February 2011

Not a robust day

It wasn’t a great afternoon at the yard for the Reds as they were 12-0 losers to the Indians. The bullpen gave up 11 of the runs and the defense committed five errors.

Some of the lines:

Cordero — 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Willis — 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (35 pitches)
Masset — 1/3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 balk
Chapman —  1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K (32 pitches/14 strikes)

“The pitchers had some tough days. Five errors, walks, a balk,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s what Spring Training is for. Let’s get it out of here now. As well as we played yesterday, you can right turn around and play just as poorly the next day. It’s OK. We got a good look at a lot of guys.

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Reds-Indians, part deux

Game starts at 3:05 p.m. ET. No TV…radio on WLW

Reds lineup:

Lewis 7
Heisey 8
Bruce DH
Francisco 5
Hermida 9
Alonso 3
Cairo 4
Hanigan 2
Janish 6

Arroyo 1

*Today is Aroldis Chapman’s 23rd birthday. He is scheduled to pitch today, as is Francisco Cordero,  Nick Masset and Bill Bray.

*Speaking of Cordero, Dusty Baker was asked about where he might have had trouble last season. Baker deferred to Bryan Price on things like mechanics — which Cordero told me recently he might have struggled with because of his weight.

“He may have also gotten a little predictable,” Baker said Monday. “When you’re in that role, it doesn’t take much to be perceived as a hero or a zero. One walk, one hit batsman, one homer – anything.”

*I noted yesterday that potential bench spot players like Valiaka, Heisey and Hermida had good offensive games late on Sunday. Baker noted however that one-dimensional players aren’t going to make it.

“But there’s more to making the team than hitting,” he said. “That’s all we see or pay attention to. Field, bases – it’s not called hitting. It’s called baseball. But if you’re going to play winning baseball, you have to do more than just hit.”

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Bring forth the Ohio Cup?

Finally, southern Ohio’s burden is now lifted. The Reds finally beat the Indians in exhibition baseball with a 7-6 victory on Sunday afternoon.

Last spring out here, Cincinnati was 0-5-1 vs. the Tribe. But don’t drink from your homemade Ohio Cups just yet — there are three more spring games left. Of course, there are six more during the regular season. The Reds got the real Ohio Cup in last year’s Interleague games.

It’s hard to look too much into the results after one day but there was some quick observations.

*Matt Maloney started for Edinson Volquez and looked very, very sharp with two perfect innings. He is trying to earn a spot in the Reds bullpen. One of his fellow contenders for the same bullpen role, Sam LeCure, gave up two hits over two scoreless innings but had four strikeouts.

*Dave Sappelt, who was 3-for-3 in yesterday’s scrimmage, sparked the Reds with a long two-run homer to left field. For a 5-foot-9 guy, it was an impressive knock. He’s not going to let many pitches get by him, but he was called out on strikes to end the top of the ninth.

*For the guys competing for the bench spots, it was a competitive day. Chris Valaika followed Sappelt and made it back-to-back homers with a shot to right-center field. Chris Heisey started the winning ninth inning rally with a one-out walk and Jeremy Hermida kept it going with a single through the left side.

*Corky Miller (and his mustache) had the biggest hit with the game-winning two-run double off of the right field wall.

*Jose Arredondo made his first big league appearance of any kind in over a year and got the save in the ninth. Although he gave up a leadoff single, Arrendondo got a guy to hit a line drive to Yonder Alonso for a double play.

*On the negative side, young pitcher Donnie Joseph got knocked around for five earned runs, three hits and two walks while notching only one out in the seventh.

Overall, Dusty Baker was happy with the game.

“We looked pretty good,” Baker said. “Joseph got roughed up a little bit. He was probably a little nervous. He left some balls down over the heart of the plate after he got a little wild. Other than that, everybody looked pretty good. We played good defense, ran the bases well and had some timely hitting. Our young guys came back and won it for us late.”

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Cactus opener lineup

Reds Sunday lineup vs. Indians:

Stubbs 8
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Renteria 6
Hernandez 2
Lewis DH

Maloney 1

Don’t read into anything about Renteria playing over Janish. He didn’t lose his job after one scrimmage. Renteria didn’t play today and is just getting a chance on Sunday.

Indians lineup:

Brantley 8
A Cabrera 6
Santana 2
Hafner DH
Kearns 9
O. Cabrera 4
LaPorta 3
Buck 7
Donald 5

Tomlin SP 

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Volquez scratched for Sunday

The Reds were planning on starting Edinson Volquez  vs. the Indians in Sunday’s Cactus League opener, but that is now out.

Volquez, who is from the Dominican Republic, is dealing with an immigration visa issue, which stipulates that he can’t work in games that have paying customers. It was an issue that prevented camp invite Timo Perez from playing in big league exhibitions for the Reds a few years ago. Perez had to play in Minor League games, which have no admission charge.

Matt Maloney will start Sunday and pitch two innings. Daryl Thompson will be available to pitch after Maloney. Volquez will be able to remain in camp and will be limited to simulated games in the interim.

“It’s up to the government,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “He can stay here until it’s approved and when it’s approved, we’ll send him back [to big league games].”

UPDATE: It is likely that the work visa is being held up because Volquez was suspended last year for violating the league policy on performance enhancing drugs. He is in the country on a traveler’s visa. 

Volquez is still slated to be the Reds Opening Day starter on March 31.

Games a welcomed sight

Today’s 1:05 intrasquad game is scheduled for five innings.

Team White:

Sappelt 8
Cozart 6
Lewis 7
Francisco 5
Hermida 9
Heisey DH
Alonso 3
Valaika 4
Miller 2
Wood 1

Team Gray:

Stubbs 8
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Gomes 7
Bruce 9
Mesoraco DH
Frazier 5
Janish 6
Hanigan 2
Ondrusek 1

Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Ramon Hernandez are not playing in the scrimmage. Miguel Cairo will replace Votto at first base.

“You notice the common denominator here? Age,” manager Dusty Baker said. “If I play them today, do I start off two days in a row with Renteria, Hernandez or Rolen? I don’t think so.”

Baker is trying to program the camp for his veterans to get enough rest to be fresher, longer during the regular season.

*Also scheduled to pitch today:

RHP Daryl Thompson, RHP Jerry Gil, RHP Matt Klinker, RHP Logan Ondrusek, RHP Jordan
Smith, LHP Philippe Valiquette and LHP Jeremy Horst.

The games are generally a welcomed time for players, coaches and writers alike. You get excited for the first workouts to get here and just when you’re getting itchy to get beyond that, the exhibition games start. And just when that seems to get tedious, it’s time for the regular season to open.

“Like anything else out here, you get used to the monotony and you’re ready for a change,” center fielder Drew Stubbs said. “We’ll still obviously have the same workouts we’re doing now but we’ll start mixing in some games. We’ll start seeing some new faces on the other side. It keeps everything fresh for us.”

Some people often ask me how a player “looks” during the early workouts or bullpen session. I’m not a scout or coach so I don’t often pick up on mechanical issues with deliveries or swings. There’s not much to tell from one live BP or a bullpen session. But in a game, you can begin to judge outcomes and how they fare in competition.

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Things to do in Arizona…

piestewa5 022511.JPGIt’s been a nice day off from the happenings of Reds camp, especially before the games get going this weekend. Many snowbirds so used to Florida and the beaches have a tougher time grasping that there might be things to do in Arizona.

Today I went hiking on Piestewa Peak in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. In terms of mountains to real hikers and climbers, it’s probably equivilent to a kids ride at Kings Island. There were lots of people up there ranging from little children to the elderly. For a rookie like me, it could have been Everest. I was just happy to have reached the top. It was a beautfiul view of the area from there.  

piestewa7 022511.JPGIn the afternoon, I engaged in the more “intellectual” of pursuits by going to the movies to see “Hall Pass.” There were some funny moments but it was not one of the Farrelly Brothers best films.

Here is a much-delayed list of suggestions for places to go besides the Spring Training complex and places to eat out around here. The list isn’t limited to Goodyear. It’s not hard to get around here, but you do need a car.

Camelback Mountain — Phoenix: I tried this hike last year and only made it about three-quarters of the way. It’s more difficult than the one I did today but the views are stunning, even if they’re not from the top.

Phoenix Zoo — I’ve taken my family here and we were very impressed. The animals are perky and actually do more than lay around. There’s a cool wide open area called the Sanctuary where you see a bunch of animals roaming and you can feed the giraffes.

Westgate — Glendale: It’s like Newport on the Levee, times 100. Lots of restaurants and bars and the Jobing.com Arena is also on site for Phoenix Coyotes NHL games and concerts. Free parking, even for the hockey games. The Arizona Cardinals football stadium is next door and you’ll see it from miles away.

Estrella Mountain Regional Park — Goodyear: Only about 10 minutes from the complex. They have good playsets for the kids but also a bunch of hiking trails. My colleague from Cleveland, Jordan Bastian, did a run there and felt like he was the only man left on Earth.

Goodyear Community Park — Also a good kids spot to let them run around and play.

Sedona — two hours away but worth the drive and bring a camera. The mountain peak views and red rocks are simply spectacular. The town itself is a little touristy for me but the surroundings are a living postcard.

Phoenix International Raceway — Only worth mentioning this weekend since NASCAR is racing here this weekend.

Most writers only really know one thing away from the ballpark — and that’s where to eat. Here are some suggestions. Many are chains but there are some nice local spots. You can find all the places on Google Maps, Mapquest or your GPS.

NYPD Pizza — I’m a native New Yorker and this place has legit NY-style pizza. It’s very good.

Raul and Theresa’s — One of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to and it’s not a chain, yet. It’s only 10 minutes from Goodyear Ballpark, but they are adding their second Goodyear location in about a month I’ve been told.

In-N-Out Burger — A west coast hamburger mecca with multiple locations. A little bit like Five Guys, everything you get there is fresh.

Senor Taco — down the road from Goodyear Ballpark and they have burritos the size of an adult forearm.

Pei Wei — Same food and owners as PF Chang’s but you order at the counter and they bring it out.

Rokerij, Phoenix — A very nice, but not kid friendly, restaurant. It is a great “date night” kind of place but be prepared for a wait. It’s a unique combination of Dutch-Southwestern smokehouse food. That’s because the owner’s southwestern restuarant burned down and he simply moved that menu to the Dutch place. It’s fantastic food. A Chicago writer friend suggested it last year on advice from Lou Piniella.

Don and Charlies, Scottsdale — It’s kind of an iconic local eatery with sports memorabilia (mostly from Chicago) and decor that might remind some of Montgomery Inn. They specialize in steaks and ribs. The food isn’t the greatest quite honestly but it’s a good place to see people and worth trying. Also a lengthy wait…make reservations.

Frasher’s, Scottsdale — another steak place but it’s main thing is St. Louis style meals and pizza. I sat under a Vince Coleman jersey the other night.

Majerle’s Sports Grill — lots of TVs, great place to watch games — especially NCAA’s. 

Yogurtland, Avondale and Scottsdale — Great dessert spot with about 15-20 different yogurt flavors. It’s all self-serve and there’s around 30 toppings to choose from. You do it all yourself and pay according to the weight of your cup on the scale.

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Thursday afternoon notes

Today was day two of the live BP between Reds pitchers and Reds hitters.

Among those that threw included Dontrelle Willis, Francisco Cordero, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, Nick Masset and Jose Arredondo. Willis threw well and at one point struck out Yonder Alonso with a pretty nifty curveball.

Drew Stubbs cleared the fence hitting against Arroyo. Todd Frazier took Cueto deep over the left-center field wall with a hearty blast. Juan Francisco hit a booming homer to right field against Volquez.

Being so early in camp, don’t read too much into the results — positive or negative. Some of the hitters in were told what pitches were coming by the pitchers. It’s purely a get work in session under simulated game conditions.

I tried to get video of live BP today and yesterday but the quality was poor. I flunked out of videographer school.

*Other drills included pitchers fielding their position and throwing to different bases based on varying situations devised by coach Chris Speier.

*It was reported, and I confirmed, that 1B prospect Yonder Alonso switched agents recently. Alonso is now represented by Dan Lozano, who also happens to be the agent for Joey Votto.

*Speaking of Votto, he was feeling under the weather yesterday and not so great today with an upper respiratory issue. However, Votto was cleared to participate in the workout after being seen by the medical staff.

*For MLB.com/Reds.com stories — there will be a feature on outfield prospect Dave Sappelt. He moved quickly last season and earned two promotions and ended in Triple-A — partially on need but mostly because of performance.

“He’s a very exciting player,” Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet said. “He’s aggressive. He swings the bat, puts the ball in play and runs. I would say the biggest thing is he creates havoc. He makes things happen. One thing about him is he’s not a low-key sit back and watch the at-bat player. He knows what he’s going to do and what’s going to happen.”

*In yesterday’s live BP, Jerry Gil’s velocity was hard not to notice. Gil, the former infielder that converted to pitching in 2008, can reach 97 mph.

“I feel way better than when I started pitching my first couple of years,” Gil said on Thursday. “I felt like my arm was going to fall apart. It hurt a lot in the beginning. But I got used to it and now I feel better. I thought pitching would be easy but it’s not that easy. You have to work hard.”

*Infielder Chris Valaika is trying to make the club as an extra player. Sitting on a bench could hamper his overal development if he’s not hitting every day, but Valaika felt it was something he could handle.

“That’s definitely a tradeoff,” Valaika said. “Getting your at-bats and playing every day is important for development. But just being in the big leagues and learning from Edgar [Renteria] and Miguel [Cairo] – guys that have been there and done that – I think that’s important as well.”

I’m getting an off day on Friday and will not be around the complex. Be sure to check for stories from colleague Barry Bloom, who will be on the case.

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Pitching assignments

Good morning from Goodyear, where I’m starting to see a lot of NASCAR haulers parked at some nearby hotels. The Phoenix race on the Sprint Cup schedule is Sunday, which happens to be the first day of Reds exhibition play.

Got some pitching assignments for the intrasquad game and the first few Cactus League games.

On Saturday for the intrasquad game, Travis Wood will get two innings, and one inning each for Daryl Thompson, Jerry Gil, Matt Klinker, Logan Ondrusek and Jordan Smith.

On Sunday @ CLE: Edinson Volquez is scheduled to start vs. the Indians and go two innings. Matt Maloney and Sam LeCure are expected to follow with two innings each. Daniel Ray Herrera and Carlos Fisher will each get an inning.

Monday vs CLE: Bronson Arroyo for two innings, followed by one inning from Aroldis Chapman, Francisco Cordero, Dontrelle Willis and Jose Arredondo, Nick Masset and Bill Bray

Tue split squad @ OAK: Mike Leake starts
Tue split squad @LAA Johnny Cueto starts
Wed vs White Sox: Homer Bailey starts

More to come later…


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Gomes on Wainwright

I just got off of the phone with Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes, who wanted to clarify and respond to a blog item that he was singing or celebrating the elbow injury of Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. (Update — I should have added this in at the start, but Gomes denies the report).

I was present in the clubhouse when Gomes walked in. He was singing — but it was a song from the original Karate Kid movie — “You’re the best around…” As for what he said about Wainwright, Gomes’ account follows:

“I was doing an interview with [Rob] Dibble and Dibble gave me the breaking news that Wainwright was flying back to St. Louis with arm problems. That’s all I heard. I came in and I said ‘is Wainwright gone, is Wainwright gone?’

“To clear up everything, I came up with Wainwright. I know Wainwright. I think he’s one of the top notch pitchers in the National League and baseball. Outside of different uniforms that we wear and different cities we play in, playing in the Major Leagues, we’re all brothers. There’s a brotherhood there. There’s one thing you would never wish upon any other player and that’s an injury. We’ve all had them at some point coming up and we might currently be having one now.

“From the bottom of my heart, I would never wish anyone an injury. If they did have an injury, you wish them the best in rehab. As Major League ballplayers, we have a brotherhood for each other. On the field, we’re going to battle and play our nine innings and we’re going to compete. Off the field, we’re still human and we have families. There’s one thing you don’t wish upon anyone and that is an injury. Even if they are on the other team, you wish them the best of health. If Wainwright is gone, it doesn’t mean anything to us. It maybe gives them the opportunity to make a trade for another big ace. The Cardinals are top notch themselves. They’ve battled with injuries there. They are a top notch organization with a top notch general manager and a top notch ownership.”

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