August 2009

McDonald improves, roster moves

I remember when journeyman minor leaguer Darnell McDonald was up here to start the season, fans were far from pleased. First, McDonald made the 25-man roster over the more popular Jonny Gomes. He even started on Opening Day because Willy Taveras was out. Then he struggled mightily and there was an awful lot of attention paid to the 25th man on the roster.

McDonald was designated for assignment on May 22 after he batted .175. But if you’re a 30-year-old former No. 1 draft pick that spent 11 years in the minors, you know something about resiliency. He batted .314 for Triple-A Louisville and was brought back up last week.

“He’s played very well,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I saw the talent level there. It’s just a matter of putting too much pressure on himself when he was here the first time and trying to stay. He went down and played, got his stroke and everything together and really contributed.”

McDonald has featured prominent in several games. In a 13-inning game at Milwaukee, he forced extras by throwing out Ryan Braun at the plate from left field. The next day, he hit the game-winning double over Braun’s head in the 10th inning. McDonald hit a two-run homer — the first of his career — in Sunday’s loss and in Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader with the Pirates, he scored the winning run a wild pitch.

“When you play to try to be perfect and not make mistakes, you make more mistakes,” McDonald said. “Now I want to play loose and have fun. If you make a mistake playing aggressive, that’s fine.”

Roster moves:

After Game 1, the Reds made three transactions. Starter Johnny Cueto was activated from the DL and RHP Ramon Ramirez and 1B Kevin Barker were recalled from Triple-A Louisville. Laynce Nix was placed on the DL with a bulging disc in his neck. RHP Carlos Fisher was optioned to Class-A Sarasota and LHP Matt Maloney was optioned to Double-A Carolina.

The moves were not extra-harsh demotions for Fisher and Maloney. Because Triple-A Louisville is in the playoffs, any player sent down there would have to wait 10 days before returning. Carolina’s season ends on Sept. 7 and Sarasota’s ends on the Sept. 6. Both guys can come right back after that but will pitch for their teams in the interim.

It will be interesting to see how Cueto does. With the Reds situation, I think he might have been better off resting the rest of the season. I trust the opinion of the medical staff but why risk injuring Cueto’s tired arm (only 136 2/3 innings) when there is no pennant race at stake? Between last season (174 innings), winter ball and the WBC — he’s already had a lot.

Game 2 Lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 9
McDonald 7
Miller 2
Cueto 1

 

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Double duty day

I’m hunkered down for two games, are you? I haven’t worked a day-night doubleheader since mid-2005, I believe, when the Twins and Tigers had to make up a game at Comerica Park that was snowed out in late

April if you can believe it.

The Reds did not add a fresh arm before Game 1 vs. the Pirates but have at least one roster move pending before Game 2. Johnny Cueto has to be activated. It’s possible a second move could go down,

depending on how much Dusty Baker has to use the bullpen in the first game.

“There’s a possiblity,” Baker said but declining to name the likely call-ups. “They are not supposed to be in the area (clubhouse). I don’t know because everybody does it.”

The day didn’t start out great for the Reds. Baker had to scratch Laynce Nix from the lineup because of his bothersome neck. An MRI last week revealed a bulging disc. Nix was better yesterday and pinch-hit vs. the Dodgers.

“With a short night, he woke up stiff,” Baker said. “He said he’s been dealing with it, on and off, most of the year. He’s a tough man. Sometimes tough doesn’t last.”

Jonny Gomes took Nix’s spot in the lineup.

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Sutton 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Gomes 9
Balentien 7
Rosales 6
Tatum 2
Wells 1

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Bruce getting closer

RF Jay Bruce seemed like a pretty happy dude this morning. After he got the all-clear from Dr. Tim Kremchek following his Friday exam, Bruce was allowed to pick up a bat and start swinging again.

“I hit soft tosses with my bat,” Bruce said. “If everything feels good [Monday], I will hit off of a pitching machine and then BP. We’ll see how it all progresses and go from there. It’s coming along great though.”

There is still no ETA for a return to the lineup. Bruce hasn’t played since he fractured his right wrist on July 11 in New York. He aims to come back some time next month. Still in question is whether he’d be able to get out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville before their season ends.

Speaking of Louisville, the Bats clinched their second consecutive International League West Division championship. They will play either Durham or Gwinnett in the opening round of the Governor’s Cup playoffs on Sept 9.

On the other end of the injury spectrum, OF Chris Dickerson was one-crutching it across the clubhouse. Dickerson wasn’t wearing his protective boot for his severely sprained left ankle…it was in his locker at that moment.

“Me and that boot are not on good terms,” Dickerson said. “There’s an air pump in it that sticks into my foot and makes it as uncomfortable as it gets.”

Dickerson expected to be in the boot for at least another week.

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 9
McDonald 7
Miller 2
Arroyo 1

The Reds need another good, and deep, out from Bronson Arroyo today because of the looming doubleheader on Monday.

Johnny Cueto will be on a pitch-count when he comes off the DL to start Game 2 vs. the Pirates.

“We haven’t determined what it is yet,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re just hoping to get some innings out of [Game 1 pitcher Kip] Wells in the first game so we don’t have to tear up my bullpen.

“It’s a long day tomorrow. I have never played in a split doubleheader because they didn’t allow them. I participated and managed in a couple of split doubleheaders. I wish they still wouldn’t allow them. That’s an overtime day right there.”

The Reds will announce a roster move to make room for Cueto following Game 1.

Is anyone out there still reading this blog?

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Nix's neck not good

Outfielder Laynce Nix has been conspicuous in his absence the last few days. An MRI taken on Friday revealed he has a bulging disc pushing against his spine.

“I’ll be fine in a couple of days. I hope to play by Monday or Tuesday,” Nix said. “I had collision three years ago, which is what it stemmed from. I never had an MRI on it until yesterday. It revealed some minor damage but nothing we can’t take care of.”

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Balentien 7
Gomes 9
Tatum 2
Maloney 1

To make room for LHP Matt Maloney’s recall to start today’s game, 1B Kevin Barker was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Barker batted .364 (4-for-11) in nine games since his Aug. 14 promotion.

“He did a good job for us pinch-hitting,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “There are a couple of other guys here with more versatility. I talked to [general manager] Walt [Jocketty] and we’ll get him back after the [Triple-A] playoffs unless someone gets hurt or doesn’t respond.”

2B Brandon Phillips is hitting .207 (12-for-58) in his last 15 games entering Saturday. He has been bothered by a sore wrist that was hit by a pitch on Aug. 20, but Baker wasn’t offering any excuses.

“It’s almost September,” he said. “Everybody is bothered by something in September. If you’re not bothered by something this time of year, you haven’t been playing very much.”

Closer Francisco Cordero was considered unavailable on Saturday. Cordero had pitched the last four days in a row and in the last five games over six days. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cordero pitched four-straight days for the first time since July 3-6, 2008. He has pitched in five consecutive games for the first time since he pitched in a career-high six straight games from May 4-9, 2007.

To handle the ninth, Arthur Rhodes, Nick Masset and Jared Burton were considered available on a situational basis.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Harang's saga

Minus one useless appendix, pitcher Aaron Harang walked around like an elderly man inside the Reds clubhouse on Friday.

“I’m slow getting around. I get drained of energy very quick,” said Harang, who had an emergency appendectomy last Saturday at Good Samaritan Hospital.

When it comes to lengthy car drives, Harang and equipment manager Rick Stowe brought new meaning to the phrase “Are we there yet?”

On Saturday, Stowe had to drive Harang from Pittsburgh back to Cincinnati to have the operation after Harang was diagnosed with appendicitis. He explained what happened.

“I ordered a sandwich when I got back to the hotel at about 11 p.m. I ate it and went to bed,” Harang said. “I woke up at 6:30 a.m. feeling achy. I wasn’t sure. It was a sharp pain. I didn’t think much of it. I wasn’t feeling good. I took a couple of Tums and tried to get back to sleep. It took two hours to get back to sleep.”

As the morning went on, Harang was prepared to go on with his day like normal.

“I looked up movie times and was going to the movies,” he said. “I called my wife and said I was having this pain in my lower side. She said it wouldn’t hurt to call [assistnat trainer] Steve [Baumann] or [head trainer] Mark Mann.”

Good idea. Baumann had Harang go to PNC Park. Then it was off to the hospital, where he was diagnosed by 5 p.m.

“We were going back and forth. Their general surgeon wanted to cut me open right there,” Harang said.

“I was fighting and telling Steve-o I just wanted to go home. It takes four hours. Rick said he would drive me back.”

Was he nervous?

“I wasn’t but Rick was. Steve told him to avoid any bumps. I texted Steve halfway through and said ‘why did you tell him to hit every bump?’ We listened to the game the whole way home.”

By 11 p.m., Harang and Stowe rolled into Good Sam.

“They took me in right there , walked me in the back way right into the back room, got me IV’d up and did tests, blood pressure,” Harang said. “Not even 45 minutes later, I was off to the operating room.”

There appears to be little to no chance Harang can return before the season is over.

“I can’t do any twisting movements for at least another two weeks,” he said. “You have to figure another two weeks to get my arm into shape. If we were in a different situation, a playoff situation, you’d probably push the envelope a little more. This late in the season, you have to assume it’s probably not the smart thing to do.”

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Balentien 7
Gomes 9
Miller 2
Bailey 1

Other news:

For the doubleheader on Monday vs. Pittsburgh, Kip Wells is scheduled to start Game 1 and as expected, Johnny Cueto will be activated from the DL to start Game 2. Not on the list to start anytime soon is Micah Owings, who was also skipped over for Saturday. Matt Maloney has been called up.

“There are a few things Micah has to work on,” Dusty Baker said. “We believe he has the stuff but he has trouble keeping the ball down. It’s not like we haven’t given him an opportunity.”

Owings will be the long man out of the bullpen.

“What they decide is out of my control,” Owings said. “I will be ready to work when I get the ball.”

Baker wants to call former Brewers manager Ned Yost and former hitter/reliever Brooks Kieschnick to see how he was utilized as a pinch-hitter and warm up enough to pitch. Here is a link to an Owings story that included Kieschnick on May 26.

Check the main site after the game for a story on Maloney. He has developed some new pitches since his last big league stint

OF Laynce Nix was out of the lineup because of a sore neck. It’s been a recurring problem. He went for an MRI test today.

Bengals players Tank Johnson and Roy Williams were on the field during BP while a camera crew from the “Hard Knocks” HBO series was in tow. Both players were visiting with Nix, who is from the Dallas area.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Maloney vs. L.A. Saturday

Even though they didn’t end up using Micah Owings from the bullpen in the three-game sweep of the Brewers, the Reds decided that they will call up lefty Matt Maloney from Triple-A Louisville to fill Saturday’s rotation vacancy vs. the Dodgers.

Maloney last pitched on Sunday at Toledo and allowed four runs and six hits over six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts. Overall at Louisville, he is 9-9 with a 3.08 ERA. Maloney made three starts for the Reds and  was 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA. He was optioned back to Louisville on June 20.

Even with Owings’ unused arm available, Justin Lehr saved a very spent bullpen with his 7 2/3 inning outing today in an 8-5 win. The Reds were down, 4-0, in the first inning. Lehr knew he would have to eat it even if Milwaukee kept running the score.

“After the first, I figured I was going to throw my pitch count no matter how many runs I gave up. So, I just kept plugging away,” Lehr said. “There was nothing you could do, I understood.  If we were down by six runs, I’m not coming out of the game at 50 pitches. It was nice to start getting some quick outs.”

Don’t look now, but the Reds have won four in a row. It tied a season high set May 24-27.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Sat. TBA, Sept. callups, trade talk

The Reds still have “TBA” listed for Saturday’s start vs. the Dodgers and this time, they’re not playing coy with the roster maneuvers. They have to get through Thursday first because after back-to-back extra innings games, their only fresh arm and only long man in the bullpen is Micah Owings. If he’s not needed, he will likely start vs. L.A.

“It depends on what happens here,” Dusty Baker said. “We need some deep innings. Even though we’ve won, it’s taken a toll on the pitching. You hate to go into a weekend series with the Dodgers tired.”

I will be writing a more complete story on this for Sunday night but I talked to GM Walt Jocketty about September call-ups this morning in the clubhouse. Don’t expect anyone up when right away Sept. 1 comes around on Tuesday. Also, don’t expect to see the cavalry rolling I-71 North.

Triple-A Louisville’s regular season ends on Sept. 7 and then there is the playoffs.

“I think it’s important. In most cases, you prefer to see them finish their season and go through the playoffs,” Jocketty said. “The exposure to postseason play is very good.

“We haven’t really finalized it yet but there won’t really be that many. We have most of them here. It’s more a question of playing time. If you don’t have playing time, there’s no reason to bring them up.”

These are the healthy players on 40-man roster not currently with the Reds: 1B Yonder Alonso, 3B Juan Francisco, RHP Sam LeCure, LHP Matt Maloney and RHP Ramon Ramirez.

You’d have to think someone like OF Chris Heisey will be rewarded for his great season. You also have to wonder about a dude like LHP Travis Wood. SS Chris Valaika had a lousy season for the most part but has come on the last couple of weeks. It’d be nice for them to be evaluated so the Reds know whether they might be ready for 2010.

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Balentien 9
Gomes 7
Tatum 2
Lehr 1

Jocketty said it’s been all quiet on the trade inquiry front. Contenders that acquire players after Aug. 31 can’t have them eligible for postseason play. It doesn’t look like closer Francisco Cordero or Bronson Arroyo are going anywhere.

“No one has inquired about him,” Jocketty said about Cordero. “We haven’t talked to anybody about him. I would guess nothing will happen.”

CF Drew Stubbs is batting .156 since his call-up on Aug. 19. He has two walks and 10 strikeouts, including four on Wednesday. Baker didn’t think Stubbs was pressing too much.

“I don’t think he’s trying too hard,” Baker said. “I just think he’s taking too much – too many fastballs. It puts you in strikeout situations. Everybody talks about being deep in the count all the time. That’s not good for everybody. To go deep in the count, you have to be a pretty good two-strike hitter. In the minors, he was still prone to the strikeouts.”

The Reds didn’t have 2009 first-round pick RHP Mike Leake on its roster for the Arizona Fall League. Turns out the roster had to be submitted before Leake signed on Aug. 17. Jocketty said the Reds are seeking permission from MLB to make adjustments to the roster so Leake can go to Arizona.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Lucky Bruce?

Could Jay Bruce be the Reds secret weapon from the DL? Bruce has brought out the lineup card the last two games (both wins) and was planning on doing that again tonight.

“We’re 2-for-2 when I bring out the lineup card,” Bruce said. “Tonight will be 3-for-3, hopefully.”

Bruce has a date with Dr. Tim Kremchek on Friday, when he will find out whether he will be cleared to start swinging a bat again.

Starting in late November, Bruce plans to be playing winter ball for a month for the Aguilas club in the Dominican Republic.

“I want to make up for lost time,” said Bruce, who hasn’t played since July 11 because of a broken right wrist. “Hopefully, I will get close to 100 at-bats and try to have some good ones and take that into the off-season and into next season.” 

Reds lineup:

Stubbs CF
Janish SS
Votto 1B
Phillips 2B
Rolen 3B
Nix RF
Balentien LF
Miller C
Wells P

Johnny Cueto had his bullpen session today and not yesterday. Cueto threw 56 pitches and pitching Dick Pole said that he felt fine. Cueto is expected to start one of the games in Monday’s doubleheader vs. the Pirates. It’s the first day he is eligible to come off of the DL.

Reliever Jared Burton said he was OK after he hyperextended his knee trying to field a ball in the ninth inning on Tuesday. Burton was available to pitch on Wednesday.

Corky Miller, who had two RBI singles in his 2009 debut with the Reds on Tuesday, was back behind the plate on Wednesday. Dusty Baker said that Craig Tatum would catch Thursday, because of his familiarity with starter Justin Lehr.

Joey Votto’s seven plate appearances on Tuesday gave him enough PAs to qualify for the NL batting title. However, Votto has an uphill battle. He entered Wednesday batting .311 and ranked 10th in the league. Hanley Ramirez is the leader at .362.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Rotation adjustments

With three members of the rotation on the DL and an open spot on Wednesday, the Reds tapped long reliever Kip Wells to start vs. Milwaukee on Wednesday.

“It won’t be my first rodeo,” Wells joked.

No — but it’s been a while since he stepped into the bullring as a starter. The last time was July 21, 2008, as a member of the Rockies vs. the Dodgers. Wells lasted only a third of an inning and allowed eight runs and seven hits while facing 10 batters. He started two games total for Colorado last season and one for Triple-A Louisville this season.

Wells hoped he could get to 75-85 pitches. Micah Owings was taken out of the rotation, for now, and moved into the bullpen to back up as the long man. Owings could start on Saturday vs. the Dodgers if he’s not needed before. Otherwise, someone would have to be called up (Matt Maloney?).

Justin Lehr will start on Thursday and Homer Bailey will go on Friday.

“The Harang thing, the appendectomy, kind of messed up things,” manager Dusty Baker said.

OF Darnell McDonald and C Corky Miller were back in the Reds clubhouse again. One had been gone much longer than the other. McDonald was designated for assignment in May and Miller last caught for Cincinnati in 2004. He was wearing the No. 37 he used to wear here.

In a sign of how fast turnover happened around the Reds, there were no old teammates left in the room for Miller to catch up with.

“Harang was about it, except for [bullpen catcher] Mike Stefanski and [third base coach] Mark Berry,” Miller said. “I knew Brook [Jacoby]. He was actually my hitting coach in Triple-A in 2003.”

McDonald scanned the room and noted he played with many guys, very recently, in Louisville.

“It seems like it’s the Cincinnati Bats up here,” McDonald said. “You hate to see guys go but if they’re going somewhere, it probably means they’re coming up to Cincinnati.”

Reds lineup (the 103rd different one used by Baker this season):

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Nix 9
Gomes 7
Miller 2
Arroyo 1

C Ryan Hanigan was back with the team after he flew to Milwaukee on Monday. Hanigan was left behind in Pittsburgh on Sunday because doctors didn’t want him in the air with a concussion. Hanigan, who went on the DL Monday, was hit by a foul tip that was so hard, it cracked his helmet and bent a bar on his mask. The headaches are still present.

“I have a little one,” Hanigan said. “It’s definitely dissipated. I don’t think it’s totally gone yet.”

Hanigan will take a concussion imPACT test here before heading home with the team on Thursday.

RHP Johnny Cueto was scheduled to throw in a bullpen session today for the first time since he went on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. The Reds hope to have Cueto back to pitch in one of the games of the Aug. 31 doubleheader vs. the Pirates.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Miller and McDonald, RHP Mike Lincoln (cervical disc surgery) and RHP Edinson Volquez (right elbow surgery) were transfered from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.

The Mets put Johan Santana on the disabled list today. They now lead the Major Leagues with 12 players on the DL, passing the Reds that are second in the league with 11.

The Arizona Fall League rosters were revealed and six Reds prospects are on the Peoria Saguaros club. They are: Double-A Carolina first baseman Yonder Alonso and Triple-A outfielder Chris Heisey, Louisville pitchers Sean Watson and Logan Ondrusek, Carolina pitcher Phillipe Valiquette and Carolina shortstop Zack Cozart. Carolina manager David Bell will be the skipper.

Not on the roster is 2009 first round pick and RHP Mike Leake. There was talk that Leake and RHP Brad Boxberger, who both signed on Aug. 17, could play in the AFL. This means they are likely to play in the instructional league instead.

To fill the outfield depth at Louisville, former Twins OF Lew Ford was signed to a minor league contract today. The speedy Ford last played in the Majors in 2007 and spent 2008 in Japan. In five seasons with Minnesota, he batted .272 with a .349 OBP. 

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

This is getting ridiculous…

I take a weekend off but Reds injuries stop for no one.

On Monday, OF Chris Dickerson and  C Ryan Hanigan were added to the ranks on the disabled list. To take their place, OF Darnell McDonald and C Corky Miller will have their contracts selected from Triple-A Louisville. Corresponding 40-man roster moves will be made on Tuesday.

Dickerson suffered a severely sprained left ankle trying to get back to the bag during a pickoff attempt in Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Hanigan was hit in the mask by a foul tip off the bat of Delwyn Young in the eighth inning on Sunday.

Add Aaron Harang having an emergency, season-ending appendectomy on Saturday and that brings the current total of 11 players on the DL.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 402 other followers

%d bloggers like this: