February 2010

Gomes update

The mystery of whether or not outfielderJonny Gomes will return to the Reds appears near a conclusion.

“We’ll know something by tomorrow,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said on Sunday. “We have an offer on the table and we’d like him to be back. We’re confident he will.”

The offer is a Minor League deal with an invite to camp.

Full squad workouts begin on Tuesday.

Rain in the desert?

One of the benefits of moving Spring Training to Arizona from Florida was there would be no rain. Make that not as much rain.

There are showers today and with cooler temperaturs, so it’s the first less than stellar day since I got here. Of course, with this Goodyear facility much larger than the old one, there is enough space to get more work done indoors.

Aroldis Chapman is among those scheduled to throw another bullpen session today. It will just be inside instead of outside.Correction, the bullpens were outside but the mound and plate were covered.

When asked how Chapman was assimilating with the Latin players, manager Dusty Baker indicated he’s not getting involved in the process.

“I let them do their thing,” Baker said. “Guys will gravitate towards each other. Guys that have something in common. You have to let things evolve sometimes. I learned being the new kid in school a couple of times that you don’t want to automatically fall into groups. You want to intertwine with everybody until you find who you have the most in common with. That takes more than a couple of days.”

This morning as several Spanish speaking players gathered in the center of the clubhouse, like Johnny Cueto, Ramon Hernandez and Pedro Viola, Chapman was outside the circle and seated at is locker. But he was taking it all in and smiling. It won’t be long before he’s joining a group and getting more comfortable.

It’s obviously early but through the first two days, everyone has gotten through the workouts intact. No injuries to report.

“These guys came in shape. I love that,” Baker said. “I think they know what’s at stake, how much competition there are for these jobs and we’re pretty deep.

“There’s an increase in young depth and maturity. An organization doesn’t just get good in one area. You have to commend the scouts, the minor league system and everybody for signing a certain type of player and developing that player. Then you have to give the player credit for maturity as a player and personality. It’s up to us to try and put that together. In modern baseball, you have to put it together in a short period of time.”

One thing I didn’t mention yesterday was that Homer Bailey, Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and Cueto had their bullpen sessions. All of them looked pretty good. Bailey was definitely bringing some velocity.

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Who is No. 1? Maybe not Harang

In the previous four springs I’ve been on the Reds beat, there was never any question who the No. 1 starter was in camp or who would start on Opening Day. It was always Aaron Harang.

Back-to-back six-win seasons can change that certainly. Talking to reporters on Friday, manager Dusty Baker wasn’t ready to say Harang was the ace.

“I don’t know,” Baker said. “We have to talk about it – what’s best for him, what’s best for us. He’s big in our equation. We tried to keep everybody here because we feel they can still do the job.”

An Opening Day starter has yet to be determined as well.

“Me and Bryan [Price] talked about it a little bit but not much,” Baker said. “We have to get through the spring first. We’re in a performance based occupation, like most, but probably even more. It’s a big responsibility being a No. 1, you know.”

I will have a more detailed story about Harang later today on MLB.com/Reds.com

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Chapman throws in bullpen

Reds camp opened with the regular stuff on Thursday afternoon — pitchers and catchers ran. They stretched and played catch.

chapman2 021810.jpgSomething that was different was watching Aroldis Chapman be part of the first bullpen session. Estimated, he threw for about 10 minutes to catcher Ramon Hernandez. The ball seemed to snap in Hernandez’s glove as he shouted instructions and encouragement in Spanish.

Watching their $30 million investment pitch — GM Walt Jocketty, assistant GM Bob Miller, scout Jerry Walker, manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price. Tony Fossas, the Class A Dayton pitching coach and Cuban native, translated coaching instructions from behind the mound.

Jocketty saw Chapman throw in the bullpen a couple of days ago, too.

“Very impressive,” Jocketty said. “I’d like to see him when a hitter gets in there. He showed good command. Everything was right around the strike zone. I watched him do his fielding drills over there and that was pretty good.”

The picture above is Chapman, taken by Reds assistant media relations director Larry Herms.

Here is how Chapman felt his first day went:

“I feel very comfortable,” he said with Fossas translating. “I had a really good day today, the first day out, with getting to know the guys. I feel this is a bunch of really good guys that have made me feel really at home.

“I am learning pretty fast, the system and the way it is here. I’m very comfortable with it.”

Price is in charge of Chapman’s throwing plan. That plan is to have the lefty throw in the ‘pen again on Saturday and once more on Monday. On Wednesday, he will face Reds hitters in live BP.

“The plan is we’re going to get him ready as we do, get him acclimated to the way we do things here, both from a throwing perspective and program and strength and conditioning, which we introduced back in January,” Price said. “We will continue to hone that and improve upon it.

“Then we’re going to let him get into ballgames and compete. I don’t think there’s any reason to say we have some sort of parameters on him. We’re going to let him go and compete. We’ve all seen the WBC games. We’re looking forward to seeing him pitch in regular games and see what he does. There’s nothing like watching guys with your own eyes and making assessments on where he fits best.”

Price did not rule out that Chapman could start this season in the Majors.

“He can start anywhere,” Price said. “But we want to assess him and make sure wherever he starts, it’s the right place. It might be Cincinnati. It might be someplace else in our system. I don’t know that yet.

“It’s a live arm and a kid ready to compete. I think this kid could go into a ballgame tomorrow and be ready to compete.”

Camp open; Chapman, Janish

When they weren’t taking physicals, many Reds players were getting lost or just looking around at their new Spring Training place. Camp has opened and the pitchers and catchers’ workout is due to begin shortly.

Only two pitchers aren’t here on time — Enerio Del Rosario and Pedro Viola. Both had flight issues getting out of the Dominican Republic. Both are expected in town later.

The Reds will be holding a press conference with Aroldis Chapman on Monday. So that will be the first time we hear from him directly. Manager Dusty Baker, of course, has met with him already.

“I had a nice chat with Chapman and some other guys,” Baker said. The conversation, he noted, was in Spanish.

“I like his makeup, body type and he understands pretty well what you’re saying,” Baker said. “It seems like when guys do speak to him in English, he comprehends. You can tell when a person doesn’t understand.”

Pitching coach Bryan Price is in charge of the Spring Training plan for Chapman.

“There’s always a plan. It’d be hard to imagine not seeing him in games,” Baker said. “Talking to Bryan, he usually has two weeks off the entire year. This is probably the longest he’s been off in his life.

“We’re going to do a combination of what he’s been doing and also what we think is best from the way we do things.”

Other goings ons on Day 1 of camp:

More position players arrived early — namely Jay Bruce and Paul Janish.

On not being the shortstop now that Orlando Cabrera is signed:

“It was a little disheartening,” Janish said. “If you had asked me in November if we would probably sign somebody, I would have said yes. Obviously the timing of this was so close to Spring Training. I went through the offseason thinking of something else. It is what it is. It’s the way it works. I’m a pretty positive guy. I have the mentality that as long as I’m on the team helping us win, that’s a good thing. What else can you do?

“It’s just change of mentality. I have to get into the mindset of being a utility guy again, a guy that comes off the bench later in the game or if something happens. That’s really it. The writing was on the wall. Orlando is obviously a pretty decorated player that has been in the big leagues a long time. He’s a good player. Anything that makes the team better means we’re going in the right direction.”

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Early arrivals

If you’re the Reds front office, you have to like the early turnout. Each year, many players arrive ahead of the report date but there seemed to be more than usual.

The fresh new facility in Goodyear might have something to do with that. But there were lots of players already working out for several days. The report date for pitchers and catchers is Thursday.

The clubhouse is beyond belief, especially coming from Sarasota, and offered a very good first impression. I didn’t get to see it the other day. This one is as good as the one in GABP and just as massive. Over the middle of the room are four 60-inch flat screen TVs that are connected and hang like an arena scoreboard. Nice touch.

Among the early arrivals: Aaron Harang, Aroldis Chapman, Nick Masset, Daniel Herrera, Jared Burton, Ryan Hanigan, Homer Bailey, Micah Owings, Corky Miller, Edinson Volquez, Mike Leake and several others.

“This place is great,” Masset said. “They did a really good job. I’m excited. This is by far the best complex I’ve ever played at. It’s awesome, inside and outside, the fields, the mounds. You get that feeling coming to camp, you’re always excited to get in and get started. When you come into a clubhouse like this, it makes it 10 times better.”

I saw guys long toss. Chapman was throwing BBs from right-center field to the right field foul line. There were guys conditioning on “Mount Krause.” the grassy hill built here for drills.

There is a good, quiet work room here for the media, aka the Goodyear News Bureau. Before, we shared our work space with the media/scouts lunchroom, where it would get loud and distracting before games. Now I have one less excuse not to write well.

Back at you Thursday for the first workout.

On the ground in Goodyear…

First, a sorry for the next sentence to those folks snowbound in Cincinnati and other areas of the country. I must say the weather is spectacular here in Arizona. Mid 70′s during the day and 50′s at night and that’s the forecast for the rest of the week too, with nary a cloud in sight. Humidity is low. In other words — perfect.

The first person I saw when I exited the airport was Charles Barkley. Of course, he’s a hard guy to miss. The taxi stand guy and a few fans posed with him for pictures. His cab driver shook his hand with excitement. I thought that was the official Arizona welcome to all — but that was reserved only for Sir Charles.

I’m still settling in but I took a brief gander of the new Reds facility in Goodyear. For those who care purely about the baseball, this place will make you forget all about what they had in Sarasota. There is no comparison, at all.  I will try to provide more details and description in the days and weeks ahead. Let me know in the comments section if there is any question you want answered about the place. The last time I was out here, it was under construction but the finished product is good stuff. 

The Reds have been shooting video of the complex. Here is a link to the weight room tour:

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=7168557&c_id=cin&topic_id=

I’m staying in Goodyear about 10 minutes from the yard and it seems to be a nice town so far. Obviously, there’s no beach nearby and many of the restaurants you’ll find are familiar chains — which will frustrate the adventurous eater — but I think anyone that comes out here will be pleasantly surprised. Scottsdale and Tempe are about 30-40 minutes away and both are worth seeing. And with 13 of the 15 Cactus League teams all in the metro Phoenix area, you can take in a lot of baseball.

I will be at the camp Wednesday to get started. Things begin in earnest on Thursday when camp opens.

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Reds, Gomes waiting it out

The holding pattern between the Reds and Jonny Gomes is continuing. There has been no advancement in talks as the opening of Spring Training draws near.

“It’s the same as it was before,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said

On the phone from Goodyear, Ariz., Jocketty sounded like the team was moving forward with its plans, with or without Gomes in the fold.

“We think we will get everyone in camp, meet with everybody and then decide if we need to do something else,” Jocketty said. “He’s also exploring other situations. We’ll see next week.”

There are 17 outfielders still on the free agent market — including Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon are the biggest names. But Garret Anderson, Cliff Floyd, Endy Chavez and Marlon Anderson are among the others on the next tier — I wouldn’t be surprised that if one of them signs and establishes what’s left of the market, Gomes might then make his decision.

The Reds have no plans to bring in any other free agents if Gomes doesn’t sign.

Meanwhile, Jocketty said the all was well out west.

“It’s beautiful. Temperatures are in the 70s and there’s not a cloud in the sky,” he said. “On Monday, we’ll get the ofifce up and running. On Tuesday, I will get with my staff and on Wednesday, I will meet with Dusty and the coaches and get our strategy planned out.”

Camp opens with the first workout for pitchers and catchers on Thursday.

And for those that were wondering the other day, Kip Wells will be added to the mix for the fifth spot of the rotation battle. Wells agreed to a Minor League deal a couple of days ago.

“We told him at the end of last year that if nothing else happened for him elsewhere, we’d bring him back,” Jocketty said. “He did well for us at the end of the season.”

Wells, signed to a Minor League deal in July, became a fill-in starter for the Reds late in the season and was 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA in four September starts.

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One week 'til Arizona

It’s hard to believe, but there are a mere seven days left until Reds pitchers and catchers report. I know people love their football but I don’t see their fans get as geeked up for the opening of training camp.

Just the reporting of pitchers and catchers to Spring Training gets baseball fans stirring.

There will be a lot of Spring Training previews and primers to get you ready. Here are mine:

Part 1: Where will Chapman end up?

Part 2: Questions that need answers

And also — five Reds that have the heat turned up a little higher going into 2010.

And to tease you with some warm weather shots, Reds media relations director Rob Butcher provided pictures from Goodyear on Jamie Ramsey’s ‘Better off Red’ blog.

Goodyear4-thumb-500x375-1782431.jpg

I will be flying out to Arizona on Monday, a little early to get my bearings. Obviously, left field and fifth starter are the only battles for spots.  

Going into camp, what storylines are on your mind?

Out of options

In case you were wondering, the following Reds players head into 2010 Spring Training out of options:

RHP Bronson Arroyo, RHP Homer Bailey, IF/OF Wladimir Balentien, RHP Francisco
Cordero, RHP Mike Lincoln and RHP Nick Masset.

This should only really affect Balentien, and possibly Lincoln. But remember, Lincoln is owed $2 million this season and pitched well for most of 2008 before his neck injury limited him to 19 games in 2009.

As a short explainer, players that are out of minor league options and sent down get 10 days to clear waivers. By the end of that period, they must either be traded, sent down outright or released. Most players get three minor league options that begin once they are on the 40-man roster. One option is good for one whole season’s worth of multiple call-ups and demotions.

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