March 2010

Music mixes with baseball

Apologies for the late start to the blog. Hope to do better tomorrow.

Bronson Arroyo, today’s starter was talking with a semi-raspy voice inside the clubhouse before his start vs. the Dodgers. He had good reason — Arroyo sang six songs during Jake Peavy’s charity concert in town — “Woodjock.”

“Barry Zito, Peavy and myself have to pitch today. Luck of the draw,” Arroyo said. “We’ll see if I can get someone out today.”

Brandon Medders was on lead guitar and Bernie Williams played backup guitar. Zito was on the drums. Arroyo had no itch to pick up a guitar — playing has given him carpal tunnel soreness and he no longer plays during baseball season.

“If I did that, [president/CEO] Bob Castellini will call me back to his house at The Sanctuary. I might not come back this time,” Arroyo joked. “I’m sure that house is at the edge of a cliff for a reason.”

*One of the sights on the field was pop singer Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers. He took batting practice in the cage with the Dodgers and broke a bat to some laughter from the players. Jonas, wearing a No. 92 jersey with his name on it, looked like he was having a good time.

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Thursday afternoon notes

The Reds are up to a .500 spring record after a 3-1 win over the Brewers on Thursday. They were outhit, 7-6, and committed two errors but there were many positives.

*Joey Votto snapped a 0-for-9 skid to start play with a long home run to the grassy knoll in right-center field. His long ball provided the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.

“It was just a matter of time because Joey can hit,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It was nice for him to hit one on that bank over there.”

*Starter Johnny Cueto pitched three scoreless innings with one hit, one walk and one strikeout. He had made some mechanical tweaks he seemed to be pleased with.

“I wanted to bring my leg up and stay in a straight line and keep my shoulder in,” Cueto said through an interpreter. “I threw fastball, two-seamer – no curveball. I threw a slider and changeup.”

*A throwing error by pitcher Jared Burton led to a run scoring on a double play in the sixth. The run was still earned and ended a streak of 15 scoreless innings for Reds pitchers.

*After Burton, Enerio Del Rosario, Pedro Viola and Logan Ondrusek combined for three scoreless innings.

*1B Yonder Alonso was charged with his third error of spring when missed a catch in the ninth.

“We’ve got good pitching today but we still made a couple of errors, which was not pleasing,” Baker said. “We have to keep working on it.”

*Chris Dickerson is 4-for-11 (.364) through five games. Dickerson hit two-out, RBI triple in the fifth inning.

*One funny thing I saw before the game this morning was Aroldis Chapman trying to hit in the cage. Chapman fouled back his first three offerings and people in the field were laughing. Chapman was a good sport and smiled his way through it before he got some knocks into the field to sarcastic cheer. Jamie Ramsey took a little video but what I saw wasn’t included in the clip.

*Reds great Barry Larkin was scheduled to start as guest instructor today but I didn’t see him. His familiar No. 11 jersey was hanging in a locker with his name on it in the coaches room this morning. Larkin is expected to be in camp for about 10 days. 

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Miles ready, utility INF battle

Aaron Miles still has an ugly, nasty looking black fingernail on his middle finger — the proof that remains from his small fracture at the tip. Fortunately it just looks worse than it is. Miles is expected to get his first game action on Friday.

“It’s slight pain but the doctor said I’m not going to hurt it at all,” said Miles, who fractured his finger on March 2. “The fracture was in a real good spot and to go be as aggressive as I want. As long as I go out there and make the plays, I’m good to go. I can’t hurt it more.”

The other member of the utility infield, broken finger club is Chris Burke, who suffered a more serious injury with a fractured knuckle on his right ring finger. Burke started swinging at bat on Wednesday and was headed to the cage again Thursday morning.

Manager Dusty Baker already has some tough decisions to make with his backup infielders. It’s a crowded group with Miles, Burke, Paul Janish, Miguel Cairo, Todd Frazier and Drew Sutton.Baker didn’t know how many extra infielders the club would carry.

“I haven’t even played that shell game yet,” he said. “We could play it all day and night. Right now, we have other things. We’ll play them and we’ll see come cut time. Now cut time comes weekly.”

*The first wave of cuts went down after Wednesday’s game.

Reassigned to Minor League camp were LHP Alexander Smit, RHP Jose Arredondo, 1B/OF Danny Dorn and catchers Ryan Yarbrough and Chris Denove. The next cuts will likely come after the day-night split-squad games on March 17.

Dorn caught the manager’s eye during his time in big league camp.

“Dorn, he impressed me,” Baker said. “It’s a matter of numbers and how much playing time he was going to get. I think he recognized pitches quicker than anybody among the young players we have here. Plus, he big-time got better at first base too.”

*Some tornadoes touched down near Benton, Ark., which is very close to where LHP Travis Wood’s family resides. Wood said his parents were OK and the twisters were a couple of miles away.

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Nice start for Bruce

The Reds aren’t off to a crisp spring start with a 1-3 record following Tuesday’s 10-4 loss to the Diamondbacks.

That can’t be said about Jay Bruce. Serving as the DH in the game, he was 2-for-3 with a solo home run to right field. Bruce, who struggled mightily last season, is 5-for-9 (.556) overall.

“That’s why we’re trying to get him as many at-bats as we can so he can have a good start,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re going to try and play him quite a bit.”

Other notes:

*Opening Day starter Aaron Harang gave up three earned runs and four hits over 1 1/3 innings with one walk and two strikeouts. He was scheduled to work three innings but reached his pitch limit of 50 too quickly.

“There’s still some fine tuning of stuff from the way I’ve pitched for so long and to mechanically make some adjustments,” Harang said. “It’s not going to work overnight. I still have stuff to work on but that’s what spring is for. The ball felt like it was coming out free and easy and I was just missing. It’s still a long spring. The biggest thing is just building up the pitch count right now.”

* Fifth starter contender Matt Maloney did not help his own cause. Maloney gave up four earned runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning, including Upton’s two-run home run in the fifth. This was the opposite of his stellar 1 2/3 scorless innings Maloney had on Friday.

“He was a little up today,” Baker said. “He wasn’t quite as sharp as he was the other day. He was at the top of the zone. He can’t pitch there. He has to keep the ball down, especially on a day like today when the wind is blowing out.”

*The Reds and Indians have scheduled a ‘B’ game for Sunday at 10am local time at the Reds complex practice field. Harang will start that game.

*Game time temperature was 60 degrees but felt colder with a stiff wind. At the same time, it was 65 degrees back in Cincinnati.

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Keep an eye on Del Rosario

Reliever prospect Enerio Del Rosario has been one the more impressive arms in camp this spring. A sidearmed, sinker thrower — his pitches move…a lot and stay down. He could be an interesting call-up at some point if the Reds need late-inning help. You’ll want to keep an eye on his progress this season.

What’s interesting about Del Rosario is he nearly washed out as an overhand thrower. Class A Sarasota pitching coach Tom Brown got him to throw sidearmed and zing … it might have been a career salvaging fix.

“I hoped I could help him a little bit,” said Brown, who was moved up to Double-A Carolina for 2010. “He was just one of those guys that was an over-the-top four-seam fastball and threw 93 mph. He had a 9.00 ERA and that didn’t work real well. But he was such a great athlete. His ability to field his position, make quick decisions and do things almost like a shortstop. “[Then-GCL Reds skipper] Pat Kelly and I sat there and said you know what? Let’s give it a shot.”

Del Rosario reached Triple-A by the end of the season. In 50 relief appearances combined at three levels, he was 3-1 with a 1.68 ERA and 12 saves. This will be my story for later today…

Some notes from Dusty Baker’s office this morning:

*Baker is not opposed to the notion of carrying three catchers out of camp. But there’s plenty of stipulations needed for that to happen.

“It depends on the makeup of the club,” Baker said. “If you have three catchers, he needs to play more than one position. It depends on what we need – a right bat, switch, speed, utility. When putting a club together, you try not to have any weaknesses if you can help it. you try not to be too right-handed dominant or left-handed dominant. When you play certain clubs, they’re going to overmatch or outmatch you.”

The only extra catcher in camp that could play other positions would be Wilkin Castillo. He can play around the infield.

*To get more work for the players, the Reds are trying to schedule another ‘B’ game for March 14. They haven’t found a club, yet.

“We’re just trying to get a match,” Baker said. “That would be perfect for our pitching.”

*Here is the starting rotation plan for the next few days. Mike Lincoln has at least two more starts scheduled while fellow fifth spot candidate Matt Maloney is slated for his first.

Wed at LAA: RHP Mike Lincoln (0-1, 27.00) vs LHP Trevor Reckling                    
Thu vs Mil (ss):    RHP Johnny Cueto (0-1, 9.00) vs LHP Chris Narveson

Fri at LAD (ss):    RHP Bronson Arroyo (0-0, 0.00) vs LHP Clayton Kershaw 

Sat at Cubs (ss):   RHP Homer Bailey (8-5, 4.53) vs TBA                                              

Sun vs WSox:        LHP Matt Maloney (2-4, 4.87) vs TBA                                               Mon vs Oak:          RHP Mike Lincoln vs TBA  

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Notes on Chapman, Arroyo, offense

To prevent duplication of effort, I will simply link to my story recounting Aroldis Chapman’s afternoon (the full version should be up soon). It was a strong start, no doubt. Hearing scouts say the radar hit 99-100 mph for a first spring game — needless to say, you don’t get that very often.

Based on the early going, it will be awfully hard for the Reds to send Chapman to the Minors if he continues pitching this well. In fact, he could be more comfortable in the Majors with the heavy contingent of Spanish speaking players, namely catcher Ramon Hernandez. It will be a fascinating storyline over the remaining month of camp.

Other items of note:

*Bronson Arroyo couldn’t have asked for a smoother first spring start — six up, six down. Arroyo struckout one and threw 26 pitches.

“I felt good. I had command of everything pretty much, which was surprising,” Arroyo said. “The first time out, you usually feel pretty uncomfortable. I threw everything – the changeup, a back-door breaking ball, sinker and everything was pretty good.”

*I was in the clubhouse talking to Arroyo and Chapman and missed Nick Masset’s outing. The line wasn’t too sparkling — one inning, three earned runs and three hits, including two home runs.

*Jonny Gomes had a nice game going 2-for-4. He hit a three-run homer into the left field bullpen in the fifth.

*Drew Stubbs also smoked a very long drive for a two-run homer in the third. It landed on the grassy berm in left-center field. The ball can definitely carry farther in the dry air but that long ball was no cheapie.

*In the 14-5 win over the Royals, the Reds had 13 hits. Stubbs’ homer gave them their first lead in three spring games.

“Our offense came alive today,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Guys looked good and no errors, that’s even better.”

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Monday morning notes

The rain has stopped in Goodyear and although it’s puddles galore in the area, it should be done for the rest of the day I heard in the TV forecasts. We’ll see.

The ‘B’ games vs. the Brewers is still on for this morning. The ‘A’ game vs. the Royals is on for 1:05 p.m. local time.

“Long day,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s OK. We had a short day yesterday. We’re here to work.”

*The ‘B’ game is slated to go seven innings but if both sides still have enough pitching, could extend it to nine. It’s not an official game so those types of rules can be flexible.

*There was some manuevering with the pitching assignments after Sunday’s rainout and Homer Bailey was moved to start the ‘B’ game — partially because it was his preference.

“He’s looked good. The thing he’s learning that I’m seeing is he has a routine,” Baker said. “That’s why he preferred to pitch the first game. Once you get into a routine — they say sameness is greatness. He is getting into a routine that wasn’t really Homer in the past. It shows he’s maturing and really serious about being good in this game. He’s a man. He’s growing up.”

More about that later today, and on Aroldis Chapman’s outing in the ‘A’ game.

*Infielder Aaron Miles is still out with a small fracture to his right middle finger.

“He’s close,” Baker said. “He’s getting better. I think the finger looks worse than it is right now.”

*Here is the Reds ‘A’ game lineup:

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

Arroyo 1


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Rain alters pitching plans

The Reds game vs. the Brewers in Maryvale has been canceled due to rain and has altered the agenda for Monday.

The Reds and Royals are still on for a 3:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. MT game at Goodyear Ballpark. Sunday’s scheduled starter Bronson Arroyo will move back a day and start vs. K.C. Arroyo will be followed by Homer Bailey, Nick Masset, Daniel Herrera, Micah Owings and Pedro Viola.

To make up for lost work, a ‘B’ game has been scheduled between the Reds and Brewers at 9:30 a.m. MT on a practice field at the Reds complex.
Aroldis Chapman, who was originally slated to face the Royals out of the bullpen, is now scheduled to start the seven-inning ‘B’ game. When teams have ‘B’ games, admission isn’t charged and the stats don’t count.

Homer Bailey will start the ‘B’ game. Aroldis Chapman will work in relief in the ‘A’ game.

*Here is the lineup for the ‘B’ game:

Josh Anderson 8
Chris Heisey 7
Yonder Alonso 3
Todd Frazier 4
Juan Francisco 5
Wladimir Balentien 9
Laynce Nix DH
Ryan Hanigan 2
Paul Janish 6

Homer Bailey 1

*Following Bailey will be Del Rosario, Ondrusek, Smith, Fisher and Valiquette.

*Manager Dusty Baker said there were reasons behind the brief switcheroo of Chapman to the ‘B’ game and back to the ‘A’ game.

“We thought this would get him more acclimated,” Baker said. “Homer’s schedule is such that was comfortable pitching that 9:30 a.m. game to get his work in as usual. He’s starting to get a regimen that fits what he needs to do physically and mentally. We’ll let Chapman pitch in the big arena.”

There was no concern about how Chapman would fare in that arena.

“If you’ve pitched in front of the world and you’ve pitched for food, you know what I mean? I expect him to do well,” Baker said. “I don’t think any league he’s going to play in will compare to that, when you’ve pitched for food.”

*Baker also had a strong message for the players participating in the ‘B’ game.

“The position players, I’ve urged them to get as much as they can out of it,” he said. “You’re being looked at how you perform in that ‘B’ game too. Some guys say they don’t get excited or their adrenaline doesn’t get flowing or whatever. I suggest you find a way to get it flowing. It helps you make the club, or not make the club.”

*The last Reds exhibition game rainout was exactly two years ago vs. the Pirates on March 7, 2008 at Bradenton, Fla. There were only two rainouts in their last six springs in Florida.

*Line of the day: “You could write a song, ‘It Only Rains on Sunday in Arizona.’ It’d be a good blues song.” — Baker on how it’s rained every Sunday since camp opened.

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Cueto pitches, Wood impressive

Goodyear Ballpark hasn’t been the Reds friend, yet. As the road team this time, Cincinnati dropped a 4-2 loss to the Indians but outhit Cleveland, 9-7. Cincinnati is 0-2 after two games vs. the Tribe.

“We just have to get some timely hits,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s OK. We played better.”

Starter Johnny Cueto’s line — he allowed four runs, two earned, on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts in two innings. Cueto was burned in the first when leadoff batter Michael Brantley reached on Joey Votto’s E3 toss to the bag. It led to two runs scoring.

In the bottom of the second inning, Cueto walked Austin Kearns with a 3-1 pitch before next batter Andy Marte smoked a first-pitch fastball for a two-run home run to left field.

Overall, Cueto was pleased with the afternoon.

“It went very well today. I was working the pitches,” he said.

Other items of note:

*Five Reds pitchers that followed Cueto did not allow any runs over the remaining six innings.

*Fifth starter candidate Travis Wood had a very nice first outing with two scoreless innings with one walk and one strikeout. In the fifth, Wood retired the side in order with two routine groundballs before he struck out a batter on three pitches.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Baker said. “He’ll cut the ball in on you. He’ll run it away from you. He has a pretty good changeup.”

*Mike Leake also had his first spring action and threw a perfect one inning with one strikeout that also impressed the manager.

*Todd Frazier appeared as the DH for two at-bats late in the game. He went 0-for-2, including being called out on strikes his first time up.

*The Reds agreed to one-year contracts with their 26 remaining unsigned players. All of them are the 0-3 year service time guys that have no leverage. One positive sign is that no one was renewed. 

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Saturday morning notes

Two days after taking a 95 mph Aroldis Chapman heater to the right leg, Todd Frazier will see action in Saturday’s game vs. the Indians. Frazier had a bruised quadriceps but is fine.

Manager Dusty Baker plans to give Frazier a couple of at-bats as the DH later in the game.

“He’s champing at the bit,” Baker said. [The medical staff] had him unable to play but he says he’s able. We talked and they said he’s cool, he’s fine. That was yesterday.”

*Today will also mark the spring debuts of pitchers Travis Wood and Mike Leake. Both have eyes on the fifth spot of the rotation. Baker has never seen Wood in a game and watched Leake pitch once in the Arizona Fall League last year. He’s watched them throw in bullpens and live BP though.

“They’re not only young arms — they are pretty advanced pitching wise – location, movement, change of speeds,” Baker said. “They pitch older than their age. … I just hope they relax and throw strikes. I think they well.”

*Infielder Aaron Miles is still wearing a splint on his fractured right middle finger. Miles said he’s doing well and the fracture is at the tip of the finger (his fingernail was a gruesome black). Once he’s able to swing and throw through the pain, he will get back into action. The injury happened on Tuesday while working on double play drills. 

*Johnny Cueto will start today in his first game since last season. Cueto usually throws in winter ball but was prevented from doing that this past off-season. Will he be as sharp in the early going?

“Probably not,” Baker said. “You can tell the guys that played winter ball from the guys that don’t. Look at Asdrubal Cabrera yesterday, or Perez on their side. You look at guys like Viola, Castillo and Del Rosario on our side. They’re two weeks removed from playing. The same with Francisco.

“Johnny looks great. He looks in great shape. He’s throwing the ball great.”

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