October 2010

Jay Bruce at the podium

Before sending the transcript of Jay Bruce’s press conference, two notes:

*Dusty Baker said that Laynce Nix will start Game 2 in left field for Jonny Gomes. Against Roy Oswalt, Nix is 9-for-17 (.529) in his career against Oswalt with three doubles, one triple and two home runs with four RBIs. 

*Ryan Hanigan will be behind the plate catching Bronson Arroyo, which he has done most of the regular season.

And now….Jay Bruce.

Q.  For most of the time that you’ve been with the Reds all you got to hear is how many games in a row Roy Oswalt beat your team.  Now you’ve had success with him lately.  Was there something you had to do as a group to knock off that aura of invisibility?

 JAY BRUCE:  You know what, I don’t think so.  I think the bottom line is we’re a different team this year.  And the fact that we have an approach that we have figured out that works for us, and that we’re able to execute.
 You know, I think numbers have something to do with it too.  We faced him, he beat us 20 times.  I mean, it was almost, you know, time was on our side, I think, and the numbers were on our side a little bit.
 But I think the biggest thing is the execution factor and the fact that we have an approach that works and that works consistently.  It’s shown all year that we led the National League in hitting.  So I think that that speaks volumes as well.

 Q.  Your success actually dates back to the year before.  Does the same approach, the same reasoning, the same logic apply for ’09?

 JAY BRUCE:  Asking about Roy?  Yeah.  It’s sticking with the consistent approach.  Consistency in baseball is what makes you successful over a certain period of time, and I think that’s something that we’ve really, really tried to work on, and really tried to practice as a team and as individuals.  I think that’s definitely spoken about our success.

 Q.  Given how Game 1 went, do you like the off day between 1 and 2?  Would you have rather gotten right back out there to get back on the field for Game 2?  Do you have a preference?

 JAY BRUCE:  No preference for me.  That is the way that MLB wants to do it and it works out the best.  The Phillies obviously got to pick the extra day in between.  So that’s what they went with, it doesn’t matter to me at all, no.

 Q.  What was it like last night?  Did you guys relive it, rehash it?  What’s it been like today that you’ve been together sort of being on the other end of history?

 JAY BRUCE:  I can only speak for myself, but I just have to chalk it up.  I mean, he pitched one of the best games of his life and he did something really, really special.  But like I said last night, I’m not taking anything away from Roy, because he is probably the best pitcher in the game, has the best stuff.  But we have to look at it as a loss.
 We can come back out and tie the series tomorrow.  And in the scheme of things, that no hitter means nothing other than we got beat the first game.

 Q.  How are you going about, again, from the mindset in terms of maybe what you guys are saying to each other, what Dusty is saying to you in terms of being able to come back and rebound from that no hitter against a guy like Oswalt?

 JAY BRUCE:  In my opinion, there is really nothing to be said as far as the no hitter is concerned.  It happened, it’s history now, and we’ve been bouncing back all year.  You know, that is the bottom line is we have to bounce back or we’re not going to be here very long.  It’s not going to be a very long series.
 The Phillies are a tremendous team.  They do everything well.  They create runs.  The pitching is top of the line.  But we’re good too.  We led the league in hitting and that’s something that we’re proud of, and we’re a good team or else we wouldn’t be here and we have to bounce back.
 That is another characteristic of a good team, I believe, too.  We have to do that, and continue to focus on tomorrow’s game and forget about yesterday’s game.

 Q.  It’s Bronson on Friday.  He’s got more experience than some of the other pitchers.  How much do you lean on him and what is the team’s confidence in him after how Game 1 went?
 
 JAY BRUCE:  I think pitching is definitely going to determine the success of our teams, both teams.  If they don’t pitch well, they’re not going to be successful.  If we don’t pitch well, we’re not going to be successful.  But it’s a collective effort, and it’s a 25 man team, and we have the guys here to do it.
 You know, the pitcher’s job, in my opinion, is to keep the team in the game.  It’s not to throw a no hitter or shut a team out.  It’s to keep the team in the game, and that’s what we’re hoping he does.  He does a great job of that every year.  He’s been doing that since he got in the big leagues and we’re confident in him.

 Q.  Can you talk about Brook Jacoby and what effect he’s had on you since he’s been with the Reds?

 JAY BRUCE:  Tell you what, Brook has been great for me.  He’s done his job.  He works well with each individual.  He doesn’t try to do or put a blanket system on everyone.  And I think that’s huge.  At the end of the day in the Major Leagues you’re coaching and you’re interacting with people.  It’s not necessarily all the time teaching mechanics and doing this and doing that.  It’s having a relationship with people.  He does a great job of that.
 Also, he’s consistent in his approach.  He has something that he thinks works for everyone, and that’s something that’s shown true this year because we’ve had a successful year hitting.
 Like I said, he’s the same guy every day.  He’s very positive.  He keeps it loose, and he’s there for you.  He’s really there for the player, and that is something that is important, too.

Did that really happen? A no-hitter

Quite frankly, I still can’t believe what I saw tonight. I had never in-person witnessed a no-hitter before and the one I saw from Roy Halladay in a 4-0 Reds loss in Game 1 was only the second ever thrown in a postseason game.

It was remarkable. It was incredible. It was…almost perfection had it not been for Jay Bruce’s walk in the fifth inning.

*104 pitches, 79 strikes, 25 balls.

*25 of 28 first-pitch strikes.

*11 batters began with 0-2 counts.

Here is my game story

It’s hard to appreciate what you’re seeing while trying to work, type and everything else, but you could definitely sense it was coming — especially after Philadelphia took a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Each inning seemed to speed along and by the eighth, Halladay needed just seven pitches to retire the side.

I won’t lie — my heart was beating a little harder when we got to the ninth. Each pitch was more exciting than the previous one. A no-hitter? It’s still almost impossible to fathom that it happened and that I was here to see it.

*Credit many of the Reds players postgame. They realized they were on the wrong side of history but were graceful about it.  .

“I think words would ruin that performance,” Scott Rolen said. “He just dominated the game, from beginning to end.”

“I appreciate it right now,” Joey Votto said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Roy. To throw a no-hitter in your very first playoff game is amazing. I think our team, speaking the Reds, we keep in mind it’s just one game. We’re in Philadelphia. We just faced arguably the best pitcher in baseball. We didn’t go in with the mindset we were going to lose but we knew we’d be in for a real challenge. We’re down 1-0 in the series and that’s the most important part. We cleared the dugout with the mindset, not necessarily that we were no-hit, but that we lost a game in a best-of-five series.”

*Many also were right-on with their attitude that it was just one loss — one really rough loss to go down 1-0 in the best of five series.

“A loss is a loss. If we had lost 10-9 and gotten 15 hits, it’s the same result,” Drew Stubbs said. “We’ll come back Friday with a re-energized effort and hopefully have success.”

*Shortstop Orlando Cabrera was not thrilled however with the strike zone of plate umpire John Hirschbeck and let it be known.

“He was basically getting every pitch. We had no chance,” Cabrera said.

*Jonny Gomes disagreed and had no complaints about Hirschbeck’s calls.

“I don’t know if it was a big zone,” Gomes said. “I think Doc actually took the umpire out of the game by just throwing strikes. I really didn’t have any questionable strikes on me. I’m not really worried about the umpire too much. I’m worried about the guy on the mound. He did a great job. All four corners down and in, up and in, down and out. He threw all four pitches in all four corners.”

Some other trivia:

*The last time the Reds were no-hit was by the Phillies and Rick Wise in a 4-0 loss on June 23, 1971. That one was at Riverfront Stadium.

*The only other pitcher to have a no-hitter in the postseason was Don Larsen. It was a perfect game vs. the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

More quotes —

“It still counts as a loss, but that was a very dramatic loss.  That is the best pitched game I’ve seen since I’ve been going to the playoffs and the World Series.  You have no choice but to bounce back.  You’ve got to put that one behind us.  Figure we got beat by a great performance tonight.” — Dusty Baker

“It was a lot of fun.  It’s just one of those special things I think you’ll always remember.  But the best part about it is the playoffs take priority, and that’s pretty neat for me to be able to go out and win a game like that and know there’s more to come for us and more to accomplish.  So that makes it a lot of fun.” — Roy Halladay

“He just pitched so well. When you’re trying to thread a needle up at the plate, it’s just miserable. It’s not fun being up there trying to hit nothing. Tonight was a nothing night. Sometimes you just don’t get pitches to hit. I took the one pitch I saw all night to hit because I wanted to see a strike. He just acted like Roy for the rest of the bat. I hate to use hyperbole, he’s an ace among aces.” — Joey Votto

“Congratulations to him. It was unbelievable what he did tonight. I’ve never seen it before. He pitched a truly great game.” — Edinson Volquez

“In the three at-bats I had, I might have had one pitch I to really do something with, and I fouled it back. He was working both sides of the plate. He was in total command of the strike zone, pounding both sides of the plate. We weren’t able to get anything going.” — Drew Stubbs

“He’s the best pitcher in baseball. I obviously didn’t expect that. I don’t think anybody did. But it’s just part of the game. At the end of the day, it’s a loss. We’ve got to come back.” — Jay Bruce

MLB. com story links:

Cabrera takes issue with strike zone  

Phillies game story from colleague Todd Zolecki

Reds tip caps to Halladay

Notebook: Edmonds, Bailey

No-no highlights feast or famine offense

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Arroyo press conference

Here is the transcript of Game 2 starter Bronson Arroyo’s press conference: 

Q.  A lot of people make a big deal about having postseason experience when you get to the playoffs, particularly for starting pitchers.  In your mind, how much of an advantage is it to have been there before?

 BRONSON ARROYO:  I think just a little bit.  I think it’s overplayed a little bit.  Because at the end of the day after you get through that first inning, everything kind of settles down, you get into your comfort zone.  You feel like it’s a normal game for the most part until you get into a couple of sticky situations.

 But as long as you can control your emotions and your adrenaline level early on in the ballgame, you’re going to be fine.  I think a guy like Roy’s been playing the game for a long time.  I don’t think he’s going to have any problems dealing with the environment.

 Q.  Kind of a follow up to that question.  On the other side, the Phillies are here for the third year in a row.  It’s kind of old hat for them.  A lot of you guys are excited.  Does that help, too, the enthusiasm that maybe some of the newer guys will bring?

 BRONSON ARROYO:  You hope it does.  We’ve obviously got a pretty young club from top to bottom.  We’ve got a lot of guys with fresh legs that aren’t too far removed from college, actually.
 You hope that enthusiasm brings you positives on the field.  I mean, in the Cardinal series when we had the fight, it obviously didn’t bring too many positives to us.  We lost three ballgames with that emotion and that angst coming out in the middle of a ballgame.  So it can work both ways, and you just hope these guys can harness it and use it in a way that’s positive.

 Q.  You’ve been with the Reds for a while, and now you’re a couple of days away from starting a playoff game.  Personally how satisfying is it going through maybe some of the leaner years and here you are two days before starting a playoff game?

 BRONSON ARROYO:  Yeah, I’ve said over the last couple days, I think it’s going to be hard to top ’04 for anything I do in my career again.  But as far as just getting to the playoffs and feeling that you’re a bigger part of the ballclub, this is definitely sweeter for me.

 In Boston I was flying under the radar, I was riding on the coattails of Curt Schilling and Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez.  And they just expected me to go out and pitch five or six innings and give them a chance to win.  Where on this club for the last four or five years, I’ve been in the front of the rotation, and I’ve had to shoulder a lot more responsibility.
 So I think going through the last four years and being able to grind from the back of the pack and being a team that wasn’t expected to be here at this point in the season, for me, it’s definitely been gratifying.

 Q.  You’ve pitched at Yankee Stadium in the postseason where the fans are extremely intense and harsh to put it mildly.
 BRONSON ARROYO:  Right.

 Q.  Philadelphia fans have a reputation for backing their team in a similar manner.  What are you expecting in terms of reception?  And how do you mentally prepare yourself for that type of fan reaction?
 BRONSON ARROYO:  Yeah, I expect a very Yankee Stadium esque environment.  Especially warming up in the bullpen.  It’s always these guys are right on top of you here in this bullpen.  It gets a little crazy sometimes just during the regular season much less here in the postseason.  I know these fans here are serious about the game.  They’ve been touted for a long time, especially in the NFL, as some of the craziest in the game.
 So you prepare yourself mentally to deal with all the raw emotion and excitement that’s going on around.  You try to suppress it as much as possible not to burn off too much excess energy before you get out there on the mound and get deep in the ballgame.  But I’ve always enjoyed it.  I loved playing in the stadiums when guys are screaming obscenities about my mother, you know what I mean (laughing)?  I have a good time.  Because I know at the end of the day I’m the one standing on the mound that gets to control what’s going on.
 It’s fun.  It’s all part of the game.  As long as something outlandish doesn’t happen in the stands to your family or something, it’s all part of the game.
 

Francisco makes NLDS roster

It looks like Jim Edmonds and his sore right Achilles tendon weren’t well enough to go. Juan Francisco got the final spot on the 25-man roster. While Francisco has great power, they lose a ton of playoff experience without Edmonds.

12pm update – I thought about this more as I ate two pretty greasy slices of pizza at the Reading Terminal. Losing Edmonds hurts the Reds indeed — he has 230 postseason ABs compared to zero for Francisco (only 73 big league ABs overall). But it doesn’t have to be a critical blow to the Reds hopes. If you need a silver lining, Francisco could be pretty capable of changing a game with a big home run. You want pinch-hitters that are aggressive swingers in the late innings and no one would accuse Francisco of being a shrinking violet in the batters’ box.

More later when I get to the ballpark.

Here is the roster breakdown:

Catchers (2) – Ramon Hernandez, Ryan Hanigan

Infielders (7)  — Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera, Scott Rolen, Miguel Cairo, Paul Janish, Juan Francisco

Outfielders (5) – Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Jonny Gomes, Chris Heisey, Laynce Nix 

Starting pitchers (3) – Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto

Bullpen (8) – Francisco Cordero, Arthur Rhodes, Nick Masset, Aroldis Chapman, Logan Ondrusek, Bill Bray, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood.

Live, but delayed, from the NLDS

Apologies for the lack of blog action here today. It wasn’t the best of travel days. My original flight to Philadelphia was canceled and the rebooked flights was delayed. I got to the ballpark after the press conferences were over and simply hit the ground running on my stories.

*It was a rather chilly and rainy day Tuesday — the usual fare for postseason baseball. Fortunately there was no game today because the elements were not ideal.

*Lots of media decended on Citizens Bank Park today. It will be more than most Reds players have ever had to deal with.

*One cool thing I noticed during BP — pitcher Aaron Harang was the “bucket guy” retrieving balls hit to the outfield. It’s usually a task for the least senior starting pitcher when those guys are shagging fly balls.

*Here are some story links on MLB.com that you might want to see:

Final roster isn’t decided, but there will be four lefty relievers. That could be a strength.

Edinson Volquez story

Could days off between NLDS games help Chapman?

Notebook: Votto on MVP talk

*Here are some quotes from the clubhouse today:

“The atmosphere at this ballpark is kind of second to none. I think that comes with the Phillies fans, which are very passionate about their Phillies. They will let you know they like the Phillies more than the Reds. That creates a little buzz here.” — Jonny Gomes

“It’s coming along decent. We numbed it up today and tried to do some stuff. I mostly hit inside today. We’re still waiting to make a decision. We’ll have a meeting in a little bit.” — Jim Edmonds on his right Achilles tendon

“The regular season is done and it speaks for itself. I don’t have to validate anything. I do owe it to myself, my teammates and Reds fans to play as well as I can, to compete and give it everything I can out on the ball field.” — Joey Votto on his MVP-caliber season

“The last couple of days were nice. I was sick over the last two or three weeks. We all know that when we’re sick, you really don’t consider that rest. You just try to recover and get back to normal. The last couple of days, Dusty gave me one full day off and I played half a game. I really appreciated that.” — Votto on getting breaks after the NL Central clinch

“We are so routine oriented that you don’t want to take guys out of their routine. If they listen to certain music, do it. If they go to the bath room at a certain time or eat at a certain time. At this point in the season, everybody has their own routine. Some guys play cards. Some guys just chill. Some guys watch Judge Judy, whatever they do.” — Dusty Baker on his players not getting too amped up about the playoff stage.

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NLDS rotation set

The Reds NLDS rotation, against whoever they may face is:

Game 1 — Edinson Volquez
Game 2 — Bronson Arroyo
Game 3 — Johnny Cueto

Travis Wood and Homer Bailey are available from the bullpen.

“Wood gives us potentially four lefties in the bullpen,” manager Dusty Baker said. “And both of them could be potential Game 4 or Game 5 starters if we needed them to. This was predicated upon Philadelphia initially.”

The full 25-man playoff roster has not been revealed yet but the Reds will go with 11 pitchers.

If the Reds draw the left-handed hitting heavy Phillies as originally expected, Wood would have been a potential problem for them. He took a perfect game into the ninth inning at Citizens Bank Park in July.

“That was the first time they saw him, too. Not to take anything away from him,” Baker said. “They didn’t have Utley. They didn’t have Polanco. They didn’t have Ruiz. And they were scoring runs at the time. He’s a gutsy kid but he and Homer are probably the least experienced too. If we can get him a game, he’d be more prepared to start the next time if there is a next time.”

Arroyo was put between Volquez and Cueto to have a softer thrower between two power arms. Arroyo, a 17-game winner and the most veteran pitcher of the rotation, said he wasn’t disappointed about not getting Game 1.

“Either way, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me,” Arroyo said. “I’ll toe the rubber some time.”

Also — here is Sunday’s final regular season lineup

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

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Volquez to start NLDS Game 1

 Some surprising news came down after Saturday’s 7-4 win over the Brewers

Dusty Baker revealed Aaron Harang would start the regular season finale instead of Edinson Volquez. Why is that? It’s because Volquez was named the Game 1 starter for the NLDS.

“He’s coming on pretty strong,” Baker said. “He’s been especially good against lefties. The Phillies have a lot of lefties.”

Volquez was surprised when he was told on Friday.

“It’s an honor for me,” Volquez said. “For me it’s big because I was out for one year and came back from Tommy John [surgery]. This is the first game of the playoffs, it’s big time.”

With Roy Halladay starting for the Phillies, the Reds’ expected opponent, this decision gives the Reds a power arm to match.

In four starts since his recall from Dayton, Volquez is 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA. He has eight walks and 31 strikeouts. His power-armed velocity has regularly reached the 95-96 mph range.

More later on MLB.com/reds.com

Rest for Votto, Rolen

Sat lineup vs. MIL

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

*Joey Votto, who is 1-for-7 with two walks and a sac fly the past two games, got a rest.

“He looks a little bit slow, a little bit off,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He’ll play [Sunday]. I’ll try to play everybody five innings today, the same tomorrow.”

*Scott Rolen was rested for the last four innings of Friday’s game and isn’t getting a break today.

“I’ll try to play some of the guys, especially guys that have a chance to play on the playoff roster and get them some at-bats,” Baker said.

*Arthur Rhodes and Aroldis Chapman aren’t expected to be available today.

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Postgame: Wood a playoff starter?

Rookie Travis Wood did nothing tonight to make me believe he shouldn’t start in the best-of-five NLDS, especially if the Reds end up facing the lefty-hitting heavy Phillies.

Wood’s line: 6.1 ip, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
Two of his runs were given up with Logan Ondrusek on the mound.

Philadelphia will feature  Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez — all left-handed. Rollins and Victorino are switch-hitters.With a short series, it would seem more conventional that the Reds go with three starters. Or do they take four?

If only three starters go for the Reds? Who gets exiled to the bullpen?

Edinson Volquez seems to have a hot hand. Bronson Arroyo isn’t going anywhere. Wood has two walks allowed with 24 strikeouts over his last four starts (24 1/3 innings).

What about Johnny Cueto? He has a 1.20 ERA vs. the Phillies in two starts this season. But he is 0-3 with a 4.32 ERA over his last six starts of the regular season. After his mostly solid year, could he actually not start in the first round of the postseason? What becomes of Homer Bailey?

It’s a tough call and I don’t envy Dusty Baker and Bryan Price. What would you do?

Quick notes —

*Friday’s 4-3 Reds loss in 11 innings does not guarantee a NLDS with the Phillies but it did assure them of starting the playoffs on the road — either at Philly or the NL West winner.
If the NL West leading Giants or Padres get the Wild Card away from the Braves, that team would get the Phillies.

*The Brandon Phillips E4 on Casey McGehee’s grounder in the 11th was changed to a RBI single. Phillips was screened some by the umpire, which was why the change was made by the official scorer postgame.

*A string of 22-straight retired for the bullpen was snapped on Craig Counsell’s single of Logan Ondrusek in the seventh inning that went as a blown save.

*Scott Rolen’s exit in the fifth was pre-planned before the game to preserve him for the playoffs. Rolen will not start Saturday, Dusty Baker said.

 

Postgame quotes –

“He pitched good. He threw the ball pretty good and was down in the strike zone and ahead of the hitters. I think he threw a very good ballgame. It’s one of those games you get bad luck. There’s nothing you can do. It won’t be the first or last time it happens.” — Ramon Hernandez on Travis Wood

“That seventh inning, things kind of happened. He had 103 pitches and he usually doesn’t go quite the long. He was still looking good that inning. We just kind of let that one get away from us tonight.” — Dusty Baker on Wood.

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Cabrera to return Saturday

Fri lineup vs. MIL

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

*SS Orlando Cabrera didn’t start for the third game in a row. He is trying to keep his tender left oblique muscle from barking. He did pinch-hit on Wednesday and he plans to play Saturday and Sunday.

“I just want to be as close to 100 percent as possible for the first game on Wednesday,” Cabrera said. “Because it was hurting me, once we clinched I told Dusty to give me a couple of days.”

*The deliberation over the post-season roster continues. Nothing has been announced either for the roster or the rotation.

“A lot depends on the health of Nix and a lot depends on the health of Edmonds too,” manager Dusty Baker said of the roster makeup. “It’s never an easy decision. You want to kepe everybody and pitch everybody but you have to make a decision. Someone is invariably going to be left out or left off.”

*For players not making the roster, some will travel with the club. Others could be sent to the team complex in Arizona to workout. If someone is injured during the NLDS, the Reds could add a player of the same position. They can also add and subtract from the 25 man roster before the NLCS.

*With Jim Edmonds, it’s unclear if he will get into a game this weekend to test his tender right Achilles tendon. He received a cortisone shot on Wednesday.

“It depends. You don’t want to get him in a game and go backwards when he is just coming forward a little bit,” Baker said. “We don’t know how far forward. We’ll have to make a decision if it would be better to wait an extra week for the next round. No matter what he’ll be traveling with us and hitting, if he can hit. You would like his expertise there because he’s been down this road many, many times. He’s already helped Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs in the outfield, with certain pitches and scenarios and stuff. It helps to have somebody around that’s been through this a couple of times.”

 

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