March 2012

Francis, Bray, Roster choices

In a game where they notched 18 hits, the Reds cruised to a 10-2 win over the Giants on Saturday. The big innings came with four runs in the third and four in the seventh.

“It was the second time this week that we scored some runs, which is nice especially when you’re getting ready to leave Spring Training,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “You want to score and have the guys feeling good offensively.”

News and notes:

*It was nice day for LHP Jeff Francis: 7 ip, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1 HR. Francis had a one-hit shutout going into seventh when Joaquin Arias hit a two-run homer.

“We got a real good pitching performance out of Francis, especially after his last one,” Baker said.

*What this does for Francis’ chances of making the team remains a mystery. There’s been no indication either way if the Reds are inclined to keep him, even as there are only 12 healthy pitchers left on the roster.

“I can help this team in some way, whether it’s now or down the line,” Francis said. “I’m ready to do that.”

*Francis has worked out of the bullpen just once in his career. It came on the final day of the 2010 season for Colorado.

“I’d be ready to do it,” Francis said.

*LHP Bill Bray worked a scoreless eighth with one hit, one walk and one strikeout. After starting late because of a groin injury, it sounds like Bray is good to go to open the season with the club. But his exact role remains undefined.

“Probably so,” said Baker when asked if Bray would be ready. “He’s not that sharp yet so you don’t know if he’ll be that No. 1 lefty, especially with Marshall in the bullpen. So we’ll see.”

*The 25-man roster remains up in the air for the final few spots.

“Every year, this is the time of year I dread the most,” Baker said. “Early cuts aren’t easy but it’s a whole lot easier than the last cuts, when you’re almost on the team.”

*Todd Frazier came off the bench and hit a two-run triple in his lone at-bat after taking over in right field. Frazier is batting .294 with a team-leading 14 RBIs. Juan Francisco played first base and was 1-for-2 with a single and is batting .196. Willie Harris was 1-for-2 as a sub in left field and is batting .255. Wilson Valdez entered midway at second base. He was 1-for-2 and is at .326. Paul Janish was 1-for-3 starting at shortstop and is at .293.

*Baker considered the final few spots to be very important.

“They are what put you over the top,” he said. “Whether you’re team is set or not, the circle is not complete and whole unless the more equals the less, whoever that may be. Whoever the last three or four are, that’s just as important as the top three or four, especially when you come down to winning or losing by one or two games.”

*Jay Bruce’s very nice spring continued as he went 2-for-3 with a RBI double in the fifth. As you might read more of on later, Bruce is more pleased with the work he’s put in than the actual results.

“I am happy with the work that I’ve done,” Bruce said. “I haven’t focused too much on the actual numbers. It’s hard to quantify success by how many hits you’ve had in spring. I just to focus on the work I do, the day in and day out routine and how my body feels. Everything feels great.”

*To end the bottom of the first, Brandon Phillips made a slick diving play on a Buster Posey grounder up the middle. From his back, Phillips flipped to Paul Janish, who turned the 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.

*First pitch temperature: 88 degrees

*Attendance: 9,737

Reds vs. Giants lineup

Game time at 6:05 p.m. ET in Scottsdale

Phillips 4
Janish 6
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Ludwick 7
Stubbs 8
Hanigan 2
Francis 1

The final decisions are hardest

*These are the final days of camp and the toughest decisions are yet to come. With 28 players remaining, three cuts are left to get down to the 25-man roster. It’s down to Todd Frazier, Juan Francisco, Willie Harris, Paul Janish and Wilson Valdez for those extra bench spots.

“They all bring something, strengths and some weaknesses, to the situation and the table,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It just depends if we can use their strengths and live with their weaknesses in the present. Or can they go down and get better and be prepared to come back?”

*Francisco and Valdez are the two in that pool that are out of options.

*Frazier is keeping himself in good spirits. Although he has packed his bags and doesn’t know whether they will be headed to Louisville or Cincinnati.

“It’s pretty exciting just to know you’re with the team this far and understanding this might be your year to go,” Frazier said Friday. “I’m never really a nervous guy. I’m happy-go-lucky. I try to keep everything to myself when it comes to that stuff. Everything will be fine.”

*And maybe, there could be more than three cuts. You never know if the Reds might bring in someone in from outside the organization. There are still unsettled questions in the bullpen.

“Probably everybody is doing that,” Baker said. “Some guys are going to get picked up. Some guys may not fit on their team that fit elsewhere or might be a better player than some guys on that team. I don’t even know who all is available. That’s those guys’ jobs upstairs. I have enough to do down here. I hear bits and pieces about who get cut or whatever.”

*Baker had Joey Votto, among others, take extra at-bats in Minor League games on Thursday. Votto took 10 at-bats in Double-A and Triple-A games, alternating from one field to the other at the Reds complex.

“He said it was a great day and said he was tired,” Baker said. “I told him I got 18 one year – top and bottom of every inning. I was so tired, I didn’t know what to do.”

Reds lineup vs. Indians

Game starts at 4:05 p.m. ET. Reds are the home team.

Phillips 4
Cozart 6
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Heisey 7
Stubbs 8
Mesoraco 2
Cueto 1

Leake, Latos, Cairo…

*Dusty Baker said pre-game nothing should be read into Mike Leake working from the bullpen today. He’s still in the mix to start in the rotation.

“Why wouldn’t he be? The guy has had two good years,” Baker said. “We feel he is ready. He’s stretched out pretty good. It’s more of a tune-up. This is more of a keep him sharp thing rather than reading into him being in the bullpen.”

*Mat Latos remains the probable pitcher for Sunday vs. the White Sox. But the key word here is “probable.” The decision has not been made as Latos remains day-to-day with a strained left calf. Latos is slated for a side bullpen session on Friday. He did some light running today.

“I’m not going to say he’ll definitely pitch,” pitching coach Bryan Price said. “We’re optimistic the calf strain won’t be a tenuous issue. However, I think we need to get a little closer to the start date before we sign off on him taking the ball.”

*The Reds have 12 healthy pitchers left in camp, including non-roster LHP Jeff Francis. The club, which is planning to go north with 12, isn’t ready if this is the exact 12 that make the 25-man roster.

“We haven’t really decided,” Baker said. “We still have a few days for something to happen, to make up our minds, whatever. We’ll let you know.”

The Reds have some options with that decision for the last bullpen spot. They could bring someone back over from the Minor League camp that was already cut. They could also explore the market for guys that were in the last wave of cuts from other teams.

*Miguel Cairo entered the day batting .343. Cairo, 37, came into camp in excellent shape and was ready from the get-go.

“You have to get ready earlier than everyone else,” Cairo said. “There are a lot of young kids. I like to be ahead of the game and tell myself that.”

Reds vs. Brewers lineup

Cozart 6
Valdez 4
Cairo 3
Frazier 4
Francisco 5
Ludwick 7
Harris 8
Hanigan 2
Chapman 1

*Mike Leake will be coming out of the bullpen today at some point.

*Homer Bailey is pitching in a Minor League game.

Ludwick feels better, homers

Sure it’s spring, but Wednesday’s 5-4 Reds win over the Angels had Dusty Baker pretty pleased. It came on a walk-off two-run home run by Ryan Ludwick in the bottom of the ninth.

“I was wondering when we’d hit home runs,” Baker said. “[Opponents] had out homered us 32-20 this year.”

*Ludwick was back in camp today after illness kept him away for two days. The homer was his first of spring.

“[Ludwick] said he was going to stick around,” Baker said. “I tried to send him home and he said ‘no skip, I’m OK. I can play.’ I’m glad he did.”

*Bronson Arroyo was solid today for the most part. 6 ip, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. The first run came in the second inning when Arroyo walked pitcher Dan Haren with the bases loaded to force in the game’s first run. The other run was on a homer to left field by Vernon Wells in the third inning.

“Arroyo threw the ball very well. He looked good,” Baker said.

*The regulars only played part of the game. Scott Rolen had a two-out triple in the third inning before he exited.

“Everybody was going to get four innings,” Baker said. “After he hit that triple, that was his fourth inning even though he hit it in the third.”

*Brandon Phillips was 2-for-2, as was Ryan Hanigan, who had a RBI double in the second inning.

*Mat Latos is still listed as day-to-day with a strained left calf, but is scheduled to start on Sunday vs. the White Sox. Latos said he felt OK today, one day after the injury came during his start against the Cubs.

“Everything is real good,” Latos said. “I’m taking it easy today and doing what they tell me to do.”

*The Reds revealed that RHP Josh Judy cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Louisville. With Judy off and Ryan Madson headed to the 60-day DL, some spots on the 40-man roster are opening up. You wonder if it’s for non-roster guys like Jeff Francis and Willie Harris…or for someone outside the organization??

Bench spot battle watch:

*Todd Frazier, who was off to a hot start, was 0-for-3 today and is batting .227.

*Juan Francisco replaced Rolen and was 0-for-2. Francisco is batting .163.

*Paul Janish, trying to earn a bench spot on the roster, hit his first home run of spring to lead off the Reds’ eighth against Kevin Jepsen. Janish, who was 1-for-2, is batting .306.

*Wilson Valdez started at shortstop and was 1-for-2 with a third-inning single.

*Willie Harris played right field following Jay Bruce and was 1-for-2. He’s batting .231.

*First pitch temperature: 82 degrees

*Attendance: 3,609


Masset hurt, three more cuts

* UPDATED info — RHP Nick Masset is out again because of a strained right shoulder. He had a MRI on it and has been shut down for the time being.

“We’re doing what we can to get it better,” Masset said. “There’s no timetable right now. My mission is to get healthy and put myself in the right situation to be healthy and ready to pitch. I’m getting some treatment. I will be throwing soon.”

Masset had two scoreless appearances since returning from a sore shoulder on March 19. He has not pitched since March 22.

“They were going well,” Masset said. “Then it flared back up. After I pitched the last time, it was coming out of my hand good. I felt good out there and was competing, throwing strikes. But my shoulder was barking a little bit. I don’t think it’s anything to panic about. It’s something we’re working on and hopefully it’s a quick fix.”

*There were three more cuts today. Catchers Dioner Navarro and Corky Miller and outfielder Daryl Jones were re-assigned to the Minor League camp. There are 30 players left in camp.

“[Navarro] and Corky both will be at Triple-A splitting time,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

*Asked about Miller and his value to the organization, Baker had high praise.

“He’s very valuable. He has a great attitude,” Baker said. “I told him he’d be a great manager someday or a good pitching coach. He’s not a coach yet. He’s kind of like a player-coach now. Sometimes it’s difficult at the Triple-A level because you’re getting guys that are waiting and hoping to get back to the big leagues. Corky is always on call, always the same, consistent in his personality. He’s a valuable asset to the team he’s on and the organization as a whole.”

*There’s no new update as of yet on RHP Mat Latos, who left yesterday’s game with a strained left calf.

“It’s day-to-day,” Baker said. “We saw him buckle a couple of times out there. Navarro asked him if he was OK and he said he wanted to keep pitching. I said no, that’s enough. It’s always a little frightening when you get this close to the end of spring training and you’re trying to get out of here healthy and unscathed and start the season. Especially with our pitching situation already, that’s why we took him out immediately.”

*As a former Dodger, Baker was pleased to hear that Magic Johnson’s ownership group brought the team late last night.

“I’m glad for Magic, who I knew from when I was playing there,” Baker said. “I’m glad for the organization that it’s getting some stability. I knew Stan from when I was with the Braves.

“It’s a lot of money. How much are the Yankees worth now?”

Reds vs. Angels lineup

Phillips 4
Valdez 6
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Frazier 7
Stubbs 8
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

Strained calf for Latos

Reds pitcher Mat Latos wasn’t too concerned about the strained left calf that put him out of Tuesday’s game prematurely. Latos exited after 4 2/3 innings after he slipped on the mound pitching to the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano.

“I don’t know the layman’s terms of what’s going on but I’m fine,” Latos said. “They looked at it, they evaluated it. I put a little ice on it as a precaution.

“It felt like I landed in mud and I slipped. The mound was a little loose on the landing spot a couple of times. I just got out a little too far and slipped. [Cubs starter Matt] Garza was on another hole. I think we were kicking dirt at each other back and forth. He’d get out there and kick his dirt over to my spot and I’d get out there and kick my dirt over to his spot. He’s a little to the right of me.”

Asked if he thought he could make his next start, likely his final one of spring:

“I’ll be just fine,” Latos replied.

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