August 2011

Reds open road trip on wrong foot

As I wrote in my pre-game notebook, the Reds are trying to get another look at Yonder Alonso in left field and right from the get-go of a 6-4 loss to the Nationals they saw some of the limitations he faces.

Rick Ankiel hit a routine fly ball to left field to lead off the bottom of the first inning right after the Reds took a 2-0 lead. Playing way back, Alonso couldn’t run in quick enough to catch the ball. Drew Stubbs also made a desperate effort but it landed in for a bloop single that started a three-run inning.

“A faster outfielder would have [caught it],” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s the one thing he lacks is speed. It’s something, most of the time, you’re either born with it or you’re not.”

Notes:

*Jay Bruce also had something go awry in the bottom of the first. On a Mike Morse drive to right field, Bruce took a first step in before having to run back. The ball screamed over his head to the wall for a two-run double.

*Mike Leake came in with a 2.53 ERA over his previous five starts. He hadn’t given up five earned runs since July 8 at MIL. His line was 6 ip, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR. 89 pitches/56 strikes.

*Upon hitting a RBI double off the CF wall in the seventh, SS Edgar Renteria pulled up lame and hopped into second base. He was removed from the game and diagnosed with a strained left groin. He will be evaluated tomorrow. Without Zack Cozart already, Paul Janish is the lone remaining true shortstop on the 40-man roster.

Quotes:

“We really kept fighting and fighting but just couldn’t muster up two or three hits in a row or the big one like they got. They got a couple of big home runs.” — Dusty Baker

“I did not feel a pop. I felt it a little bit. Tomorrow we will see what happens.” — Edgar Renteria on his injury

“It happens sometimes. Some balls found some holes. I felt like I threw the ball pretty good. The balls they hit out were off the plate. They were good pitches. I don’t know if they were sitting on them or had a good plan.” — Mike Leake

“You hate to get two quick runs and they come back with three quick runs.” — Baker on the first inning.

Arroyo good to go for Thursday

 RHP Bronson Arroyo tested his sore Achilles tendon with a bullpen session on Tuesday. There were no issues.

“I felt surprisingly real good,” Arroyo said. “I’m ready to roll today. I’m good. I just threw a regular bullpen, 45 pitches. It was a little shorter than I have been but not because of my ankle. It was because it’s getting late in the year and hot.”

As recently as Sunday, Arroyo said he was sore after running.

Arroyo is scheduled to start the Thursday series finale vs. the Nationals.

 

I’m back, and Alonso is back in LF

Good to be with you from the ballpark again…

Reds lineup vs. Nationals

Stubbs 8
Renteria 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Hernandez 2
Alonso 7
Frazier 5
Leake 1

*Interesting that Yonder Alonso is back in LF today. While I was out, it seemed from my reading as if the Reds had scrapped the idea that he could play there in the Majors. His last game there was Aug. 6 at Chicago.

*An MRI taken on LHP Dontrelle Willis’ left forearm came back normal. He is expected to make his start on Saturday at PIT as scheduled.

*If you were asleep late last night, here is my story on two last minute signings of top Draft pick Robert Stephenson and LHP/hoops prospect Amir Garrett.

*Homer Bailey, Logan Ondrusek and Dave Sappelt visited troops at the National Naval Medical Center.

*Today is Ryan Hanigan’s 31st birthday.

Stephenson signs before deadline

Just before the deadline expired, the Reds signed 2011 first-round pick Robert Stephenson. The right-handed high school pitcher will receive a $2 million bonus.

Stephenson, 18, was the 27th overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Alhambra High School in Martinez, Calif. During his senior season, he was 7-2 with a 1.33 ERA in 64 innings, and he tossed two no-hitters.

“We got him right there at the end,” Reds senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley said just after the 12:01 a.m. ET deadline early Tuesday. “You never want to pick a guy in the first round to not sign him.”

And Stephenson was also happy.

“I’m really excited and definitely relieved to get it done,” Stephenson said by phone. “It was literally at the last minute by the phone waiting for a call.”

No deal with top pick yet

UPDATE at 10:21 pm: Still no deal…

“We’re hopeful  but we can’t tell if it’s going to happen or not,” Reds director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley said. “‘Cautiously optimistic’ is the phrase.”

And in case you’re wondering, LHP Jeremy Sowers in 2001 was the last Reds first round pick to not sign. He went to college and eventually signed as a first-round pick of the Indians.

****

It’s getting down to the zero hour before the 12:01 am ET deadline to sign 2011 top draft pick RHP Robert Stephenson.

As of right now, a deal does not appear to be close with the 27th overall selection.

“If we sign him, it won’t be until later,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty said. “Hopefully, we’ll get it done. Right now, we just don’t know. We haven’t gotten any positive sign from their side.”

A team that does not sign its first- or second-round pick will receive a compensatory pick in the 2012 Draft. That selection will come at the same slot, plus one spot.

Stephenson has a contingency plan since he is enrolled to play for the Univ. of Washington. Either way, I will let update you when I hear something later tonight.

*In other news, Jay Bruce was named the NL Player of the Week. Here is a portion from the MLB press release:

In seven games last week, Bruce led baseball with 15 RBI, a 1.120 slugging percentage and 28 total bases, and tied for the Major League-lead with five home runs and nine runs scored. The 24-year-old collected the second-most hits among National Leaguers while his .440 (11-for-25) batting average ranked third and his .481 on-base percentage ranked fourth. Bruce had five multi-hit performances on the week, including four multi-RBI efforts.

*Also, I’d like to thank Barry Bloom for covering the Reds during the home stand and staying on top of everything while I was on vacation.

We are on a break

I am not in Chicago this weekend, nor will I be in Cincinnati for the home stand.

It’s vacation time for me so I will leave it up to you to comment on the week-plus that was or will be. Please keep it civil like you usually do.

I’ll be quite curious to see where things are with the Reds when I return. I am going to be back on the case Aug. 16.

Until then, take it easy…

A lost series in Houston, really?

Dropping two of three to the team with the worst record in baseball? In the voice of Wallace Shawn’s character Vizzini in “The Princess Bride” …. inconceivable!

I remember walking to Minute Maid Park Monday seeing a crane remove a huge Hunter Pence banner outside the stadium. The Astros were reeling from losing two stars in deadline trades and having to start young players — some straight from Double-A. Not winning this series seemed like something that wouldn’t happen to the Reds, or even couldn’t.

Happen it did as the 5-4 loss on Wednesday meant the Reds dropped two of three in the series to fall 7 1/2 games out of first place.

“It’s another tough loss,” pitcher Dontrelle Willis said. “We’re going to continue to work hard and continue to battle but this one hurt tonight.”

Notes:

*It was Willis’ seventh inning homer that gave the Reds a 3-2 lead. It was Willis’ ninth career homer and his first since 8/29/07 vs. ATL while playing for the Marlins.

*Nick Masset was charged with his first blown save since April 13, and it was a doozy. Masset faced five batters and couldn’t notch an out. Starting his seventh inning with a four-pitch walk was a big problem. Two bad plays on bunts compounded it.

*Many wondered why Willis didn’t stick around after the sixth with only 77 pitches. In six innings, he allowed two runs and eight hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

“He really wasn’t sharp all night,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They were hitting some balls hard off of him. We felt fortunate to get as deep in the game as we did. I don’t know if you noticed, they were hitting some balls hard off of him tonight, which they didn’t do earlier against Dontrelle. That was far enough.”

*Willis is 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA in five starts for the Reds.

*Joey Votto was 3-for-4. His Minute Maid Park hitting streak is 18 games.

*Astros starter Jordan Lyles, the youngest player in the Majors at 20 years old, earned his first big league win after beginning his career 0-6.

Quotes:

“Honestly, I really felt like I didn’t have good command. Once again, our defense and the talent we have around me picked me up today. Ramon did a good job of calling the right pitches to get me out of those jams. It was a team effort to get me out of those jams and keep us in the ballgame. That’s what they’ve been doing the whole time since I’ve been up.” — Dontrelle Willis

“We had a couple of messed up bunt plays without an out. You just can’t give away that many outs. This game isn’t made for five outs. You have to take the outs when you get them.” — Dusty Baker

Willis seeks first win

Reds lineup vs Astros

Stubbs 8
Renteria 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Lewis 7
Hernandez 2
Frazier 5
Willis 1

*Dontrelle Willis is 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA lifetime vs. the Astros, including a 2-0 record/1.57 ERA at Minute Maid Park. He hasn’t faced Houston though in exactly four years — 8/3/07. Willis is 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in four starts with the Reds and has been the victim of two blown saves.

*Reds pitchers have a 3.07 ERA since the All-Star break.

Surgery for Rolen

 

Reds third baseman Scott Rolen underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday that, according to the club, removed bone spurs fragments from the acromioclavicular joint in his left shoulder.

Team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek performed the procedure. A full recovery is expected and Rolen is expected to miss an additional 4-6 weeks. He has been on the DL since July 22.

Juan Francisco is currently on a rehab assignment with the AZL Reds in Goodyear where has gone 5-for-10 in three games. Francisco torn the meniscus in his right knee in early July and had surgery. You have to wonder if he will get summoned if and when he is ready. He’s always been injured at the same time as Rolen and has missed windows of opportunity to play in the Majors.

No shock, Bailey likes Texas

 Notes from the Reds’ 5-1 win over the Astros on Tuesday.

*Homer Bailey had a very strong performance. 8 ip, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 2 WP. 99 pitches/66 strikes and 20 of 30 first-pitch strikes. He owns 0.60 ERA in two starts at Minute Maid Park this season and a 0.86 in three starts against the Astros.

*Bailey drawing a one-out walk from Wandy Rodriguez in the fifth inning proved big. After a Drew Stubbs walk, Edgar Renteria hit a 1-0 pitch for a grand slam.

*It was Renteria’s ninth career grand slam and his first since 8/30/09 vs. COL. The last Reds grand slam came via Miguel Cairo against the Cubs on June 7, 2011.

*Aroldis Chapman worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth with two strikeouts. He has a 9 2/3 innings hitless streak and has retired 28 of his last 29 batters faced.

Quotes:

“I get to see my family and I don’t get to see them much. My grandmother was at the game, cousins, aunts, uncles and everybody else. It’s just the comforts of being back home.” — Homer Bailey on pitching in Houston, about 100 miles from his hometown of LaGrange, Texas. He left tickets for about 30 people.

“[Rodriguez] had us eating out of his hand until that five-run inning. One of the key at-bats in that inning was Homer. He worked him, fouled off some pitches and stayed off some other pitches that allowed us to get into that bases loaded situation with one out, which has been eluding us big time.” — Dusty Baker

“It’s a tough situation where we’ve got to throw a fastball right there. We fell behind, and he put a good swing on it.” — Astros catcher Carlos Corporan on Renteria’s grand slam.

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