March 2010

More Chapmania on tap

Reds lineup vs. Rockies

Stubbs 8
Cabrera 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Hernandez 2
Arroyo 1

Arroyo is scheduled to work five innings and Aroldis Chapman will take the final four innings.

Morning notes from the manager’s office:

*Dusty Baker said more cuts are coming today, post game, but not many.

*Obviously there will be more to write about later following Chapman’s appearance. With no DH, today should mark the first time he hits in a game.

Baker called Chapman’s swing “fair.”

“There are some things we’re rushing Chapman on – bunting, base running, game situations, when to tag, when to run and not to run if he gets on base,” Baker said. “I think Wood and Leake are much more advanced in that area. It would be easier on Chapman if he was in the American League and never had to hit or run the bases or anything. That’s the kind of ball he’s used to.

“As far as being on the bases and bunting, he’s probably at the low minors stage. As far as throwing, he’s at the big league stage.”

*A national writer was asking about Mike Leake this morning. Leake has impressed everyone in camp with his stuff.

“He’s right there also,” Baker said. He and wood have both been impressive and Lehr was impressive yesterday. Everybody wants some answers [about the fifth spot]. We don’t have any. I’m telling you the straight facts. We don’t know.”

But don’t go writing Leake into the fifth spot just yet, especially since he has zero minor league experience.

“We don’t know his endurance level,” Baker said. “We don’t know how he’s going to be every fifth day. In college, they basically pitch on Fridays.

“I’ve seen a tremendous control of the strike zone. He recognized at a younger age than anybody I’ve seen what a batter is trying to do. He came with very good recommendation from [former Dodgers teammate] Bob Welch, one of my good buddies who helps out at ASU. He told me he keeps the ball at the knees – cheese at the knees. He told me he could pitch.”

*The lone off day is on Tuesday and everyone is expected to bug out. At this time, no one is expected to show up to throw. Baker will not be here for sure. He is headed to Lake Roosevelt to go fishing.

There won’t be any mulling more roster decisions.

Baker will think about baseball just about anywhere — even in church.

“I’m praying for somebody,” he said.

But on a fishing boat — no chance

“That’s the only place I don’t think. I’ll say ‘damn, it’s been six hours and I haven’t thought about baseball yet.’ I turn my cellphone off, everything. See you when I get back.”

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No walks make manager happy

At least in the Reds-Cubs portion of split-squad games Sunday, the 1-1 tie provided one of Cincinnati’s best pitched games all season.

Justin Lehr finally got a start and a chance to stretch out and didn’t disappoint. Lehr’s line was one earned run on five hits with no walks and one strikeouts over four innings.

“Lehr was only so supposed to go three but his pitch count was so low, that’s why we had him go another inning,” manager Dusty Baker said.

*Arthur Rhodes continued his stellar spring with one scoreless inning, one hit and three strikeouts. Rhodes has four scoreless innings in four games and just two hits and one walk.

*Francisco Cordero followed with two scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and struck out three. He’s worked seven scoreless innings this spring.

*Kip Wells also turned in his best outing of spring with three scoreless innings, one hit and three strikeouts.

The common thread here — no walks were allowed by any Reds pitchers vs. the Cubs today.

“That’s what Bryan [Price] has been trying to stress to these guys about trying to get strike one and make them earn it,” Baker said. “No free passes.”

*Not much offense to speak of but Laynce Nix tattooed an opposite field home run to left field on a 1-1 count with two outs in the second inning. There was no doubt it was going out off of the bat.

“That’s one of the best balls I’ve seen him hit to the opposite field,” Baker said. “He’s been working on driving the ball. We knew he could drive it this way [to right field] but it was the first time I’ve seen really drive it. He hits a lot of doubles over there. That opposite field home run, he busted that ball.”

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Volquez throws off mound

Edinson Volquez’s rehab continues to progress, slowly.

Volquez threw 30 pitches today off of a mound at 50 percent intensity. It was actually his second time on a mound. He threw 25 pitches on Thursday. Pitching coach Bryan Price supervised.

The count goes up to 45 pitches on Wednesday.

“That’s tough because when you play catch or long toss, you throw the ball up,” Volquez said. When you get to the mound, it’s a different angle. But I feel good. There’s no pain.”

Volquez has a lot more bullpen sessions ahead of him before he can get into any games. He will stay for extended spring in Goodyear.

Volquez had Tommy John surgery in August and is targeting a July-August return.

“Everybody will be gone and I have to stay here. I’ll find new friends,” joked Volquez.

Jamie Ramsey of the Reds snapped a picture of Volquez in the bullpen today.

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Gomes preparing for daily grind

It’s a pretty quiet morning at the compound. Here are quick notes:

*For later today, I will be writing about OF Jonny Gomes, who is having a nice spring. Entering today. he’s batting .290 (9-for-31) with three home runs and nine RBIs. While many have expected the left field vacancy to be some sort of platoon situation, Gomes is trying to show he can hit both right-handers and left-handers. Last season, he batted .244 vs. righties and .307 against lefties.

“I just wanted to come in healthy and ready to go with a lot of flexibility for Dusty,” Gomes said. “I didn’t want there to be anything he’d ask me to do that I wasn’t ready or in shape to do – arm wise, defense wise, hitting-wise, hitting righties, hitting lefties,  playing left field, playing right field. I wanted to have my full bag of clubs.”

*Gomes, who took some weight off during the winter, is playing the road game today vs. the A’s, and facing a left-handed starter.

*There are still seven candidates for the fifth starter spot. The not-so-hot outings by Travis Wood or Mike Leake did not prompt any new decisions.

“You don’t want anyone to get roughed up but you want to see how they’ll handle this,” Dusty Baker said. “You wanted to how they handled getting in trouble. Then you also want to see them the next time out after that. It’s hard to get a barometer on success only.”

*My take: I think it’s going to come down to Chapman or Wood, with Chapman being the favorite and the most deserving based on the performances on the field to this point. Chapman next pitches on Monday vs. the Rockies — he’s scheduled for four innings of relief.

*For the road game today, Chris Speier will manage and coach third base. Eric Davis is coaching first base and Ellis Burks is the hitting coach.

*There is only one more split-squad day after today, on March 31 when a team will go to Las Vegas. Baker said he would make the trip. The rest of the team hasn’t been determined.

“I’ll take the guys that are probably the most ready because they’re not going to get the work back here that the other guys would,” Baker said. “Guys I think need extra BP or are close will stay back probably. I will check which guys have family there. It’s a business trip but it’s also a reward for hard work trip as well.”

*The lone off day of spring is Tuesday and it will be very welcomed.

“I think only one other team is off later than us,” Baker said. “It will be a much needed off day. It’s synonymous to the regular season playing 18-19 days in a row, you have to push through it instead of looking for that off day. They’ve been busting it pretty good.”

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Sunday AM lineups

The Reds have a pair of split-squad games at 4:05 p.m. ET. Here are their lineups for both.

Home vs. Cubs

Stubbs 8
Cabrera 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Nix 9
Heisey 7
Miller 2
Lehr 1

Road vs. A’s

Dickerson 8
Janish 6
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Francisco 5
Balentien DH
Hernandez 2
Frazier 3
Cairo 4

Cueto 1

 

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Adversity for Wood, Leake

For the first time in their big league camp, Travis Wood and Mike Leake saw how the other half lived. Both had lackluster outings during a 6-0 Reds loss.

Wood gave up three runs (two earned) and three hits with two walks, four strikeouts and a hit-batter. Leake followed and allowed three earned runs and seven hits in his three innings.

The fact that he’s still in camp and pitching indicates that Wood is very much in the fifth starter’s race. Coming into camp, Dusty Baker had never seen him pitch and only knew the stats.

[Double-A Carolina pitching coach] Tom Brown talked a little about him,” Baker said. “I trust what he has to say, big time. He told me he was small in stature but pitched like a big man.”

Wood gave up all of his runs in the first inning on two home runs. Both were in hitters’ counts — 2-0 to Edgar Renteria and 1-0 to Aubrey Huff — After that, he was pretty good and only allowed one more hit.

“It could have went better,” Wood said. “I fell behind. I had to battle. I did a decent job but a couple of guys got me early. I just didn’t have the best stuff today but I made it work after the first inning. I came back and battled through it.”

Baker was hoping to see how both pitchers would handle adversity since both have had smooth performances to this point. He even left Leake out longer than he normally might have.

“They both handled it pretty good,” Baker said. “Their body language was good. You couldn’t tell if they were winning or losing, which translates a lot to the opposition that they’re battlers.”

*Wood and Leake pitch again on Friday. This time, Leake will be starting

*A Bay Area writer was in the clubhouse today and asked about Petaluma, Calif., native Jonny Gomes. Last spring, Gomes started with a bang but faded the final two weeks and was sent down. After he came up to the Reds in May he slugged 20 homers in 281 at-bats. This spring, Gomes has a guaranteed contract

“Last year, I was sort of spotting him against guys I thought he had the best chance to succeed with,’ Baker said. “We thought he did a pretty good job with that. He lost some weight this year. It seems like he’s running better. He’s worked hard on his defense to get better. Jonny knows this is an opportunity for him to put himself back on the map. He hasn’t had a good year in three or four years.

“He had one pretty good year. That didn’t really sell to the baseball people. You have two good years in a row, now they’ll say ok, he’s back. This is an important year for Jonny to restablish himself as a quality player.”

*Aaron Miles led off and played second base and hit a leadoff single to left field in a 1-for-2 day. He was also caught stealing. It was Miles’ only hit in 13 at-bats this spring (.077 average) after he got a late start because of a fractured right finger. Miles also committed a fielding error in the first inning, which gave Wood one unearned run when Huff followed with his two-run homer.

*Logan Ondrusek had another nice outing in relief with two scoreless innings. He has 5 1/3 scoreless innings his four appearances.

*Before the game, players in the clubhouse were glued to the TV watching St. Mary’s upset Villanova in the NCAA Tournament. Cheering could be heard from inside Baker’s office.

“California schools don’t play basketball, according to the rest of the world,” said a smiling Baker, who is of course a Golden State native.

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Fifth starter race still crowded

The fifth starter competition still has seven contenders left — Aroldis Chapman, Matt Maloney, Micah Owings, Justin Lehr, Kip Wells, Travis Wood and Mike Leake. Surprisingly, no one besides Mike Lincoln has been told they are out — yet.

“It’s going to go down to the wire,” said Maloney, who is scheduled for work out of the bullpen vs. Seattle. “We have a bunch of good guys competing for it. Whoever gets it is going to be very deserving of it. They’re going to help the team win and that’s the main thing they’re looking for. It’s a good competition and it’s going to bring out the best in all of the guys. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.”

*It’s possible that Maloney could wind up with a different role than he planned on.

“We haven’t decided on Maloney yet. Would he be better in the bullpen or is he still in the running yet?” manager Dusty Baker said on Friday. “We’re trying to decide that. Lehr, we’re trying to get him more extended time here.”

“I told them I’m willing to do whatever it takes to pitch at the big league level,” Maloney said. “I think they know I’m willing to do it.”

*Innings are getting more precious, especially starting next week.

On Saturday — Travis Wood gets his first start and is slated for four innings. Mike Leake follows with three innings.

On Sunday — Justin Lehr will get his first start and go three innings vs. the Cubs. Johnny Cueto will get five innings in the other split-squad game at the A’s.

Monday — Arroyo gets 5 innings, Chapman 4. Owings will throw 4 inn in a minor league game.

Tuesday –  OFF

Weds — Bailey goes 5 inn

Thur — Harang gets 6 inn

Friday — Leake gets his first start and goes four. Wood follows with four.

After he pitches tonight, Maloney is next slated to get just two innings on Thursday. If he was going to start, you’d think he’d be getting more stretched out by now.

*The starting lineup, with the exception of Hanigan, could be very close to what we see on Opening Day. However, there is locks in center field and left field yet.

“I’m trying to get them together at the same time – Stubbs, Jay [Bruce] and Gomes – so they can get a cohesive outfield going just like our infield, defensively,” Baker said. “At this point, Stubbs has come along better but so far, [Chris] Dickerson has outplayed Stubbs. We have a couple of weeks to go.”

*Gomes has had a fabulous spring to this point, entering the night batting .333 (9-for-27) with three homers and nine RBIs. Baker was asked if Gomes could be someone that could be the left fielder against both left-handed and right-handed pitching.

“We’ll see,” Baker said. “I have to find a way to keep guys sharp and play them. You have to produce too. Not taking anything away from Jonny, but breaking balls aren’t breaking quite the same here. I told you that before we got out here. Sometimes it’s a little harder to judge overall. Everybody knows Jonny can hit that fastball.”

*Carlos Fisher hasn’t pitched in a week because of a sore right elbow but things appear to be improving.

“He said he’s feeling good. I talked to him today,” Baker said.

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Friday night lights (sort of)

Sorry for the later start today but with a night game, the clubhouse wasn’t open for access until after 5 p.m. ET and reporters didn’t meet with Dusty Baker until 6 p.m. ET. And the game vs. the Mariners is at 10:05 p.m. ET. Ah, the west coast. It’s pretty cool though when NCAA hoops starts at 9 a.m. PT. I spent my off day on Thursday watching about 12 hours of basketball.

After some delay, a story I wrote about the Reds All-Decade Team is posted. I have to thank the panel again for participating. We did it at a Skyline Chili back in January and I’m glad the story was posted. A few have thrown darts at some of the picks and I can understand — but please look at the stats. One thing the group did was come prepared. That included Larry Herms, who had a spread sheet with stats from every player on the Reds from 2000-09. It made for some great head-to-head comparisons.

Who would you omit from this team? But the biggest test for you: who would you suggest as a replacement?

Reds lineup — for the first time, they are dispensing with the DH at their own choosing.

Stubbs 8
Cabrera 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Hanigan 2
Harang 1

*Aroldis Chapman’s next outing will come on Monday vs. the Rockies. He is scheduled for four innings out of the bullpen behind Bronson Arroyo, who is slated to start and work five innings.

More later

Questions, questions…

I’m trying to put together the first, and likely only, edition of a Spring Training Reds Inbox for next week. If you have questions you’d like answered…send them my way.

There are three options to do this:

1. Use the comment area of this blog entry

2. Send them via twitter @m_sheldon

3. Go the regular route by email: mark.sheldon@mlb.com

Thanks and be sure to include your first name and your city/state.

 

Lincoln out of 5th spot race

No shock here — Mike Lincoln is out of the fifth spot battle. Manager Dusty Baker told Lincoln this morning that he is going back to the bullpen. Lincoln posted a 11.37 ERA in his three starts.

“We’re starting to narrow it down,” Baker said. “We’re going back to have some meetings and try and determine who is who. It’ll probably go down to the wire, even if we have to use minor league games or ‘B’ games and things like that. As long as we get these guys their innings for endurance sake.”

That leaves Matt Maloney, Micah Owings Travis Wood, Justin Lehr, Kip Wells and of course Aroldis Chapman in the fifth starter race. 2009 first-round pick Mike Leake has been second-best behind Chapman but has no Minor League experience at all. Wells gave up four runs and four hits in two innings and didn’t help his remote chances. Justin Lehr has gotten no starts yet and no more than two innings of work. He worked two scoreless today.

In his latest outing (and first start), Chapman gave one hit and one run on a leadoff homer by Rickie Weeks with one walk and five strikeouts. Read about the start here.

Here is the breakdown of the battle:

Leake: 0.00 ERA, five scoreless innings and six strikeouts.
Wood: 1.29 ERA, five walks and six strikeouts.

Owings: 9.00 ERA in two games but is pitching vs. Indians tonight.

Lehr: 4.26 ERA through 4 games
Maloney: 6.75 ERA through 3 games, including one start, with 4 BB and five Ks.
Wells: 6.00 ERA in four games.
Chapman: 1.29 ERA, two walks and 10 strikeouts.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Chapman and Wood should have the best chances. 

Who do you like? I don’t do the “if the season started today” stuff because it doesn’t start today. Anything can happen between now and April 5, but it’s getting harder for me to imagine that Chapman doesn’t get the spot if he keeps this up.

 

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