February 2012

Wednesday AM notes

Good morning. I am back after taking a day off on Tuesday. I hiked at Squaw Peak, which was a nice time and a great view of the entire greater Phoenix area.

Back here at the ranch, there is some news to catch up on.

*LHP Bill Bray is restricted from workouts because of a sore left groin muscle. Bray is getting treatment and can still long toss up to 150 feet.

“I should be back by the weekend,” Bray said. “It happened on the mound during my second bullpen. They’re being cautious and don’t want it to get worse. I feel good.”

*Reds manager Dusty Baker doesn’t have an exact plan for how playing time will be divided for his catching tandem of Devin Mesoraco and Ryan Hanigan. This much is known — Hanigan will not just be Bronson Arroyo’s personal catcher.

“Wasn’t he more than a one out of five [starters last year]?” Baker said. “Don’t assume he’s one out of five now. I don’t know how it’s going to play out. A lot of it depends on what kind of progress Mesoraco shows. If he continues on the path, he’s the catcher of the future, big time. When that future is, it’s undecided.”

*There is a two-inning intrasquad game planned for Friday. Pitchers will be Andrew Brackman, Josh Judy, Donnie Joseph and Nick Christiani.

“This is mostly for the pitchers that need the work,” Baker said. “Not many of my regulars are going to play.”

*The Reds have scheduled a 10 a.m. “B” game vs. the Mariners on March 5.

*And no spring starting rotation has been revealed, including the starter on Saturday vs. the Indians in the Cactus League opener.

“That’s Bryan’s department there,” Baker said of pitching coach Bryan Price. “It always has been. Then I get it and I OK it.”

Marshall signs three-year extension

The Reds announced that LHP Sean Marshall has been signed to a three-year contract extension throug the 2015 season. With a year to go on his current deal, that means he will have four years in Cincinnati.

“We’re obviously very excited about it,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty said. “When we made the trade for him, we made it intending to extend him. We felt confident we would do that. We wanted to approach it sooner than later. Our goal was to try and get it done before the start of camp, or at least before we started playing games. We did it get it done before the games.”

With Ryan Madson signed only for this season, another attraction to locking up Marshall is that he could become a closer down the road.

“No. 1, he is a quality person and I think he’s going to add a lot to our franchise and organization for at least four years,” Jocketty said. “You look at the quality of his work. He’s one of the top setup guys in the game. And we’ll have flexibility with him in the future if we want to use him as a closer. That will be determined as we go down the road.”

UPDATE — Marshall’s three-year extension is worth $16.5 million and has up to a $1 million bonus for games finished if he becomes a closer and up to $1 million for games started should he somehow become part of the rotation. There is also a partial no-trade clause.

“I’m super excited,” Marshall said. “Since day one when I came to the new facility here and got to meet my Reds teammates and staff, and got to be back with the Dusty and the coaches I was with, they were all very welcoming. I’ve been very excited so far in spring training. The Reds have taken extremely good care of myself and I see they take care of all of their players. I’m excited to spend the next four years in a Reds uniform and hopefully help guide them to a championship.”


Still waiting for Marshall deal…

Good Monday morning from Goodyear.

*I wouldn’t be stunned if a Sean Marshall contract extension is announced today. Marshall said he could not talk about it yet but expected something to be announced pretty soon. I will keep you posted. The terms are also unknown at this point.  Baker was asked if he was happy that Marshall would be here for a while.

“Yeah, if I am here with him,” Baker replied. His contract is up after this season.

*A St. Louis writer was in the morning session with Baker asking about the Reds pitching. He noted that the Cardinals were curious about whether Aroldis Chapman would make Cincinnati’s rotation.

“Why are they concerned?” Baker replied. “They’re going to go up there and take anyway. Why are they concerned about us, they’re the World Champions.”

*During Sunday’s live BP session, Mat Latos seemed to get the ball in the dirt.

“He was throwing against the big boys and he certainly didn’t want to hit any of them,” Baker said. “He was forcing that breaking ball a little bit. I told him to quit worrying. It’s February. It’s not March yet. If it was March 28, you can be a little concerned.”

*Johnny Cueto was quite impressive the first time out on the other hand.

“Cueto is more compact and shorter,” Baker said. “It’s easier for him to get in sync and stay in sync. Latos is 6-6 with long arms and legs. Bigger guys have a little bit more trouble getting their timing and getting in sync.”

*The Reds like to keep things moving at camp and don’t waste a lot of time. That’s very intentional. 3B coach Mark Berry runs posts the schedule daily and most of the time before the games start, players are off of the field by 1 p.m. with a full day of work done already.

“That’s what I’ve always done,” Baker said. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist, at least that’s what my wife and family tells me all the time. I like precision. I don’t like standing around. I like guys moving. I like them busy and I like them on time. In my normal life, I’m probably over organized, if there is such a thing, and very time efficient.”

*OF Denis Phipps, in his first big league camp at the age of 26. He didn’t even start playing baseball until he was 17. Phipps was a basketball player growing up in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic — a baseball hotbed.

“In my hometown, everybody played baseball and I didn’t,” said Phipps, who grew up with Dennis Rodman being his favorite basketball player.

Marshall close to extension

LHP  Sean Marshall has yet to throw a pitch for the Reds this season, but he’s close to getting a long term contract extension.

“We are talking to him,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said on Sunday. “It could be done soon. When we traded for him, it was also looking to sign him for the long term.”

Marshall, 29, is set to earn $3.1 million in the final year of the current contract he had signed with the Cubs and could become a free agent after the season. Chicago traded him to the Reds in December for pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and Minor League infielder Ronald Torreyes.

Last season, Marshall was 6-6 with a 2.26 ERA in 78 games, with 17 walks and 79 strikeouts over 75 2/3 innings. He has a 2.45 ERA in 158 appearances over the past two seasons.

FoxSports.com first reported that a deal with Marshall and the Reds is close.

Sunny Sunday in Goodyear

*We are off to a slow start this Sunday morning because the players are having their annual closed-door meeting with the MLB Players Association. Right after the meeting, they take the field for the workout and another round of live BP.

*Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked if life will get easier without having to manage against Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

“Their teams are still good teams,” Baker replied. “A lot is going to fall in Beltran and Wainwright and they’ve got Furcal from the beginning. It’s still going to be a tough race. Pittsburgh, they were tough the first half. They can get better and they’re more experienced.”

*Is Baker more comfortable with Reds pitching after the upgrades?

“I’ll be more comfortable once we leave healthy,” Baker said. “Right now, everything is on paper. I’m more confident on paper, I’ll say that. We hopefully will leave healthy.”

*Cincinnati native and Moeller alum Andrew Brackman stands out at 6-foot-11 but he was worried he would have blended in too much had he pursued pro basketball after his time at NC State. Instead he chose baseball and was a first-round pick by the Yankees in 2007.

“I think I made the right decision,” said Brackman, who is seeking a bullpen spot with the Reds. “There are 6-11 guys all over the NBA and there’s not many here.”

Brackman, who I will have a feature story on later today, averaged 7.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in two seasons on hoops.

“I definitely could have played [professionally] in Europe,” he said. “The NBA, I didn’t think, would be a long shot. It’s funny because I’ve always been a late bloomer. I only gave basketball two years in college. I think it would have been different if I had played those last two. But I am pretty happy with my decision. I’ve never had any problems with my knees. Just the elbow.”

*One week of camp is in the books already, about five more to go. Sorry for rubbing it in, but every single day out here has been picture perfect weatherwise. There has been no chilly days, no rain, no nothing. It’s all good in the desert so far.

*With the full squad here, there are more coaches and instructors around. I saw Eric Davis, now a member of the front office, the other day. I’ve also seen Rick Sweet and Minor League managers Jim Riggleman and Ken Griffey Sr., among others.

Live BP photos and notes

*I took in the live BP on a couple of the fields today. I can’t say I could rate the quality of what I saw but I could hear hitters praising some of Mike Leake’s stuff. Other pitchers I saw on the mound today were Nick Masset, Sean Marshall and Clay Zavada. I don’t think, or I didn’t see, any hitters cleared the fences today. There will be some pictures below, as rudimentary as they are.

*3B Juan Francisco was the only position player that wasn’t hitting or fielding with the team. Francisco is still nursing a sore left calf. He is doing strength and conditioning and has graduated to hitting in the cage. He will participate fully when he can run without pain.

*Reds owner/CEO Bob Castellini arrived at the complex today and held a press conference outside. I will have a story on that later on MLB.com/Reds.com

*Click here to see some video of Joey Votto’s morning media availablity.

And finally some photos:

Stubbs, Heisey/Ludwick, Votto

*Two big Spring Training rituals are on the docket for Saturday. Photo day and live BP where Reds hitters face the pitchers.

For photo day, all 58 players in camp go to different stations and take a variety of pictures in different poses. These are the still photos you often see on the scoreboard at games when a batter or pitcher enters the game.

As for live BP, that’s quite a welcome for hitters that are only in their second official day of Spring Training.

“Those aren’t very good days for the hitters,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I remember those days. The pitchers are way ahead and it looks like they’re throwing a thousand mph. You have to really be careful not to start bad habits like pulling away, flinching. You’ve got to have it. Pitchers can have all the bullpens they want but when there’s a live hitter up there, it’s a totally different window to throw it to.”

*When asked about CF Drew Stubbs, Baker said he didn’t expect his off-season practice results to really surface until regular season games begin. Hitters and pitchers don’t go over scouting reports and don’t approach everything the same in exhibition games. While Baker hopes Stubbs improves as a hitter, especially in cutting down strikeouts, he gave an overwhelming endorsement to the importance of Stubbs defensively.

“Stubbs is a probably as big a part of defense as anybody. Not just on our team, in the league,” Baker said. “When the Big Red Machine got Cesar Geronimo, they didn’t get him to hit. They got Geronimo to play center field and play defense. To me playing defense is like rebounding in basketball. You’re preventing second and third shots. Look how many runs Stubbs saves.”

*It will be a different type of platoon in left field this season with Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick. Both are right-handed hitters so Baker will have match them up to their strengths each game.

“That’s the plan, right now,” Baker said. “Ludwick likes the ball down. Heisey likes the ball up. Ludwick likes the ball more down and away and Heisey likes the ball in and up.”

That means checking the pitcher and going over his report before each lineup is written out.

“That’s part of making out the lineup,” Baker said. “It’s difficult when a guy hits two or three home runs against a guy he should hit and then you don’t play him the next day. A few times, you say ‘ok’, and then play him the next day and they do nothing. How many times does that happen?”

*Joey Votto sat down and chatted with the Cincinnati TV media today. As usual, Votto is always finding room for improvement but he was very pleased to have met his goals in 2011.

“The thing I was most proud of last year was the number of games I played,” Votto said. “I had some complaints. Most players do hoping they can do better. I played 161 games and at the very beginning, I said my top priority was staying healthy. I achieved that goal. The second thing I mentioned was getting better as a player. At the end of the season, I could honestly say I did. I had a lot more challenges. Baseball was kind of different to me last year because of the way I was pitched and approached in general. I think I met that challenge.”

Votto on the long term

Reds 1B Joey Votto was certainly prepared to take the field for the first full squad workout on Friday. Votto was also prepared for the post-workout questions about his long term future with the Reds. After first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder signed monster contracts this winter, Votto is viewed as one of the next big blockbusters to come when he can hit the market after the 2013 season. He’s currently playing under a three-year, $38 million contract that he signed in January, 2011.

“I’m going to make it pretty simple for just about anybody,” Votto said. “I’m going to leave all that to the Reds front office and my agent and myself. I will try to keep it as private as possible. I don’t think it’s fair to the fans. I don’t think it’s fair to myself. It’s certainly not fair to the team for any of that type of stuff to creep into the season and become a distraction. I plan to make some sort of comment if I happen to sign an extension with the Reds or if I happen to get to the point where I get to free agency.”

Someone who doesn’t like to make a lot of waves publicly in general, it’s the distraction factor that Votto is most abhorrent about when it comes to public contract talk.

“You know what? I’m human and it is a distraction,” Votto said. “As much as players want to say it’s not a distraction and it doesn’t affect me at all, it’s exhausting. And it’s a lingering issue. The team knows about it. Fans know about it. Management knows about it. The bottom line is every player has the right to say yes and no. it’s clearly my decision. Once the public gets a handle on it, it can turn bad and I don’t want that because I’m in a lucky spot. I signed a three-year deal last year. I have another two years on my deal. And I’m in a position where I don’t have to comment on contracts because I’m in the midst of one.”

After a slight pause, Votto added…

“Prince sure got a lot of money though, didn’t he?”

Rolen ready to roll

It’s the full-squad report and first workout day for all 58 players in Reds camp. As far as I know, everyone is here. I saw Joey Votto say hello to teammates. It’s a slow start since there are more physicals being taken, a team meeting, followed by the afternoon workout.

I will have more on this later with a complete story on MLB.com, but Scott Rolen is also here. Obviously, Rolen has ambitions on a much better 2012 than 2011. He batted only .242 in 65 games and missed most of the second half. Rolen says he’s ready to go after Aug. 3 left shoulder surgery to remove bone spurs and fragments.

“I feel good,” Rolen said. “I have more range of motion than I’ve had for the last four or five years probably.”

Rolen is in the final year of his contract but passed on saying whether or not he planned to play beyond 2012. He will turn 37 on April 4.

“I’m not spending much time on that,” Rolen said. “Right now I have one year left on my contract. If this is my last year, I want to make sure I get out there and I play and contribute and I want to be accountable for this year. I had a hard time with that last year. That was one of the biggest disappointments I had last year. I felt unaccountable. As an everyday player, one of the most important jobs is the responsibility to your position, to your team and accountable for what happens on the field and yourself being on the field. I wasn’t able to do any of that last year. I’m looking in the present right now, just getting on the field and being accountable.”

Unlike last spring when he hoped for 120 games from Rolen, Dusty Baker wasn’t putting a number of it this time.

“His body is going to dictate that. Quite frankly, I’m hoping for more,” Baker said.

*The Reds no doubt have a vested interest in the Brewers star Ryan Braun’s appeal victory yesterday.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Baker said. “I’ll say it’s interesting. I like Ryan Braun. I’m glad things worked out for him. But I imagine there could be some guys that did go down that are wondering why his was reversed and theirs wasn’t.   “It definitely opens future doors and it might open some past doors. What good it does, I don’t know.”

Lineup makeup? Cozart second?

*Much like the rotation order was on Wednesday, the lineup order also remains a mystery for the Reds after leadoff man Brandon Phillips. Although Dusty Baker indicated that situation was more fluid.

“Everything right now is in theory,” Baker said on Thursday. “It’s subject to change. I will come up with something that will be a topic for discussion, I’m sure.”

Don’t be surprised though if rookie Zack Cozart bats No. 2 in the order. Baker batted Cozart in the two-hole in 10 of his 11 games last season.

“Age is a very small factor,” Baker said when asked about Cozart. “Skill, ability, aptitude, unselfishness – that’s where your most unselfish player in the lineup hits. And one of your smarter players in the lineup. They take a lot for the other guy to steal, a lot of stuff. “

*Another lineup issue is to cut down on strikeouts. The Reds offense had the fifth most K’s as a team in 2011.

“We’re still working on and addressing cutting down the strikeouts,” Baker said. “Most of the guys that have been striking out have been striking out most of their lives. Stubbs wasn’t the only guy you know. He just did the most. Imagine how good our offense could be if we put the ball in play a little more. We were still second in the league in runs scored.”

*I’m writing my main story on Bronson Arroyo today. Arroyo has altered his off-season program to find velocity that was missing last season during the worst year of his career.

“I totally retooled my entire workout program and did things I’ve never done before,” Arroyo said. “A lot of lunging, a lot of back exercises I’ve never done before to try and strengthen my back so I can use my legs. Over time my lower back has gotten to the point where it inhibited me from doing squats and I haven’t been able to use my legs. My flexibility has gotten worse in the whole hip region. I worked on that the whole off-season as well as the regular things like my scapula and shoulder. That was a huge transition for me – a lot of core work and a lot of back work. I feel as good as I’m going to feel. But if I’m throwing 85-88 mph consistently this year, then Bronson Arroyo is going to pitch that the rest of his career because that’s all there is in the tank.”

Said Baker: “He works harder than anybody we’ve got. He’s a great example for the young guys on how to go about your business. Everybody sees him as this fun loving, guitar playing dude but this cat works hard.”

*A representative from Topps was here with baseball cards in the clubhouse this morning. It’s interesting when you see a player open a pack and find his own card. I asked Mike Leake if he would put his own card in the spokes of his bicycle…he said no.

%d bloggers like this: