we did with a whole bunch of guys. If they’re going to be here, you want them to play every day. … Let’s let these kids play and develop. All we see is their batting averages. All we see is hitting. We don’t see the total game if you want to win in the big leagues. There is base running, throwing, getting signs and fundamental stuff. If they’re going to make mistakes, let them make them there.”

And finally, Baker was asked about the lack of national notice on Francisco Cordero but turned the answer into a different direction. He used it as a chance to fire a shot across the bow of ESPN, his former employer for one year in 2007.

“It seems like publicity we get is when we got killed, 22-1 [on Monday at Philadelphia],” Baker said. “They showed every hit. They showed everything. I took exception to that. Those are my people at ESPN, why do we get all the publicity in the world when it’s a joke?”

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Bad news for Bruce, Reds

The play looked ugly when it happened and the results have now matched.

Reds right fielder Jay Bruce exited Saturday’s game vs. the Mets in the bottom of the first inning after his right glove hand jammed hard into the grass while making a sliding catch on David Wright’s short fly ball. 

Bruce was later diagnosed with a fractured right wrist. He will return to Cincinnati for an MRI and an examination with team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek. It was not known how much time he will miss.

“It hurt pretty bad,” said Bruce after the game, with his right arm in a wrap.  “I was in some pretty bad pain. It’s part of the game I guess. I was trying to make the play. I caught it. Once it came back forward, I didn’t have any strength in my hand. I couldn’t keep it closed.”

Immediately after hitting the ground, Bruce grabbed his wrist in obvious pain. After being looked over for a few moments by manager Dusty Baker and the trainer, Bruce walked off the field. Chris Dickerson took over in right field. In the top of the first, Bruce struck out in his only at-bat vs. Johan Santana.

“I just hope Jay is not hurt too seriously,” Baker said after a 4-0 Reds loss to the Mets. “Let’s hope we don’t lose him for the year.”

A roster move is coming for Sunday, Baker said. No outfielders at Triple-A Louisville are currently on the 40-man roster. 

Drew Stubbs is batting .279 with two home runs and 25 RBIs in 77 games for the Bats. Another option could be Chris Heisey, who was recently promoted from Double-A Carolina. In 14 games with Louisville, Heisey is batting .365 with three homers and 13 RBIs. 

Bruce, Votto, post-break rotation

After slumping right fielder Jay Bruce was benched for two games to get a break, it might seem odd to see him batting second on Saturday vs. the Mets and ace lefty Johan Santana. It was only the second time this season Bruce batted in the No. 2 spot.

But there was a method to Dusty Baker’s madness.

“It’s back-to-back lefties vs. Santana because he’s actually pitched better vs. righties than lefties,” Baker said. Maybe if Willy [Taveras] gets on, he’ll get a good pitch to hit. And he’ll be in front of Joey [Votto] too so we’ll see.”

Lefties came into tonight batting .267 vs. Santana this season. Right-handers were batting .221.

Reds lineup:

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

Speaking of Votto, he has a career-high 13-game hitting streaking going into Saturday. He’s batting .357 in 17 games since his return from a month on the DL with depression. And, get this, he doesn’t feel fully locked in at the plate yet.

“I’m feeling a lot better since coming back but I still have stuff to work on constantly,” Votto said. “I feel like my strength is coming back to where it was before. I’m not quite where I was but I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.

“I made sure that when I came back, I tried to be as mechanically sound as possible. Sometimes during the year if you’re a little stronger, you don’t have to quite as exact or make mistakes or miss and still find good results. Ideally, you want both combined. That’s what the great hitters do.”

Before Votto spent 21 games on the DL, the Reds were 26-21 with a .257 team average. While he was out, they went 8-13 and batted .217. The Reds are 8-9 since his return coming into tonight’s game.

“It really hurt when were missing Joey,” Baker said. “It hurt bad, especially when you don’t have an high-octane offense.”

Here is your Reds rotation coming out of the All-Star break:

Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto and Micah Owings.

Baker and Dick Pole wanted to set up the rotation so no one got too many days off. Cueto will be pitching on seven days rest and Harang will be getting five days. Owings gets the longest break with 10 days of rest.

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Taking in Citi Field

Start spreading the news, this isn’t Shea.

The Cincinnati traveling party is taking in Citi Field for the first time and it’s hard to believe there is no longer that certain maligned stadium anymore. The jet noise from adjacent LaGuardia Airport is still as frequent as it was at the old place.

“I miss those rats,” reliever David Weathers joked of old Shea. “You could put saddles on their backs and ride them. I saw someone in a tree stand hunting them.”

 

Thumbnail image for citi field4 071009.JPGI didn’t see the Mets clubhouse, but the visiting clubhouse is very nice…smaller than I expected. But big enough.

One NY writer called Citi Field “the second best new ballpark in New York.”

I haven’t seen new Yankee Stadium yet to agree or disagree.

It’s weird seeing a ballpark with such dark features. Everything inside — fence, seating, metalwork, etc. — is a mix of either dark green and black. There is the hints of Mets orange too of course. But it looks very good aesthetically.

A lot of players from other teams that have been here aren’t fond of the roomy dimensions (it’s 415 feet to the right-center field gap…wow). The left field wall isn’t as far, but it’s about 15-20 feet high so any homers that way have to be earned too. The dimensions in general are far from symmetrical, so there could be some odd plays.

“I watched games on TV and walked the grounds,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Everything I saw on TV is real. This could be a tricky place.

“It looks very good here though, very good. It’s always fun coming to a new stadium. It really shows that time is marching on.”

No matter where they’re playing, this is an important series for the Reds. The reeling Mets have lost five of their last six games….ditto for the Reds.

Cincinnati must win two of three here heading into the break. No doubt about it. 


Reds lineup:

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

Jay Bruce will be back in the lineup on Saturday vs. Johan Santana. Lefties are hitting .267 vs. Santana while right-handers are batting .221. 

Ryan Hanigan isn’t back to being Bronson Arroyo’s unofficial personal catcher.

“He hasn’t caught in four days either,” Baker said. “I want to keep Ramon [Hernandez] strong and keep him fresh and give Arroyo the best chance. When you’re up and down the way we’re playing, there’s no real set anything. It’s still midseason but we’re still searching for stuff.”

More photos:

 

citi field1 071009.JPG

Guys getting ready for BP and field work.

 

citi field2 071009.JPG

It’s hard to tell, but that’s Mets 3B David Wright above on the left as the Mets took an early session on infield practice. You can also get a sense of how high the LF wall is.

 

citi field3 071009.JPG

The visitor’s dugout at Citi Field. That’s reliever Daniel Herrera at the railing.

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Stop, rumor time

It’s the time of year you know is coming but can never really brace yourself for properly. I’m not even sure what to call it.

Trade deadline rumor-a-rama? Silly season (that’s more about winter rumors)? The chasing of rumors, legit or not that rarely pan out time of year? I’ll keep working on it.

Anyway, there have been two rumors linked to the Reds the past couple of days and I thought they should be addressed.

The Toronto Sun is reporting today that the Reds have had “internal discussions” about Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen. It’s a natural thought — Rolen played for the Cardinals when GM Walt Jocketty was there. He’s a bat needed for an offense bereft of run producers. Maybe they did discuss him. Lots of players get discussed, year-round. Many GMs and front offices have a big giant board in their office with every club’s players on it.

Here’s the problem: Rolen is making $11 million this year and is owed $11 million next year. He’s 34 years old. The story says the Reds are “dangling” Edwin Encarnacion, who makes $2 million this year and $4.75 million next year.

Unless Toronto is willing to eat much of that money, the Reds aren’t looking to take on that kind of salary hit to their payroll. It’s just a plain fact. 

On Thursday, the Denver Post dropped that the Reds were interested in third baseman Garret Atkins, possibly for relievers David Weathers and Nick Masset. That’s just not happening. I was told from someone in the know that Colorado has called every team in the league trying to unload Atkins. So far, no takers.

Atkins is making $7.05 million this season and batting just .227 with six homers and 27 RBIs. He wouldn’t an offensive upgrade from Encarnacion…who the Reds would still have on the roster in this scenario. Neither guy can play a bunch of positions.

And a Reds official made it clear to me that Masset isn’t going anywhere. Not when he’s doing what he does for such a reasonable salary ($418,000).

If the Reds are buyers, they wouldn’t get rid of two key parts to the bullpen.

I would look for smaller moves. The Reds have a deep farm system and will be able to use it, within reason. Don’t look for giant transactions for rent-a-players like Matt Holliday. This team is finally headed in the right direction and it wouldn’t take a blockbuster move to win the NL Central this season. If they stick to the plan they’ve had lately, they can be contenders both this year and the long term.

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Messy, or was it sloppy?

The Reds should have left town with a split and they knew it. Mistakes galore cost them two leads and culminated in a 9-6 loss to the Phillies. That meant dropping three of four in the series.

There were leads of 3-0 and 6-4 that became dust in the wind because of self inflicted gaffes.

In the third inning, Chase Utley hit a two-out inside-the-park homer to center field. Willy Taveras was too close to the wall when the ball caromed and Chris Dickerson wasn’t backing up from right field.

In the fourth inning, a Shane Victorino liner spun off of Brandon Phillips’ glove and scored two runs.

Reds starter Micah Owings gave up seven earned runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings with four walks and a strikeout. He threw 97 pitches. 

In the decisive fifth inning that included four walks from three pitchers and only two hits, reliever Josh Roenicke was late covering first base on Paul Bako’s would-be inning-ending double play. Three runs scored in the inning and put the Reds away.

Quotes from Dusty Baker:

“You can’t be walking people, not in this ballpark against that lineup. They’re already tough enough to get out. They don’t need any help.”

“Young Roenicke was late breaking to the bag and didn’t get to the bag and that cost us three runs.”

“It’s just disheartening. We should have at least come out of here with a split.”

From Phillips on the liner off of his glove:

“It was knuckling and I almost caught it. It was the toughest one. If it was higher, it would have been easier to catch. When it’s at your ankles, it’s hard to catch those balls. I didn’t even feel the ball touch my glove, to tell you the truth. I wish I would have caught it. if it was any other person out there, I felt they would have done the same thing I did. It was just a tough break.”

This loss also put 41-43 Cincinnati into fifth place, 4 1/2 games behind St. Louis. The Reds need a good weekend at New York to get some momentum into the break.

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