April 2010

Dickerson to DL, Heisey up

The Reds made the roster move that was expected. Chris Dickerson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right wrist. Outfielder Chris Heisey was called up from Triple-A Louisville.

UPDATE at 7:11 pm ET – The MRI on Dickerson today revealed that he has a broken hook on the hamate bone in his right wrist. It won’t be known until Saturday how much time he will miss.

This will be Heisey’s first time in the Major Leagues.

Here are some other background items on Heisey:

*Was batting.241 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 20 games for Louisville. He was 14-for-47 (.298) over his last 11 games and was riding a seven-game hitting streak.

*Has played all three OF spots this season.

*17th round Draft pick in 2006.

*2009 Reds Minor League Player of the Year

*Right-handed hitter.

Reds lineup

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

 

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Postgame extra – rotation rolling

After a pretty lackluster start to the season, the Reds find themselves with an 11-11 record and four-straight wins following Thursday’s 4-2 victory and series sweep over the Astros.

The good:

*Reds starting pitching. That’s three-straight quality starts. The tandem of Aaron Harang, Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo were o 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA in the series.

“It’s a long season. It’s a roller coaster,” Arroyo said. “We just got off to a very mediocre to bad start – pretty much all of us other than Mike. Hopefully we can keep stringing this thing together.”

*Arroyo pitched 6 2/3 innings for his first win and gave up two runs and five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. He began with six scoreless.

*Jay Bruce — his solo homer has made him a .467 hitter (7-for-15) over his last four games.

*Joey Votto — he fought after a 0-2 count to plate the first Reds run on a 6-3 double play in the fifth.

“That double play, getting the run in, I was happy about that,” Votto said. “It was a real tough at-bat. That’s the stuff I feel like I have to do when I’m not doing so well at the plate.”

*Votto came up bigger against Roy Oswalt in the seventh with a first-pitch, two-run homer to left field.

“He didn’t look too good against Oswalt early but got the big one when it counted,” Dusty Baker said. “That’s what happens when you get good pitching. That home run meant a lot.”

*That was the first time since April 28, 2006, that the Reds defeated Oswalt. Only Harang, Arroyo and Brandon Phillips were around to see that game.

The not so good:

Chris Dickerson went down in the second inning with a sprained right wrist. He’s getting an MRI in Cincinnati on Friday. But I would not be the least bit surprised if Chris Heisey meets the club in St. Louis if Dickerson goes on the DL. Heisey has been swinging a hot bat at Triple-A Louisville of late, and has logged several recent games in center field.

“We won’t know tonight,” GM Walt Jocketty said about a potential roster move.

More Quotes:

“You figured sooner or later. The odds have been in our favor, big time. With the law of averages today, I figured Bronson was going to win one. He was 0-2 and we hadn’t beat Oswalt. It’s great to come in here, get a sweep and get some momentum going into St. Louis.” — Dusty Baker

“It took us a little while considering how panicky it’s felt at times. To get back to .500, I think that gives us the opportunity to keep things in perspective. It’s an up and down season. I hope we’re not going to get too high right now. It’s one game at a time. We have a real tough series against St. Louis. I think going into this series, St. Louis has a pretty good idea that we played well. I think they’ll be ready to play against us and play well. They’re division leaders right now.” — Joey Votto

See everyone from St. Louis on Friday.

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Baker on Phillips

In Wednesday’s win during the four-run fourth, Brandon Phillips skied a fly ball to right-center field. Looking discouraged, he put his head down and trotted. Only after the outfielders lost the ball in the twilight and Hunter Pence dropped it for a three-run error, did Phillips turn on the speed and he reached second base. Had Phillips been running all the way, reaching third base seemed possible. Did Dusty Baker see it that way?

“Not really. Every day we have something where somebody should be some place,” Baker said. “If anything that should have been a hit. Let’s focus on that rather than should he have been on third.

“Bourn didn’t see it. Ordinarily he catches that ball. It was the twilight. You could tell by the way he flipped his glove at the end, that Pence didn’t see the ball either until the last minute.”

Phillips scored anyway on Scott Rolen’s double but it was one of the little moments that was reduced by the positive vibe of a win. Had the Reds lost that game, you would wonder ‘what if?’ Last season, there was a similar situation where Phillips’ not hustling out a fly ball put the Reds out of a rally in Los Angeles. It earned him a one-game benching from Baker.

*Phillips, who came into Thursday with a .210 average, has also played every inning of every game so far this season. No day off is imminent. He would have gotten one during the last trip, the manager said — but the plan changed when Rolen was hurt.

“Some day. He’s not getting a break in St. Louis,” Baker said. “Most of the time when you get a break, you get a mental break. But you’ve got to find the right situation and right team to give a break.”

*Chris Dickerson started for the first time since he struck out four times on Saturday vs. the Padres. Dickerson is in a 2-for-15 clip and like Drew Stubbs, is needed to heat up from the leadoff spot.

“Neither of us can get too discouraged,” Dickerson said. “I don’t like to make excuses like that it’s April. It’s unfortunate that we’re both scuffling like we are. Drew had some good at-bats last night. It’s those types of signs we’re looking for from each other. I’m his biggest fan right now.”

*In the last seven games, Reds hitters are batting .319 (23-for-72) with runners in scoring position. And that includes last night’s 1-for-12 RISP.

*Voting for the “Fans Choice” Reds bobblehead ends on Friday at 5pm ET. Fans are able to choose among eight candidates with the the top man in ballots having his own bobblehead giveaway for the Saturday, July 31 game vs. the Braves game.

Vote at http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/fan_forum/bobblehead_vote.jsp

 

A winning April possible

If the 10-11 Reds can win tonight and Friday in St. Louis, that’s a plus .500 record for April. Considering the sweep at Pittsburgh and the less than stellar previous weekend vs. San Diego, and that the offense or starting pitching has yet to really get going — being at, near or above .500 is not a bad outcome. They in second place, four games behind the Cardinals with a golden chance to narrow the gap just ahead.

Question of the day: Are you happy with where the Reds are at this point? Is it better than you expected before the season or worse?

No doubt that the Reds will have their hands full with Roy Oswalt but don’t go penciling in a ‘L’ on them yet. Yes, Oswalt is 23-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 32 career games against Cincinnati but he’s been in a holding pattern for victory No. 24 for quite some time. He got four no-decisions in his four starts last season. The Reds won three of those games.

Just got back from a lunch at the Chinese restuarant owned by Rockets center Yao Ming. Appropriately, it’s called Yao. It wasn’t bad and it’s nice on the inside. Other than a display case with a Yao bobblehead and a couple of jerseys, there’s nothing sports or basketball related with its theme. It’s a little pricey for what you get, food-wise, but it was decent enough fare.

More later from the ballpark.

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Postgame extra, Leake

It got a little hairy at the end but the Reds have a series win with a 6-4 victory over the Astros.

What was good: Mike Leake, of course. He’s 2-0 with a 3.25 ERA in four starts. He has three-straight outings of seven innings and three quality starts. He pitched seven innings, gave up one earned run and five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Through the first four innings, the rookie allowed one single and faced the minimum batters. He left with a 6-1 lead.

Hard to believe Leake was pitching for Arizona State this time last year?

“I don’t think about that,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I think about him trying to get better here. He’s a quick learner, very confident but not cocky with his confidence.”

What happened in the ninth? Coming off Tuesday’s flawless appearance for Nick Masset, Baker wanted to keep him rolling and called on him to finish the game. But Masset walked first batter Carlos Lee and then gave up Reds killer Lance Berkman’s two run homer. Masset has a 12.54 ERA in 11 games. 

“That ball was supposed to be on the outside,” Baker said of Masset’s 2-1 pitch to Berkman. “It had good velocity except it was on the heart of the plate. I’m just glad we had the runs we had. We’ll try not to make it so tight tomorrow.”

Francisco Cordero had to finish but also had trouble. A leadoff single off Joey Votto’s glove, a walk and a lined RBI single made it a two-run game.

Check the rulebook: Many assumed, including myself, that Cordero was awarded the save since the lead was three runs. Not true. Rule 10.19 says that with the three-run lead Cordero needed to work at least one inning. He only pitched two-thirds of an inning.

Game changer: In the four-run fourth with the bases loaded, Brandon Phillips hit what seemed to be a routine fly to right-center field. Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence both lost it in the twilight and the ball skipped out of Pence’s glove. It was ruled E9 although Baker thought it should have been a hit.

“That’s a play that has to be made,” Pence said. “Here when the twilight hours are going on, the balls disappear. You just have to keep going with it and try to find it and I lost it and found it late and wasn’t able to recover as good as I needed to. I’ve got to make that play.

Quotes: “I just had that one inning where I threw too many pitches and tried to do too much. The infield was great today and the outfield as well. Ramon caught a great game tonight and the offense did their job as well. A good all-around game.” — Mike Leake.

“I’m not going to take nothing away from him. He made some good pitches on me tonight and I give credit where credit it due. We’ll see him again, and we’ll be back and ready to face him again.” — Michael Bourn, who was 0-for-5, with four strikeouts. Three Ks came vs. Leake. 

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Stubbs or Dickerson?

Can’t complain about another fine day in Houston, especially when I know the air will likely feel more oppressive the next time the Reds visit.

I did a lot of walking around downtown today and checked out the Tunnels below the city. It’s a lot like the skywalk in Cincinnati, only underground and far more elaborate. If you loath fresh air and sunlight, but love an endless array of small shops and fast food courts, then the tunnel is your kind of spot. I had lunch above ground.

The question of the day: Many of you love playing manager and bickering over Dusty Baker’s lineup. Here’s a more specific challenge. You only get to pick who bats leadoff — who do you go with?

This is one instance where Baker has little wiggle room based on the results.

Drew Stubbs: .150 AVG/.268 OBP/23 strikeouts
Since snapping his 0-for-20 skid on Thursday, is 1-for-14, including 0-for-3 w/2 Ks last night.

Chris Dickerson: .244/.262 OBP/17 strikeouts
Is 2-for-his-last 14.

Both players are super fast and can create havoc on the bases. The problem is that neither are getting on enough for a leadoff guy. Yet, the Reds have few other choices in-house. Someone suggested Orlando Cabrera, but he’s their best RBI man right now.

For now at least, Baker really has no choice but to keep running both of them out there until someone figures something out.

Remember the 2007 season when former manager Jerry Narron tried using Scott Hatteberg as a leadoff man?

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Postgame extra, Harang solid

Aaron Harang could smile for the first time in a while after a start. He will have a ‘W’ next to his name after a 6-2 win over the Astros. It was his first win since Aug. 9, 2009. Coming in, he had lost 13 of his last 14 decisions.

“The biggest thing is you’ve got to ask yourself what you think was going wrong and work from that,” Harang said. “There’s probably a lot of different things you could look back and attribute to the way I was pitching. But overall the No. 1 reason getting ahead and challenging guys.”

It was a good night for the Reds because:

*Aaron Harang threw strikes and was aggressive. Lots of fastballs. In his six innings, he allowed two earned runs and eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts. 115 pitches. The big AB was in the 3rd when he struck out Lance Berkman with two outs and runners on the corners. The AB started with a 3-0 count.

“After that he went on cruise control and it was tough to get anything done,” Berkman said.

*Ryan Hanigan had a career high three RBIs, bringing his total to 10 for the season. He had 11 RBIs over 90 games in 2009.

*Jay Bruce seems to be coming around at the plate. After having three hits Sunday, he reached base four times Tuesday by going 2-for-4 with two singles, two walks and two runs scored.

*Nick Masset notched a nice 1-2-3 eighth inning for himself, with two strikeouts. Two appearances ago, he had a four-hit, four-run disaster vs. the Dodgers on April 20.

*K corner: Harang passed Paul Derringer for sixth on the Reds’ all-time list in strikeouts.

The not so good:

*Brandon Phillips reached with a leadoff walk in the third and got picked off first base as he was standing up with his hands on his hips. He wasn’t close to beating pitcher Bud Norris’ throw back to the bag.

*The top three of the order, including Phillips as part of the new-look lineup, was 1-for-12. Joey Votto singled in the top of the ninth.

Seen at the park: George H.W. Bush, the 41st President and a season ticket holder here, left during the sixth inning and got a standing ovation around home plate. Also — actress Melissa Gilbert, formerly of “Little House on the Prairie” was here, somewhere. She was in the seats for an interview with Fox Sports Houston.

Quotes:

“The biggest thing is you’ve got to ask yourself what you think was going wrong and work from that. There’s probably a lot of different things you could look back and attribute to the way I was pitching. But overall the No. 1 reason getting ahead and challenging guys.” — Aaron Harang

“When he’s on his game, he’s tough. Tonight he was.” — Jay Bruce about Harang

“Berkman is tough. He can hit. He hasn’t found his stroke yet. Hopefully we get out of town before he finds it.” — Dusty Baker on Lance Berkman’s third-inning AB. Berkman was 1-for-4 with a bloop double in the sixth.

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Deep in the Heart of Texas

For those who have clamored to see Brandon Phillips bat second, you will be placated for one night, at least.

Reds lineup

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

*For some reason, Astros 1B Lance Berkman is known as “The Puma.” For good reason, he sharpens his claws when playing the Reds. Check out these lifetime stats vs. Cincinnati.

327 AVG, 48 HRs and 133 RBIs .444 OBP .699 SLG.

*I know you many of you have been pining to see Phillips bat second. But does this concern you about the top of the order tonight?

Drew Stubbs: team leading 21 strikeouts, .273 OBP
Brandon Phillips: 13 strikeouts, .296 OBP

*Orlando Cabrera, the usual No. 2 hitter, is the team leader with 13 RBIs but is batting .239 with a .267 OBP.

“He asked me how I felt hitting sixth,” Cabrera said of Baker. “I said ‘whatever you decide to do, I don’t care.’ It’s only for one reason – to see if it works, to do something different.”

This was Baker’s take on the lineup change:

“I’m just trying to figure out a way to get Brandon started and maybe hitting in front of Joey will help. Rolen has been good. They’ve been pitching around Joey lately, throwing him tough pitches. Cabrera has been real good in the clutch driving in runs.”

“I called them in and spoke to both of them about it. It’s all good.”

*The last time Phillips batted second for the Reds was April 21, 2008, vs. the Dodgers. He also did it April 20, 2008, vs. the Brewers but not at all in 2009.

*This season, right-handed hitters are batting .303 vs. Astros starter Bud Norris and lefties are hitting .167.

*The University of Michigan baseball team will retire Barry Larkin’s No. 16 jersey before a May 1 game vs. Ohio State. Larkin played at Michigan from 1983-85 and was a two-time All-American. He will be the sixth player to have his number retired by Michigan baseball.

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Your full service blog

Greetings from downtown Houston, where I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful day down here. Usually it’s muggy and rainy during my past visits. Today, it’s sunny and not humid at all. I once remember a couple of years ago the city getting five inches of rain in one day and I got flat tire when I couldn’t see the curb through a flooded street at 11 am. But that’s a story for another day.

Sorry for not blogging or tweeting lately but I was fortunate to get a few days off.

My question of the day is for you: What do you want this blog to be?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and about the kind of direction this blog needs to go. Now that MLB.com has brought back notebooks in the form of the “Reds Beat” on the regular site, I don’t use this forum as much as before to bring you short-item news pregame or color from the clubhouse. I’ve also noticed less engagement from the readers, short of some loyal commenters (namely maxblue and spmancuso, thanks). Part of this is likely due to our site re-design, which removed this blog — and Jamie Ramsey’s Better of Red blog – from the home page headlines. I’m told they’re trying to remedy that.

Do you like just seeing Reds lineups and short news bits that tease what I’ll be writing later? Do you like the postgame extra stuff I try to do when there’s too much to fit into the stories? I’d love to see more people politely exchanging views and ideas and try to respond when I can. If there are elements you don’t see that you’d like to see here, let me know. I can’t promise to provide everything you want but I will do my best. 

Even though newspaper coverage is declining, there seems to be more ways for readers to get Reds news than ever before. I appreciate it greatly you reading my stories, blogs and tweets as one way to become informed about your favorite team. Please let me know how I can do it better.

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Ondrusek down, Fisher up

It seemed like only a matter of time some help for the bullpen was summoned.

The Reds optioned rookie reliever Logan Ondrusek to Triple-A Louisville on Thursday.  Carlos Fisher was recalled from Louisville to take his place.

Ondrusek made the team out of Spring Training with 10 scoreless innings, but had some rough outings once the regular season started. In nine appearances, he had an 11.25 ERA with 12 hits and five walks over eight innings.

Fisher has worked eight scoreless innings for Louisville with only one hit allowed among the 24 batters he’s faced. He’s walked one and struck out eight.

Reds lineup:

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

*Dusty Baker wasn’t too chatty when the topic of Aaron Harang came up. From the sound of it, it doesn’t appear that Harang will be moved out of the rotation.

“I can’t tell you before I talk to him,” Baker said. “Plus, we’re talking about it but this guy is getting paid handsomely to be a starter. At this point, who do you have to take his place? And we need him to win. It’s four starts. If it was 14 starts, it’d be a different thing.”

*Drew Stubbs was moved down to seventh. Stubbs is in a 0-for19 funk with 10 Ks.

“It takes a little pressure off of him. Plus when you’re struggling and you’re leading off, you’re prone for 0-for-5 in a minute. They add up quickly because you come up more than anybody in the game.”

*A Stubbs, Dickerson, Bruce outfield should cover lots and lots of ground, right?

“When we’re not playing as well as we should, you have to go with your best defensive team out there, especially with a guy like Leake that throws strikes,” Baker said. “They’re going to put it into play.”

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