August 2009

Yet another player down

I am literally whistling the theme song from M*A*S*H as I write this entry because another player has prematurely left a game with an injury.

This time it was 2B Brandon Phillips, who departed Thursday’s Reds-Giants tilt in the bottom of the third inning. The issue was a sore left wrist. Phillips was hit by a pitch there on Saturday and missed Sunday’s game. He’s been playing with it the past couple of days.

Drew Sutton pinch-hit for Phillips in the third inning and remained in the game at second base.

This week alone — Phillips, Joey Votto and Willy Taveras (quadriceps) have exited mid-game with an injury. Johnny Cueto officially went on the DL today, too, because of shoulder inflammation.

Postgame update:

“Before the game, he said ‘I don’t know if I can go. I will do what I can,'” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Phillips. “Then he took those swings off of [Giants starter Matt] Cain. I could see him wincing and could tell he was in pain. He’s day-to-day and hopefully he will be back [Friday].”

“I couldn’t hold the bat on my bottom hand today,” Phillips said. “Maybe it was because we had a early game today, it couldn’t take its time to heal. It swelled up. It’s been bothering me for a while. I was feeling it a little bit yesterday and today I was feeling it a lot. If it was a night game, I would have been able to play the whole game.”

Phillips, who was 0-for-1 with a fly out vs. San Francisco, is batting .260 with 17 home runs and a team-leading 75 RBIs. He hoped to be in the lineup vs. the Pirates.

“If I keep on icing it, I should be,” Phillips said. “I tried to play today so why not try tomorrow?”

On the bright side, the Reds salvaged one game out of the Giants series with a 2-1 win in 10 innings. The winner came on Drew Stubbs’ leadoff homer in the bottom of the 10th — his first in the big leagues.

The only question after Stubbs connected against Bobby Howry’s 2-0 fastball was: fair or foul? The hit kissed off of the left field foul pole.

“I knew I got it good enough. Luckily it tucked right inside the foul pole,” Stubbs said.

“When it went out, I thought it was [fair],” Baker said. “Then I saw it hook at the last minute. I was like ‘please stay fair,’ because we needed that one real bad. You don’t know how bad we needed that one. We got it.”

As he did a postgame TV interview on the field, Stubbs was drenched by Jonny Gomes with a Gatorade cooler. Bronson Arroyo followed up with the ol’ shaving cream pie.

Stubbs was 0-for-4 with three Ks heading into the final at-bat.

 “You have to be able to put the failures behind you. That’s something you’ll do a lot of in this game. The best hitters fail 70 percent of the time. I think I was able to clear my head up there and put together a good at-bat.”

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Votto: 'I'm better today.'

On Thursday morning, Dusty Baker already had Joey Votto written in the Reds lineup before he had to talk with him about the blurred vision that put him out in the middle of the first inning Wednesday. Doctors told Baker after last night’s game that he would be fine.

“We’re definitely not the same without Joey in the lineup,” Baker said.

Votto, who was diagnosed with a retinal migrane, confirmed he was good to go.

“I’m better today,” Votto said. “My head is a little sore as far as having a headache. I’m alright.”

Votto said the issue started between the 40-minute rain delay and the start of the game.

“A blurry spot popped up and it really expanded during the inning,” Votto said. “I told Dusty on the pop up that I would have to come out of the game. About 25 minutes after I came out of the game and saw the doctor, I kind of laid down and it dissipated and a heavy headache popped up.”

Votto said he’s never had this issue before.

“That’s why it was so scary,” he said. “Nearly half of the vision in my left eye was blurry. I wouldn’t say gone but I couldn’t see anything.”

As for the question on everyone’s mind, Votto didn’t believe the issue was related to the dizzy spells and anxiety that caused him trouble in May and June. He spent nearly a month on the DL while being treated for depression.

“No, I don’t think so,” Votto said. “The doctor said it could be stress related. It’s been kind of stressful lately with all the losing. I’m not going to say yes or no on that one. It was a really odd occurrence and I hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Reds lineup:

Dickerson 9
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Rosales 5
Janish 6
Tatum 2
Harang 1

Catcher Ramon Hernandez, who has been on the DL since July 20 because of left knee surgery, has started to hit off of a tee.

“He’s coming along pretty good,” Baker said. “The final test is squatting.”

There wasn’t a target date yet to activate Hernandez.

RF Jay Bruce, who has been out with a broken right wrist since July 11, still hasn’t started hitting yet.

At Triple-A Louisville, 3B Juan Francisco hit another home run vs Indianapolis on Wednesday. Francisco has three homers in as many games. He is hitting .421 (8-for-19) since his promotion from Double-A Carolina on Saturday (six runs, two doubles, three homers,  seven RBIs, 1.000 slugging pct.).

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Blurry vision for Votto

Reds 1B Joey Votto left Wednesday’s game after the top of the first inning and was replaced by Kevin Barker, who pinch-hit in the bottom of the first.

Votto was later diagnosed with blurry vision by the club’s doctor. He will be re-evaluated Thursday morning.

“There’s a chance he could play tomorrow,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Votto was looked at by an internist and optometrist after he exited.

Baker was the situation was not related to the dizzy spells and inner ear infection Votto suffered earlier this season. That issued transitioned into a month stint on the DL with depression/anxiety relating to the August 2008 death of Votto’s father.

“He came up on that foul ball in the first inning and said ‘I can’t see,'” Baker said. “When a player tells you that, the alarm goes off. We’ll see in the morning.”

Cueto headed to DL

The roster move isn’t official yet but expect to see pitcher Johnny Cueto placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday and Micah Owings to be activated to take that night’s start vs. the Pirates at PNC Park.

Team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek did not have Cueto take an MRI but diagnosed him with right shoulder inflammation.

“Johnny wasn’t happy about it, which is a good sign,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He said it doesn’t hurt necessarily. We’re going to back him off for a couple of starts. He wants to pitch.”

Cueto is 8-10 with a 4.61 ERA in 24 starts with 136 2/3 innings pitched. He also pitched in Dominican winter ball and the World Baseball Classic. While his velocity has been OK, his location has been off and he’s complained about not being able to feel the ball come out of his hands.

In his latest start during Saturday’s 10-6 loss the Nationals, Cueto gave up seven earned runs and eight hits over 2 2/3 innings. His record is 0-6 with a 10.64 ERA over his last eight starts.

The DL move would be retroactive to Sunday, which would make him eligible to return on Aug. 31 — when the Reds will really need an extra pitcher. They have a day-night doubleheader vs. the Pirates.

In other injury news, 3B Scott Rolen (concussion) will meet Triple-A Louisville in Indianapolis on Thursday to start what’s expected to be a two-game rehab assignment. If all goes well, Rolen will meet the Reds in Pittsburgh on Saturday and be activated from the DL on Sunday.
 

“That would be considered the plan,” Rolen said Wednesday. “Hopefully things will go well there.”

On Tuesday, Rolen took full batting practice, fielded groundballs, threw across the diamond and ran on the treadmill at 80 percent intensity. The headaches that had bothered him have gone away.

“I don’t have any symptoms at this point,” Rolen said. “I did a lot yesterday and had no trouble.”

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Gomes 9
Balentien 7
Rosales 5
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

Update: The Brewers traded IF/OF Bill Hall to the Mariners today. Hall was DFA’d last week and the Reds had some interest in acquiring him.

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Stubbs promoted, Taveras DL'd

The Reds placed center fielder Willy Taveras on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of a strained right quadriceps muscle. Outfielder Drew Stubbs was called up from Triple-A Louisville to make his big league debut. Stubbs, 24, was the Reds’ first round Draft pick in 2006. He is batting leadoff tonight vs. the Giants.

Taveras was hurt in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s 8-5 loss to the Giants. He grounded a ball to the pitcher but appeared to hurt himself as he ran out of the batters’ box.

stubbs 081909.jpgIt’s been a disappointing season all around for Taveras, was signed as a free agent to a two-year, $6.25 million contract in the off-season to be the Reds leadoff hitter. He is batting .238 with one homer, 15 RBIs, 25 steals and a .273 on-base percentage that is the lowest of any Major League player this season with at least 400 plate appearances. He has 18 walks, but only four of them came since May 24.

Stubbs was batting .268 with three homers, 39 RBIs, 46 stolen bases and a .353 on-base percentage for Louisville.

Louisville manager Rick Sweet called Stubbs at 12:30 a.m. last night as he was getting ready for bed.

“At that time of night, it probably means something is happening,” Stubbs said. “I don’t think it’s completely set in yet. It’s more euphoria and excitement. I think when the game starts, it will sink in a little more. Everything has been kind of a blur the last few hours.”

Reds manager Dusty Baker had no qualms throwing Stubbs into the fire against Giants lefty starter Barry Zito.

“I don’t know exactly how I’m going to use him,” Baker said. “But I will give him an opportunity to play, spot him against some very tough guys once I see how his stroke has progressed from when I saw him in the spring. You want to give guys the best chance you think they have to succeed.”

For those wondering, Stubbs was assigned uniform No. 6.

Taveras hurt, Bailey learning

During an 8-5 loss to the Giants in 10 innings, CF Willy Taveras was booed lustily when he jogged out of the batter’s box and never ran all the way to first base on an inning-ending groundout to the pitcher. Taveras was lifted in a double-switch before the eighth but it turned out not to be a punishment for not hustling.

The Reds later announced Taveras had a mild strain of his right quadriceps.

“Willy actually got hurt on that bunt play when he was going down first base,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I could tell something was wrong when he slid head first into first base. Then when he didn’t run and everybody was on him, that’s not Willy. I knew something was wrong with him at that point.”

The seventh inning already wasn’t a good one for Taveras. In the top of the inning, Fred Lewis smoked a line drive to the wall. Taveras, who has a penchant for taking bad routes on balls, took a step in and then a circuitous route as the ball whizzed over his head.

Baker defended Taveras on the play.

“That ball was a rocket,” he said. “That’s the toughest ball in baseball in baseball. That was hit like a 2-iron. I didn’t think [the quad strain] had anything to do with it.”

The Reds can only look at a night like this with despair, knowing they had the best pitcher in the league on the ropes and couldn’t close the deal. Tim Lincecum tied a season high by allowing five earned runs and trailed 5-1 through five innings. He had allowed just four over his previous 33 2/3 innings.

It was a match-up of the Majors’ worst hitting team (.241) vs. the best pitcher (2.19 ERA) and best pitching staff (3.49 ERA)

Homer Bailey had his one bad inning in the sixth. The killer was that all four runs in the inning came with two outs following a walk. He was one strike from escaping the inning when Ryan Garko hit a misplaced fastball over the plate for the game-tying two-run double.

“That inning, I was missing everything by a few inches,” said Bailey, who allowed five runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings with three walks and four K’s. “I don’t know what to tell you. I was missing spots.”

It was another learning experience for Bailey, who is winless since July 27.

“He’s in a process where you can’t, or don’t want to, rescue him all the time,” Baker said. “Because then they never learn. It’s a tough way to learn your lessons. Hopefully, he will be better for it.”

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No Cueto plan, yet

So far, there is no news on the Reds plans for pitcher Johnny Cueto. He is still listed as Friday’s probable starter vs. the Pirates but that can easily be changed to Micah Owings if the Reds decide they want him off of the DL.

“I talked to [GM] Walt [Jocketty] briefly about it but we have to get with Dick and the trainer and the doctor and get their opinion on things,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

The bottom line is that Cueto doesn’t have the feel of the ball coming out of his hand, even though he still has his velocity. Baker confirmed that whatever they decide with Cueto — it would be how they progress the rest of the season — and not just for Friday. My prediction: Cueto is put on the DL.

Reds lineup:

Dickerson 9
Taveras 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Balentien 7
Rosales 5
Hanigan 2
Janish 6
Bailey 1

2B Brandon Phillips is back in there after missing one game with a sore left hand. Phillips was hit on the hand on Saturday. Baker made out two lineups just in case Phillips had trouble during batting practice.

“He said he’s feeling a lot better,” Baker said before BP. “He hates to miss games. If he can play, he’ll be out there.”

According to my Milwaukee colleague, Adam McCalvy, Brewers GM Doug Melvin is “working on something” with Bill Hall. The discarded infielder/outfielder that was designated for assignment, Hall had the Reds’ interest. The Brewers have until Friday to trade Hall or release him and eat the nearly $11 million he is owed through 2010.

 

Leake_Boxberger.JPGFinally, the Reds top two Draft picks got their first looks at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday. Mike Leake, the No. 8 overall pick, was clearly comfortable in the group as he answered questions.

“Just to know I was who they wanted, even though I’m not typical at 5-foot-10,” Leake said. “I’m glad they had the trust in me to pick me. Hopefully I can do something special here.”

The No. 43 overall selection Brad Boxberger was a little more reserved. Both players had their families and their agent with them. They all got to meet manager Dusty Baker and owner/CEO Bob Castellini in the dugout after talking with reporters.

“I’ve been throwing a couple of days week and staying in shape,” Boxberger said. “I’m ready to get to Sarasota and start playing.”

Both players, signed late Monday night after passing their physicals, will be assigned to the Gulf Coast League affiliate in Sarasota but there’s little chance they will pitch again this season. The next step is likely the Arizona Fall League or the instructional league.

Jocketty, who dealt two young pitchers on July 31 in Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to get Scott Rolen from the Blue Jays, didn’t deny that Leake and Boxberger would be on the faster track once their pro careers commenced.

“They’re definitely quality college pitchers out of quality programs that are further advanced,” Jocketty said. “They should be able to move along quickly. That’s why we felt we’d have some depth and were confident we’d get them signed.”

By the way, the Reds signed 32 of their 50 2009 draft picks, including all of their first 13 selections.

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Draft picks officially signed

Now that they’ve passed their physicals, the signings of the Reds’ top two Draft picks — pitchers Mike Leake and Brad Boxberger – became official on Monday night.

Leake, the eighth overall selection, got a bonus of $2.27 million. The organization’s supplemental first round choice at No. 43 overall, Boxberge received a bonus worth $857,000.

“We’re excited,” Reds scouting director Chris Buckley said. “We didn’t want to say anything until we worked out all the terms. That’s standard to get through the physicals. Everything is OK.”

Although the two sides reached agreements on Saturday, the deals were announced about 30 minutes before the midnight ET deadline. Both players and GM Walt Jocketty will meet with the media at Great American Ball Park at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Leake, a right-handed starter from Arizona State, was 16-1 with a 1.71 ERA, 24 walks and 162 strikeouts in 142 innings over 19 games this season. His bonus was over the MLB slot recommendation of $2.043 million but equaled the 2008 slot level.

Boxberger was 6-3 with a 3.16 ERA, 50 walks and 99 strikeouts in 14 starts this season for USC.

Leake was the first pitcher selected by the Reds in the first round since RHP Homer Bailey in 2004. He was the first collegiate pitcher selected by the Reds in the opening round since RHP Ryan Wagner in 2003. The Reds had selected a position player with their first pick in each of the previous four drafts: 1B Yonder Alonso (2008), C Devin Mesoraco (2007), OF Drew Stubbs (2006) and OF Jay Bruce (2005).

Both players will soon report to Sarasota.

“Neither one of the guys have pitched in a game in a couple of months,” Buckley said. “They have to get tuned up. I’m not sure they’ll pitch before the season is over. They both pitched a lot of innings this year.”

Cueto/Owings, Phillips scratched

After he gave up seven earned runs and eight hits over 2 2/3 innings vs. the Nationals on Saturday, pitcher Johnny Cueto has run his record to 0-6 with a 10.64 ERA over his last eight starts.

Don’t be surprised if Cueto is moved out of the rotation and Micah Owings is moved back in when he comes off of the disabled list. It just so happens that Owings also pitched on Saturday so the turns line up perfectly. In his latest rehab assignment outing for Triple-A Louisville, Owings pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings with three hits, five walks and three strikeouts. Owings threw 93 pitches, 52 for strikes.

“His pitch count was up,” manager Dusty Baker said of Owings. “I hoped he could go a little further than five innings. If there’s one area you’d like him to improve on is the walks and consistent location, which would diminish the pitch count and add to innings.

“We’ll see. I have to talk to Walt [Jocketty] and Dickie [Pole] and our people down there to see what exactly we’re going to do and need to do. Sometimes what you want to do and need to do are two different things.”

Cueto is 8-10 with a 4.61 ERA in 24 starts and he has 136 2/3 innings pitched. But he also pitched in winter ball and the World Baseball Classic. He threw 174 innings in 2008 during his rookie season. There was concern before the season that he could run out of gas.

“His velocity is decent but sometimes when you’re tired, you can maintain your velocity but lose control and command,” Baker said.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Sutton 4
Votto 7
Gomes 9
Balentien 7
Rosales 5
Janish 6
Hanigan 2
Lehr 1

2B Brandon Phillips was scratched because his left hand was sore after being hit by a pitch Saturday night. X-rays were negative.

3B Scott Rolen was to take batting practice with the team in the indoor cage. It will be his first BP since he went on the DL with a concussion. Rolen hit some soft tosses in the cage on Saturday.
 
Rolen is definitely getting the itch to play after several days of inactivity.

“Oh yeah. I’m a guy that mows his lawn to relax,” Rolen said. He is eligible to return on Aug. 23.

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Draft picks in the fold?

Word from Baseball America is that the Reds’ top two 2009 draft picks have signed. I’ve been told that deals with pitchers Mike Leake and Brad Boxberger are not officially done yet. They still have to take their physicals, which could push their actual signings back to Monday.

The deadline to sign all Draft picks is midnight ET on Monday night.

Baseball America reported that Leake, the eighth overall pick and a right-handed starting pitcher, will receive a $2.27 million bonus. Boxberger, a right-handed pitcher who was No. 43 overall as a supplemental first-rounder signed for $857,000.

LATE UPDATE: MLB.com has confirmed the agreement to a deal. Both players are in Cincinnati to take their physicals on Monday.

Leake was 16-1 with a 1.71 ERA, 24 walks and 162 strikeouts in 142 innings over 19 games this season for Arizona State.  The bonus was over the MLB slot recommendation of $2.043 million.

This season in 14 starts for the Univ. of Southern California, Boxberger was 6-3 with a 3.16 ERA, 50 walks and 99 strikeouts.

Third baseman and prospect Juan Francisco is one step closer to the big leagues. Francisco was promoted and will be with Triple-A Louisville Saturday night. He took Kevin Barker’s spot after Barker was called up by the Reds.

In 109 games for Double-A Carolina this season, Francisco batted .281 with 22 homers, 74 RBIs and 64 runs scored (26 doubles, .501 slugging percentage.). He is first in the Southern League in homers, tied for first in RBIs, second in hits and extra base hits.

As for the big league team, injured third baseman Scott Rolen (concussion) was on the field today manning first base while infielders took groundballs. Rolen was scheduled to hit soft tosses in the cage Saturday and do some running on Sunday. If he’s not bothered by more headaches, he could begin to take batting practice.

Nothing is physically wrong with outfielder Wladimir Balentien, manager Dusty Baker said. Balentien is batting .346 since being dealt to Cincinnati but wasn’t starting Saturday for the third-straight game.

“He’s playing [Sunday]. I can’t play everybody,” Baker said. “He was supposed to play [Friday] but Gomes had three home runs [Thursday]. I talked to him. I don’t have to tell anybody anything. As a former player, you wonder why you’re not playing. You’d like to know why.”

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