September 2011

Much appreciation

Obviously, this is the end of the line for the 2011 season for the Reds. And even though the work on the stories and blog will not be stopping, I thought this was as good of a time as any for me to stop and say THANK YOU.

THANK YOU for reading my stories on Reds.com and MLB.com. THANK YOU for reading and/or commenting on this blog and for enough loyalty to make it one of the better trafficked MLB.com reporter blogs in our system. THANK YOU for being one of more than 8,600 followers I have on Twitter. I hope it was a useful tool for you to stay updated and that you enjoyed some of the banter.

I can’t believe I’ve been on a baseball beat for 11 seasons now, with season No. 6 covering the Reds in the books. What I like most about this job is its unpredictability. Every day and every game often brings something new or unexpected — whether it’s a three-homer night, an injury, a possible no-hitter, a 19-inning game in Philadelphia or like last night, a suicide squeeze bunt for a win in the 13th inning, followed by a wild four-walk and a balk but a scoreless inning for a save. Hopefully I was able to give you some insight about what happened on the field or in the clubhouse.

Expect a busier off-season than last winter as the Reds have some work to do to be contenders in 2012. Other than some much-needed vacation time here and there (the first coming in early November), I will be on the case throughout covering news and developments so please continue to check in.

But until next time, THANK YOU.

162

Reds lineup vs. the Mets

Stubbs 8
Renteria 6
Votto 3
Bruce 9
Heisey 7
Francisco 5
Mesoraco 2
Janish 4
Volquez 1

*Brandon Phillips exited Tuesday’s game with a strained left quad when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter. Not a coincidence perhaps was that average sat at an even .300 for the season. If Phillips does not get into the game and bat, he will be the first Reds 2B to bat .300 since Bret Boone batted .318 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

*On six times in Reds franchise history have teammates notched both 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. It’s in reach for Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Votto has 29 homers and 103 RBIs. Bruce has 32 homers and 97 RBIs. Last night, Bruce’s homer in the first inning gave the 24-year-old 100 for his career. He is the third youngest in club history to reach 100 homers — behind Johnny Bench (23 yrs, 161 days on 5/17/71) and Frank Robinson (23 yrs, 230 days on 4/18/59).

*This was mentioned in my game story late last night but worthy of a repeat. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bronson Arroyo is only the second pitcher in history to allow at least 40 homers with fewer than 50 walks in a season. Robin Roberts, a Hall of Famer, did it in both 1956 and ‘57. Arroyo has 45 walks and 46 homers allowed.

Talks with Phillips, Cordero

 Reds GM Walt Jocketty met with the agents for 2B Brandon Phillips on Tuesday. The talks were, as expected, of the preliminary nature. Phillips is represented by the Levinson brothers.

“It went fine,” Jocketty said. “We had talked a little bit in the past. It was more a kind of guidelines of what we’re trying to do. Once the season is over, we’ll talk again.

“We kind of stated our position and they stated theirs. We’ll see if we can come up with a middle ground somewhere. If nothing, like we did with Bronson [Arroyo], we’ll exercise the option and keep working on it.”

Phillips has a $12 million club option for 2012, with a $1 million buyout. I will have more from Phillips in my notebook on Reds.com and MLB.com later.

Things are further along with closer Francisco Cordero, who also has a $12 million club option. Jocketty and Cordero’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, have been talking for two or three weeks.

The Reds and Cordero are talking about a possible two-year deal.

“We’re just waiting more for them to get back to us,” Jocketty said. “I’m more optimistic something will get done there in the near future just because we’ve made more progress.”

200 innings, .300 average?

Reds lineup vs. Mets

Phillips 4
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Bruce 9
Heisey 7
Frazier 5
Mesoraco 2
Janish 6
Arroyo 1

  
*Bronson Arroyo is exactly nine innings shy of reaching 200 innings for the seventh-straight season, including all six with the Reds. While the odds of back-to-back complete games are tall, if there is any place it would doable, it’s at Citi Field. In two starts here, Arroyo is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA over 17 innings. He worked a complete game four-hit shutout at Citi Field on July 10, 2009.
 
*Brandon Phillips’ batting average dropped to .299 last night. His odds to get back above .300 favor him in the matchup tonight. Phillips is 12-for-26 (.462) lifetime vs. Mets starter Chris Capuano.

Final series of 2011

Reds lineup vs. Mets

Phillips 4
Renteria
Votto 3
Bruce 9
Heisey 8
Francisco 5
Sappelt 7
Mesoraco 2
Bailey 1

*The one and only time Homer Bailey faced the Mets previously was this season and a mess. On July 28, Bailey gave up a career-high nine earned runs and 12 hits over four inning during a 10-9 Reds loss at GABP. He left the game trailing by a 9-3 score.

Rounding up, Ramirez-Francisco

Reds lineup vs. Pirates

Phillips 4
Sappelt 7
Votto 3
Bruce 9
Heisey 8
Francisco 5
Mesoraco 2
Janish 6
Willis 1

*After his three hits last night, Brandon Phillips has raised his average to .301. He could be the first Reds second baseman to finish a season at .300 or better since Bret Boone batted .318 in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Phillips could wind up with a Silver Slugger Award since he leads all NL second baseman in hitting, runs (89), hits (179), doubles (37) and OBP (.352).

Dusty Baker always talks about rounding up numbers, especially in contract years like Phillips is in.

“He’s one of the ones [rounding up],” Baker said. “Some of them are rounding down. That’s what you don’t want to do. Time is running out. You want to round up, not down. The kind of guys that round up are the fighting tough guys, you know what I mean?”

*Interesting anecdote came when the topic of Baker and the Cubs trading for Aramis Ramirez from the Pirates in 2003. Chicago was making a playoff push and Pittsburgh had tired of Ramirez after six seasons, yet he was only 25 at the time of the deal. It ended up being a disastrous move for the Pirates.

But Ramirez has imparted some of his knowledge and experience on another young third baseman — Juan Francisco.

“At that time, his fielding wasn’t that good,” Baker said of Ramirez. “He was throwing balls away. I remember  Wendell Kim and Chris Speier worked with him big time on foot work and getting his body in position. He’s one of the guys that took it upon himself to talk with Francisco the same way we talked to him about how bright your future could be, what he was in that stage, really working out this winter, getting into tip-top shape and give yourself the maximum chance to prosper in your career, no matter what role, that is until the time comes you can possibly be playing every day.”

Francisco has definitely been better than expected in the field since his recall. You could tell he’s been putting in the work to get better in the field. 

In nine seasons since joining Chicago, Ramirez hit .294 with 238 home runs, 805 RBIs and is a two-time All-Star.

**In original post, I forgot to mention who was in the trade: Ramirez and Kenny Lofton and cash to  Cubs for a player to Matt Bruback and Jose Hernandez and later as PTBNL, Bobby Hill.

“I was begging Jim [Hendry] not to panic yet, just to take our time and get a better deal. The next thing you know, that deal just fell in our laps,” Baker said.

*The Reds are trying to avoid a Pirates three-game sweep for the first since April 16-18 of last season.

*Jay Bruce’s next home run will be No. 100 of his career. When he hits it, Bruce, 24, will become the third youngest player in franchise history to reach the milestone behind Johnny Bench and Frank Robinson.

Chamber of commerce weekend

 Reds lineup vs. Pirates

Phillips 4
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Heisey 7
Bruce 9
Mesoraco 2
Francisco 5
Renteria 6
Wood 1

 *This is a sports/music fan’s type of weekend to visit Greater Pittsburgh. As I type this, the Univ. of Pittsburgh is hosting Notre Dame at Heinz Field. There is a Penguins pre-season hockey game at the arena and over in Morgantown tonight, LSU visits West Virginia. There are a lot of LSU folk staying an hour away here in Pittsburgh. Last night, there was a sea of humanity downtown as a Foo Fighters concert let out. And tonight’s postgame concert following the Reds and Pirates is the Steve Miller Band.

*Catch you from the ballpark soon.

Jocketty extended through 2014

The Reds announced on Friday that general manager Walt Jocketty has been given a three-year contract extension through the 2014 season. His original four-year contract was to expire at the end of this season.

Jocketty, 60, came to the Reds as a special advisor in January, 2008 and assumed the role of GM and president of baseball operation after Wayne Krivsky was dismissed early that season.

The Reds have a 319-323 record since Jocketty joined the organization and the club won the NL Central division title last season. Last winter, the Sporting News named him baseball’s executive of the year.

“Since he’s been here, Walt has vastly improved our baseball operations within the organization,” Reds CEO Bob Castellini said in a statement. “You can’t develop a winning tradition without stability. Walt and his staff are doing good things here. We want to keep that momentum going.”

This is Jocketty’s 37th season in professional baseball and his 17th as a GM. He held that post with the Cardinals from 1995-2007.

Rain in Pittsburgh? No way!

Reds lineup vs. Pirates

Phillips 4
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Sappelt 7
Hernandez 2
Janish 6
Volquez 1

*In six seasons of covering Reds series here, rain has always seemed to be in the equation. It’s certainly no different today as the tarp is on the field and it’s raining. I will keep you posted on Twitter if the start of the game will be affected.

*This is the correct lineup. I made some mistakes on the original post.

*Travis Wood will start for the Reds on Saturday and Dontrelle Willis is scheduled to start on Sunday.

Phillips: ‘No homeboy hookup’

There was a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer that GM Walt Jocketty said 2B Brandon Phillips option would be picked up. It is a club option worth $12 million for 2012.

That was news to Phillips, who tweeted the following very early this morning:

“Got a lot on my mind! Can’t believe that today “MIGHT” be the last time I may be wearing a @Reds jersey playing at #GABP #NoBueno”

After the game, a 2-0 victory for the Reds over the Astros where he had three hits, Phillips said this:

“I haven’t heard anything,” Phillips said. “I’m just playing. That’s all I can really do. This is where I want to be. I feel like this is my city. I couldn’t sleep last night until maybe like seven o’clock in the morning.”

It was also reported that early negotiations are under way about a Phillips extension with his agent. Phillips made it clear there would be no hometown savings for the Reds to retain him long term.

“No bueno. This is my last contract,” Phillips said. “There is no homeboy hookup. I just want to be paid what I am worth.”

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