September 2009

Bruce back, Francisco up

OF Jay Bruce’s rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville was ended and he was activated from the disabled list on Monday.

In 10 games for the Bats, Bruce was 7-for-33 (.212) with five walks and six strikeouts. He was out briefly with a mild-strain of the groin, which he dismissed.

“It’s nothing,” said Bruce, who went 0-for-3 as the DH on Sunday. “I just didn’t want to take the chance of pulling my groin on a rehab assignment. It wasn’t that important. We took a precaution and it’s fine now.”

Louisville was eliminated from post-season play on Sunday during a 5-3 loss to Durham.

Bruce still wasn’t in manager Dusty Baker’s lineup — in part because he is 1-for-15 lifetime vs. Astros lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez.

“I just have to see him run and all that stuff,” Baker said. “That’s the main thing. He said his wrist feels fine. I just want to make sure his legs are right.”

You may remember that Bruce fractured his right wrist on July 11 at New York while attempting a sliding catch. In a sign he wasn’t afraid of re-injuring it, his right forearm had the scab from a raspberry while attempting a diving catch on the warning track at Durham.

Before going on the DL, Bruce was batting .207 with 18 home runs and 41 RBIs. He was also in a 0-for-14 skid. There were no thoughts of bagging the season even with just 19 games left and nothing to play for as a team.

“Hopefully I can finish up strong. That’s the plan,” Bruce said. “I want to help these guys win some games.”

The other notable transaction of the day — 3B prospect Juan Francisco was called up for the first time from Louisville.

In 131 games combined with Double-A Carolina and Louisville, Francisco batted .295 with 31 homers and 93 RBIs. He showed no signs of adjustment issues in AAA — he batted .359 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 22 games.

Obviously, the Reds have a third baseman for this year and next in Scott Rolen. Francisco is a potential left fielder down the road. He will spend time at instructional league this fall to learn the position he said he played just twice this season at Louisville.

“I can do it. I’m ready,” said Francisco, who speaks very little English.

Don’t expect him to see Francisco this season in left field, according to Baker.

“Like a lot of September call-ups, I’ll use him to pinch-hit and maybe play third base on days that Rolen doesn’t play,” Baker said. “That’s it for now. We’re working him out in the outfield. But you just don’t come up in the big leagues and just play outfield for the first time. [Billy Hatcher] will work him out every day and hope we see some improvement.”

Personally, I’d like to see Francisco get more than marginal amounts of play because I’d like to see how big league ready his swing is. But you also don’t want to embarrass a guy by sticking him the outfield when he doesn’t know the position well. Just being in the Majors for the first time has to be pressure enough.

Bruce had this assessment of Francisco after watching him the last couple of weeks at Louisville.

“He’s got some special pop, I’ll tell you that,” Bruce said. “He’s got a chance to be a really, really good player. It’s all about learning and making adjustments so we’ll see.”

Reds lineup:

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

Injury report: Besides Bruce, Laynce Nix (neck), Ramon Hernandez (knee) and Willy Taveras (quadriceps) all took early BP on the field today.

“Nix is probably ahead of the other guys. He said his neck feels a lot better,” Baker said. “Taveras is still feeling something in his leg. Ramon could be in better shape or semi-ready by the weekend. He’s not in game shape. He says he feels a lot better than before he went down. At the same time, the guy hasn’t had at-bats either. We’re trying to win games too.”

Nix is eligible to come off of the DL on Tuesday.

Unlike Bruce — there is no more rehab assignments possible for the other guys because all of the organization’s Minor League seasons are over.

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Gomes' rebound season

Among the myriad of off-season decisions that need to be made will involve outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Gomes has resurrected his career in Cincinnati — he came into Sunday batting .276 with 19 home runs and 48 RBIs. Not too shabby considering he’s done that with 243 at-bats after starting the season in Triple-A Louisville. He’s played well vs. right-handers (.255/14/31) and lefties (.317/5/17). He’s one of the best clutch guys on the club with a .323 average w/RISP. He’s also been a great addition, personality-wise, to the clubhouse.

“I wanted to get on track and back on the map,” Gomes said on Sunday. “I did have a couple of 20 homer seasons in the big leagues under my belt without a lot of at-bats. The other one where I didn’t hit 20, I hit 17. Last year I didn’t have many at-bats.”

Gomes is making $600,000 at the big league level this season. The Reds could offer him arbitration, which is something he said he would accept. If they don’t and he becomes a free agent, it becomes less of a guarantee.  

Getting a chance to play, without the help of roster attrition, would be a factor.

“I think I’ve earned that opportunity,” Gomes said.

“It depends on needs, what’s out there, which kids might be ready coming up behind these guys,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

OK like yesterday with center field — you’re the GM. Do you bring Gomes back for 2010 and if so, does he start in left field?

Reds lineup:

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

News of the day:

OF Willy Taveras and C Ramon Hernandez have started running the bases back in Cincinnati. There is a good chance that both players could be activated this week while the Reds are home.

LHP Matt Maloney threw on the side on Saturday but still has some soreness with the blister on his middle finger. It’s not known when Maloney might get another start yet.

With Louisville one game away from elimination in the playoffs, Baker wasn’t expecting a lot of call-ups since much of the 40-man roster is already up or on the DL. When asked if Yonder Alonso might come up, Baker responded “probably not.” Alonso might need a break to get ready for the Arizona Fall League.

And in the classy move of the day, the Cubs and their writers held an informal ceremony on the field for Hal McCoy on his last time working at Wrigley Field. Among the gifts was a No. 37 from the scoreboard — the number of years that Hal covered the Reds. Lou Piniella, Cubs GM Jim Hendry and former Red Ryan Dempster were among those sent Hal off the right way.

Hal McCoy night at GABP is Wednesday.

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Center fielder is in charge

In center field for the Reds since his call-up, speedy Drew Stubbs has mostly been as advertised defensively. It doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done.

During the second inning of Friday’s game, Geovany Soto hit a sacrifice fly to right-center field. Stubbs went after the ball but deferred to Darnell McDonald in right field. The runner was scoring either way but the club wants Stubbs to be more assertive because it’s not the first time that’s happened.

“I want Stubby to get more comfortable and take control of it,” first base/outfield coach Billy Hatcher said Saturday morning. “I’m just trying to get Stubby in a situation where he takes control of the outfield so he can catch everything that he can catch.”

Stubbs is aware that he needs to be the boss of the outfield.

“It’s the primary responsibility for the center fielder, if you’re able to get to the ball, to be the one in charge and the one that takes it,” Stubbs said. “That’s the main thing – communication. It’s usually an issue with guys you’re playing with for the first time and you’re not experienced playing with. We’ve had a little of that the first couple of weeks but I think we’re settling in well and getting the feel for what balls each of us can get to.”

OK, here’s the question for you:

You’re in charge of setting up the 2010 Reds….who is your center fielder?

Stubbs, Chris Dickerson or….Willy Taveras?

I’m pretty sure I know your answer of who you don’t want there.

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Nice at Wrigley, Owings here

For many fans, Wrigley Field is the home of the world’s greatest Happy Hour…where work/school can often be ditched for day games and Old Style. For media, it’s a little different. No elevators, no Old Style (or other libations) cramped clubhouses and trying to get through 40,000 revelers to reach said clubhouse can make the Friendly Confines a very tough place to work.

Not that I’m whining about the poor media sap watching a baseball game for a living, really. Especially when you get a view like this. This is one beautiful place to watch a game, definitely on a day like this:

wrigley 1.jpgWrigley Field is totally old school, and old style. It still has that manual scoreboard. It still doesn’t have the videoboard for replays or mascots or any other artificial game enhancer. The ivy walls have limited advertising.

A lot of times, Reds fans will travel up from Cincinnati for a weekend Cubs series here. Even with the record the way it is, anyone coming up for Happy Hour at Wrigley?

wrigley 2.jpg

News of the day:

RHP Micah Owings was back with the team on Friday, still unable to hear out of his left ear following last Sunday’s beaning in Atlanta that left him with a perforated eardrum. Owings had cotton in his ear and still had five stitches at the top of his jawline near the ear, making it hard to shave.

“It’s another reason to let the beard go,” said the scruffy Owings. “I want to thank the [Reds] staff and the Braves staff and doctors for taking care of me. I was fortunate and blessed that everything came out alright.”

Owings was getting ready to workout for the first time since the incident but he wasn’t expected to be available for the Cubs series.

“He hasn’t done much. They didn’t let him do much,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I wouldn’t think he’d be available until we get home.”

Owings was able to fly to Chicago from Atlanta with no issues. As for getting back into the batter’s box again, he wasn’t concerned about facing another 93 mph fastball again.

“I was thinking about how many times I’ve been in the box in my life and most of the guys playing the game and how rarely it’s happened,” Owings said. “I’m always looking forward to getting into the box. At this point, you never know until you step in there.”

OF Wladimir Balentien was Baker’s right fielder in the original lineup but was scratched with a sprained right ring finger. Darnell McDonald got the start instead. Balentien was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Thursday’s loss at Colorado. Two of them came in run producing situations.

“He was trying to be a hero,” Baker said. “I knew something was wrong when they were throwing fastballs by him. I just couldn’t understand it. He’s had it since Seattle, actually. He was getting an opportunity to play and didn’t want to come out of the lineup. I can’t blame him. It’s the best opportunity he’s ever had. Perhaps we haven’t seen the real Balentien.”

Reds lineup:

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

Reliever Nick Masset did something I never saw before in a clubhouse. As the Reds received special caps to commemorate 9/11, Masset soaked his with water and stuck it in a microwave. He was trying to shrink it.

“It’s a new hat and I’m breaking it in to fit better,” Masset said.

Baker was feeling a little low this morning. His wife, Melissa, had to put down the family dog on Thursday back in California. Baker often talked about Bailey, an almost 14-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer.

“She was the best hunting dog I ever had,” Baker said. “She had cancer and stopped eating.”

Baker will have a new companion this fall, Bella. Melissa got another dog of the same breed.

“My son named it,” Baker said. “It’s his dog. He has to clean up after it.”

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Wanted: run producers

Long before injuries decimated the roster, the No. 1 problem plaguing the Reds all season was run production. It’s something Reds manager Dusty Baker acknowledged on Thursday morning.

Baker was asked about his impressions of Wladimir Balentien, who hasn’t been remarkable but isn’t struggling either. Balentien has 14 walks, 19 strikeouts and a .272 average with two homers and eight RBIs entering Thursday. The manager wasn’t ready to comment much about Balentien’s future but he highlight what he’s seeking from his entire roster.

“I’m looking for some dudes that drive in some runs and hopefully don’t strikeout so much because we have enough strikeout people,” Baker said. “We’ve got four or five guys that are 1-to-3, 1-to-5 [strikeout] ratio guys. That’s a lot, especially if you’re not hitting the ball out of the ballpark a lot.

“We are striking out too much for me. That really bothers me because you have no chance to do something to help anybody. We need some guys that can drive in some runs. We need some RBI men. That’s what I’m looking for. If you look at our driving in runners in scoring position, we have some very low numbers.”

Some offensive stats:

The Reds are tied for last in the Majors (with the Padres) by batting .242. They are ranked 15th out of 16 teams in runs scored. They are 15th in hitting with runners in scoring position (.241). They are 11th in strikeouts and 15th in on-base percentage (.311).

Reds lineup:

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

It’s just a day off for Scott Rolen. Baker spoke to him and Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston after the trade and breaks when there are day games after night games will be common.

“We’ve got three straight day games in Chicago and no day off until another week after Chicago,” Baker said.

1B Yonder Alonso was promoted to Triple-A Louisville for the International League playoffs. In his first game, Alonso was 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. The Bats lost an 8-4 game to Durham. It’s a best-of-five series.

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Hanigan back, rotation change

The Reds made catcher Ryan Hanigan’s activation from the disabled list official on Wednesday. However, Hanigan wasn’t in the Reds starting lineup — even with favorite batterymate Bronson Arroyo on the mound. Corky Miller is getting the start.

“He flew all day to get here,” said Dusty Baker, who will start Hanigan on Thursday. “And Miller worked well with Bronson the last couple of times too.”

Hanigan had a solid five-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville, batting .389 (7-for-18) with two doubles, two RBIs and four runs scored. He said there were no symptoms from the concussion he suffered on Aug. 23 when he caught a foul ball off of his helmet.

“I was fortunate that it wasn’t real serious,” Hanigan said. “It was a milder concussion. I feel fine. I got some hits. [I had] a couple of days of working out and feeling fresh and trying to find my timing. I swung the bat alright. Hopefully, it will translate up here.”

The only thing Hanigan didn’t get was a foul tip off of the mask.

“Hopefully they will hit at an angle,” Hanigan said. “I think that was more of a freakish thing. Who knows why that happened. I’ve taken a million balls off of the mask like that. Just the way it hit and the fact that the mask broke is what combined for the concussion.”

Reds lineup:

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

RHP Justin Lehr had his bullpen session and had no trouble with the strained groin that caused him to miss a start. The Reds have changed their rotation for the Cubs series. Lehr will start on Friday, Johnny Cueto will go on Saturday and Homer Bailey will pitch on Sunday.

“We’d rather have Cueto pitch Saturday to get an extra day of rest,” Baker said.

LHP Daniel Herrera leads the Reds staff with 62 appearances entering Wednesday. His professional high was 64 games, set last season between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors. In his last eight appearances, Herrera has a 7.04 ERA.

“He’s a little worn.,” Baker said. “He is still doing well against lefties. He just has to figure out how to make the adjustment against righties. Those guys have hit him hard. But this is a period that you have to get through. You have to get through uncharted waters and places that you haven’t been through before in order to know how to do it when you get back there, which is next year.”

In the eighth inning on Tuesday, Herrera gave up a leadoff double to right-handed pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs, who later scored on a sac fly.

“I still feel really strong,” Herrera said. “I think I’m still throwing some pretty quality innings and getting some outs. As far as health goes, my arm feels really good. I might be a little fatigued at this point, but so is everybody else. It will be good to finish the year strong. … They hit me a little bit, obviously last night.”

LHP Matt Maloney doesn’t have a starting assignment yet after he came out of Tuesday’s game with a blister on his left middle finger. It derailed the best start of his big league career after five innings.

“He came in today to apologize,” Baker said. “I said you don’t have to apologize. He wanted to keep pitching so we could win. It just got to the point where he couldn’t pitch anymore without tearing it. If he tears it, he’s probably through for the year.”

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Digging the 6:40 start

Thirty minutes earlier than usual doesn’t sound like much but the 6:40 p.m. (MT) start for Tuesday and Wednesday’s Reds-Rockies games is pretty cool in my book. Colorado has been doing it for a few years now. As far as I know, only the Rockies and Diamondbacks start weeknight games at 6:40 p.m. local time.

I’d love to see the Reds experiment with that. Games that start earlier could often mean an earlier conclusion. That wouldn’t hurt fans that have school or work the next morning. Plus for downtown folks, it’s less idle time between the end of the work day and first pitch. On the negative side, people would have less time to get home from work (especially in the suburbs), scoop up the family and get down to GABP.

Would you want to see a 6:40 p.m. start be a regular thing at GABP? Or, would you prefer something later? The Braves start their games at 7:35 p.m. Or — do you like it just the way it is?

Put me down for 6:40 starts. I like it.

Reds lineup

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

News of the day:

Jay Bruce likely won’t be back before the end of the road trip in Chicago this weekend. The plan is to have Bruce be with Louisville for the entire first round of the best-of-five International League playoffs.

Dusty Baker talked with Bruce on the phone today.

“He said he was swinging better,” Baker said. “He stole a couple of bases. His legs were feeling fine. His wrist was a little tight in the beginning but once it loosens up, it’s fine. Last night he said he faced some guy throwing 95-96 mph. The first at-bat, he was a little bit tardy and then he caught up and got a base hit. He said that was the first real high octane fastball test that he had.”

All expectations are that Ryan Hanigan will be off of the DL on Wednesday. Even though Louisville could use a catcher, the plan is to carry three up here with Hanigan, Corky Miller and Craig Tatum.

Miller, by the way, has done a bang-up job since he’s been up. The pitching staff has a 7-2 record and a 2.66 ERA when he catches.

Kip Wells will be the Reds starter on Thursday vs. Colorado. The Reds had left it TBA because they were watching the status of Justin Lehr, who missed a turn in the rotation with a strained groin.

Lehr is scheduled to throw off of a mound on Wednesday. If all goes well, he could start this weekend vs. the Cubs. Lehr said he wasn’t in pain but obviously the 30-40 pitch session here will be a test.

“I haven’t got on a mound yet but it was the only place where I felt it, or it at least got my attention,” Lehr said.

Pitcher Micah Owings, who suffered a perforated eardrum when he was beaned on Sunday, will rejoin the team in Chicago and workout on Friday. He was cleared to fly today.

Former Reds pitcher Matt Belisle was among four September call-ups made today by the Rockies. He’s been up with Colorado previously this season.

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Owings' eardrum perforated

Pitcher Micah Owings was lucky. He avoided a concussion when he was drilled by a 92 mph fastball on Sunday in Atlanta. But he did suffer a perforated eardrum and is unable to fly.

A CT scan was negative for a concussion. Owings will see a ear, nose and throat doctor on Tuesday in Atlanta. It’s unlikely that he will be able to rejoin the Reds while in Colorado for four games.

“We are shooting for Chicago [on Friday],” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He told me he’d drive to Chicago if he had too.”

In the 12th inning of a 4-2 win over the Braves, Owings was batting with the bases loaded when he was hit by a 92-mph fastball from right-hander Kenshin Kawakami. Owings spent several moments on the ground but never lost consciousness. He had a gash around his ear that required five stitches.

“He wanted it known that Kawakami called him after the game to see how he was doing,” Baker said. “[Kawakami] was pretty shook up.”

Owings lives in Gainesville, Ga., so he can at least be at home with his family while waiting to be cleared to fly and return to the team.

Speaking of beanings, there is a new helmet available from Rawlings to players. Called the S-100, it’s supposed to withstand 100 mph fastballs and offer better protection. However, it’s a bigger and more unwieldy helmet.

Scott Rolen, who was beaned on Aug. 2 and diagnosed with a concussion that sent him to the DL, said he would pass on wearing the new helmet.

 

Thumbnail image for wright.jpg“I feel like I’m OK right now,” Rolen said. “We’re kind of creatures of habit. I’m not saying that safety isn’t a priority. Of course it is. But it’s a big change in a batting helmet, not a small change. I think the day that MLB mandates it is the day everybody wears it.”

The new helmet will be required in the minor leagues next season. David Wright (pictured, left), who also suffered a concussion from a beaning last month, tried the new helmet for two days but went back to his old one.

“A lot of guys talked about how big it was. I tried it on. It’s large,” Rolen said.

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 7
McDonald 9
Miller 2
Bailey 1
 
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Drew Stubbs leads the Reds in hits (23, tied with Brandon Phillips), runs (12) and home runs (five) since making his Major League debut on August 19.

The latest of Reds players to take the lineup card to home plate was Kevin Barker on Monday vs. Colorado. Edinson Volquez, Jay Bruce and Willy Taveras have also done it recently. The Reds won five in a row when Bruce did it.

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29 games to go

My off day story on Thursday was about what the Reds are trying to do over the last month. Dusty Baker always wants to win but of course, he’s giving players like Drew Stubbs and Paul Janish chances to establish themselves with an eye on next season. So far, they haven’t disappointed. Nor has Homer Bailey in recent starts. If he keeps it up, you’d have to think he can lock in a rotation spot next season.

The Reds have won nine of their last 11 games and there are multiple ways to dismiss the recent hot streak — the pressure is off, they played the reeling Pirates, etc. But winning can never hurt development and it certainly isn’t bad for morale.

The Reds are 60-73 with 29 games left in the season.

What would you like to see happen over the next month? Obviously, they’re headed towards another losing season with no playoffs and more of ‘wait until next year.’ But is there anything that can happen in these final 29 games that would have you feeling more optimistic heading into 2010?

I won’t be in Atlanta this weekend but will be back when the road trip moves to Denver.

Viola called up

The Reds promoted LHP Pedro Viola from Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday. IF Danny Richar was moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster.

In 54 relief appearances, Viola was 2-2 with a 5.47 ERA and converted eight of 11 save chances (49.1ip, 48h, 33bb, 57 K, 7 HR, .251 opponents’ BA).

“They said he was some days very good and some days a little sporadic,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “But that’s a part of youth. He looks great. He looks like he got stronger even since we saw him in Spring Training.”

The Reds have a a string of 17-straight games ahead and Atlanta and Colorado have left-handed hitters throughout their lineups. Baker wanted some lefty bullpen depth to back up Daniel Herrera and Arthur Rhodes.

Reds lineup:

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

It’s just a day off for 3B Scott Rolen – there is nothing wrong.

“He’s been playing and played the doubleheader,” Baker said. “We have a day off tomorrow. It’s almost like two days off. I talked to Cito [Gaston, Toronto’s manager] and I talked to him when we got him. They often gave him days off for day games.”

Coming off of his three-inning save last night, the Reds could use Micah Owings more often in that type of role, especially if it can save others in the bullpen. The Reds also want to make more use of Owings’ bat to pinch-hit with him before he pitches.

Baker spoke with former Brewers hybrid pitcher/pinch-hitter Brooks Kieschnick this morning and got some advice.

“It was valuable,” Baker said. “I talked to Brooks about how to do it. I asked if he would talk to Micah. Micah, big-time wants to talk to him. Brooks was a dangerous man. I remember managing around him not to have him pinch-hit when he might be in the game to pitch. He’ll talk to Micah about how to warm up quicker as a reliever. I actually have to get him up an inning in an advance now.”

It looks like Jay Bruce and Ryan Hanigan are headed to Louisville to start a rehab assignment on Friday. Bruce was to run the bases for Baker to make sure he was ready to start playing games.

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