March 2012

AM items: Heisey, Bray, Cozart

*LF Chris Heisey is batting .214 entering today, but had three hits in his last game on Sunday at the Rockies. After a very, very slow start in camp, Heisey felt things were starting to improve at the plate.

“I’m coming along,” Heisey said Tuesday. “I know last spring it came a little easier for me. It’s taking a little longer to get my confidence and get comfortable at the plate. For me, it comes down to trusting my work in the cage and when I get into the game and not feeling against guys throwing hard that I have to do extra to hit. I have to trust what I work on every day, the hard work I put in during the off-season and trusting my weight lifting. My swing works and I’m strong enough to not have to cheat to hit a guy’s fastball.”

*Coming off his scoreless inning with two hits and three strikeouts, LHP Bill Bray reported no issues with the strained left groin that kept him out much of camp.

“I’m happier to see him back on the mound pain free,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “That was his first time out there other than that camp game. He was relatively sharp – better than I expected actually. For his first time, he was about at his limit of pitches of what we wanted him to go.”

Asked if Bray could be ready in time for the season…Baker replied:

“I don’t know, we’ll see.”

*Yesterday, I asked Baker if there were any plans to name the final roster in Cincinnati like the club did the past couple of seasons. That would mean bringing extra guys home and making the last cuts on the workout day.

“You’d rather not,” Baker said. “You want to start getting your team together as a unit before you get out of here. Sometimes you have to [take extra guys north]. You’d rather not because that person – which I’ve been there before – doesn’t know what to do with their car, do with their clothes. When you get there, do you get an apartment? Do you get an apartment in Louisville or Pensacola? You want to tell them before you leave here.”’

*As hot as SS Zack Cozart has been at the plate this spring, Baker was quick to point this out:

“He’s had a better spring in the field, which is his No. 1 job,” the manager said.

Reds lineup vs. Cubs

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

Also pitching today is LHP Sean Marshall.

Have you seen this guy?

A certain Reds media relations guy and blogger posted some signs around the complex recently…searching for broadcaster Thom Brennaman. Although the picture was somewhat dated, be relieved in knowing that Mr. Brennaman surfaced on Sunday in Scottsdale. He was healthy and reasonably happy, too.

Final week begins

Reds lineup vs. Rangers

Harris 4
Valdez 5
Frazier 9
Ludwick 7
Francisco DH
Cairo 3
Jones 8
Hanigan 2
Janish 6

Francis 1

*I am not covering the game tonight, but my good friend and colleague Jesse Sanchez will be on the case in my place. He will have the daily news, etc. on MLB.com/Reds.com.

*This is the final week of camp, as the team will head north following next Monday’s game. Lots of interesting decisions remain for sure — fifth starter, closer, bench spots, Chapman, etc.

Regulars play whole game

In a game that had the feel of the regular season in terms of the lineup’s participants, the Reds took a 7-3 loss the Rockies on Sunday at Salt River Fields.

“We left a lot of runners on base. We out-hit them (11-8) and they hit us out of the ballpark,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

*The starting lineup used today (see earlier blog post for the order) just might be the one you see on Opening Day.

“It could be,” Baker replied when asked if this was his opener lineup. “Today was the day I sent [Ryan]  Ludwick over to DH in the Minor Leagues. I don’t know if it’s going to be Mesoraco or [Ryan] Hanigan. For the most part, it’s probably it.”

*All the position players stayed in the game for nine innings for the first time this spring.

“We’ve got a couple of nines this week for endurance and they’re off tomorrow,” Baker said. “Then the next group goes nine. We’ll alternate every other day and…then we’ll cut back again.”

*Chris Heisey had a very good day, going 3-for-4. It raised Heisey’s average to .214.

*Joey Votto was 2-for-5 with a RBI single in the third inning.

*Zack Cozart remains a fire offensively…2-for-4 with another double. He has an eight-game hitting streak.

*Johnny Cueto’s line was: 6 ip, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 3 HR. Todd Helton dialed up on Cueto for his first two homers of the spring — both solo shots. The other long ball was a two-run shot by Casey Blake.

“What happened with Helton was I always under in the count the whole time,” Cueto said. “He was sitting there waiting for the good pitch. Other than that, I feel really good. I feel strong, really strong and really healthy. I’m ready for the start of the season.”

*About this time last year, Cueto was shut down with irritation in his right biceps and triceps. That cost him over a month in the regular season, so he’s not taking his good health this spring for granted.

“It’s really important to be healthy,” Cueto said. “I worked hard in the Dominican. I worked hard when I got here and I am continuing to work to make sure I’m healthy and start the season in good shape.”

*I didn’t get to this earlier, but the Reds made eight cuts this morning. Right-handed reliever Andrew Brackman, infielder Chris Valaika and outfielder Denis Phipps were optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Right-handed relievers Carlos Fisher and Kanekoa Texeira and left-handed relievers Ron Mahay, Clay Zavada and Clayton Tanner were re-assigned to the Minor League camp. There are 33 players left in camp.

*In an odd moment, a swarm of bees converged in some seats behind home plate and sent fans away from the area. Bees have been an issue at Salt River Fields in the past and there were concerns that they might delay the game if they drifted on the field. The game went on without a hitch, however.

*First-pitch temperature: 79 degrees

*Attendance: 12,482.

*This was my first time out here to this ballpark. It’s the second year it has been open, and it’s a very nice place to watch a game. If you’re ever out this way, check it out.

Madson back at Reds camp

A day removed from getting the diagnosis of a torn elbow ligament that will need season-ending Tommy John surgery, Reds closer Ryan Madson was back in camp Sunday morning. Madson spoke in the hallway with teammates Bill Bray and Sean Marshall and planned to visit with the rest of the club.

While his mood was calm on Sunday, it was a much different feeling for him Saturday when Dr. Tim Kremchek delivered the news.

“I was shocked first,” Madson said. “I was not expecting that at all, that result. It took me a couple of hours to get over it really. I was very apologetic to the Reds organization and my teammates. I feel like I let them down a little bit.”

When did the injury happen?

“That’s a question I can’t answer,” Madson replied. “I think it happened over time here at Spring Training and coming back from the little injury to the back of my elbow. I think throwing through that kind of aggravated it. I never felt any one moment where it happened. That’s why I was so shocked at the result.

“When I threw last to the hitters [Tuesday], I felt great. Just there at the end, there were a couple of pitches where it was tight. I just thought it was normal tightness that we feel. We throw through a lot of pain and tightness and all that our whole career. I thought it was just more of that.”

Madson said his surgery date was April 4. It will be performed in Cincinnati by Kremchek. I will have much more from the interview in a story later on MLB.com.

Here is the story link

Sunday at Salt River Fields

Reds lineup vs. Rockies

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

*Cueto is scheduled to pitch six innings today. Logan Ondrusek and Sam LeCure are expected to follow from the bullpen.

*As I type at the Reds complex, some more guys are cleaning out their lockers following the next wave of cuts. I will have the names when it’s all done.

Bailey or Chapman for 5th spot?

*On a tough day at Reds camp, one decision seemingly gets a whole lot tougher.

What will the Reds do with the fifth spot between Homer Bailey and Aroldis Chapman? Bailey did not look good vs. the Giants in Goodyear: 3 1/3 innings, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP. Through five starts, he has a 7.98 ERA, seven walks and six strikeouts.

“A lot of things were working sometimes. And sometimes they weren’t. I have not really looked at it yet,” Bailey said of today’s outing.

“He had it. It was just his fastball found too much of the plate,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Over in Peoria against the Padres, Aroldis Chapman had a much better line: 5 ip, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K (78 pitches/45 strikes). In four big league games, Chapman has had a much better spring with a 1.50 ERA, two walks and 12 strikeouts. He did allow two runs and four hits over 1 2/3 innings in a Minor League game as well.

Bailey is out of options (due to earn $2.4 million) and Chapman has options left. Coming into camp, it appeared that Bailey had the inside track for the fifth spot while the possiblity was held out that Chapman could keep working as a starter in Triple-A Louisville.

Also to keep in mind — Jeff Francis has looked really good this spring with a 2.77 ERA, no walks and eight strikeouts in four games (one start). Francis is scheduled to start Monday vs. Texas.

Closer Ryan Madson’s injury has changed things quite a bit. If LHP Sean Marshall moves up to the closer’s role, it’s possible that Chapman could be wanted as an additional lefty setup man. It wouldn’t be best for the long term future of Chapman, perhaps, but it would benefit the short term need for the Reds to win and contend this season.

Then again, could Bailey go to the bullpen?

“I don’t know,” Baker replied. “You’re asking questions that we’re trying to figure out.”

I’m sure Baker, Bryan Price and Walt Jocketty will be mulling these options over greatly in the coming days.

“Let us choose it,” Baker said.

Other items from a 6-4 Reds loss to the Giants.

*SS prospect Billy Hamilton came over from the Minor League camp and played shortstop later in the game. In his first plate appearance during the sixth inning, Hamilton walked and stole second base with an error throw sending him to third base. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Henry Rodriguez. Hamilton made a couple of slick plays at shortstop, but also had a fielding error in the eighth inning.

*Another player from the Minor League camp, Danny Dorn, slugged a three-run homer in the sixth inning.

*After Bailey struggled, LHP Clay Zavada took over and worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

*Joey Votto was 1-for-2 with a walk and reached on an error in the fourth. Votto is batting .161 this spring.

*Scott Rolen was 0-for-2, but was robbed of some RBIs when Nate Schierholtz made a diving catch on his drive to right field in the first inning.

*First pitch temperature: 81 degrees

Attendance: 4,638

Madson reactions

Here are some quotes from the Reds and others about the season-ending elbow injury for closer Ryan Madson:

“Praying for my teammate #RyanMadson…We are here w/ you bossman! Tough pill to swallow but our pitching staff will pick you up.” — Brandon Phillips on Twitter

“It’s never good for anybody when you’re closer is out for the year like that. We just have to come together as a team and take care of business without him. I hope he gets better soon.” — Reds RHP Logan Ondrusek

“I talked to Ryan in the outfield here recently during BP and he was excited about the year. I got to know him. I love the guy. He’s a great pitcher and a competitor. It’s disappointing, obviously, for him. It’s terrible. … We’re plenty deep with our bullpen. All of our guys are capable in terms with how it goes. We’ve got options. It’s a good thing to have. Obviously we’d like to have Madson locked into his role. It’s not the end of the world. We have to go with the guys we have. We have plenty of talent.” — Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan

Over in Phillies camp, where Madson used to pitch, MLB.com reporter Todd Zolecki wrote that LHP Cole Hamels’ head dropped the moment he heard Madson needed Tommy John surgery.   “That’s terrible,” Hamels said. “That’s terrible.”

“You don’t like it. There’s nothing we can do about it now. We know the problem. Now we have to come up with a solution. You can’t solve the problem right now.  In life period, it’s how you handle disappointments and how you adjust and how you handle adversity. It’s a sign of a champion.” — Reds manager Dusty Baker

“I feel sorry for him. I don’t want to see anybody get Tommy John, especially Madson. I pull for Madson. I want him to do good.” — Phillies manager Charlie Manuel

“I think everybody feels for him. Obviously, with the way we know he can throw the ball and everything, it’s just tough. It’s tough losing a player like that. You know how bad he must feel right now. Hopefully he knows we’re all behind him. We definitely wish him the best and wish it wouldn’t have happened.” — Reds RHP Homer Bailey

Other news…

*Bronson Arroyo certainly had an interesting pitching line last night vs. SD: 4.0 ip, 6 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 2 K. For a dude that only walked 45 guys all last season, the five walks was the most unusual. Arroyo gave up four runs in the first inning.

“Real unusual,” Arroyo said. “I’ve been trying to work on this sinker. It has great movement but I’m having a hard time keeping it around the plate it’s moving so much. It’s a different grip. It always moves, which is great. But it moves a lot. I’m having a hard time telling myself to throw the ball over the middle of the plate and let it run to the outer half. I’m so used to throwing to the outer half and letting it move a little bit.”

The new sinker Arroyo is tinkering with is the same one-seam sinker that Mike Leake uses.

*Speaking of Leake, he is pitched 6 innings today in a Minor League intrasquad scrimmage on a back field.

Madson needs Tommy John surgery

*The Reds got the worst news possible on closer Ryan Madson. The ligament in his elbow is torn off of the bone and he will need Tommy John surgery that will end his season before it begins. Madson was examined this morning in Cincinnati by team medical director Dr. Tim Kremcheck.

“We can sit here and try to rehab it but it never works,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty said. “The best thing is to shut it down, get the surgery and move forward. It’s obviously not great news. But we told the team and said to stay positive. We have good alternatives we can turn to. Others clubs have done it in the past. I did it in St. Louis. When Izzy went down, Wainwright stepped in and we won the World Series.”

“You feel terrible for him because he feels terrible,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

The Reds did not take an insurance policy on Madson’s one-year, $8.5 million contract because it was a one-year deal and the club policy is not to do insurance on one-year deals.

Jocketty and Baker did not name a closer to replace Madson but LHP Sean Marshall seems to be the primary candidate. When asked if this development could move Aroldis Chapman back to a bullpen role, Jocketty said “Maybe.”

More to come…

Here is the story I wrote for MLB.com

 

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