July 2010

Decision looming on Matthews Jr.

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported earlier today that the Reds have a July 24 deadline looming when it comes to OF Gary Matthews Jr. If Matthews isn’t promoted from Triple-A Louisville by then, he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty confirmed that for me Tuesday afternoon. Matthews is batting .310 with three homers 5 RBIs and a .355 OBP

“We have to make a decision,” Jocketty said. “We’re not at that point yet. We’ll see and evaluate the situation and whether he can help us now or not.”

Matthews Jr. was signed to a Minor League deal on June 24, not long after he was released by the Mets. The Reds have a crowded outfield already with Drew Stubbs in center field and Jay Bruce, Jonny Gomes, Laynce Nix and Chris Heisey.



Reds liked Isringhausen, offer coming

Free agent reliever Jason Isringhausen pitched in the bullpen Tuesday for the Reds with GM Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Bryan Price among those who watched. Jocketty liked what he saw enough that he’s planning to make an offer for the 37-year-old former closer.

“He looked good. He’s a long ways from being able to pitch in a game,” Jocketty said. “But he looked good, and just after looking at him, he looked like he’s healthy. He’s going to have to go out and pitch for a while. I’ve got a call into his agent to talk to him and see what happens.”

Isringhausen pitched for Jocketty with the Cardinals from 2002-08 and notched 217 saves.

“I’d anticipate hes pleased with how well he threw in front of the staff,” Price said. “It looks like he could go out and pitch somewhere. He threw like almost 40 pitches, 35-38 pitches. It didn’t take him long to get loose and ready, four or five minutes of catch and then he was getting after it. He looked very healthy to me.”

No Phillips, Rolen, Hernandez

Tues lineup vs. WSH:

Cabrera 6
Janish 4
Votto 3
Gomes 7
Bruce 9
Cairo 5
Stubbs 8
Miller 2
Leake 1

*Nothing is wrong with Brandon Phillips — it’s just a day off. Phillips is batting .191 in July and was 0-for-9 over his last two games.

“He hasn’t had a day off. I could see him and Joey [Votto] are spent,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It always happens after All-Star games. If it was around the corner, it would be no problem. But they went coast-to-coast and back and didn’t have any off days. When you’re tired, the first thing you lose is your concentration.

“I just told him to stay home, eat, sleep and show up late. I have to give Joey one off too because I can see he’s in the same boat, kind of.”

*Votto is 2-for-14 in the second half. Neither he nor Phillips can get a break Wednesday since Stephen Strasburg is starting for Washington.

*Not much is new with Scott Rolen, who is dealing with a sore right hamstring. He walked on the treadmill on Monday.

“I’m going to go stretch with the team, go out and throw a little bit and get my treatment and stuff,” Rolen said Tuesday. “I don’t feel any better. I don’t feel any worse right now.”

*Jason Isringhausen threw for the Reds today. I hope to have more of an update on that soon.

*Baker on Ramon Hernandez’s potential return: “Maybe tomorrow, maybe Thursday. We’re trying to ease him back into things.”

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Postgame: Gomes, Cairo, Cueto

A quick breakdown from the Reds’ 7-2 win over the Nationals —

*Jonny Gomes had a 3-for-4 night and scored three runs. Gomes went deep with HR No. 13 to start the Reds’ sixth and started a four-run rally in the third with a single and later scored. His third hit was beating out an infield single to SS with one out in the eighth. In the top of the seventh, he made a nifty sliding catch at the left field foul line.

Gomes praised the all-around team effort.

“The situational hitting was awesome today. The defense was awesome too,” Gomes said.

*Miguel Cairo, filling in for the injured Scott Rolen, was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Not long after Gomes went deep, Cairo went deeper as he smacked a 438-foot homer to the upper left field bleachers in the sixth.

*Johnny Cueto turned in a dependable six innings, despite being interupted by a 42-minute rain delay. His line: 6 ip, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. 91 pitches/58 strikes.

*Cueto struck out the side in the fourth with a rolling single through the left side after play resumed.

*In the four-run bottom of the third, Cueto picked up his first two RBIs of the season with a sharp single that went through a shallow-playing 2B Cristian Guzman.

*Logan Ondrusek took over for Cueto in the seventh and put up another zero. He hasn’t allowed a run in 13-straight appearances. He has a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances since his June 1 recall from Triple-A Louisville.

*The Reds bullpen pitched three scoreless innings without allowing a hit, although Nick Masset walked two in the eighth and Francisco Cordero walked one in the ninth.

*Brandon Phillips made a beauty of a leaping catch in the sixth to take a hit away from Cristian Guzman.

*In their last four games, Reds pitchers have allowed 17 hits. (four in each of last three games). In the last six games, starting pitchers have allowed seven runs over 40 innings.

More quotes —

“I don’t think it’s been a big deal on this team. This is team is doing a great job with adversity. You saw us with a four-game losing streak into the break. We came right back and got some games with Colorado. This team is real good at bouncing back. I think that’s a real big characteristic in a team that has to go late into the season.” — Jonny Gomes on coming back from Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Rockies.

“He’s been a godsend to this team. He’s a baseball player. He knows how to play, he’s fundamentally sound and he does most things correct most of the time.” — Dusty Baker on Miguel Cairo

“He comes to play every day. That play he made out in left field that was an outstanding play and Jonny’s a very excitable man and he excites everybody else around him, the fans, me, you, guys on the team and everybody. It’s great to have Jonny.” — Baker on Gomes.

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No Rolen again

Monday lineup vs. WAS

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

*It turns out there is more to the Scott Rolen situation beyond his being sick. He is dealing with a sore right hamstring and was given a cortisone shot on Sunday. It could take a couple of more days, at least, before Rolen could be ready — if the shot worked.

“Tagging up from second to third Friday night, I felt a little burn in my right hamstring, I didn’t recover too well,” Rolen said on Monday. “And then had the privilege of throwing up in my bushes when I got home with the stomach flu. So that was just an added bonus. So had I not been throwing up the last two days I would not have been in the lineup anyway.”

The Reds can ill-afford to lose Rolen and any extended absence on the disabled list would be a huge test to the Reds pennant aspirations. They are 71-43 in games he’s started since coming over in last summer’s trade.

“Hopefully, it’s not too serious. We really don’t know yet,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Life is not pleasant without Scotty out there. You see what our record is when he’s in the lineup. It’s a Catch-22 situation. You’re operating short. You try not to use him unless it’s a dire emergency because if you have to DL him, you lose the back-date days. We’ll probably make a decision in the next day or so or sooner. It depends on how he responds to treatment.”

*Catcher Ramon Hernandez (left knee) did some catching, throwing and blocking today and was headed out to do some hitting. He is allowed to be activated from the DL on Tuesday but the club will have to determine first how Hernandez got through today’s activity.

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Reds looking at Isringhausen?

I’m back on the case after an extended All-Star break.

Former All-Star reliever and free agent Jason Isringhausen told radio station KFNS in St. Louis that he is scheduled to throw for GM Walt Jocketty and the Reds this week.

Isringhausen last pitched in the Majors for the Rays in June 2009 before his elbow blew out and he had Tommy John surgery. Jocketty is very familiar with the ex-closer because he had him with the Cardinals from 2002-08 (including the World Series winning 2006 season) as he posted 217 saves with a 2.98 ERA. He told the radio station he’d likely need a couple of weeks in the Minors before he’d be ready for the big leagues again.

The Reds just signed former Cardinals reliever Russ Springer on Thursday. It’s clear Jocketty wants to supplement the bullpen but perhaps this is a sign the prices are too high for Cincinnati to trade for a reliever as the deadline nears.

UPDATE at 5 pm. —  Jocketty told me this afternoon that the signing of Springer and the upcoming look at Isringhausen is a reflection of what he’s seeing lately out there in terms of relievers and bullpen help.

“There’s not a lot available on the market,” Jocketty said. “I know these guys. I know what they can do if they’re healthy and still able to perform at the level they were. They’ve been through it. They know what it’s all about. It fits in a little bit with our plan.”

Isringhausen will throw for the Reds in the “next day or so,” Jocketty said.

“He requested an opportunity to throw for us and I honored that request. He says he’s fully recovered and ready to go. We’ll see. If he’s healthy and can still pitch, he might be able to help us. But I think he’ll have to go out and pitch a while [in the minors] if we’re interested.”

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Springer signed, Reds working out

The Reds signed veteran reliever Russ Springer to a Minor League contract on Thursday and will assign him to Triple-A Louisville.

Springer, 41, last pitched in the big leagues last season, splitting time with the Rays and A’s. He had a 4.11 EEA in 74 appearances.

“He probably won’t be activated for a couple of days,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We want to work him out and see where’s at.”

Springer pitched before a Reds scout on Monday before the signing was done.

Jocketty isn’t likely done searching the market for another reliever before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

“I think probably what I’d be looking for more than anything is probably a little more experience in the bullpen, bullpen depth,” Jocketty said on Thursday. “I still like our club the way it is. We have some guys coming back, [Edinson] Volquez coming back, we still have [Aroldis] Chapman trying to get ready to go out of the bullpen. So it may not be that critical of a need but if there was one area, Chapman could be a help, but he still doesn’t have the experience. That’s part of the reason we signed Russ Springer today to a Triple-A contract. He was going to retire and then decided to come back.”

*Jocketty also didn’t express much optimism about the state of the trade market.

“I talked to a few GMs during the break and there’s a lot of talk right now,” he said. “There’s not a lot of guys that are available. Part of the problem is I see talking to different clubs is no one wants to take on money and no one wants to take the money even if you trade prospects. Financially it might be tougher this year than it has in the past.”

**Other items of note as the Reds hold their post-All Star break workout on the field at GABP 

*Bronson Arroyo will start on Friday vs. the Rockies. Edinson Volquez will return to the big leagues and make his 2010 debut on Saturday. Manager Dusty Baker hasn’t revealed the rotation beyond that.

“Its my turn in the rotation anyway so it just kind of makes sense,” Arroyo said. “I dont know where everybody else was but Tuesday, Wednesday I was the only guy here probably.” 

*Aaron Harang is still stiff and hasn’t thrown yet. His return date is still up in the air.

*The Reds four All-Stars — Scott Rolen, Joey Votto, Arthur Rhodes and Brandon Phillips were excused from today’s workout.

*The Reds also caught a break. They will miss All-Star 15-game winner Ubaldo Jimenez, who will not be pitching for the Rockies in the upcoming series this weekend.


A loss to rival the Atlanta debacle

Dusty Baker said it before anyone had to ask.

“Boy, that one hurts as much as it hurt in Atlanta,” Baker said after the Reds lost 9-7 in 10 innings to the Phillies on a walkoff homer by Ryan Howard off Arthur Rhodes.

What really hurt on Friday was the Reds had a 7-1 lead going into the ninth. In the Braves game on May 20, the Reds had leads of 8-0, and 9-1 and lost 10-9 on a grand slam off Cordero in the bottom of the ninth.

Mike Leake had 83 pitches heading into the bottom of the ninth and had only allowed five hits and no walks to that point. I do not blame Baker for sticking with him. His limit is 100 pitches at the rate he was going, finishing the game in 17 pitches wasn’t a tall order. He averaged just over 10 pitches per inning.

Shane Victorino’s leadoff double started the mayhem. But Leake got an out and then a cheap RBI bloop single from Howard. Another cheapie followed in a broken bat grounder by Jayson Werth. Greg Dobbs hit the foul pole for a three run homer on Leake’s 100th and final pitch.

“We’re trying to save my bullpen for the next couple of days,” Baker said. “We wanted to stay away from Arthur. The right side pitched a lot last night, except for Masset and Owings. [Leake] had been getting Dobbs all night (0-for-3). He hit the screen up there. We still had a two-run lead with two outs to go.”

*Guess what? I don’t blame Baker for sticking with Leake in the ninth. Why? Because the worst that could happen was he’d give up those runs and the Reds would still lead by two runs. The two hits before Dobbs weren’t hard hit. Leake didn’t look like he was weakening, to me.

And, it’s a perfectly reasonable expectation for a veteran closer to get a two-out save with a two-run lead.

But Francisco Cordero, who had saved his last seven in a row, issued a two-out walk to Ben Francisco and then left a 0-1 pitch over the plate for Cody Ransom to tie the game with his first homer of the season.

*Cordero has allowed 20 walks and 41 hits in 40 2/3 innings this season. He has six blown saves in 30 chances.

“I have to cut out the walks,” Cordero said. “I’m walking too many guys. Every time I walk a guy, that run comes. We got two outs and I walked Ben Francisco and boom, tie game,  home run. I have to cut out the walks, especially when you’re pitching in a ballpark here or at home. It’s a small ballpark. You don’t bring the tying run to home plate. You just have to get that guy.”

*And as a little coincidence…Leake was the starter that missed out on a win because of the debacle in Atlanta.

“This one is a little tougher, for me, because I gave up the majority of the runs,” said Leake, who also had three hits and a walk. “It’s a tough one to swallow. It’s always tough when you’re winning by six. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to close a game.”

More quotes —

“That whole at-bat, I shouldn’t have even been in a 3-2 count that last at-bat. I should’ve put in play earlier than that. The leadoff hitter of that inning and Dobbs was the only bad part of that inning. It shouldn’t have even got to the point where it did in the game. I should’ve been able to finish it.” — Mike Leake

“We still had 7-5. One of the key plays was a walk to Francisco. Then he made a mistake to Cody Ransom to tie the game up.” — Dusty Baker on Cordero

 Volquez watch —

*By the looks of his line for Triple-A Louisville in his final rehab start on Friday, Edinson Volquez is ready for the big leagues again. Against Toledo, Volquez allowed one hit over seven scoreless innings with three walks and nine strikeouts. He didn’t allow his first hit until the sixth and struck out the side in the seventh.

*Volquez, who is returning from Tommy John surgery last August, threw 102 pitches, 61 for strikes.

***I’m starting my All-Star break a couple of days early because I am going home. Have a good weekend.

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Friday lineup

Fri lineup vs. PHI

Phillips 4
Cabrera 6
Votto 3
Rolen 5 Gomes 7
Bruce 9

Cairo 5
Heisey 8
Miller 2
Leake 1

UPDATED: Scott Rolen was scratched because of a sore back.

Ramon Hernandez was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 5, because of a sore left knee. Ryan Hanigan was activated from the DL. Hernandez is eligible to return on July 20, which means with the All-Star break, he won’t miss a ton of games.

But Hernandez was very unhappy about the situation — not at the club but at his knee. He went through a similar injury on the same knee at the same time last year. It required surgery and missing two months. This time, he didn’t believe it was as bad.

“There’s a lot of frustration,” Hernandez said. “It’s the same time of year. Especially now that the team is playing very well. It stinks more because of the way we’re going about our business and playing, to miss some games when the team is playing well.”

Hernandez said he basically could not run at all.

“Some days I get up and it’s not painful,” he said. “It kind of tells you it’s going to better. Last year, it wasn’t getting better at all.”

Hanigan didn’t play tonight because he had a stiff neck that he had the last couple of days at Louisville.  He said he felt better and could catch if needed.

*From the Reds notes: Beginning tonight the Reds will start rookie pitchers in 3 straight games for the second time this week…according to Elias Sports Bureau, when RHP Mike Leake (Sun at Chi), LHP Travis Wood (Mon at NYM) and LHP Matt Maloney (Tue at NYM) pitched earlier this week, the Reds started 3 straight rookie pitchers for the first time since LHP Brandon Claussen, RHP Josh Hancock and RHP Luke Hudson did it from 9/27-9/29, 2004…barring a change in the rotation this weekend, for the first time in their history the Reds will start rookie pitchers in their last 3g prior to the All-Star break.

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Reds, Mariners not serious yet

It appears that discussions between the Reds and Mariners about pitcher Cliff Lee have yet to hit the serious stages.A baseball source told MLB.com Thursday that no formal proposals have been exchanged between the two teams.

“It’s just been the parameters and the types of players that they are looking for or not looking for,” the source said. “It’s been quiet lately.”

The first-place Reds are one of several teams in the hunt for the left-handed Lee, an ace-quality starting pitcher, who is earning $8 million this season with Seattle. He would essentially be a “rent-a-player” for Cincinnati since he can become a free agent at season’s end.

It’s been widely reported that the Mariners are seeking multiple big league ready prospects, which is an area where the Reds have some chips they could deal. Triple-A Louisville first baseman Yonder Alonso is blocked in the Majors by Joey Votto and Alonso’s teammate, third baseman Juan Francisco, is blocked by Scott Rolen.

The Reds also have young left-handed pitchers like Travis Wood and Matt Maloney, who have both recently been called up.

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