August 2009

Gonzalez traded to Boston

Gonzo is the latest Reds veteran to have gone elsewhere.

SS Alex Gonzalez cleared waivers on Friday and was traded to the Red Sox for Class A Minor League shortstop Kris Negron. Cincinnati also sent cash to Boston in the deal.

“The Red Sox had interest in Gonzo and have had problems at shortstop,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We viewed this as an opportunity for him to play for a contender in a possible playoff situation.”

This move isn’t too stunning, to say the least. Gonzalez was in the final guaranteed year of his contract and the Reds held a $6 million option for 2010 with a $500,000 buyout. It always seemed unlikely the club would have picked that up.

In 68 games this season during a woeful season production-wise, Gonzalez batted .210 with three home runs and 26 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .258.

When you look at the return against the three-year, $14 million contract he signed with the Reds in the 2006-07 off-season, and Gonzalez was a bust. He batted .248 over his tenure and missed all of 2008 with a knee fracture. He missed a month this season because of elbow surgery. His defense is superlative but I still don’t think it added up to a successful run in Cincinnati.

What now?

Paul Janish will get the bulk of playing time at shortstop. Adam Rosales could also play there once Scott Rolen returns from the DL to play third base.  

“I didn’t find out until I got to the yard,” Janish said about the trade. “Actually I stopped to sign autographs right before I got into the parking lot and one of the guys out there told me. I didn’t know. When I got in here, I found out. It’s bittersweet. Alex is a great dude but obviously this is a huge opportunity for me so I’m excited.”

Not Chris Valaika or Todd Frazier — both will remain in the minors for now.

“We think they should stay down and keep developing,” Jocketty said.

First baseman Kevin Barker was called up from Triple-A Louisville to take Gonzalez’s roster spot. Barker will be a left-handed bat off of the bench.

In 111 games for Class A Salem, Negron batted .264 with three home runs and 34 RBIs. The Reds will assign him to Class A Sarasota.

“We got a young player back that we like,” Jocketty said. “He has average-to-better tools in every category. We’ll see what happens.”

Since July 31, the Reds have dealt Jerry Hairston Jr., Edwin Encarnacion, David Weathers and now — Gonzalez.

Keep an eye on the Bill Hall situation with the Brewers. I’ve learned that the Reds have some interest. Hall was designated for assignment earlier this week but has yet to clear waivers. Jocketty did not want to comment on Hall, who is owed $11 million still by the Brewers. It’s likely his next team could pick him up for the league minimum.

Big nights for Gomes, Arroyo

It was quite a tag-team combo — Jonny Gomes and Bronson Arroyo had the Nationals in figure-four leg locks all night. Thursday’s 7-0 win might have been the best game the Reds have played all year. It was definitely one of the smoothest.

Gomes slugged three homers and Arroyo tossed a two-hit complete game shutout.

Now with 14 homers this season, Gomes went deep in his first three at-bats and was clearly excited after long ball No. 3 barely cleared the center field fence. He pumped his fist repeatedly as he passed first base.

“It’s a lot more emotional for me,” Gomes said. “Let’s not forget I was in Triple-A to start this thing off. Not too many at-bats later, three home runs.”

Gomes also had a three homer game for Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City on July 30, 2005. The 16,889 fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation and sought a curtain call. Gomes obliged from the top step of the dugout.

“The curtain call was awesome,” he said. “The only other one I got was my other three homer game. Who are we as ballplayers without the fans? To have them appreciate the grind we have. They’re very educated fans in Cincinnati. To bring me out there, I soaked it in for a minute.”

A total of 24 Reds players have done the three-homer game 29 times. No one from the franchise has ever had a four-homer game. The last to hit three was Joey Votto on May 7, 2008 vs. the Cubs.

On the other side, Arroyo clearly had no trouble blocking out the hullabaloo regarding his story on supplements in USA Today, or the fact the league wants to chat with him.
“I’m fine,” Arroyo said. “I grew up in a household where if my father flew here to watch the game today, if the plane crashed, he would expect me to do what I did knowing that the plane crashed. That’s just the way it is. It’s the most important thing in my life on a day-to-day basis. I treat it as such. When I take the hill, I don’t let anything bother me.”

Because of PEDs are the hot button taboo topic in the game, Arroyo wasn’t surprised that the media and fans are drawn to the story and his comments.

“We live in a world where people care about what Paris Hilton is having for lunch vs. how many guys are getting killed in Iraq and that’s the truth. Look at the Josh Hamilton stuff that came out. That’s more important than how many home runs he’s hit. It’s sad to say but it’s the society we live in. Sometimes I speak my mind probably more than I should. Sometimes it blows up in my face. That’s the way it goes.”

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Adam Dunn, Arroyo, Volquez

The uniform was obviously different and a different color but Adam Dunn hadn’t changed a bit. Dunn,the former Reds star and current Nationals first baseman/outfielder, met with the media in the visitor’s dugout for a few minutes on Thursday. He teased a couple of people including Ken Broo and Seg Dennison and checked out Great American Ball Park from his new perspective.

“This is the first time I’ve stepped out here and looked and it looks red,” Dunn said. “It’s really red out here. It’s what I remember.”

Although fans often had a love-hate relationship with Dunn (loved the homers, hated the strikeouts, fielding and the team’s losing) — but he harbored zero ill will towards anything or anyone in Cincinnati. 

Dunn.jpg“I’m not bitter at all,” Dunn said. “I got an opportunity to play here since 2001. I enjoyed my time here. I met some great people. It’s a business. I understand that. I don’t hold grudges against anything. It worked out for a reason.”

There was a time when Dunn and owner/CEO Bob Castellini were looking to extend Dunn’s stay with the Reds but that obviously changed when Dunn was traded to the Diamondbacks just over one year ago. In the off-season, he signed as a free agent with Washington.

“I understand this is a business and that’s how it goes,” Dunn said of his end with the Reds. “They obviously did what was best for the organization and I still think Mr. Castellini is one of the best people I’ve met in my life. They’ll definitely turn this thing around here. I met a lot of great people here that are hard to replace because you’re with them day in and day out for x-amount of years. That’s the main thing I miss about it.”

Reds lineup:

Dickerson 8
Gonzalez 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Nix 7
Gomes 9
Rosales 5
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

A lot of people seem to be making a big deal out of the the USA Today cover story on Bronson Arroyo out today. I like that Arroyo isn’t afraid to address any topic but I also feel like this topic was addressed on July 31 to both the Boston Herald and Cincinnati media. Even if he is taking things not on the approved list, he’s not taking anything on the banned list. He’s never tested positive for anything illegal since testing began.

UPDATE — 10 minutes after I posted this blog, USA Today has another story that MLB wants to meet with Arroyo. So, now it is a big deal whether I agree or not. 

Edinson Volquez was back in the Reds clubhouse among his teammates and wearing a rather cumbersome metal brace all the way up his right arm. On Aug. 3, Volquez had Tommy John surgery performed on his right elbow by Dr. Tim Kremchek.

“They gave me a DVD of the surgery and I saw what they did. It wasn’t good. That’s crazy,” Volquez said. “It was the first time I’ve seen that. I went back to my place and watched it on my computer. I wanted to see what they did to me.”

Always a smiling and optimistic guy, Volquez believed he could still return to pitch at some point in 2010. He should be allowed to begin throwing in December and possibly work off of a mound by March.

“Right now if everything goes good and I keep doing everything I’m doing now, I could be back in a year, maybe nine or 10 months,” Volquez said. “Kremchek I might be ready by May or June. Everything is going great right now. You can see there is no more swelling. They took the stitches out yesterday. I surprised them because they’ve seen me do a lot of stuff with my arm in exercises for the first week and a half. They’re happy now.”

I saw Homer Bailey in the clubhouse and other than a rather dark bruise in his left in-step from last night’s line drive by Albert Pujols, was moving OK. Bailey expected to be OK for his next start on Tuesday. Besides the usual ice treatments, he’s also a big believer in accupuncture.

Uniform change: Outfielder Wladimir Balentien swapped numbers. He went from No. 64 to No. 28, the former number of Edwin Encarnacion.

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Another injury: Bailey

Homer Bailey might not have been able to dodge an Albert Pujols screamer to the box, but he might have dodged a serious injury.

Bailey left his Wednesday start vs. the Cardinals with a bruised foot and he was struck by a Pujols line drove in the first inning. X-rays revealed no fracture. He will be re-evaluated on Thursday in Cincinnati.

After the bottom of the first began with back-to-back singles to Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan,  Pujols, ripped a 3-2 pitch up the middle off of Bailey’s leg and towards the third-base foul line.

Although Pujols was nearly on first base, Bailey fired a desperation throw into right field, scoring two and putting Pujols on third base with a single and two-base error.

Bailey tried to take a warm-up pitch afterwards but had to leave. Carlos Fisher took over and saved the bullpen, big-time, with 4 1/3 innings of work — a career-high. The Reds lost the game, 5-2. 

That’s twice in three games a Reds starter went out early. On Monday, Johnny Cueto lasted only two innings because of a tight left hip flexor that turned out to be a cramp. Overall, the bullpen provided 18 innings of work in the series.

POSTGAME UPDATE: Bailey still expected to be able to make his next start. Here was his account:

“It hit right between my ankle and toe,” Bailey said. “I knew it wasn’t broken because I could walk. Once I lifted my leg, it’s like a balloon went off and then it swelled up real big.

“I’ve had it go off my glove or nick a shoe. I’ve never been hit square like that before. That guy has a little bit of power so it got off the bat really good.”

Bailey seemed to be moving around OK in the clubhouse under the circumstances and still managed to get his feet into his trademark cowboy boots.

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Bill Hall?

Among a flurry of moves in Milwaukee today, the Brewers designated super utility player Bill Hall for assignment. Assuming he clears waivers, the Reds should take a run and add Hall. He hit 35 homers in 2006 and was often a Reds killer (18 homers, 56 RBIs vs. CIN). His sharp decline over the past three years has been mysterious and he was down to just .201 this season.

Still, it’s a no-risk move since Milwaukee owes him about $11 million for the balance of this season, next season and a buyout of the 2011 option. The Reds could just pay him the minimum. They can plug him wherever they need him this season and then figure out what to do with him next year in the off-season. If it doesn’t work out, he wouldn’t cost them much.

Reds lineup:

Dickerson 7
Taveras 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Balentien 9
Gonzalez 6
Sutton 5
Tatum 2
Bailey 1

SS Alex Gonzalez is hitting all of .217 entering tonight but he’s been one of the Reds’ hottest hitters. He is 9-for-20 (.450) on the road trip and had four hits in Tuesday’s win.

“I feel very good. I am hitting the ball hard. I’m finding some holes,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez missed a month to have elbow surgery and has batted .273 over the previous 16 games.

“He had it going on pretty good before he got hurt,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He was starting to get it. He went backwards and is going forward again. He’s staying off of bad pitches, getting good pitches to hit and is swinging the bat well.”

Gonzalez is in a contract year as the Reds hold a $6 million option for 2010 that carries a $500,000 buyout. Considering the financial constraints they’re facing, it’s dicey on whether it gets picked up. Gonzalez said he’s not thinking about what could happen in the off-season.

“Right now, it’s about helping the team win and trying to finish strong,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t think too much about that. We have two months left. It’s more important for me to finish strong and finish the season healthy. We will see after the season.”

Mired in a career-long 0-for-20 skid, C Ryan Hanigan is getting a break tonight and Craig Tatum is catching. Hanigan has batted .143 (8-for-56) in 15 starts since Ramon Hernandez went on the DL.

Chris Dickerson did make a base running mistake in the sixth inning when he ran with his head down and got into a rundown that led to Justin Lehr being thrown out at the plate. Dickerson has great speed but been prone to mistakes on the bases.

“It’s something you can teach but you don’t want to teach through trial and error,” Baker said about base running. “Last night, he was so excited to get back he was like a runaway child in the wild.”On a foul ball, he almost passed Lehr.”

Dickerson did not goof, like I wrote, when he was thrown out at third base in the first inning on Joey Votto’s fielder’s choice play. Third base coach Mark Berry instructed Dickerson to move off the bag to prevent Mark DeRosa to throw to second for what would have been a 5-4-3 double play. So, I learned something there.

Historical note from Elias: Lehr was the only the third pitcher since 1900 to earn a win while allowing zero or one run and at least 11 hits in six innings pitched or less. The other two were Cleveland’s Jack Kralick in 1965 and Baltimore’s Pat Rapp in 2000.

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Rolen to DL, Cueto OK

One day after GM Walt Jocketty was opposed to placing 3B Scott Rolen on the 15-day disabled list, he did just that to make room for the activation of outfielder Chris Dickerson. Rolen has a concussion and was not showing any improvement.

“This concussion thing is out of my realm of being able to grasp,” Rolen said Tuesday following a long meeting in Baker’s office. “This isn’t playing through a hamstring or playing through a shoulder. This is something I need to pay attention to and listen to some people. I need to do the right thing.”

By Rolen’s estimate, this was the third concussion of his life. He is still experiencing headaches.

“They’re not constant headaches,” he said. “There will be a minute where I feel great and think ‘you know what? This isn’t here. I’m OK and everything is good. I will take some BP and get back out on the field.’ Two hours later, I’m kind of squinting from the lights in the room with a headache.”

There was some good injury news for a change — Johnny Cueto seems to be OK. Cueto, who left Monday’s start with what was called a “tight left hip flexor,” felt fine on Tuesday.

“He’s a lot better,” Baker said. “Evidentially, it must have been a cramp. It’s very good news. It’s a cramp and not a pull. He ran today and said he didn’t feel any pain.”

Also — Micah Owings will get one more rehab start at Triple-A Louisville. Owings threw 79 pitches over 4 2/3 innings on Monday. He will work up to 95 pitches in his next outing.

Reds lineup:

Dickerson 8
Gonzalez 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Nix 9
Gomes 7
Rosales 5
Hanigan 2
Lehr 1

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Dog days, toasted ravioli and Shaq

We’ve definitely hit a dog days of August lull at this point of the season. The Reds clubhouse, devoid of personalities like Jerry Hairston Jr. and David Weathers, seems a little quieter. Players just do their business and get ready for games, which is what they should be doing. It just makes for less interesting content for you to read about. With the Reds a season-high 13 1/2 games out of first place entering the night, there is obviously a lack of buzz around the team that contending would have otherwise brought.

I can tell you’re less interested, perhaps? The comment totals have nosedived in recent days.

The highlights of the day so far were two non-baseball related things. For lunch, I joined Hal McCoy and Enquirer writer Tom Groeschen at Charley Gitto’s — a downtown Italian eatery here and a good one. Hal introduced me to the place a few years ago and it’s a hit — especially the toasted ravioli appetizer. Toasted ravioli is to St. Louis what Skyline Chili is to Cincinnati. One great thing about the restaurant is the hundreds of photos on the wall — mostly of past generations of ballplayers. Tommy LaSorda, of course, is up there. So are guys like Steve Garvey, Whitey Herzog, Stan Musial and more. Once when I was there, I walked past Burt Young — who played “Paulie” from the Rocky movies.


Thumbnail image for 252vy7.jpgSo, there you go — an A-list establishment in St. Louis. Hal always eats there, and George Grande never misses a chance. I will continue to do likewise each time I come back.

From high up in the press box perch was a strange sight — basketball star Shaquille O’Neal in a Cardinals jersey. Shaq was around the batting cage with Albert Pujols shooting a future installment for his reality sports show on ABC, called “Shaq Vs.”.

A few Reds like Jay Bruce and Dusty Baker greeted Shaq with a handshake. Baker looked positively tiny standing next to the seven-foot plus O’Neal. I wished I had seen 5-foot-6 Daniel Herrera and Shaq together. I missed it.

Later, Shaq didn’t botch a ceremonial first pitch. He threw a solid strike to Pujols.

Will injury bug stop biting?

Whatever this thing called an “injury bug” is — it’s bite has not spared many inside the Reds clubhouse. Just when it seems like a couple of players are getting healthy, another one goes down.

This time, it’s starting pitcher Johnny Cueto. He left Monday’s start vs. the Cardinals after just two innings because of a tight left hip flexor. He will be evaluated again on Tuesday.

Cueto was the leadoff batter in the top of the third inning during a 1-1 game when he appeared to favor the leg on a groundout to second base. He slowly trotted down the line even though Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse had to cover first base on the play.

In his two innings, Cueto gave up one earned run and one hit with one walk and two strikeouts. He threw 39 pitches. The Reds lost 4-1. 

In his Reds debut, Kip Wells took over for Cueto and started off well by retiring his first seven batters in a row. Then, trouble. A Molina lined single before eighth hitter Brendan Ryan walked. Lohse sac bunted and Schumaker and Rasmus got back-to-back walks and forced home a run.

Cueto was injured not long after Micah Owings wrapped up a rehab start for Triple-A Louisville at Lehigh Valley. In 79 pitches over 4 2/3 innings, Owings gave up one earned run and five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.  He left with a 4-1 lead.

Depending on how bad Cueto is hurt, Owings could obviously slide right into his rotation spot for Saturday’s scheduled start vs. the Nationals.

UPDATE: Cueto didn’t think he would miss a start but that’s not to be decided until after the Reds know more.

“We’ll have a better idea tomorrow how sore he is and the severity of it,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He said he was cramping. I could tell something was wrong when he didn’t run to first base. He was tight early in the game. When I looked up, he didn’t have his normal velocity. He wanted to go back out but we couldn’t take a chance of hurting him.”

Cueto said the issue bothered him before his at-bat.

“Since the first inning, it was bothering me,” Cueto said with teammate Carlos Fisher translating from Spanish. “It got a little tight to start the day but it didn’t really bother me until the first inning.”

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Reinforcements, Rolen & Leake

Slowly but surely, the Reds are getting healthier. Two more signs were evident Monday as RHP Jared Burton and OF Chris Dickerson moved through the clubhouse. Burton was activated from the disabled list and took David Weathers’ vacant roster spot. Dickerson should be back on the active roster Tuesday.

Burton went on the DL July 26 with right shoulder fatigue. He made three rehab assignment outings with Class A Dayton (1g, 1ip, 1h, 0r, 0bb, 3k) and Triple-A Louisville  (2g, 1-0, 2ip, 0h, 0bb, 2k).

“I threw three times and got better each time out through yesterday when I felt as good as I have all year,” Burton said. “I have good and normal. My body and arm are working together.”

Dickerson played four rehab games for Louisville  and was 1-for-4 on Sunday.

“It went well and I felt fine. I would have liked to have gotten some more hits and felt better at the plate but I was just happy I didn’t have any pain. Fielding went well. I got in there, saw pitches and felt relatively comfortable for just getting back and not seeing anything for 10 days.”

rolen 081009.jpgWith the Reds, there is always a flip side to the injury front. 3B Scott Rolen is here and can’t play because of a concussion. Rolen has taken ImPACT Concussion tests already and is slated for more on Thursday.

“I don’t have the prognosis yet,” Rolen said. “On Friday in San Francisco, I was symptomatic of concussions. I am going to take few of these Impact tests again. I’ve done it a couple of times. I will see where I am. Right now, I’m down with no execise, no anything.”

Rolen had about 15 reporters/cameras surrounding him in the Reds dugout today when he met with the media. It was his first time back in St. Louis since he dealt to the Blue Jays in 2007.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty said there were no plans right now to put Rolen on the DL.

“We’ll just wait it out and see,” he said. “We don’t want to act prematurely on that just in case he’s OK. With this type of head injury, it’s too hard to predict what’s going to happen. We’ll let it go for now. I hate to put him on the DL and he’s out for two weeks and find out he’s OK by the end of the week.”

Jocketty also told me that the Reds and first round Draft pick, RHP Mike Leake, have drifted apart since he was optimistic last week that his signing could happen. Throwing a wrench into the works was that seventh overall pick, LHP Mike Minor, was signed by the Braves last week with a $2.42 million signing bonus — it was over the slot recommendation.

“That didn’t help us,” Jocketty said. “We’ll keep negotiating and hope we can get it done before the deadline. We are a reasonable amount apart. We’ve moved considerably and they haven’t moved at all. We’re still far apart.”

The deadline to sign draft picks is 12:01 am ET on Aug. 18.

This is obviously a day late since I was off, but how did you feel about the trade of Weathers to the Brewers? I always felt fans were overly harsh on Weathers, who was more dependable than he got credit for. Yes, he gave up a lot of hits and made innings a little more interesting than they needed to be, but more often than not, he finished an inning with a zero on the board.


Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Gonzalez 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Balentien 9
Gomes 7
Rosales 5
Hanigan 2
Cueto 1

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Meet this blog in St. Louis

Me and my heart are not in San Francisco this weekend for the Reds-Giants series so there will be no blogging or Twitter posts. 

San Francisco is a great city but I will always accept a weekend off when it is given. I will be back on Reds coverage on Monday at St. Louis.

Feel free to post comments about the series here all weekend.

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