September 2009

Lehr for Maloney on Friday

RHP Justin Lehr will make the start for the Reds on Friday vs. the Pirates instead of LHP Matt Maloney, who has a blister on his middle finger. It’s the same finger that blistered on Maloney earlier this month in Colorado.

“The doctor today recommended that he not pitch for fear it could get worse,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s something that we don’t want to become chronic.”

Lehr wasn’t expecting to get another start before the end of the season….surprise.

“I was part relieved to think I wasn’t going to pitch and part excited now to get another shot to win my sixth game,” Lehr said. “They told me to stay ready just in case and be ready to pitch. It happened a lot quicker than I thought.”

That means Maloney finished the season 2-4 with a 4.87 ERA. Over his final three starts, he was 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA. Especially since he’s the only lefty starter on the 40-man roster, you’d have to think he’s made himself a candidate for the rotation’s fifth spot in 2010. Am I wrong?

Reds lineup:

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

OF Chris Dickerson was activated from the DL, where he had been since Aug. 25 because of a severely sprained ankle. Dickerson’s return means the Reds have eight outfielders on the active roster.

That’s some kind of crowd.

“It’s OK,” Baker said. “It’s better than when I had too few at one time. I remember when my hands were tied because we were operating shorthanded for a third of the season.”

The active roster has 37 players overall. I don’t remember a time when it’s been that loaded since I’ve been covering the team.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Dickerson says he's ready

Today is the first day of the rest of the season. Well, that means only six more games including Tuesday I guess.

It appears that OF Chris Dickerson could make an appearance before it’s over. Dickerson hasn’t played since Aug. 25 because of a severely sprained left ankle. Manager Dusty Baker said Dickerson could be activated soon but will likely be limited to pinch-hitting and pinch-running.

“There isn’t much of a chance he’ll be in the field again,” Baker said. “We can use him in situations. He worked hard to get back to this point. With the amount of time he spent on the DL, he didn’t want to end the season on the DL.”

While the Reds were on the road last week, Dickerson worked out with the baseball team at Xavier University to shag flies, run and other activity. He also went over to the University of Cincinnati to do conditioning and throwing.

“It was basically a big week of working out at the area’s fine institutes of higher learning,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson had the rarity of wearing a dirty uniform after batting practice. He was practicing sliding for his final test before being activated.

“Fortunately, I passed,” he said. “I expressed my wanting to come back on  Monday and Tuesday and really didn’t get much of a response. I’m ready to go.”

It makes sense not starting or playing Dickerson a ton the final week. Unlike Jay Bruce, Dickerson didn’t have a chance at a rehab assignment since the minor league season is over.

“We’ll take a look at him and determine what I see,” Baker said. “I know he’s hated being on the DL.”

The big question is how Dickerson will fit into the 2010 plans? Left field? Center field? Role player? Baker has said in the past he still high on his upside but Drew Stubbs’ arrival added some competition.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Balentien 7
Hernandez 2
Bailey 1

The Reds defense has a .985 fielding percentage that’s ranked eighth in the National League. Assuming it remains there, it would be a new franchise record for a non-strike season. (It’s been .984 six times, most recently in 2007).

Entering tonight, Reds relievers have posted a 1.09 ERA (4 ER, 33 IP) over the last 13 games. ERA can be a very deceiving number for relievers but that’s still pretty, pretty good.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Pittsburgh all locked down

As Marty Brennaman said to me today, Thursday’s game is being played before an “intimate audience.” No matter what the announced attendance is here, the actual crowd inside the ballpark will be a mere fraction. The upper deck was closed and fans were told they could move to other sections.

Because of the G-20 Summit that started today, the locals were essentially told to stay away from downtown. Most of the local businesses are closed and you can forget driving to navigate a car across most of the streets on the south side of the river.

As I walked to PNC Park, there were metal detectors at the entrance of my hotel and I probably saw platoons of police marching through town in various spots. It all told me that I’m glad I’m leaving town as soon as the game is over.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Sutton 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 9
Balentien 7
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

At first glance, you might be wondering why Willy Taveras is already back in there and Drew Stubbs isn’t after Dusty Baker made the Wally Pipp reference the other day.

“You have to play some time,” Baker said. “Stubbs has been playing every day. We all have to earn our keep.”

Baker was asked what kind of role he envisioned for Taveras if Stubbs was the regular center fielder next season.

“I don’t know. You’re asking questions that are way down the line,” Baker said. “Willy was struggling before Stubbs got here. He’s been out a long time and the door opened for Stubbs and he really kicked that door open.”

What about Chris Dickerson? He’s been out for a month with a sprained ankle.

“He has to come back,” Baker said. “Right now, Stubbs has played better than both of them. Dickerson’s average is higher but Stubbs has been way productive. Dickerson’s upside is still tremendous. There’s a lot of competition out there and we’ll find a way to get playing time for all that will help us – the best players at that particular time and day.

“Dickerson still has action big time. I’d rather have too many than too few. They’re all pretty good outfielders and have speed. Stubbs has shown more power than almost any of them and stealing bases  and better defensively the more familiar he becomes with the ballparks.”

What the Reds end up doing with Taveras next season will be a big $4 million question. He wouldn’t make an effective bench player so I don’t see how all three of them could be kept. That’s also a lot of money to write off by just releasing him. Teams like the Red Sox and Yankees routinely do that, not the Reds.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Bruce not assumed in RF

Some fans via emails and blog postings have wondered why it was automatically assumed that Jay Bruce was the starting right fielder in 2010.

Apparently, that’s not an assumption at all. Reds manager Dusty Baker stopped short of locking Bruce in when directly asked about it.

“It depends on how things go and how he looks,” Baker said. “It’s kind of a loaded question, No. 1. And No. 2, it’s a question that’s way down the line. In modern baseball, it seems like there’s no room for the bad year anymore. Sometimes you have a bad year. I don’t believe in the sophomore jinx necessarily but a sophomore adjustment. Hopefully he can make the junior adjustment next year. He’s really ahead of schedule.”

Bruce entered Wednesday batting just .210 with 18 homers, 46 RBIs and a .284 on-base percentage. Last season, he batted .255 with a .314 OBP. In the minors, he was a .308 hitter with a .366 OBP.

Baker hasn’t started Bruce in every game since he returned from a broken right wrist. This was only his fourth start (eighth game overall) since Sept. 14. 

After a year like this, Bruce wasn’t taking anything for granted next year either.

“I’m not assuming anything,” Bruce said on Wednesday. “I’m coming back next year and playing like and acting like it’s my job to lose. I feel like I’m going to come in with the confidence and be ready to play, wherever it may be. I expect myself to be the right fielder next year. But I also expect to earn it. I don’t think anything will be given to me.”

If anyone is reading and in the mood to comment, name your starting Reds outfield for 2010, and the reserves. There is no shortage of candidates in house, and in the minors.

I was talking to GM Walt Jocketty for future stories today. He happened to be in Goodyear, Ariz. at the Reds new complex for instructional league that began yesterday. Jocketty was almost giddy about the finished facility.

“It’s beautiful, absolutely gorgeous,” he said. “It’s spectacular. They really did a great job on it and everybody loves it.”

Besides state-of-art everything, the new place has more space — which was something Sarasota sorely lacked. It also has a full-service kitchen and dining room. Today, the meal was chicken cordon bleu.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Taveras off DL and to bench

CF Willy Taveras was activated from the 15-day disabled list. Taveras hasn’t played since Aug. 19 because of a strained quadriceps. With Drew Stubbs playing pretty well, it will be interesting to see how much Taveras gets to play during these final couple of weeks.

Entering Tuesday:

Taveras (98 games) — .238, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 25 SB, 18 BB, 57 K, .273 OBP

Stubbs (32 games) —  .265, 8 HR, 15 RBI, 7 SB, 10 BB, 38 K, .315 OBP

During his session with reporters, manager Dusty Baker was asked about how he’d work it out in center field. His reply was very telling:

“Not to be smart about it but I will work it as I feel like it,” Baker replied. “Stubbs has been playing good. We’ll see how Willy is feeling. I asked him and he said he still feels a little something. Hey, we’re doing fine with who we’ve got out there.

“He’s been out quite a while. Sometimes, Wally Pipp is still alive, you know what I mean?

For fans on the blogs that have ripped Baker all season for playing Taveras, that probably wasn’t the answer you were expecting.

Incidentally since Stubbs joined the Reds on Aug. 19 (notice the date), he leads the Reds in homers, total bases (65), steals and runs scored (20). His 36 hits are second to Brandon Phillips, who has 41.

Reds lineup:

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

 It’s an interesting time in Pittsburgh this week as the city prepares for the G-20 Summit that begins on Thursday. President Obama will among the world leaders in town. The 20 countries represented will account for 85 percent of the world’s ecomony. As far getting around town, it will account for 100 percent of the headaches. Police are already on every corner and the city is bracing for protesters and traffic issues. Much of downtown, especially by the convention center, will be in lockdown mode starting on Wednesday night.

“I found myself looking at the top of buildings a lot,” Baker said. “I didn’t see anybody but I know they’re up there.”

By chance if you’re coming to town for the games during the series, especially if you’re driving, I’d allow for some extra time to get here.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Good deeds by good men

The clubhouse staff is often the unseen backbone of a Major League team. They do everything they can to help the players — whether it’s getting their equipment together, putting stuff away, getting meals together — basically anything and everything.

Most Reds players appreciate what the clubhouse manager Rick Stowe and his staff do and on Thursday, Aaron Harang showed it in a very tangible way. Working with the Jake Sweeney dealership in Fields Ertel, Harang purchased an electric six-seat golf cart for Stowe and his crew to use. Of course, it’s all decked out in red. The price tag was $6,500.

ClubhouseCar2.JPG“That thing is awesome,” Stowe told Harang. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Stowe and others took turns taking the cart for a spin. Of course, they are already trying to figure out ways to trick it out with fat tires, stereo, etc. In the picture, Stowe is in the driver’s seat. Behind him is visiting clubhouse manager and brother, Mark Stowe.

“I had been thinking about it for a while,” Harang said. “I talked to a couple of other guys and I felt they have done so much for me. They don’t have one specifically for them and they’re always hunting for carts to run errands, take guys to the bullpen, load bags up or transport stuff. It should be something just for them to have themselves.”

Harang wasn’t the only player who did a good deed on Thursday. When reporters walked into the clubhouse, Jonny Gomes was at his locker and shouted “Hal McCoy, come into my office.” 

gomesbat.jpgGomes presented Hal with the bat he used to hit his 20th home run during Wednesday’s win on Hal McCoy Night.

“We were in the dugout yesterday and he said ‘I’m going to try and hit a home run for you,'” Hal said.

Gomes proved to be a man of his word and Hal was touched by the gesture. 

Above is the picture of that bat.

I can’t think of too many managers that would do this. With Johnny Cueto missing his start tonight because of the flu, Dusty Baker arranged to send him some chicken soup to feel better.

“I went by Izzy’s to pick up some matzah balls, some rice and some noodles,” Baker said. “The chef here is going to make some chicken soup.”

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Inbox open, send questions

On Monday, I plan on running another installment of the Reds Inbox (formerly the Mailbag).

Have a good Reds question? There are three ways to send one in.

You can click on the comment thing below. You can send one via Twitter by going to http://twitter.com/m_sheldon or send an email at mark.sheldon@mlb.com.

Please be sure to include your first name, last name initial and your city and state.

Cheering in the press box

I’m guilty for violating the golden rule of media (no cheering in the press box)…couldn’t help it. My colleague and friend Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News was saluted on the field before he heads off into retirement at the end of the season. Quite frankly, anybody that works 46 years in one place — including 37 years on the Reds beat — deserves a standing O.

If a man’s wealth is measured by the number of friends he has, Hal would be a billionaire. During a reception at the ballpark, Hal’s colleagues at the Dayton Daily News, current and former Reds and sports writers all turned out. His family, including his wife Nadine, was on hand of course. 

0916_hal_nadine.jpgAnd there was former Reds star Aaron Boone. Now with the Astros, Boone caught Hal’s ceremonial first pitch (it was a one-hopper but a strong effort.) Hal credited Boone with saving him from quitting in 2003. That spring, Hal lost his vision and became legally blind overnight. Boone talked him out of giving up. He’s kept working the last six years and hasn’t let it stop him.

During the game between innings, there were video tributes from players Hal covered — such as Sean Casey, Lou Piniella, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn.

I’ve been fortunate to have known Hal the last four years I’ve covered the Reds. He’s always been good to me and even though I’ve competed for stories and scoops with him, I’ll never stop appreciating everything he’s done for me and I count myself lucky to be considered his friend. 

0916_hug.jpgFollow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Cueto out, Maloney in

There is a good chance that Johnny Cueto won’t be on the mound for Thursday’s series opener vs. the Marlins. On Wednesday, Cueto had what what appeared to be the flu and was allowed to skip the taking of the team picture. He left the ballpark.

“We’ll back Cueto up if he’s not feeling better,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We sent him home. I doubt that he’ll be better tomorrow. He might be but he’ll probably feel weak.”

If Cueto can’t go, lefty Matt Maloney will take his place. Maloney had to leave his previous start in Colorado last week with a middle finger blister but he threw on the side Tuesday without issue.

8:39 pm UPDATE: The Reds made it official — Maloney will start instead of Cueto.

Reds lineup:

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

Although Baker said that Ryan Hanigan would get the bulk of catching duties when he returned from the DL last Wednesday, he has started only three of the last eight games including tonight. However, he appeared in seven of the games in some fashion.

Corky Miller, who has done a superb job behind the plate since coming up (team is 9-3, 3.07 ERA) and Baker is also trying to get Craig Tatum some work.

“You can only catch one at a time,” Baker said. “They end up getting in the games because of pinch-running and pinch-hitting. I have him slated for two of the four games with Florida and Miller for two. And Tatum today.”

The depth has been a plus during games like Tuesday’s win. Miller was on first base in the seventh inning when he was lifted for a pinch-runner that scored the go-ahead run.

“That’s why we wanted an extra catcher, especially at this time of year,” Baker said. “There’s a good chance we’ll run for all three of them and pinch-hit for at least two of them.”

The catching rotation could get more interesting when Ramon Hernandez returns from the DL, possibly as early as this weekend.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Nix activated, Phillips' feat

The Reds activated OF Laynce Nix from the disabled list on Tuesday. Nix had been out since Aug. 31 because of a bulging disc in his neck.

In 106 games entering the day, Nix was batting .251 with 13 homes, 25 doubles and 37 RBIs.

“I got a couple of epidural shots – some darts in my neck — and just some downtime so it could calm down,” Nix said. “The shots dissipated the inflammation.”

Nix didn’t expect the neck issue to be a lingering one.

“I just have to maintain it. It will be fine,” he said.

It’s way late in the season and too late to contend, but Reds are slowly getting healthy. Jay Bruce returned from the DL on Monday. Both Nix and Bruce got the start against Reds destroyer Roy Oswalt on Tuesday 

“Those guys both give us the best chance to beat Oswalt,” manager Dusty Baker said. “You just hope there’s not too much rust on them.

“I’m still going to have to watch them some. We still don’t know what kind of baseball shape they’re in. they’ve been working out but you just don’t want them to get fatigued, especially late in the game. I might have to see how they do today and maybe give them tomorrow off. They probably won’t like it.”

Reds lineup:

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

When 2B Brandon Phillips hit his 20th home run of the season in the eighth inning of Monday’s win. He also has 26 doubles and 24 steals. Phillips and Florida’s Hanley Ramirez are the only players in the Majors to produce at least 20 homers, 20 doubles and 20 steals in each of the last three seasons. (courtesy Elias Sports Bureau).

“One of my goals is to get 20-20 every year,” Phillips said. “There aren’t many players that do that at any other position, especially second base. You set your goals for yourself and you have things you can shoot for. I would have done it earlier if I was healthier. I’m just glad it finally happened and it’s over with. I achieved one of my goals.”

Phillips, who came in batting .276 with 88 RBIs is now shooting for 100 RBIs. Baker encouraged him to reach that goal earlier this season.

“I didn’t have it as a goal at the beginning. I had to add it on there,” Phillips said. “I’m close. It’d be a nice thing if it happens. It’d be a blessing to get 100 RBIs because I’ve never done it before. I already did the 30-30 thing. Junior pushed me to that because I didn’t really think I could do that. I know I can do it again. Maybe one day I can do 40-40, you never know.”

Phillips is the only Reds player to ever do 20 doubles, 20 homers and 20 steals in three consecutive seasons. Only four players in team history have done it over any three seasons — Vada Pinson, Joe Morgan, Eric Davis and Phillips.

Follow updates on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 449 other followers

%d bloggers like this: