July 2009

Bruce sits, for two games

Not only was Jay Bruce out of the lineup on Thursday, he’ll be missing from the starting lineup when the road trip moves to New York on Friday. Bruce is batting .209 and 0-for-his-last 12.

Manager Dusty Baker called Bruce into his office Thursday for a private, one-on-one meeting that lasted several minutes.

“I’m letting him clear his head, much like Jimmy Rollins over here and Magglio Ordonez with the Tigers, I thought I’d give him today and tomorrow to clear himself and study,” Baker said. “He’ll study our guys, who’s hitting and who’s not and why. He’ll study their guys like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and different guys and see how they approach things and set up.”

Baker, who is an eternal optimist is trying make sure Bruce maintains his confidence which will be essential to climbing out of the hole.

“The big thing is the mindset and staying positive and just not getting too down,” Bruce said. “Mentally, sometimes it’s the toughest thing to keep your morale up. Confidence is a huge part of this game.”

Some people keep asking if Bruce should go to Triple-A and get his swing back. I’d be thinking that if he wasn’t do anything right at all on the field. But he’s still helping the team in other ways. His 10 outfield assists are tied for the Major League lead. His 18 homers lead the team. He’s also a smart guy and I believe he’ll find his way out of this. He’s not going to be a feast or famine type of hitter his whole career.

“I told him he didn’t get in it in a month and he won’t get out of it in a month,” Baker said. “It’s a slow steady process and you try to recall what your mindset was when you didn’t think anybody could get you out. You try to remove all doubt.”

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Dickerson 9
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Hernandez 2
Gomes 7
Encarnacion 5
Janish 6
Owings 1

Baker said he plans to change the rotation order after the All-Star break but the schedule remains in flux.

“We’re going to reset it but we haven’t decided exactly yet,” Baker said. “We don’t want anybody to be off for 10-12 days either.”

The Reds also signed RHP Kip Wells to a Minor League contract and assigned him to Triple-A Louisville. Wells was released by the Nationals on Monday and signed with the Reds organization on Tuesday.

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Bailey's one regret

Homer Bailey delivered a very nice outing vs. the Phillies in a no-decision, eventually lost by the Reds in the ninth inning by  a 3-2 score.

Bailey gave up two earned runs and seven hits. The big things were the no walks and a career-high six strikeouts. He felt his stuff was as good as Friday, when he worked a career-long 7 1/3 innings in another no-decision vs. St. Louis.

“It was a matter of pitch selection tonight that ended up hurting me,” Bailey said.

The Reds had a 2-1 lead until Jayson Werth tied the game in the sixth with a home run to right-center field. It came on a 2-1 fastball that sat over the plate.

“I wanted to go in for a ball and then set-up the slider away. I didn’t get it in enough,” Bailey said. “It’s one of them unfortunate things. I was kind of thinking a pitch ahead of myself. The one pitch all night I’d take back and that was it.”

“He pitched an outstanding ballgame today,” manager Dusty Baker said. “That one pitch to Werth tied the game up. That’s the only thing that got him out of the game or he’d still be pitching.”

Bailey had only 95 pitches when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh when the Reds had a scoring chance.

Since returning to the big leagues, Bailey has a 3.44 ERA in three starts. Over his last two starts, he has two walks and 11 strikeouts. He’s been looking awfully good and if he keeps this up, I imagine it will become harder to bounce him from the rotation when Edinson Volquez returns, whenever that is.

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Leake, Boxberger updates

It’s been pretty quiet on the top Draft pick front with the Reds but that could be changing soon. Progress has been made in negotiations with the top two selections — No. 8 overall pick Mike Leake and No. 43 overall Brad Boxberger.

“It’s going very well with both of those guys,” Reds scouting director Chris Buckley said by phone on Wednesday. “We haven’t been in a super duper rush because both guys pitched a lot and were tired. Hopefully, we’re pretty close.”

Both players happen to be representing by the same agent, Dan Horwitz. He is the agent for five of the Reds picks overall this year.

If Leake and Boxberger signed soon, neither would likely get a tremendous amount of work — especially Leake. This season, he has 142 innings pitched and he is less than a month removed from the College World Series.

“We haven’t pressed him too hard,” Buckley said. “The kid wanted some time off and we thought he should take the time off.”

The deadline to sign Draft picks is Aug. 17

Reds lineup:

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

Chris Dickerson is playing mostly because Philadelphia is starting right-hander Rodrigo Lopez. Dusty Baker said that Willy Taveras would be back in the lineup Thursday when the Phillies start Jamie Moyer. Baker said that he was not platooning Dickerson and Taveras.

Ramon Hernandez is batting .250 this season but is hitting .333 with runners in scoring position. He is fourth on the team with 34 RBIs. He was the clutch dude with a game-winning RBI single off of Brad Lidge in Tuesday’s 4-3 win.

“Everybody has to like those situations,” Hernandez said. “You have nothing to lose and a lot to win.

You contribute and make your team win. You always want to be in that spot. I don’t mind.”

As a follow-up on Brandon Phillips’ sac bunt Tuesday — the Elias Sports Bureau said he was the first MLB player to produce two home runs and a sacrifice bunt in the same game since Arizona’s Conor Jackson did it Aug. 10, 2007, vs. the Nationals. Aaron Boone was the last Reds player to do that on May 28, 2002, at Florida.

And a two day’s later follow: Paul Janish is the first Reds position player to pitch more than once in the same season since Mel Queen did it seven times in 1966.

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Much needed win

This was one game the Reds had to have, under no uncertain terms.

After a 22-1 loss, anything that can replace that awful taste is a good thing. The Reds did that with a 4-3 win where they also came close to being blown out for the third time in a row.

“There’s not much to say other than we needed that game badly,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I guess when you really need something and want it, you can get it.”

Aaron Harang survived giving up back-to-back homers to Howard and Utley  Werth to start the second inning. In the third after he gave up a run, he escaped a bases loaded, no outs jam. There was the leadoff triple by Ruiz in the fourth that went by the boards. Holding the Phillies from piling on enabled the Reds to come back.

The winless streak for Harang is up to eight starts since May 25. Five of the starts were quality outings (at least six innings and three earned runs or less).

The big play of the night came in the ninth. With Joey Votto on second with a leadoff double, Brandon Phillips dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt to first base. It helped set up the winning hit, a single by Ramon Hernandez.

Baker asked Phillips to bunt because he was 0-for-7 lifetime vs. Lidge.

“We’re trying to win games,” Baker said. “I talked it over with Brandon before he went up there. He said ‘no problem.'”

“You have to learn how to do the fundamental things,” Phillips said. “You have to learn how to bunt. All the little kids out there think bunting is not important. But in situations like that, bunting does come through. If I hadn’t got him over, we might still be playing right now.”

The Reds are back at .500 at 41-41. The Cardinals beat the Brewers and the Cubs and Astros loss. Cincinnati is 3 1/2 games behind first-place St. Louis.

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Bullpen help for Reds

After the Reds bullpen has put together 11 1/3 innings over the last two games, a little reinforcement was summoned on Tuesday. The Reds called up RHP Robert Manuel from Triple-A Louisville.

Manuel was 3-3 with a 2.51 ERA and eight saves in 32 appearances for Louisville.  In 43 innings, he allowed 33 hits, 12 earned runs, nine walks, two homers and struck out 33. Opponents batted .209 against him and curiously, it was lefties that fared worse by hitting .169 (10-for-59).

To make room for Manuel, IF Drew Sutton was optioned to Louisville.

Reds lineup:

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

As usual, there was a unique story to Manuel getting the word from Louisville manager Rick Sweet that he was moving up. It happened to come just as players were watching highlights from the 22-1 loss.

“It was real weird,” Manuel said. “There were too many people in the room and they were all around me for some reason. I was just paying attention to the highlights. He said they might need somebody to pitch in Cincy. I looked around and every one of the guys standing up were position players and starters. [Sweet] was looking at me. I thought he was talking to somebody behind me and was joking around.”

Manuel throws a fastball, slider and changeup. In the minors, he could work multiple innings, set-up or close.

“He throws strikes. The big thing is he’s gotten left-handers out better than right-handers,” Dusty Baker said. “They said give him a shot. He’s not going to pop your eyes out but he gets people out, which is what it’s all about.”

When the writers came into Baker’s office for the daily meeting, he had the right attitude needed to overcome a loss that, quite frankly, had him looking shellshocked on Monday night.

“The sun came up today,” Baker said. “It’s a new day. It’s baseball.”

22-1

If only “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons could have been at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.

“Worst Reds defeat, ever,” he would have said correctly.

A 22-1 loss to the Phillies broke the 140-year franchise’s record for largest margin of defeat. On July 26, 1892 the Reds lost to these Phillies, 26-6 in Philadelphia. 

“That’s the worst beating I can remember on a baseball field,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Johnny Cueto looked nothing like the pitcher people felt was snubbed by the All-Star selections. He was terrible and lasted just two-thirds of an inning and allowed nine earned runs and five hits. He threw 49 pitches and faced 11 batters. His ERA went from 2.69 to 3.45.

Of course, no blowout would be complete without Paul Janish pitching an inning. After last pitching on May 6 in a 15-3 loss to the Brewers, Janish worked the eighth and gave up six runs — including a grand slam. His ERA, in case you wondered, is now 49.50.

“I was really hoping to lower my ERA but that didn’t happen either,” Janish joked. “I kind of picked up the team. On a serious note, in that situation when it comes down to it, we had to get through the game anyway we could. For me to pick up that inning, you have to do what you have to do.”

The Reds will need bullpen help after two-straight big beatings. Baker indicated a roster move was coming.

At 40-41, the Reds are now in a fourth-place tie with the Astros and 3 1/2 games out of first place. It certainly doesn’t mean the season is over but this game will have to be forgotten fast. Jonny Gomes indicated it would.

“This is the highest level of baseball,” Gomes said. “We’re professionals in here. We’ve gotten our butts kicked since we were 10 years old and all the way up. Win or lose, we will chew on it for 30-45 minutes and leave those double doors and come back tomorrow with a clean head.”

Did anyone watch or listen to the whole game?

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Greetings, Pete Mackanin

Hello from Citizen’s Bank Park, where it’s a warm and quite sunny day in Philadelphia. After first getting to the clubhouse, we were out in the dugout when Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin was behind the cage overseeing pitcher’s batting practice. It was good to visit with him for a few minutes.

Mackanin, you may remember, was the Reds interim manager for the final 79 games of the 2007 season after Jerry Narron was let go. A pleasure to work with for media folk, Mackanin had a dry sense of humor and liked to drop some quirky lines our way. Had I been blogging back then, more of them would have been printed. Here was one from today:

“There are three kinds of people in the world — those who can count and those who can’t,” Mackanin said.

Mackanin did a fine job for Cincinnati under the circumstances when he took over a 31-51 team that had the worst record in the Majors and guided the Reds to a 40-39 record. It would have been a better record had so many regular players not got hurt over the final stretch of games. However, Mackanin was never under serious consideration for the full-time job before the Reds hired Dusty Baker.

 


Thumbnail image for citizens bank park 070609.JPGReds lineup
:

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

Not a ton of news today. 3B Edwin Encarnacion enters tonight a not-too-robust 1-for-9 in three games since his return from the DL with a left wrist fracture. The one hit, a double, came in his first at-bat back on Friday. Obviously, he is still playing catch-up after missing 58 games.

“My first few games I didn’t do that well but I know it will turn around,” Encarnacion said. “I feel ready to go. I’ve been working hard. Everything will come to me. I’ve had two bad games but that’s in the past. I will keep going. I will stay focused.”

As you can see from above, Encarnacion is batting eighth for the first time this season.

“Edwin doesn’t usually hit eighth but he doesn’t have his stroke yet,” Baker said.

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One Reds All-Star: Cordero

When the National League team takes the field in St. Louis for introductions at the All-Star game, you will see only one player wearing a Reds uniform. It will be closer Francisco Cordero.

I had a feeling it’d either be Cordero or Johnny Cueto but not both. Each team gets a minimum of one player to represent.

Cordero, a manager’s selection, is definitely a worthy choice with 20 saves in 21 attempts this season. It’s funny now thinking back to Spring Training when fans (and reporters…ahem) were so concerned when he was terrible and working his way back from off-season ankle surgery.

At 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA, Cueto was definitely worth a closer look but those back-to-back starts where he blew big leads to Toronto and the White Sox probably didn’t help his cause. While he was fourth in ERA among NL pitchers, he has only 78 strikeouts, which is not close to the leaderboard. He also doesn’t rank in other categories like innings pitched (103.2), complete games, etc. He was 4th with opponent’s batting average of .223.

Do you think any Reds were overlooked or snubbed?

Joey Votto would have been a stone-cold lock had he not missed so much time on the DL. In my mind, no other position player is having good enough seasons to warrant snubbed status.

3:30pm update: After taking a closer look at the NL pitching staff, I’m still not shocked Cueto didn’t make it. But one’s eyes can go into spasm crunching numbers and Cueto definitely had a case.

The Cubs’ Ted Lilly made it with a 7-6 record with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts with 23 BB, 88 K, opp. avg of .242 and a 1.13 WHIP. Cueto’s walks-hit/per innings pitched is 1.12. Lilly was the lone Cub to get in and remember, each team has to have at least one All-Star.

Did Cueto deserve to get in over Johan Santana?

Santana was 9-6 with a 3.34 ERA, 102.1 IP, 34 BB, 104 K, .241 opp avg, and a 1.26 WHIP. He was named on the player’s ballot, which shows that players too often go with names and reputation.

Postgame: Cordero was pretty low-key about his honor but was happy about it.

“It’s a great feeling. It shows you’ve done a great job,” Cordero said. “I’m really happy I’m able to go this year after what happened to me in the off-season. It was hard for me.”

Besides having September ankle surgery, Cordero unexpectedly lost his mother, Martina, who died at the age of 60 in the Dominican Republic.

“Me and my older brother were playing cards with her,” Cordero said. “I went to pick up my boy from school and I got a call that she was taken to the hospital. The next night, she passed away.”

Baker wasn’t upset that Cueto wasn’t going to St. Louis with Cordero.

“I would have loved to have seen him [make the team],” Baker said. “But he has time. He’s getting better, big time.”
 

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Baker: No broken spirits

Before Sunday’s game, a reporter asked Dusty Baker about the bullpen and how it’s done vs. Albert Pujols in the series. Of course on Friday, Pujols whacked a grand slam off of David Weathers but grounded out vs. Nick Masset on Saturday.

Here is a fantastic quote:

“It’s not us against Albert,” Baker said. “It’s us against the Cardinals. Albert happens to be the grand Cardinal. He is the grand of a lot of stuff.”

Back to the Reds, this will be a pretty big week as they roll into the All-Star break with a six-game road trip to Philadelphia and New York.

“This is going to be some good baseball before the break,” Baker said. “We have the hard-hitting Phillies and the Mets. The Cardinals have the Brewers and the Cubs. Things can change rather quickly.”

After St. Louis, the Brewers will host the best team in baseball, the Dodgers, heading into the break.

None of the six NL Central teams can technically considered out of the race. Even the last-place Pirates, despite their rash of trades, are still only six games out of first.

The Reds entered Sunday 40-39 and two games out.

“There are no broken spirits yet,” Baker said. “Usually by the All-Star break, there are some broken spirits. The spirits are still alive. It makes for good baseball.”

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Still standing, and winning

It’s games like Thursday’s 3-2, 10-inning win over Arizona that are Exhibit A as to why the Reds can’t be counted out in the NL Central race. The Reds should have buried themselves with all the missed chances yet they were the ones pounding on Joey Votto after his RBI single with the bases loaded won the game.

There were 16 runners left stranded, including 13 before Votto’s final at-bat. In the fourth with the bases loaded and no outs on a Paul Janish walk. the Reds came up empty in a hurry. It took a combined four pitches for Davis to get Harang (first pitch pop-out), Taveras (first-pitch groundout to third for fielder’s choice play at the plate) and Hairston (second-pitch grounder to third base for a force out).

Aaron Harang is a hard-luck guy again — zero wins in his last seven starts despite four quality outings. He pitched seven solid innings and deserved better.

Jay Bruce’s perfect one-hop throw to nail Alex Romero from scoring on Justin Upton’s fly to right field in the 10th might have been the defensive play of the year. He had to go his right on that ball before making the throw. It wasn’t as easy as he made it look.

“It was a bang-bang, do or die play,” Bruce said.

Other quotes:

“I was telling Mark Berry that they’re trying to kill the old skipper, especially with leaving all of those runners on base like that,” Dusty Baker said. “That would have been a back breaker if they got out of that last inning there. Pressure busts the pipe. We kept the pressure on them all day long.”

“Teams get hot and cold when it comes to that stuff,” Votto said of the runners stranded “Obviously, it comes down to execution and we didn’t do it today. But I think it says a lot that we battled back against their closer and tied the game up and won the game in extra innings considering how well Davis threw today.”

“Any time you’ve got them on the ropes and can’t get the guys in, it’s frustrating,” Bruce said. “But all that frustration goes away when you win.”

Just like on Thursday, the Reds have made it look far from pretty this season but look where they are as July 4 nears. They are 39-38 and 2 1/2 games out of first place with the second-place Cardinals up next. The Brewers have the Cubs this weekend.

“Something is going to shake this week,” Baker said.

I’m off for a couple of games. Happy July 4th to everyone and catch you on Sunday.

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