The Reds first Cactus League game wasn’t one for the time capsule. Cincinnati fell behind 9-0 and wound up losing by a 9-2 score to the Indians.
Tough day for starter/5th spot candidate Mike Lincoln, who gave up four earned runs and seven hits in 1 1/3 innings. Most of the hits were solid shots, including the leadoff homer by Asdrubal Cabrera in the top of the first. Lincoln started Cabrera 3-0 and surrendered the long ball on a 3-2 fastball.
“The very first inning, I still had some nerves I was settling down. I felt good,” Lincoln said. “I felt really under control. I was just missing a little bit and then sure enough, next thing you know I was down 3-0 to the first hitter and then came back into him and he took me out of the park.”
It was a better day for another fifth spot contender, Matt Maloney. Taking over from Lincoln with one out in the second inning and runners on second and third, Maloney worked out of Lincoln’s mess and tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings with one walk and two strikeouts.
“Maloney did very well,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He came and got us out of trouble and then had a clean inning the next inning. He threw the ball well today.”
Other notes —
*Baker has been impressed with the camp performance of Ramon Hernandez, who smoked a leadoff double to right field in the third inning.
*After replacing Joey Votto, Yonder Alonso had a tough afternoon defensively with two errors. There was one moment when Alonso made a nice diving stop but committed a two-out E3 with a bad toss to pitcher Sam LeCure covering the bag.
*LeCure followed Alonso’s first error by allowing a three-run home run to Nick Weglarz. All three runs were unearned.
*Miguel Cairo prevented the shutout. Cairo hit a RBI double to center field in the eighth inning that scored Ryan Hanigan. Cairo scored on a Paul Janish sacrifice fly.
*Only 4,631 fans turned out for the first game. My early review of Goodyear Ballpark is positive. It seems like a nice place to watch a game. Bring your sunscreen because shade is a premium but the sun does go behind the home plate area earlier and cools things off. It was a perfect weather day though…sunny and 73 degrees at first pitch.
Todd Frazier could have been feeling much worse this morning. Frazier took a 95 mph Aroldis Chapman fastball to his right leg and walked away with only a bruised right quadriceps. Frazier’s leg was tightly wrapped when he walked into the clubhouse Friday morning.
“You never know when you get hit, especially when the ball hits the bone,” Frazier said. “You’re always worried about it. At the same time, I walked it off which was very good.”
This was the same knee Frazier had surgery on over the winter but there were no issues. He won’t play in Friday’s game.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Frazier said.
I jokingly asked Frazier if he kept the ball as a souvenir, a teammate had the same thought right after the incident.
“[Laynce] Nix threw me the ball in the dugout. I tossed it and started laughing,” Frazier said. “It’s never good to get hit but making a joke about it was funny.”
*Speaking of Nix, he was scratched from Friday’s lineup. He was shaken up during the intrasquad game trying to catch Miguel Cairo drive to left field.
“He ran into a wall on that play,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s a precautionary thing.”
Drew Sutton replaced Nix as the designated hitter and will bat ninth vs. Cleveland.
*Someone in the office asked Baker about what Orlando Cabrera brings to the team. One of the attributes was leadership.
“He’s a leader that doesn’t mind leading,” Baker said. “A lot of leaders are people are pushed into leadership. He’s vocal. Brandon [Phillips] gets on him and says he doesn’t understand what he’s saying, but they go way back.”
The Reds left side of the infield now has two leader-types with Cabrera and Scott Rolen. Both are different personalities, however.
“We’ve got one that’s vocal and one that’s not,” Baker said. “The one that’s not, Scott, you kind of have to figure out what he’s saying. He’ll say something that will ignite your thought process. He’ll do it with a smile, laughter or a joke and you have to figure out what he’s saying. Most times, it’s something very profound.”
*Baker said he would take it slower in getting Rolen and Cabrera ready, a right they’ve earned as veterans. The manager also says he knows when guys need to be pushed or dialed back some.
“The older you get, it takes you a little longer to get fine tuned,” Baker said. “When you get there, you keep it longer.”
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The Reds intrasquad game was a five-inning affair, won by the home team by a 4-2 score. The home squad starting lineup were mostly regulars.
For a roundup on Aroldis Chapman’s one inning of relief, click here.
Other items of note:
*Visiting team starter Aaron Harang struck out four over 2 1/3 innings. On a fastball away, Harang gave up a home run to right field to Ramon Hernandez.
“Hey, you’ve got to look out for your catcher and get his confidence level up,” Harang joked. “Mechanically, I’m getting right where I want to be.”
*Pitching coach Bryan Price was pleased with all of his pitchers. Homer Bailey, Chapman, Logan Ondrusek and Enerio Del Rosario were among the other pitchers.
“I was happy,” Price said. “From the beginning of spring training, you could tell guys came in shape – good throwing and body an cardiovascular shape. It was evident today. Guys were crisp with strikes, guys were down in the zone and had a pretty good feel for their off-speed stuff.”
*The game was treated as a dry run for the team ahead of Friday’s Cactus League opener vs. the Indians. It was the first time the Reds played a game inside their new home at Goodyear Ballpark.
“This is a beautiful ballpark,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I think it plays smaller than the dimensions. It’s not even hot yet. That sun is going to be a factor. We’re still trying to learn the ballpark.”
*Injury notes —
Todd Frazier has a bruised right quadriceps after being hit on the leg by a Chapman pitch. I was sitting behind home plate when Frazier was nailed by a 95 mph heater. It looked super painful.
Infielder Aaron Miles suffered a fracture on the tip of his right middle finger on Tuesday while fielding ground balls. The injury wasn’t considered serious. Once the swelling goes down, Miles can resume playing.
*Lineups are already out for Friday’s game:
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Grady Sizemore CF
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Travis Hafner DH
Jhonny Peralta 3B
Jordan Brown LF
Andy Marte 1B
Luis Valbuena 2B
Lou Marson C
Justin Masterson P
Drew Stubbs CF
Orlando Cabrera SS
Joey Votto 1B
Brandon Phillips 2B
Scott Rolen 3B
Jay Bruce RF
Jonny Gomes LF
Ramon Hernandez C
Lance Nix DH
Mike Lincoln P
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One day away from a Cactus League game vs. the Indians and a few hours away from the intrasquad. It’ll be good to see actual game situations to report on.
Aroldis Chapman is among those going today on the mound. Chapman’s first exhibition game will come on Monday vs. the Royals in Goodyear. He will come out of the bullpen. Homer Bailey is starting the game.
“Down here it doesn’t matter. One thing at a time,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Then came the line of the day.
“Plus if we pitch him later, fans will stick around and drink more beer,” Baker joked. “You didn’t know I was in marketing, did you?”
When Chapman pitches today, the Reds will be looking only for one thing — and it’s not to see how he handles adversity or the running game or anything too tangible.
“I just want him to be himself,” Baker said. “If he walks three, strikes out three, gets the side out, whatever. The first thing you want, is to get comfortable. You know he’s going to have some jitters. I don’t care what your name is. Hank Aaron used to say ‘nerves are good. Be nervous, just don’t be scared.’ He’s not scared. After you throw a pitch or two, your nerves are gone. If you’re not nervous, I think you’re lying or something is wrong with you.”
*Here is the upcoming pitching assignments for the next few days:
On Saturday vs. Cleveland — Johnny Cueto starts and is scheduled for two innings. He could be followed by Wood, Wells, Rhodes, Leake and Cordero.
Sun at Milwaukee — Bronson Arroyo starts with Burton, Owings, Del Rosario, Ondrusek, Hererra and Masset available from the bullpen.
Aaron Harang will make his first start on Tuesday against Arizona.
*Baker called this the best camp he’s ever had. Considering how long he’s been managing, that’s a pretty lofty declaration.
“I don’t have to get on anybody about working or stretching,” he said. “There’s no complaining. Everybody is on time. Everybody works as hard during the drills and fundamentals as they’re playing. We tell everyone to practice as if threy’re playing.”
*Hall of Famer Joe Morgan is a guest instructor in camp today. Morgan will return later in camp as well.
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On Thursday at 1 p.m. local time, the Reds will be playing their intrasquad game at Goodyear Ballpark. It is not open to the public. The game will last six innings. As mentioned earlier, Aroldis Chapman will also see an inning of action.
Here are the lineups —
The Reds Opening Day starter on April 5 vs. the Cardinals will be ….
“I know it probably won’t be a popular decision,” manager Dusty Baker said.
In past years, it would be a slam dunk. But there was a lot of back and forth and debate.
The decision was made after consulting with pitching coach Bryan Price and Bronson Arroyo and Harang.
“Me and Bryan sat down and talked and we wrestled with it big time,” Baker said. “I talked to Arroyo and Harang. Some of the mannerisms and things I came away with is that Harang is No. 1 for what we need, confidence wise. He’s throwing the ball great.”
Ultimately, the decision came dow to Arroyo not wanting the assignment and Harang did.
“I said if it’s out there, I want the ball. I want to be your guy,” Harang said he told Baker. “[Bronson and I] both talked about it before we even went in there. I wasn’t over there trying to make him feel different.
“Do I think Bronson deserves to start Opening Day? Yeah, definitely for what he’s shown the past couple of years.”
“If I had my choice, I’d rather pitch two or three,” Arroyo said. “Cincinnati is one of the few places that Opening Day is really like a holiday. For that reason, it’s probably a little tough to concentrate on that day. There’s so much stuff going on. I’d rather enjoy that day, soak in all the festivities and pitch the next day or day after that.”
“Nobody is more honest than Bronson,” Baker said. “You might not like his answers. His answers will be honest. I love that. I ask a question, I want an honest answer. That’s the reason you communicate and talk to your players.”
Baker also set the top four spots of his rotation. It is:
Harang, Johnny Cueto, Arroyo, Homer Bailey and the No. 5 starter. There was a reason for moving Cueto ahead of Arroyo in the order, too.
“So you don’t tax your bullpen,” Baker said. “Harang, you know will give you innings. Cueto is not as consistent. Arroyo is consistent. Homer you don’t know. The fifth starter, you don’t know. You want to break up those guys because what if you had Arroyo and Harang back-to-back and the next three guys aren’t pitching well? You’re going to kill your bullpen. When you get back to Harang, you’ll have to stick with him longer because your bullpen is already spent.”
Historical note: Harang’s fifth-straight Opening Day assignment ties the club record for most consecutive first game starts held by Pete Donohue (1923-27) and Mario Soto, who did it from 1982-86. Soto holds the overall club record of six Opening Day starts.
OK folks — what do you think of this decision? Do you mind Harang starting the first game and being the staff ace again? Do you fault Arroyo for not wanting it?
I know the opener is sacred stuff in Cincinnati but I really don’t read too much into who gets to start to be honest. If Justin Lehr or Kip Wells got the nod, would anyone remember who started the first game if the Reds went on to win the World Series?
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You never know who is reading the stories that go up on the Internet. The other day, I wrote one on Dusty Baker and it being the final year of his contract. The first quote included the following phrase:
“It ain’t no thing.”
Sure enough, Baker got a phone call from a certain former teacher — his mother.
“My mom got on me. ‘How many years have I been telling you to quit saying ain’t?'” Baker said on Tuesday morning. “What is ‘ain’t no thing? You’re more articulate than that.'”
Sorry, Mrs. Baker.
*Only two more days of straight workouts before there is some game activity for Thursday’s intrasquad game. For those in Arizona, that one isn’t open to the public because the city is getting Goodyear
Ballpark ready for Friday’s opener.
*One pitcher who has impressed many in camp has been sidearmed right-handed reliever Enerio Del Rosario. The 24-year-old is 6-foot-2 and listed at only 165 pounds but his ball has lots of movement and stays down.
Del Rosario is the kind of reliever that can put out a fire with runners on base by getting the double play.
“He’s impressed me,” Baker said. “It was the first time I’ve seen him. I heard about him. he has a loose arm. You wouldn’t know it’s his first time in big league camp. He fields his position well. I talked to some guys about him and they said he calls infielders off he’s such a great fielder. He keeps the ball down, runs it in on them. There’s always a place on a team, sooner or later, for a guy with a good natural sinker.”
*Two instructors in camp have no connection to the Reds but have been here helping out — former big leaguers Ellis Burks and Tony Phillips.
“I just brought [Phillips] and Ellis in – big league guys that know how to play big league baseball,” Baker said. “They both live here. Perhaps they can help the minor leagues and the guys that stay behind in the Arizona League. We’ll see. They’re here on a spring training invite.”
Phillips played from 1982-99 with six teams. He played seven different positions, plus designated hitter. Burks played with five clubs from 1987-2004.
Baker knew Phillips with the A’s and GM Walt Jocketty knew Burks when they were with the Rockies.
“Just like ED [Eric Davis], they can bring more to the table than just one department,” Baker said.
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Aroldis Chapman threw 25-30 pitches in the bullpen on Monday. There were no real developments and he seemed to be wondering why reporters wanted to talk about. Chapman was ready for games to start.
“I feel comfortable. I am anxious for the games to get started,” Chapman said.
Chapman has thrown two live BP sessions vs. Reds hitters and will get a more game-like situation when he throws an inning in Thursday’s intrasquad game at Goodyear Ballpark. The lefty, who turned 22 on Sunday, continues to work to get himself Major League ready.
“In all aspects, I’m just trying to get better every day,” Chapman said.
Chapman’s interpreter, Class A Dayton pitching coach Tony Fossas, has been impressed with the performances to this point.
“I think his progress is tremendous,” Fossas said. “His mechanics are getting better and he’s finishing pitches better. All you guys can see he’s around the plate almost every pitch.”
One thing that has not been revealed, as of yet, is when Chapman might pitch in a Cactus League game.
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If you’re wondering what’s next for Aroldis Chapman, he is scheduled to throw in the bullpen today. His next camp milestone, however, should come Thursday when he appears in the Reds intrasquad game.
The list of pitchers that are to appear is as follows:
Harang, Bailey, Chapman, Del Rosario, Smith, Ondrusek, Smit, Valiquette, Viola.
*Bill Bray, working his way back from Tommy John surgery, is up to 40 pitches off of a mound in the bullpen. He probably won’t be ready to pitch when games start. The club isn’t rushing him.
*Todd Frazier has a bat that will force his way to the Majors someday soon. But exactly where remains the big mystery. Originally a shortstop, Frazier has worked out all over the diamond this spring and has played multiple positions since he was Drafted in 2007.
“He’s an interesting guy,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He can play all over and he has a really good bat. Hopefully at some point in time, we can settle on a steady position for him.”
Besides having established veterans at the big league level at every infield spot, the Reds have prospects on their way. Chris Valaika is a potential future second baseman. Zach Cozart is a future shortstop. Juan Francisco is a third baseman in waiting and as mentioned in the previous blog post,
Yonder Alonso is waiting at first base. Chris Heisey is nearing the Majors as a corner outfielder.
“There’s somebody coming at almost every position,” Baker said. “We’re trying [Frazier] at every position in case we use his value in that way.”
With Spring Training, the daily workouts usually begats the itch for exhibition games to start. But that’s mostly the writers who want to see something different. Baker wasn’t in a rush for camp to move any quicker.
“We still need to get some work in,” he said. “we didn’t get some fundamentals in because of the weather. We have cutoffs and relays today. We want to get some fundamental stuff in there.”
*And a public congratulations to Hal McCoy, who will be joining Fox Sports Ohio to cover the Reds. He will be writing stories on line for their web site and also appearing on pre-game and postgame shows. When Hal told me last week of his plans, I was naturally excited for him.
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Many have wondered what would happen to Joey Votto when Yonder Alonso reaches the big leagues since both are good young hitters and of course, both play first base.
In an effort to see if can be versatile, the Reds have had Alonso working out lately at third base, left field and right field.
“It doesn’t matter where I play as long as I play,” Alonso said. “As long as I get a shot and prove to the guys I can play there. In my head, I know I can play. I just want to get my shot.
“I’m doing everything, and they’re trying everything, so I can go up there.”
Right now, it’s just a trial run for Alonso. He’s still primarily working out at first base.
“We just wanted to expose him to some different positions and see if he feels comfortable,” general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We’ll see how it goes. If it goes well enough, we’ll put him in some games at different positions. It would just make him more valuable to us if he can play other places.”
Lots of speculation has involved Votto being moved to left field when Alonso is ready for his promotion. Jocketty dispelled that notion.
“It will take some time to figure it out,” he said. “That’s why we want to see him at different positions. He’s got a great bat and Joey is going to be at first base for a long time. I don’t see moving Joey.”
More on this later today on MLB.com/Reds.com
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