May 2010

Postgame extra: Comeback kids

Once again the Reds toed the thinnest of lines between winning and losing and came out smelling good with a 5-4 win. It took scoring three in the bottom of the ninth. 

*That was their 10th win of the season in the final at-bat. Also the 13th comeback win of the season, which is tied for the MLB lead. Astounding.

The good from the day —

*The first-place Reds are seven games over .500 (23-16). The Cardinals play later but you sense these two teams can really start to separate from the division if this keeps up.

*Joey Votto hit the game-winner in the ninth with a single off of the wall. But it was his eighth inning homer on to the riverboat in center field that drew oohs and ahhs. It traveled 460 feet, which was surprisingly only the 23rd longest HR ever hit at GABP.

*Scott Rolen came off the bench and slugged the game-tying two-run home run off of Trevor Hoffman. That improved Rolen to 6-for-13 with four homers lifetime vs. Hoffman.

*Nice day for Homer Bailey, who pitched seven innings and allowed two first inning runs and four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Bailey got his first two outs in the first but wound up enduring a 30-pitch inning.  Ryan Braun hit a 3-1 pitch for a solo home run to left-center field and Prince Fielder followed with a double to left field and scored on Casey McGehee’s RBI single to center field to make a 2-0 deficit.

*Bailey did not allow another hit until McGehee’s leadoff double in the seventh.

“It was a little rough there. In the first, the only bad pitch I thought I made was to Ryan,” Bailey said. “You leave a pitch out over the plate for him and he’s going to do some damage. From there, I did not really cruise but went through the next couple of innings and tried to keep the team in the game. To get seven in and only give up two is still a pretty good start.”

*Jonny Gomes stayed hot with his RBI double giving him a six-game hitting streak.

The not-so-good —

*It wasn’t a good day for the bullpen with a two-run eighth but it was a little understandable. Dusty Baker wanted to give some guys chances that hadn’t pitched much.

“We just wanted to keep it where it was,” Baker said. “At that time, we were kind of trying to stay away from Masset and Arthur.”

Trailing 2-1 in the eighth, Mike Lincoln was charged with two runs after not pitching since Friday. Daniel Ray Herrera wasn’t sharp again and pitching for the first time since May 7, Carlos Fisher got a vulture type win after allowing a run-scoring wild pitch. Fisher put two runners on the in the ninth but escaped.

*The Reds stranded 10 men on base, which included leaving the bases loaded in the fourth.

Some quotes —

Rolen was asked if he liked pinch-hitting.

“It’s a very difficult thing to do, especially as a position player,” he said. “I haven’t gotten used to it and I won’t. It’s a knack that I give the guys that do it well a lot of credit for.”

Bailey on the Reds confidence, even when trailing late:

“I don’t think anyone in this clubhouse had a single doubt that we were going to lose that game,” Bailey said. “That’s not sounding arrogant. It’s just how much confidence we all have in each other.”

Joey Votto was offered the day off by Dusty Baker but didn’t want it.

“I want to play every single day,” Votto said. “I don’t want to be out of the lineup, ever.  I think I can speak for every single person in this locker room and they feel the exact same way. Everybody wants to play every single day. That’s what we get paid to do and most of us love this.”

I am skipping Atlanta but will join the trip for the three days in Cleveland.

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Janish and Heisey start

The Reds have a chance at a 4-1 home stand on this dizzly Tuesday.

Tuesday lineup vs. MIL

Cabrera 6 Heisey 8
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Gomes 7
Heisey 8 Cabrera 6
Bruce 9
Hanigan 2
Janish 5
Bailey 1

Dusty Baker flipped Heisey and Cabrera to give Gomes more protection in the order.

Baker said this lineup was to give Scott Rolen the day off but that wasn’t as much the reasoning for Drew Stubbs’ break.

“It’s more about Heisey playing,” Baker said. “When we get to Atlanta, I’ll probably play Stubbs because they have a massive outfield there.”

Heisey has made the most of his limited chances — as a late defensive replacement on Saturday, he his assist from left field on a relay to the plate saved the game vs. St. Louis. He also led off last night with a key triple and scored the go-ahead run in the seventh.

“It’s to his advantage to do something,” Baker said. “When you’re a young player trying to stay here, you want to do everything you can do – whatever you can do. We like his ability. It’s not the issue. It’s just that right now, there’s not much room or space for him. Every young player I know went through that at some point.”

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Postgame extra: Walk this way

The Reds have made their opponents pay for intentional walks three-straight games now.

After the previous batter was walked  intentionally to get to him, Drew Stubbs burned the Cardinals with a two-run triple on Saturday. Bronson Arroyo did it to St. Louis with a two-run single on Sunday.

On Monday, the Brewers’ Todd Coffey gave Jay Bruce a free pass with two outs to put runners on first and second for Jonny Gomes. Gomes took notice.

“When you get that guy in front of you intentionally walked, not really to set up a double play or a special match-up, you dig down,” Gomes said. “It’s a little character-check for yourself.”

Gomes sent a first-pitch 95 mph fastball over the left-field fence for a three-run homer. It made the big five-run inning for the 6-3 win.

“You know you’re going to get power from Todd, whether it’s a power slider or power heater,” Gomes said. “He locates it well. I just wanted to be ready early. I didn’t want to go deep in the count with runners in scoring position with him. It worked out well.”

Other items from Monday:

*Orlando Cabrera boosted Johnny Cueto with a nice play in the first inning. With Escobar on third with a triple, Cabrera threw him out at the plate on Ryan Braun’s sharp grounder to shortstop.

*Also a nice play by Drew Stubbs to throw out Greg Zaun trying to score on fly ball by Gallardo. It was one-hopper to Ramon Hernandez that beat Zaun by two steps. Hernandez also did a textbook job blocking the plate.

*The Reds’ errorless streak ended at 11 games with Jody Gerut’s fourth inning grounder going between Brandon Phillips legs.

*After giving up the Gomes homer, Coffey drilled Stubbs in the back with his next pitch. Both benches were warned to prevent retaliation.

“We don’t have any time for that to escalate right now,” Gomes said. “We’re focused on winning ballgames. I don’t know if it was intentional or not. You’d have to ask him. we’re not really going to waste much energy thinking about that stuff.”

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Cuban OF signed by Reds

The Reds announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Felix Perez on Monday to a Minor League contract.

Here’s what we know:

*He’s 25, bats and throws left-handed.

*The signing bonus was worth $550,000

*According to the Reds scouting reports, he’s not a plus guy in any category — they said he was average.

*The plan is to start Perez at the complex in Goodyear and then send him to either Class A Dayton or Lynchburg. But they think at his age, he’s Double-A ready. They don’t think he’ll be in the Majors this year.

*Perez has been working out at the club’s Dominican academy and was cleared to sign about 10 days ago. Several teams were in contention.

“The concern we have is jumping right into a Double-A setting,” said Bill Bavasi, Reds vice president of scouting, player development and international operations. “But at his age, he needs to do that. We’ll bring him into Arizona No matter what he does at Class A, he’ll need to get to Double-A pretty quick. He needs that challenge.”

Perez was suspended last year for lying about his age (claimed to be 20, not his actual 24 at the time). That cost him his $3.5 million deal with the Yankees, which was pulled.

*This is not the second coming of Aroldis Chapman in terms of buzz. The only thing these two players have in common is they are both Cuban.

“We’re not thinking he’s going to be a Hall of Famer but we think he’s an addition to the organization, a left-handed hitter that hopefully down the road will be of value to the organization,” said Tony Arias, the Reds’ director of Latin American scouting.

More from Arias:

“We’ll have to get the visa, get him over to Arizona and see where he’s at as far as being able to play U.S. baseball. I’m sure he’s going to have the same difficulties Chapman is probably having getting used to the United States. I think we’ll be more prepared after having some experience with Chapman. We’ll be able to utilize our experience with Felix Perez.”

The Reds have been impressed by Perez’s work ethic and instincts.

“Nothing jumps off the charts at you but he’s kind of a baseball rat,” Bavasi said. “He loves to play. You can’t underestimate this — he’s been there a long time going to workout after workout. He’ll play in any game you ask him to. He’ll work out any time you want him to. Most of the other guys going through the same thing are very calculating. They won’t workout for you all the time. He’ll do anything you want. Everything he does is hard.”

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Finally, the Brewers

The Reds have already played the Cardinals nine times…but tonight is the first time they get the Brewers. Interesting.

Belated question of the day: Sure, it’s premature but since you’re allowed to vote, I’m allowed to ask. If you could send one Reds player to the All-Star game right now, who would you send?

Right now, I’d have to think my vote is for Arthur Rhodes. Mike Leake and Joey Votto could certainly be worthy of consideration when the time comes to start naming rosters.

Monday’s lineup vs. MIL

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

*Laynce Nix, who missed the last few days, with back spasms is available and ready to go.

“It was spasming for a couple days and took a couple of days to heal up and get better. I’m swinging 100 percent and everything,” Nix said. “It happens now and then when I’m coming off the bench. I’m working around it. I’m fine now.”

*There was some chatting about the Reds going from first base to third base five times on singles Sunday vs. the Cardinals (bringing season total to 32). Bronson Arroyo did it on a Cabrera single to left field in the fifth inning

“It’s the only time you feel like a baseball player, running the bases from first to third,” Arroyo joked. “Pitching doesn’t count.”

*Walt Jocketty told me that RHP Jared Burton, who has been on the DL since April 8, is almost ready to rejoin Triple-A Louisville soon.

*It’s raining right now (5:11 pm) and the tarp is on the field. The Reds sent out an email earlier that it would be dry in time for the game.

*Every once in a while you see something new in a big league clubhouse. Today, I saw Mike Leake, Chris Dickerson, Jay Bruce and Ramon Hernandez kicking and juggling a soccer ball. Hernandez especially seemed to have some skills.

*Reds players were shooting PSA’s for next week’s “Bark in Park” night and the SPCA. “Bark in Park” is May 26 vs. the Pirates. In the picture below are Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey. Few players could resist petting the puppies.

 

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Reds after Felix Perez

A reporter from ESPN Deportes tweeted late Sunday that Cuban outfielder Felix Perez will sign with Cincinnati. However, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty did not confirm that report.

“We don’t have a deal,” Jocketty told MLB.com. “We’re one of several clubs still talking to him. We’re hoping to get it resolved in the next two or three days. He is a kid we’ve been pursuing for quite a while.”

Perez was set to sign for $3.5 million with the Yankees almost one year ago until he was suspended by Major League Baseball for lying about his age. The Yankees broke off talks upon learning of the age discrepancy. He was 24 but apparently claimed to be 20 years old. MLB reinstated Perez in October and he was free to negotiate with any club.

Postgame extra: Hello, first.

Sure it’s May but a 7-2 Reds win over the Cardinals carried some meaning even if it was the 36th game of the season.

*The Reds took two of three in the series and are in first place over St. Louis, by a slim half-game.

*The Reds have won seven of eight games and 14 of 19.

*The rotation is 7-1 with a 2.11 ERA over the last eight games.

*The entire pitching staff has a 1.88 ERA in that stretch.

*The rotation has three complete games in the last five starts (Cueto, Bailey, Arroyo).

My take on the early/meaningful time debate: there’s never a bad time to be playing well especially against a team that will likely be at or near the top of the division all season. First place at the moment means more to the Reds than losing it does to the Cardinals. Ditto for the series.It’s a good confidence boost heading into the meatier portion of the schedule.

What is your view? Did this series mean anything in the big picture?

Jay Bruce’s take:

“I’m not going to put too much weight on first place right now,” Bruce said. “But it’s always good to be in first place. Don’t get me wrong. It’s better than not being in first place. We just have to keep this same approach and same mentality that we’ve had. It is cool to be in first place and the team everybody is gunning after. You’re going to get everybody’s best.”

Some of the good from Sunday:

*Bronson Arroyo — complete game 9 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K — 108 pitches, 75 strikes.
Arroyo escaped two jams with double plays in the first and second innings — including after intentionally walking Albert Pujols in the first. Matt Holliday ended the inning with a 6-4-3 double play.

*The running Reds went from first base to third base five times on singles, which extended their MLB lead in that category to 32.

*In the fifth, Tony LaRussa had Brad Penny intentionally walk Ryan Hanigan to load bases with two outs for Arroyo, who promptly lineed a two-run single to right field to open up the game.

First place Reds recent history:

*The last time the Reds were in first place was May 13, 2009. It was a tie that lasted only one day.

*The Reds haven’t had sole possession of first place since April 17, 2007. They haven’t had first to themselves later in a season since June 8, 2006.

Quotes that I didn’t get to use in my story:

“Those guys have been in the playoffs so many years. They’re not panicking over there. It’s not a big deal to them. It’s definitely a bigger deal on this side. We have to keep on the task at hand, which is try to win two out of three from everybody. Those guys don’t play bad baseball that often. You could go on a road trip, slip a little bit and turn around, they could be four [games] ahead of you.” — Bronson Arroyo

“We have a long way to go. We’re not going to the playoffs today. But I’d rather be in this position than the position we’ve been in the past. We just have to go play. If we keep getting good pitching, good defense and timely hitting, we’ll see where it takes us. You have to enjoy the moment as well and not worry about where we’ve been three years ago or where we might be two weeks from now. There’s nothing you can control except now.” — Dusty Baker

 

Battle for first place

Even if it’s only May — no reason to turn a nose at going for first place.

Sunday lineup vs. STL

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

 

Normally Dusty Baker would rest some regulars, namely Scott Rolen, for a day game after a night game. With the Cardinals in town, there was no chance that was happening.

“This is different times,” Baker said.

There are three lefties in the Cardinals lineup. Lefties are batting .301 vs. Arroyo this season, compared to .198 for right-handers.

*With his perfect seventh last night, Arthur Rhodes has 14-straight scoreless appearances and a 0.60 ERA through 16 games. Nick Masset’s perfect eighth with two K’s gave him six-straight scoreless outings — not bad considering the rough patch he had last month. Masset was chucking at 96 mph against both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

“When we keep them rested and strong, you see how sharp they are and how good their velocity is,” Baker said. “That’s the secret. Just keep them fresh. It’s not that easy to do sometimes because games dictate everything. They’re throwing the ball pretty good.”

Keeping them fresh will be a tougher order with the Reds in only their third game Sunday of a 20-game stretch without an off day.

“These extended streaks like this – I think this is the longest this year – really tax your bullpen if you have a couple of short starts,” Baker said. You tend to go long with your starters during these periods here because you’ll wear your bullpen, especially at the start of the streak. You can put yourself in a position to lose games.”

Also — when asked if Laynce Nix was available today, Baker’s response was “can’t tell you.” Nix appears to have something related to back spasms.

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Sellout at GABP

The Civil Rights Game between the Reds and Cardinals was a sellout, with standing room tickets only available before first pitch.

The pre-game ceremonies were a solid watch just like last year. The biggest ovation, by far, was for Willie Mays. But there was a neat scene of fellow Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Frank Robinson being introduced in order and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the field. All three received good applause from the crowd.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CRG 051510.jpg

 Update — the announced crowd was 41,326 fans.

Laynce Nix update

Outfielder and left-handed bench player Laynce Nix is unlikely to be available tonight or will only be used in a “dire emergency,” as manager Dusty Baker called it. Baker still wasn’t saying what Nix’s injury was and neither was Nix.

“It’s just a tight muscle hindering me from playing,” Nix said. “I will be back in a couple of days. It’s nothing too serious. I haven’t been able to swing that bat but it’s getting a lot better.”

Baker said he didn’t anticpate making a roster move. Besides, there really are no left-handed hitters at Triple-A Louisville. Danny Dorn just broke his hand and Juan Francisco is out for four weeks after his appendectomy. Yonder Alonso was just moved up from Double-A to take Dorn’s place.

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