August 2009

Hal McCoy's last season

Since I hooked on to the Reds baseball beat before the 2006 season, I’ve come into contact with a lot of good people. One of the more generous and classiest among those people has been Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News.

Although all media colleagues are working the same piece of real estate and trying to compete for stories, Hal became a friend of mine as well. We often had dinner together, rode to and from the ballpark together and talked about the games we just saw.

Today, Hal announced on his blog that he is headed for retirement at the end of this season. What makes this news even sadder is that the move isn’t of his own choosing. With his age, the economy in the tank and newspapers fading, Hal knew the day was coming but it’s still stuns like an inside fastball to the helmet. After Hal’s departure, the DDN will no longer cover the beat like he did it for the past 37 years, which can only be considered sad for Reds fans everywhere.

It certainly won’t be the same in the press box, clubhouse or on the road without him and I will miss him.

Leake, Phillips, Owings, etc.

It’s getting down to the final stretch to sign 2009 Draft picks before the Aug. 17 midnight ET deadline. GM Walt Jocketty seemed optimistic the Reds could get their first-round pick, RHP Mike Leake, signed.

“We’ve had several discussions lately,” Jocketty said. “I think we’re getting closer. Hopefully, we’ll get something resolved this week. We’ve only got 10 days.”

Last year, the Reds didn’t sign their top pick, 1B Yonder Alonso, until about 15 minutes before the deadline.

“I hope it doesn’t take that long,” Jocketty said.

Jocketty also downplayed any notion that he was considering moving 2B Brandon Phillips to shortstop because Double-A Carolina prospect Todd Frazier was moved to second base. A report on Tuesday indicated that Jocketty was open to the notion even though it hadn’t been discussed.

“He’s played left field all year,” Jocketty said of Frazier. “We know he can play shortstop. We know he can play third base. We want to see if he can play second base. We’re trying to develop players to play different positions. It has nothing to do with Phillips.”

Frazier has started Carolina’s last five games at second base.

Phillips has had no discussions with the club about switching to the other side of the infield.

“Nobody has said anything to me,” Phillips said.

Phillips was originally a shortstop as he rose through the Expos and Indians systems. He’s played there a couple of times for the Reds.

“I will do whatever the team wants me to do,” Phillips said. “I won a Gold Glove at second base. If I have to go somewhere else, I will try to win a Gold Glove there. I will let them make the decisions.”

RHP Micah Owings, on the DL with right shoulder tightness, threw a 75-pitch simulated game today and faced Reds hitters Adam Rosales and Chris Dickerson. Owings used all of his pitches and had no issues.

“I felt pretty good and keyed on working on a couple of things,” Owings said. “I feel like I got some good work in today.”

Owings said his next step was to pitch on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Louisville. Manager Dusty Baker left open the possiblity that the minor league outing might not be needed. Owings could possibly start for the Reds on Tuesday, the day he is eligible to be activated, if he doesn’t go to the Louisville since that would be his normal day.

3B Scott Rolen is back in after a two-game absence aftering beaned in the head on Sunday.

RHP Jared Burton went to Class A Dayton today for the beginning of his rehab assignment. Burton has been on the DL since July 26 with right shoulder fatigue and asthma. He is eligible to be activated on Sunday.

Dickerson can also return from the DL on Tuesday. Having him, Burton, and Owings return would give the beat-up Reds some much needed reinforcements.

“It would help, big time,” Baker said.

In the minors, Alonso began a rehab assignment with the GCL Reds on Tuesday. Alonso broke the hamate bone in his right hand with Carolina on June 19 and had surgery on June 23.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Gonzalez 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Balentien 9
Nix 7
Hanigan 2
Lehr 1

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The Inbox is open

On Thursday, there will be a new edition of the Reds Inbox, where I will be answering some reader questions. Please click on the comments portion of this post if you would like to ask a question. Please include your first name and last initial and your hometown and state.

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Frustrated Cueto

On July 1 after pitcher Johnny Cueto beat the Diamondbacks with a six-scoreless inning performance, he was 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 16 starts. He was a candidate for the All-Star team.

On Tuesday, Cueto was on the wrong end of a 6-3 defeat while giving up five earned runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings with two walks, two hit batters and four strikeouts. For the most part, he pitched decently.

The game started with Kosuke Fukudome’s leadoff homer. But the bigger damage came during the four-run sixth when all the runs scored after there were two outs. Cueto was hurt by the bottom of the order, too. Koyie Hill hit a liner to center field that got past a diving Willy Taveras and scored two.

“It was a great effort and great play but that’s how things have been,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It can’t keep going our way. It’s got to turn and go our way. It’s got to.”

Cubs starter Tom Gorzellany blooped a RBI single into center field and finished Cueto. One more run, charged to Cueto, scored off Daniel Herrera. Cueto was clearly agitated on the mound as the rally mounted. After he was taken out, he chucked his glove down the stairs to the clubhouse tunnel.

“He’s frustrated because he was making great pitches,” Baker said.

Cueto is now 0-6 with a 9.85 ERA over his last six starts. Overall, he is 8-9 with a 4.23 ERA.

“The good thing is I feel good. My arm feels good,” Cueto said. “But we’re coming through a tough situation, for the whole team. We’re not scoring too many runs and I need to be perfect on every pitch. Every time I make a mistake, I pay the consequences.”

Tough times at GABP — the Reds are in the midst of a 1-8 homestand with eight-straight losses, which they haven’t done since April 27-May 6, 2005. They have also lost 14 out of 15 games.

“I know in the bottom of my heart that this isn’t going to last,” Baker said.

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Rolen still out, improving

Reds third baseman Scott Rolen still felt the effects from his beaning on Sunday and was out of the lineup for a second-straight game on Tuesday vs. Cubs. Rolen went for a CAT scan, which revealed no bleeding inside his brain.

“They said I had almost the size of a normal human brain. I was real pleased with that,” joked Rolen.

At least Rolen felt better than he did on Monday.

“I didn’t feel right yesterday,” he said. “I had a headache all day and never shook it.”

The Reds did not have Rolen available to pinch-hit on Monday and it wasn’t clear if he would be ready to enter the game late on Tuesday. He was scheduled to do some hitting, fielding and agility drills to make sure he didn’t have any concussion symptoms. The training staff already had Rolen elevate his heart rate in tests and he did OK.

“As much as we want him back and need him, we have to take care of him too,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Adam Rosales started again at third base for the Reds on Tuesday.

In the seventh inning of Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Cardinals, Rolen was nailed in the helmet by a fastball from Rockies starter Jason Marquis. His helmet came off after contact and the ball ricocheted towards third base.

Someone asked Rolen if that was the hardest shot to the head he’s ever taken.

“Unless you want to count seventh grade pole vault, because that knocked me out for three minutes,” he said. “That’s the hardest one I’ve had on the baseball field, for sure. That almost knocked me out. I was a little fuzzy for the first five or 10 seconds until I actually sat up. It still hurts in the spot where the ball hit me through the helmet. It is really sensitive.”

Rolen said Marquis and his family are close friends. Marquis has called to make sure Rolen was OK.

“I said if he wanted to come in, just let me know,” joked Rolen.

Reds lineup:

Willy Taveras 8
Adam Rosales 5
Joey Votto 3
Brandon Phillips 4
Jonny Gomes 9
Wladimir Balentien 7
Alex Gonzalez 6
Ryan Hanigan 2
Johnny Cueto 1

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Rolen, Gonzalez out

3B Scott Rolen was not in Monday’s lineup vs. the Cubs, one day after he was beaned in the head by a Jason Marquis fastball in the seventh inning. Adam Rosales started in his place. Rolen was to be examined again today.

“He’s got a headache,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “The doctor said there was no concussion. He’s very lucky. I’ve never seen a ball ricochet that far. That ball went all the way to third base.”

SS Alex Gonzalez was given the night off after Sunday’s game where he committed an error dropping a cutoff throw that let a run score. He also made a soft running throw to first base in the 11th inning vs. Colorado that allowed an RBI infield single. On top of that, Gonzalez is hitless over his last 20 at-bats entering Monday.

“He’s frustrated. That game yesterday was unlike him,” Baker said.

Paul Janish started at SS vs. the Cubs.

In other news, injured OF Chris Dickerson is doing well with his slightly separated shoulder and expected to be ready to come off of the DL when eligible on Aug. 11.

Volquez has 'TJ' surgery

Reds starting pitcher Edinson Volquez had “Tommy John” surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament and torn flexor mass in his right elbow. Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek performed the 90-minute procedure on Monday morning

That means Volquez could miss up to 12 months, which wouldn’t have him pitching again until late into the 2010 season.

On Friday, Volquez had to shut down a simulated game 20 pitches into what was to be an 80-pitch session when he complained of tightness in his elbow. He had previously thrown four bullpen sessions without incident.

Obviously, this puts a huge dent in the Reds’ plans for their rotation in 2010.

Last season, the 26-year-old Volquez threw a career high 196 innings for Cincinnati. He also pitched in one start and one relief appearance in Dominican winter ball last winter and three innings in one start for the D.R. in the World Baseball Classic. 

Volquez’s previous professional high in inning was 178 2/3 innings in 2007 with the Rangers organization.

 UPDATE: Reds manager Dusty Baker wasn’t prepared to assign blame that Volquez’s winter activity and the WBC contributed to his injury.

“Any time you do an unnatural act like throwing overhand, you risk something every time you pick up the ball,” Baker said. “I don’t know if anybody knows to say that exactly. The timing wasn’t real good to be thought of as part of the equation.”

It was learned that Volquez didn’t follow his off-season throwing program, as assigned by pitching coach Dick Pole. The team was told to limit Volquez to 50 pitches. He threw 99.

“They were playing [Johnny] Cueto’s team. That’s how I found out about it,” Pole said. “I know the guy that was taking care of Cueto and that he would do what I asked him to do.”

“It’s a lot of throwing. That Baseball Classic, there weren’t too many guys that repeated from the first time they did it and went back and pitched the second time. They knew the rigors of getting ready for that thing early.”

The two MRIs that Volquez since going on DL did not reveal the tears.

Kremchek didn’t make the decision to do the Tommy John surgery over the less invasive arthroscopic procedure until he could take a look inside the elbow. The situation was about as serious as these types of injuries can be.

“Not only was the flexor mass torn like we thought, there was also a tear in the ligament,” head trainer Mark Mann said. “It was almost completely torn.”

That means it was about as serious as these types of injuries can become.

“He will come back, I think, and pitch at some point next year in the second half,” Mann said. “But it will most likely be 2011 before you see the old Edinson Volquez.”

Baker thinking 'of some new stuff'

When things have slid this far, this fast, like it has for the Reds, what can manager Dusty Baker do to spark a turnaround? Even Baker admitted before Sunday’s game he was running low on ideas to get through to his players.

“I’m trying to think of some new stuff,” he said. “It’s not easy coming up with some new stuff. You try laughter. You try anger. Actually, you don’t have to try anger. You put your arm around them. You chastise them. Sometimes you have to ride it out.

“We’ve got two more months. I don’t see two more months of last month’s misery.”

The Reds entered Sunday losers of five-straight games, the last 11 of 12 and 13 of 16.

Someone asked if Reds owner/CEO Bob Castellini has been by the clubhouse and how his mood was.

“Well not bad. How great do you expect it to be?” Baker said. “I don’t blame him. My demeanor is not good either. I put on a good front.”

  • Former Reds 3B Edwin Encarnacion went 1-for-4 for the Blue Jays at Oakland in his first game since the Scott Rolen trade.

“I was not surprised,” Encarnacion said of being traded. “They’ve been talking about a trade and I’m ready. I know how this game is and I was ready. I was waiting for it and I figured they were going to make a trade. Now I’m happy I’m here with my new team, Toronto, and I’m going to enjoy it.”

  • Many Ryan Hanigan backers would be pleased to know he batted second for the Reds in Sunday’s lineup. Alex Gonzalez batted eighth.
  • If he had enough plate appearances, Joey Votto would be second in the NL in batting with a .338 average entering Sunday. (Florida’s Hanley Ramirez came in batting .343). Votto was 25 PAs short of qualifying for the NL leaderboard.
  • At 11 a.m. ET Monday, Reds assistant GM Bob Miller is having another installment of his online chat series. To participate, click here.

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Volquez done, Rolen here

Pitcher Edinson Volquez finally got the news that he dreaded would come. After all of his rehab efforts were unsuccessful, surgery is the option that remains. He will undergo elbow surgery on Monday.

All that’s left to learn is how long he’ll be out. Dr. Tim Kremchek will do the procedure, but won’t know the type needed until he has a look inside. If Volquez needs Tommy John surgery, he’s looking at 9-12 months out. If it’s the less invasive arthroscopic surgery, he could be ready by Spring Training 2010.

“It just hasn’t gotten better,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty said. “You always try to take the conservative route and a lot of times they come back without having surgery. In this case, we felt it hadn’t gotten better. It was still stiff and sore. We felt we needed to go in and see what’s going on.”

Volquez, who shut down his scheduled 80-pitch simulated game just 20 pitches on Friday in wheh he felt discomfort, showed his inner elbow off on Saturday and it was clearly swollen.

“I didn’t feel any pain,” Volquez said. “It’s really tight. Kremchek looked at it and said he could fix it. If it’s the best thing I can do, I’m going to do it.”

Obviously, Volquez is hoping the Tommy John operation isn’t needed.

“I feel bad because I’ve been working at for the past two months,” Volquez said. “I threw five bullpens and I didn’t feel anything. Then I get to the mound and see some hitters and I tried to do a little bit more than I did in the bullpen.”

While one season is ending, another is beginning anew in many ways. New third baseman Scott Rolen couldn’t have been more pleased about being traded to Cincinnati. His hometown is Jasper, Indiana, which isn’t very far away.

“Depends on who’s driving. I’d say 2 ½-3 hours away,” Rolen said on Saturday. “We might see a spike in beer sales on some of these weekends from a Southern Indiana group of folks when my buddies come over.”

The first thing that was noticeable about Rolen was his piece of locker real estate in the clubhouse. He was given one of the coveted double lockers at the end of the room, often reserved for veterans. However, this locker had previously been occupied by 22-year-old Jay Bruce. Now Bruce is using Edwin Encarnacion’s old locker after clubhouse manager Rick Stowe mentioned where he wanted to put Rolen. Bruce gladly accomodated.

“We got the big guy here so I moved over,” Bruce said. “The guy is an All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He deserves that locker.”

Rolen was also given No. 27, his old number when he was with the Cardinals. He wore 33 in Toronto. The former No. 27 on the Reds, rookie Drew Sutton, was reassigned No. 15 — Jerry Hairston Jr.’s former number.

“I’m thrilled to be here, no question,” Rolen said. “This is as close to home as I can be. My parents brought me here to watch ballgames. Where I’m from, there’s a St. Louis-Cincinnati split right down the middle. I’ve hit them both. I’m a Midwestern guy and like being here. I enjoyed my time in St. Louis with Walt and this part of the country. This is the spot I wanted to get back and be for a while.”

Rolen said he did approach Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi and requested a trade and hoped he’d get to go to Cincinnati.

“When I was in St. Louis, we grew comfortable in that area,” Rolen said. “I kind of took a leap of faith going to a new league, going to a new country, going to a new team. I have a four-year old and a two-year old and my wife. My parents travel around quite a bit. My brother lives in this area. I always wanted to try and finish up at home or get back to this area and this part of the country.”

Rolen has missed a lot of games over the years because of a problematic left shoulder. It was Kremchek who repaired his torn labrum.

“Perfect, no trouble at all,” Rolen said of his shoulder this season. He came into tonight batting .320 with eight homers and 43 RBIs. He also comes with a reputation of being a good guy and a leadership guy. He wasn’t ready to assume that mantle just yet in Cincinnati.

“That’s a tough one to tackle,” Rolen said. “I just got here and put on this uniform like everybody else. I will go out and compete as best I can. I think we have, as professional ballplayers, we have a responsibility and accountability to be professional on and off the field. I will go about my business and try to be the best I can be.”

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