March 2011

Surprise!

It was my first time to the Arizona city of Surprise today and the drive up Rt. 303 from Goodyear was basically this: farm, farm, traffic light, prison, farm, farm, traffic light, farm, Surprise. The mountains were in the vista throughout.

On the sign welcoming visitors to the city limits, it said Surprise was founded in 1960. I found that particularly interesting since back in Ohio and especially in my original home state of New York, you don’t see many towns founded after the 1800s.

The 20-plus minute drive was a bountiful one for the Reds, which notched a 5-2 win over the Royals.

Some notes:

*Travis Wood was pleased with his outing — 3 ip, 5 H, 2 ER (on Billy Butler’s two-run homer), 2 BB, 2 K.

“I felt good. My pitches were working pretty well,” Wood said. “[Butler] was able to drop the head down on an inside pitch and put up two for them.”

*As has been chronicled in the past, Wood is an off-season workout partner of All-Star lefty Cliff Lee. They live five minutes apart in Arkansas. Someone asked Wood about the idea of facing Lee with the Phillies this season.

“I would absolutely love that,” Wood replied.

*Sam LeCure looked rather solid himself with two hits and four strikeouts over two scoreless innings.

*Dontrelle Willis probably had the most impressive pitching outing of the day with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. Willis was a nimple fielder as well. In his second inning of work, he made nice play retrieving Manny Pina’s grounder towards third base.

“We were yelling, ‘let that one go foul’ and after he picked it up and threw it, said ‘oh yeah, great play,’” manager Dusty Baker said.

Willis also covered first base nicely to get an out on a bunt play to the right side.

“He’s an athlete. I didn’t think he had a chance on that bunt,” Baker said.

*Over at the ‘B’ game this morning vs. the Indians in Goodyear, the Reds lost 7-6. Dave Sappelt had another good game by going 2-for-3 with a double. In ‘A’ games, he’s batting .533 (8-for-15).

“He can hit. He hit last year,” Baker said. “There’s more to being ready for the big leagues than hitting. Not to slight the kid at all, he’s doing great. There are a few things he has to work on.”

*Zack Cozart also homered in the ‘B’ game. Several of the Reds top hitters this spring are prospects. That’s no accident, the manager said.

“Like I’ve told you, spring is for the young,” Baker said. “It’s for young hitters, off-speed pitchers, winter ball guys and fastball hitters.”

*I talked to Fred Lewis for a Reds beat item before Tuesday’s game. Lewis is not 100 percent satisfied with his performance at the plate and working to get better. He’s been doing some tinkering with his swing, not all to his satisfaction.

“Eventually, I will be where I want to be,” Lewis said. “In the outfield, I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at. On the offensive side, I’m not happy with it. I’ve figured out that I’m frustrated with what I’m doing. I keep telling myself to go back to square one and do what I was doing before I got here. You can do a lot of stuff in the cages but it only matters what you do on the field.”

And in a late stunner from Brewers camp, Zack Greinke will miss Opening Day with a fractured rib. Greinke suffered the injury last month, playing basketball. He will start the season on the DL. It’s been a tough time for the Reds NL Central rivals. The Cardinals already lost Adam Wainwright (elbow) for the season and their other ace, Chris Carpenter, is bothered by a hamstring injury.

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Volquez delayed

Wednesday could have the makings of an intriguing matchup when the Reds meet the Padres.

Key words — could have.

Edinson Volquez is listed as the probable starter to face former Reds ace Aaron Harang in Peoria.

However, Volquez is still in the Dominican Republic trying to get his work visa situation straightened out.

“He’ll probably have it today,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty said.

Volquez, who left camp on Sunday, was originally slated to get his approved work visa at the American consulate on Monday, fly back to Arizona and be back in camp today and pitch tomorrow. Him pitching vs. San Diego isn’t “written is cement” as Jerry Narron used to say.

“Probably not, unless he can get a flight today,” Jocketty said.

Volquez could easily slot in and pitch on Thursday, if needed. Jocketty believed that Volquez would still have no issue with pitching on Opening Day vs. the Brewers March 31.

“I would think so,” Jocketty said.

UPDATE – Volquez is definitely not starting Wednesday.

“He’s not going to make it back by tomorrow,” Jocketty said.

Reds pitching coach Bryan Price has a plan in place for Volquez

“He can pitch on the 10th (Thursday) along with Arroyo and we’ll work it out somehow,” Price said. “We’ll keep everyone on their turn so Volky will have to come back on pitch on the off day on the 15th.”

Two lineups, one blog entry

‘A’ game lineup vs. Royals, 3:05 p.m. ET at Surprise, Ariz.

Stubbs 8
Renteria 6
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Hernandez 2
Valaika 4

Wood 1

‘B’ game lineup vs. Indians, 9:30 a.m. MT at Indians practice field

Sappelt 8
Cozart 6
Alonso 3
Francisco 5
Heisey 9
Frazier 7
Dorn DH
Negron 4
Grandal 2

Klinker 1

More to come later…

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Hold on to your wigs and keys

This wasn’t a good day out here if you wear a toupee or had to catch a fly ball.

Winds at the yard today were at 29 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph. A few infielders and outfielders took some unique routes in trying to catch some of the flies. It certainly wasn’t an easy task.

“I was chewing a lot of gum to keep my mouth wet, that’s for sure,” Reds pitcher Homer Bailey said.

Fortunately, this did not affect your fearless Reds beat writer in the cozy confines of the press box. But wow ,it was sure windy all around the desert today. There lots of double-digit run totals in Cactus League games on Monday. For example, it was a 16-16 final between the White Sox and Indians in Glendale.

Over in Goodyear, there was only side with double-digits and that was the Brewers. They handed the Reds a 15-2 thumping. The 25 hits allowed by Cincinnati was the club’s most in a spring game since at least 1997.

*Before Monday’s loss, Reds pitchers had a 1.03 ERA over the previous four games, totaling 35 innings. The staff hadn’t allowed a homer in the previous seven-straight games. The Brewers had three today.

“Man, this game is hard to figure,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “One day everything goes right and the next day everything goes wrong. I guess that’s why it’s called spring.”

Some pitching lines:

*Bailey wound up being charged with four earned runs and six hits over 2 2/3 innings with no walks and three strikeouts. Bailey was trailing 1-0 with two outs in the third and just couldn’t finish the inning. He allowed four-straight hits.

*Mike Leake was roughed up for six hits in the fourth inning and nine total over three innings. He also allowed four runs. Many of the balls were well connected.

*Bill Bray gave up seven runs and six hits over 2/3 of an inning.

*Nick Masset fared the best with one scoreless inning and one strikeout.

*Aroldis Chapman threw two wild pitches in the seventh and gave up one hit during a scoreless seventh.

“Chappy had a little problem with command but ended up getting a key double play and got out of the inning. He didn’t appear very happy,” Baker said.

Some hitting, but not much:

*The Reds had seven hits, most of them late. Dave Sappelt’s second homer of spring provided their first run in the seventh.

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Sunday afternoon items

The Reds have won four of their last five games now after a convincing 10-1 win over the Cubs on Sunday. Although it was a split-squad roster for Chicago, several of their regulars made the trip over to Goodyear — including Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro, who played the entire game.

There was plenty to like today if you are a Reds fan. Some of the highlights:

*Johnny Cueto pitched three scoreless innings with one hit, one walk and one strikeout.

*Edgar Renteria had two hits and scored two runs but also did well defensively at second base. He made a nice pick to his left on Carlos Pena’s second-inning groundout.

*Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect fourth inning with two Ks.

*Zack Cozart led off the fifth inning as a pinch-hitter and smacked a homer to left field — his first of spring.

*From two outs in the second inning until the start of the eighth, Reds pitchers retired 16 batters in a row. The Cubs were held to just two hits.

“It was solid all around,” manager Dusty Baker said. “No errors again and good pitching. We had a couple of hits and a couple of walks and some timely hitting.”

Other notes and items:

*My main story of the day will be on Cueto. With a new four-year, $27 million contract, he will have to both stay hungry but not put too much pressure on himself to live up to what he signed for.

“I feel like I’m the same guy,” Cueto said. “I just worry about throwing the ball and doing my job. My mental approach is like I’m looking for a big contract. I’m thinking like I’ve gotten nothing yet. That’s how I feel like.”

*RHP Matt Klinker will start the ‘B’ game that’s been scheduled against the Indians on Tuesday. Klinker is the West Chester native and Lakota West graduate and is going through his first big league camp.

“It’d be an honor to be in a big league camp anywhere, but with my hometown team, it’s just icing on the cake,” Klinker said.

*Baker was asked about all of the prospects the team has and the situation where the organization could have an elite prospect at nearly every position in Triple-A Louisville.

“It’s been like that the last couple of years,” Baker said. “It’s more so this year because it backs up every year. It’s like backing up a dam. You’re going to have more water if you get a rainy season two years in a row or three years in a row. This is what it’s like when you’ve got talent and a good team at the big leagues. It stacks up. Sooner or later, you can’t keep everybody. Eventually you can make trades for what you really need, or want.”

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Renteria at 2B

Reds vs Cubs(ss), 3:05 p.m. ET. Radio on WLW

Renteria 4
Janish 6
Lewis 7
Francisco 5
Alonso 3
Heisey 9
Hernandez 2
Sappelt 8
Mesoraco DH

Cueto 1

Cordero, Burton, Thompson, Gil, Fisher and Klinker are among those available in the bullpen.

*This will be Renteria’s first start of spring at second base — he did enter yesterday’s game there later during substitutions. He’s been taking groundballs there. But at least during the regular season over 15 years, Renteria has never played a game anywhere but shortstop (save for one inning at first base).

“As long as Brandon is healthy, whoever plays behind Brandon isn’t going to play a lot,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “But what happens if something happens to Brandon? You never know. I’d rather try to prepare now. Renteria will play some at shortstop too. How much he plays depends on how Janish does too.”

Baker said that Renteria would “probably not” get any time at third base.

“I’ve got Francisco, Frazier, Valaika and Cairo,” he noted. “Plus I talked to Edgar. He doesn’t feel real comfortable playing third base. That’s a whole lot closer. As you get older, closeness and reactions don’t match, especially if you’ve never been there. Cairo has been there a lot in his career.”
 

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Change at the top

Reds at Dodgers, 3:05 p.m. ET. Radio on WLW with Kelch and Brantley

Phillips 4
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Gomes 7
Bruce 9
Hanigan 2
Janish 6
Grandal DH

Arroyo 1

Interesting that Dusty Baker has flipped the 1 and 2 spots with Stubbs and Phillips. He did say at the beginning of camp that both could be his leadoff guy. Stubbs did it for a few games, including Thursday night vs. LA.

 “We’re trying it. It’s Spring Training,” Baker said. “We’re probably going to try Jay Bruce and a couple of other guys. If I try guys, it might just to get a guy three at-bats with less innings in the field.

Asked about his place in the lineup for the season,  Phillips did not share his preference.

“I will tell you this – wherever they put me, I will do my job,” Phillips said. “When I hit fourth, I drove in RBIs and showed I could hit fourth. When I hit second and third, I was 30-30. When I hit first, I got on base and made the All-Star team. Then I ended up getting hurt and my numbers went down. I feel like I can hit anywhere in the lineup.”

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Friday afternoon notes

Dusty Baker was a rather pleased manager following the Reds’ 3-1 win over the Mariners. Besides winning, there were no walks allowed and no errors committed. In fact, neither side gave up a walk — which is pretty rare in a spring game.

“That was a very clean and well-played game,” Baker said. “Good pitching.”

Other news and notes out of the game today:

*There was a very strong nice outing from Dontrelle Willis today with two perfect innings. Willis was taking something off on a couple of pitches and crossed up some hitters. Of his 24 pitches, 19 were strikes. It was a much better performance than outing No. 1.

“Dontrelle threw strike after strike, especially when he got the 3-2 count on the guy,” Baker said. “You can’t say anything bad today.”

*I spoke with SS Zack Cozart before the game and he’s been having a good camp. After a 2-for-3 game, he is 4-for-10 (.400) over five games. This quote didn’t make it into my Reds beat item on him today.

“This year is a lot different for me,” Cozart said. “It was my first Spring Training. I was happy to be here and in awe of some of the guys. This year, I feel more part of the team. I am on the [40-man] roster. I’m more relaxed. Even Brook Jacoby and Dusty Baker said the same thing. I feel more at home. They can tell in my play out there. I’m not pressing. I’m trying to prove I can play.”

*I also did a pre-game interview for a feature story with OF Chris Heisey, who did not fare as well going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts today. Heisey, like Cozart, is more comfortable being in camp after going through last year. There is more at stake as Heisey is trying to retain his extra outfielder’s job amid competition from Fred Lewis and Jeremy Hemrida.

“I still have to make the team and I still can’t coast through. It is a new season,” Heisey said. “Last year I helped the team off the bench but it’s a new year and we have to win this year. No guarantrees  I need to prove I can be the same guy this year and help the team off the bench and hopefully be that pinch-hitter again.”

*OF Juan Duran is only 19 but cuts an imposing figure at 6-foot-7. Duran was 2-for-2 today and sliced a liner into right field and slid into second base for a double.

“That’s why we’ve got him over here,” Baker said. “We’re letting the young guys play and see what they can do.”

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Friday lineup

Reds at Mariners, 3:05 p.m. ET

Sappelt 8
Cozart 6
Alonso 3
Francisco 5
Heisey 9
Hernandez 2
Lewis DH
Hermida 7
Negron 4

Reineke 1

Also scheduled to pitch are Willis, Bray, Masset and Smith.

More later from Peoria, AZ.

 

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Pictures

030311 2.JPGSunset in Goodyear…

 

030311 1.JPG

Goodyear Ballpark under the lights.

 

bench griffey 030311.JPG

Earlier today…Johnny Bench and Ken Griffey Sr. talking behind the cage during BP.

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