June 2010

PGX: Harang, Rolen, Cabrera – all big

Look who is back to a .500 record. Why it’s Aaron Harang.

Although overshadowed by stellar performances Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo during the hot streak of the rotation, Harang has started to put together a decent stretch.

Wednesday’s 6-3 victory made Harang 5-2 with a 3.93 ERA over his last nine starts. He was 0-3, 8.31 through the first four starts of the season.

“It was definitely tough early in the season to get that far behind and climb back,” Harang said.

Harang’s only runs in seven innings came on Buster Posey’s two-run homer in the second inning. He allowed five hits and three walks with three strikeouts.

The good —

*The SF seventh inning. Harang got into a two-out bases loaded jam but got Freddy Sanchez to fly out to end the inning. Nice backup from right fielder Jay Bruce, who made a long running catch towards the gap to save three runs.

*Orlando Cabrera busted out of a 0-for-12 skid with a 4-for-5, three double game and scored the Reds first three runs.

*Scott Rolen had anothe huge night with a 3-for-3 game and he also drove in Cabrera twice with two-out RBI doubles. Rolen has five straight games with extra base hit and a nine-game hitting streak. (14-for-41, .441 during streak)

“It’s the blind squirrel theory,” Rolen said self-depricating of his success. “I’m certainly not going to overanalyze that one. I will keep looking left and hitting right.”

More quotes –

“Nobody is worried about Orlando Cabrera. He came in and had a good night. He’s a good professional and he had a great night.” — Scott Rolen

“The best thing is guys like Rolen driving guys home with two outs. That’s just big time right there.” — Orlando Cabrera

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Weds lineup, Volquez update

Weds lineup vs. Giants

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

*Edinson Volquez will start a rehab assignment with a start on Saturday for Class A Lynchburg vs. Potomac. Volquez has not pitched in a game since June and had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 3, 2009. His pitch count will be in the range of 50.

*The Reds, losers of the last two games, have not lost three in a row since they dropped five-straight games April 14-18 at Florida and Pittsburgh.

*It’s raining cats and dogs right now (3:15 pm) but the forecast I saw said the showers would done by early evening. So that tells me there will be ball tonight.

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Postgame extra: questions?!

The good from the 3-0 Reds loss to the Giants on Tuesday –

Sam LeCure gave the Reds the kind of start they needed, but it wasn’t enough against Matt Cain’s seven-hit shutout. LeCure allowed one run over six innings on Juan Uribe’s long homer in the fourth.

Arthur Rhodes  — another two-thirds scoreless when he got the final out of the seventh and the first out of the eighth. That’s 26 scoreless appearances in a row for 23 1/3 innings.

The decision for Sunday’s start – Bailey or LeCure?

During his rehab start at Triple-A Louisville, Homer Bailey pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed five earned runs and six hits vs. Syracuse while throwing 86 pitches. The rotation spot’s turn comes up again Sunday.

LeCure is 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA in his three starts. In his 17 1/3 innings, he’s allowed 17 hits and 12 walks with 12 strikeouts. He’s also faced Chris Carpenter and Matt Cain in his two losses.

“It remains to be seen. We have to check that out,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s a little too early right now after this loss to come up with that kind of answer.”

The not so good —

*It was another lousy night for the non-Arthur Rhodes portion of the bullpen. Logan Ondrusek got two outs in the seventh before allowing a double and a walk. That forced Baker to turn to Rhodes again.

*After Rhodes, Nick Masset had two outs in the eighth and gave up two runs on three hits and a four-pitch walk. The eighth and ninth hitters — Bengie Molina and Matt Cain — drove in the insurance runs that turned a one-run game into a three-run game on ice.

“We just have to figure out which guys, other than Arthur, can do what they’re supposed to do,” Baker said. “If not, we’re going to kill Arthur.”

*In 31 games, Masset has a 7.20 ERA and has given up 20 earned runs in 25 innings. It equaled his earned runs allowed from all of last season when he pitched 76 innings over 54 games.

Questions of the night —

*Who’s your starter for Sunday — Bailey or LeCure?

*What’s the answer for the Reds bullpen? Could Bailey or LeCure move into a relief role or is there another fix? There really isn’t a lot of consistent work being done down in Louisville’s bullpen either.

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Tuesday vs. SF

Tues lineup vs. Giants

Cabrera 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Nix 7
Heisey 8
Hernandez 2
LeCure 1

*Laynce Nix is 4-for-7 (.571) with one homer lifetime against Giants starter Matt Cain. Joey Votto is 4-for-12 (.333) and Orlando Cabrera is 3-for-10 (.300) with two homers against Cain.

“Match-up stuff,” manager Dusty Baker said about the different look to the lineup. “The only guy we have that hits Cain pretty good really, is Nix. Heisey has proven he can hit that fastball.”

*With Arthur Rhodes hurting with a sore right foot, Baker said he hasn’t considered putting his best reliever on the disabled list.

“I certainly don’t want it to come to that. He doesn’t want that,” Baker said Tuesday.

Rhodes said last night his foot only hurts on certain pitches. When asked if there are some days Rhodes isn’t available because of the foot, Baker didn’t completely answer but reiterated the need to pick and choose how he uses Rhodes.

“I also have to monitor his workload too,” Baker said. “I try not to go more than a couple of days in a row with him. I try not to go more than one-inning stints with him. Otherwise, I have to give him a couple of days off. It makes it tough when he’s the hottest guy in your bullpen. But you also know that he’s 40 years old. He’s a guy coming off Tommy John [surgery] a couple of years ago. I’ve got to have him July, August, September and hopefully, October. If you wear down one of your main horses, then what do you have?

“I know Arthur pretty well. I can read him pretty good, regardless of what he says. Most of the time, he’ll tell you when he needs a blow.”

*Reds first-round pick Yasmani Grandal was named a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award — which is given to the best amateur player in the country. Grandal is playing a 1 p.m. ET game, hoping to reach him via conference call later today.

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Postgame extra: Rhodes hurting

Arthur Rhodes is only one man.

That one man has been super effective from the Reds bullpen, but is also hurting with a sore right foot. And the rest of the relievers haven’t been consistent at picking up the slack.

“I just have to deal with it,” Rhodes said of his foot after the Reds’ 6-5 loss to the Giants. “I don’t know what it is. I’m getting tired of it.”

Rhodes wasn’t the reason the Reds lost. He worked two-thirds of an inning in the eighth with one walk and one strikeout. That gave him 25-straight scoreless appearances (22 2/3 innings) and a 0.36 ERA in 27 games overall.

The “blown save” came in the seventh against Daniel Ray Herrera and Enerio Del Rosario. Johnny Cueto was in line for the victory, despite an off night, when the Reds took a 5-4 lead in the sixth. The Giants scored two in the top of the seventh.

“The last thing we want to do is kill Arthur Rhodes,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We were hoping some other guys would come through and pick Arthur up. We didn’t want to use Arthur if we could help it. He’s a warrior and a man. He’s been pitching in pain the last couple of weeks. … You can’t pitch Arthur every inning.”

Rhodes shrugged at questions about the foot, as he removed the wrap. He comes in early each day for treatment.

“I’ll be ready tomorrow,” he said. “It just hurts on certain pitches. I can fight through that.”

*According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Johnny Cueto has been the victim of five blown saves, most for any pitcher in the Major Leagues.

*It was not a good night Monday for Aroldis Chapman for Triple-A Louisville at Syracuse. Actually, it was a terrible line in a 7-2 loss: 2 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 2 WP. 72 pitches/33 strikes.

*To learn more about catcher Yasmani Grandal, the 12th overall Draft pick by the Reds, click here.

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Bailey to pitch for Louisville

Sam LeCure will still start Tuesday’s game vs. the Giants. Homer Bailey has been sent on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville and will start Tuesday at Syracuse.

“He had a real good ‘pen the other day. This is more of a tune-up,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I’d rather have him tune-up there than tune-up here.  He thought he was ready for here but we wanted to make sure.”

Baker anticipated that Bailey would be limited to around 80 pitches. Bailey’s next turn for the Reds would come again on Sunday vs. the Royals but there was no committment that he would be activated from the disabled list.

“Let’s get through Tuesday first. He’s champing at the bit, that’s good,” Baker said. “A lot depends on Homer. A lot depends on how LeCure pitches this time.”

Bailey went on the DL May 24 with right shoulder inflammation and was eligible to be activated Tuesday. 

Baker was also anticipating a tough four-game series against the Giants this week. Their first three starters — Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez all have ERAs at 2.78 or under.

“It’s no secret. They’ve got one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and we’re not even facing [Tim] Lincecum,” Baker said. “We have to play good baseball. The chances are we probably won’t have a bunch of scoring opportunities. So we have to capitalize on that, stay away from the big inning against them and just play good baseball. Play the way we’ve been playing and better.”

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Draft day — part 1

Tonight while the Reds open their four-game series vs. the Giants, MLB will be conducting the first round of the First Year Player Draft. The Reds have the 12th pick overall and are expected make their selection at approximately 8:02 p.m. ET. Coverage will be live on MLB.com and MLB Network. I will certainly have a story about the pick ASAP.

If you need a brief primer, check out my draft preview story

Monday lineup vs SF

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

Not too many guys have a deep history against Giants starter Barry Zito.

The best is Brandon Phillips, who is 4-for-10 (.400).

Orlando Cabrera is 3-for-29 vs. Zito (.103)
Joey Votto is 1-for-6 (.167)

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No D.C. for me

Friday lineup vs. Nationals

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

I have this whole series off and will be back on the job Monday for the Giants series and Draft. Hopefully, you can use the comments in this space to comment, praise or complain what the Reds do this weekend.

Enjoy.

Wishing Junior well

This was the statement from Ken Griffey Jr., released on Wednesday:

“I’ve come to a decision today to retire from Major League Baseball as an active player,” Griffey said. “This has been on my mind recently, but it’s not an easy decision to come by. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to play Major League Baseball for so long.”

Obviously it was time and we knew this day was coming for a while. But it’s sad to see Griffey go out the way he did…on the end of a bench and playing sparingly if at all — batting .184 with zero homers for the Mariners, the team where he achieved most of his fame.

I feel fortunate to have covered Junior despite the fact his years in Cincinnati weren’t his most productive of his Hall of Fame career. I still got to see him hit his 600th home run. I got to see him do things other players wished they could do. I got to see that swing.

I also had numerous chances to talk to him in the clubhouse. This guy hated talking about himself, even about big moments coming up — like 600 homers, or his first time back in Seattle in 2007 as a visiting player. He also could make interviews more complicated than they needed to be.

Then again, he could talk and talk about anything else, especially his three kids. You could shoot the breeze about other sports or people in the news — many of whom he knew personally. It was often stuff that wouldn’t really go into stories. He was always sitting on that big black trunk near his locker giving teammates a hard time with jokes or running commentary. I’m not going to lie and say we were uber close but we always seemed to get along and he treated me well and with respect.

Fans rarely could see all the things Junior would do for kids that visited the ballpark. If the Reds had a child from Make A Wish, it was Junior who would personally take him/her into the clubhouse to meet teammates, give them candy and gum and spend time talking. All of this was done without seeking publicity. Some players turn on their smiles and good intentions when the red camera light was on. Griffey did most of his best things behind the scenes when the camera was turned off.

For many reasons that pre-date my time on the Reds beat, Griffey had a love-hate relationship with  Cincinnati and Reds fans. They heaped mountains of expectations on him and the injuries and the perceived failure of him to meet the demands to bring a World Series winner created friction with the people. It’s too bad for everyone that it didn’t work out better with the Reds.

Good luck in retirement, Junior.

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Taking on Carpenter

Weds lineup vs. STL

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

St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter is 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 career starts vs. the Reds, including 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts this season.

Joey Votto is 6-for-13 (.462) with one homer in his career vs. Carpenter. It’s been a struggle for almost everyone else

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