June 2012

Indians deny stealing signs

Following Monday’s 10-9 Reds loss to the Indians, starter Mat Latos implied rather strongly that Cleveland’s hitters were stealing signs from second base.

“A couple of [times with] runners on second base, they put better swings on the ball than they did most of the time without a runner on second base,” Latos said after the game. “Choo hit that double and then [Asdrubal] Cabrera was up. Me and [catcher Ryan] Hanigan changed the signs up. He called for a slider. We were going with a certain call. That certain call we were going with beforehand was a curveball. I threw a slider and he was looking breaking ball and was jammed on a slider.

“That, to me, shows me a little something. Other than that, I was up in the zone. I made a couple of bad mistakes and they hit them.”

The Indians denied any sign stealing.

“He can think what he wants,” Cleveland left fielder Johnny Damon said. “It does [happen in baseball]. Your job and your objective is to go out and win ballgames any way you can. Some teams are better than others at relaying signs. A lot of players don’t like signs given to them. A lot of players like to react. You have to have a certain group, whether it’s guys who came up together or guys who understand the importance of knowing what pitch is coming. All I can say is we haven’t done it all year. If we started last night, then that’s news to me. Please tell me what’s coming.”

“I dont think our kids are into that. We don’t teach that,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Hey, you’re going to get hit sometimes We go through it sometimes here, too. When kids struggle, they seem to think that people are relaying signs. There’s nothing to it. This is the big leagues. Everybody can hit a 99 mph fastball and anybody can hit a pitch over the plate. They’re going to do it sometimes. They do it to the great Verlander and some other guys.

Latos gave up seven runs and eight hits over four innings while blowing three leads. Seven of the hits went for extra bases, including three homers.

Acta was asked if it’s hard to steal signs from second base.

“It’s not that easy. Some people have been labeled as gurus at stealing a third-base coach’s signs. Believe me, it’s not that easy. I coached third base for five years in the big leagues and it’s not that easy. Ninty-nine-point-nine percent of players at the plate don’t want to know what’s coming, either. You really don’t want to  be taking a chance of leaning out over the plate for a 78 mph changeup and have a 95 mph fastball at your helmet. By the time you go complain to the runner at second base, you might be with the paramedics.

“That’s part of the game. That’s why people have signs, so the other team doesn’t know what you’re doing. That’s great, though. People think that our kids are so bright and so smart this early that they can do all that. It gives us some advantage. Make sure you write about it, so the other clubs will go crazy when we come into town, and start changing signs and catchers get crossed up and we advance runners and stuff. We’ve had some tough times just picking up Smitty’s [third-base coach Steve Smith] signs, which are our own signs.”

Reds manager Dusty Baker did not feel that sign stealing was an issue on Monday.

“I’m not going to accuse anybody of something that I’m not sure of,” Baker said. “You don’t really have to steal signs when the ball is over the heart of the plate and up. … It just wasn’t a quality night. He made a number of mistakes last night.”

Catcher Ryan Hanigan said this:

“We did change our signs. At that point, the damage was already done for the most part. But I always watch to see if the hitters at second are looking in, even while I’m giving the signs. I try to give the signs quickly and try to see if I see movement or anything. I pay attention to stuff like that to make sure it doesn’t happen. If they were getting signs, it’s not acceptable. It’s something that’s preventable.”

“I don’t think that was necessarily at all the reason why things didn’t go the way they needed to go last night.”

Finally, an unnamed Indians hitter said this:

“Tell him you don’t have to steal signs when you’re tipping pitches.”

6/19 at CLE

Reds lineup vs. Indians

Cozart 6
Heisey 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Ludwick DH
Rolen 5
Frazier 7
Mesoraco 2

Leake 1

*In his latest rehab assignment appearance LHP Bill Bray worked 1 1/3 innings and allowed one hit and struck out one over 22 pitches Monday night for Triple-A Louisville.

*And check out this video, made last week at the MLB Fan Cave. Bronson Arroyo and Aroldis Chapman take over the Adam Sandler/Kevin Nealon roles in the Ode to the Red Hooded Sweatshirt.

http://mlbfancave.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=22404919&topic_id=19224580&click=fancave_video&width=400&height=254&property=mlb

Slugfest, stolen signs?

The Reds’ six-game winning streak ended in a slugfest on Monday with a 10-9 defeat to the Indians. As you will read in my game story, Mat Latos took on some of the blame but also implied that Cleveland engaged in stealing signs to jump on some of his pitches.

“I was a little up in the zone. I thought I made some good pitches that they spit on with a runner on second base,” Latos said. “I suppose it was kind of ironic. We changed up the signs, for the last hitter unfortunately. The outcome changed when we changed up the signs today.”

Latos line: 4 ip, 8 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 3 HR. Cleveland had a total of seven extra base hits. For Latos, who blew three different leads, it snapped a personal five-decision win streak. He hadn’t lost a game since April 18.

Click here for the game story to see more. The full version should be up shortly.

The Three Stars:

No. 3 star: Brandon Phillips — 3-for-5, 1 RBI, 3 runs scored.

“Both teams were swinging the bat well,” Phillips said. “They just outhit us. I know there were a lot of entertained fans seeing everybody hitting the ball well.”

No. 2 star: Shin-Soo Choo, CLE — 2-for-5, 1 double, 1 HR, 2 RBI. Choo hit a leadoff homer against Latos in the bottom of the first after Joey Votto hit a solo shot in the top half. Choo has been a Reds killer for a while it seems.

No. 1 star: Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE — 3-for-4, triple, homer, 3 RBI. Chisenhall was a double shy of hitting for the cycle.

*Honorable mention to Scott Rolen in a 2-for-4, two RBI game. Rolen hit RBI singles to right field in both the second and third innings.

6/18 at CLE

Reds lineup vs. Indians

Cozart 6
Heisey 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Ludwick 7
Rolen 5,
Frazier DH
Hanigan 2

Latos 1

**UPDATE: To make room for the activation of Scott Rolen, IF/OF Kristopher Negron was optioned to Triple-A Louisville.

*I will have much more with Scott Rolen in my daily notebook, but he said he felt good during his two-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville. Rolen was 2-for-6 in the two games with a three-run homer on Saturday.

“We hope that he gets back to the quality that we know he can bring and possess rather quickly,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

*A popular question has been what becomes of Todd Frazier once Rolen returns. For tonight, it’s designated hitter.

“I wanted to give Frazier a day to work out at other positions besides third base vs. just throwing him out there when he hasn’t been out there,” Baker said. “Let us worry about the first three days first. Everybody wants to know the plans for next week and after that and the month after that. You can never have enough good players. If we didn’t have Frazier to take Scotty’s spot at that time, where would we be? He did a great job for us.”

*Incidentally, the Reds were 22-12 while Rolen was out.

*Drew Stubbs, who has been out since June 5 with a strained left oblique, planned to resume swinging today off of a tee. Stubbs had been sidetracked by the flu last week.

“I’ll just kind of take it step by step,” Stubbs said. “If hitting off of a tee feels good, then maybe I will take soft tosses. If that feels, we’ll move on to BP.”

Stubbs is eligible to come off of the DL before Friday’s game.

“I hope to jump back in on that day,” he said.

*Nick Masset, who threw in the bullpen on Saturday in NY, plans to have another 20-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday, all fastballs.

“As long as fastballs feel good tomorrow, maybe we’ll get to spin some stuff off of the mound on Thursday,” Masset said. “We’re making big strides right now. It feels good.”

No Big Apple for me

Back on Monday from Cleveland.

To all the Dads out there, have a good Father’s Day weekend.

Phillips big in sweep

Following losses in back-to-back series, a 12-5 Reds thumping of Cleveland Thursday gave them a three-game sweep and 5-4 homestand.

Click here for the game story on MLB.com

Lots of additional stuff to get to in this one….

The Three Stars:

No. 3 star: Ryan Ludwick — 3-for-5, 2-run HR — Ludwick smashed a two-run homer in the big five-run, 11-batter bottom of the fifth against lefty Scott Barnes. Despite only a .215 average, Ludwick has nine homers and 29 RBIs this season.

“Ryan Ludwick certainly has a track record,” Joey Votto said. “You wouldn’t think he couldn’t get it going like he can at some point. He certainly is doing it with the power. I’m sure he’ll have a stretch where he gets going with the hits and puts together a really good year altogether.”

No. 2 star: Joey Votto — 1-for-3, 3-run HR — When the Reds were down by a 2-0 score in the top of the first, Votto smoked a three-run homer to center field off of Josh Tomlin that put them up for good.

“It’s not like I react to when they put together some runs and all of a sudden you feel you need to bounce back right away,” Votto said. “You just have to put the pedal to the metal all the time and stay on it all the time. At some point the better team will prevail.”

No. 1 star: Brandon Phillips — 3-for-5, solo HR, 4 RBIs. Phillips finished the series 8-for-12 in another big game. Not only did Phillips go deep again to lead off the third, he made Cleveland pay for walking Votto ahead of him in the fourth and fifth innings. Votto has a MLB-leading 11 intentional walks this season. After the intentional in the fourth, Phillips lunged at an outside pitch and pushed it to right field for a two-run single.

“It’s like more motivation to me,” Phillips said. “I wasn’t coming through at the beginning. I just started saying I need to show these guys that I can hit behind Joey. I’m not a typical No. 4 hitter. I did it before and it’s not my first rodeo. I feel more comfortable in different spots in the lineup. But on this team, somebody has to hit fourth. I’m up to the challenge. I’ve been doing OK. Earlier I wasn’t doing my job. I can’t do my job every day but when we really need some RBIs, I feel like I’m the guy you can call on. I think I’ve been doing my job lately.”

*To show they are serious contender, more Reds besides Votto have to come through in the clutch. Phillips has 20 RBIs in his last 17 games. That’s a good place to start.

News and notes:

*Chris Heisey exited the game for a pinch-runner in the fifth. Heisey was removed as a precaution because of a mild strain of his left groin. That’s a tough injury because he has to run a lot, and he’s been playing center field for an injured Drew Stubbs, who has been out since June 5 with an oblique injury. There are no available outfielders at Triple-A Louisville on the 40-man roster.

“Groins can be tricky, so they just wanted me to make sure I get the rest of the day and tomorrow,” Heisey said. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. I think hopefully I’ll be fine. Just a little bit of a tightness thing.”

*If the Reds need a center fielder for a  couple of days, they could turn to Jay Bruce. He played 35 games there in 2008. Kristopher Negron, while not an offensive force, can also play there as can Wilson Valdez.

*Catcher Devin Mesoraco was lifted before the top of the ninth with muscle cramps in his side.

“We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and get some treatment,” Mesoraco said. “It’ll be fine.”

*Reds starter Mike Leake did not qualify for the win, because he lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He allowed 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K and had 84 pitches. He was trying to bounce back from the stomach bug that scratched his originally scheduled start Wednesday.

“Today was a gutsy performance by Leake,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We were going to try to go with him as long as we could. We had hoped he’d go 75 pitches and he ended up going [84] pitches. We were trying to get him the win and he came close. Had we turned that double play then he might have gotten it. I always try to get my pitcher the win, but at that point we had to win one for the team.”

*Negron notched his first big league hit with a lined single to center field as a pinch-hitter in the fifth.

*The Reds outscored Cleveland, 24-9, and out-hit them by a 34-24 margin in the series. The 17 hits on Thursday were a season-high.

*And in case you missed it, here is the latest story on Dusty Baker and Derek Lowe from before the game today. I’ve never seen Baker this angry before.

Quotes:

“You look at Brandon, he had a great series. Everybody wants somebody else to bat cleanup, but this guy is closing in on 40 RBIs in his time and he’s hitting around .290-something batting cleanup. So other than Joey, he’s the next best I think with runners in scoring position for a large number of opportunities. So it is nice to get him swinging good. Now we’ve got to get some other guys hopefully.” — Dusty Baker

“That’s not the way you wanted to finish a road trip. But, you’ve got to give them credit. They beat us on both sides of the ball. Their starters pretty much held our offense down and then they out-hit us, too. They especially took advantage of our middle relievers. They basically beat us at both ends.” — Indians manager Manny Acta

“I wasn’t hitting a ton of spots today but I was able to get some outs. I tried to get as many innings as I could.” — Mike Leake

“It feels good to sweep these guys. They’re a tough ball team. I feel like we got some key hits in key situations. I think that’s the reason we won this series, plus great pitching also.” — Brandon Phillips

6/14 vs. CLE

Reds lineup vs Indians

Heisey 8
Cozart 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Ludwick 7
Mesoraco 2
Leake 1

Lowe furious with Baker

*According to MLB.com colleague Jordan Bastian Wednesday night, Indians starter Derek Lowe went on an expletive-filled tirade against Reds manager Dusty Baker after the Reds 5-3 win over Cleveland.

In the top of the fifth inning, Reds starter Mat Latos went inside on Lowe with a 96 mph fastball and Lowe pointed  at the Reds dugout. In the bottom of the fifth, Lowe hit Brandon Phillips with a pitch. There was question about whether the benches were warned, but it wasn’t clear.

“Not that I saw. I didn’t see it. I’m paying attention and I didn’t see a warning,” Baker said.

Lowe was asked by Cleveland’s writers if there was bad blood with the Reds. Lowe said Baker waved a finger at him when he pointed towards the dugout.

“Dusty will deny it. It has everything to do with him,” Lowe said. “You can go ask him. He’ll deny it like he has no idea. They’ve been trying to do this [stuff] for years. I’d always come up with men on base. To say it didn’t come from Dusty, Mat Latos was with the San Diego Padres the last four years. He has no idea what’s going on. Again, you can ask him and he’ll say he doesn’t know [anything] about it like he always does. This goes back to my last year with the Dodgers [in 2008]. He made up some [bogus] story. A lot of people got involved. People almost got fired over it. You can go ask him right now and he’ll say he has no idea what you’re talking about. But just watch the game. Mat Latos has nothing to do with anything that has gone on. How would he know? Why in the [world] would you throw a 96 mph fastball, first pitch, inside to a pitcher? Ask him.

Q: Guys almost got fired?

“There was a lot of people involved,” Lowe replied. “I mean, by no means am I going to sit here and get into it.”

Q: Was it ever made public?

“No, but a lot of people knew about it,” Lowe said. “I have zero respect for the guy — not that it matters. I imagine he’d say the same about me. But the [stuff] that was being said and the denials that he ended up ultimately doing was pretty sad. I’ll just leave it at that.

*I did not have this information before going into the Reds clubhouse for postgame interviews. We’ll have to learn Baker’s side of the story on Thursday morning.

Phillips, Latos big in win

After dropping their last two series, the Reds have taken two of the first three vs. the Indians with a 5-3 win on Wednesday.

I did not write the game story, but click here for new colleague Mark Clements’ rundown of the evening.

Postgame video

The Three Stars of the game….

No. 3 star: Joey Votto — 2-for-3, double, single, run scored.

No. 2 star: Mat Latos — 7 ip, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 99 pitches/69 strikes. Both Latos and manager Dusty Baker agreed this was his best start of the season. He was aggressive and threw strikes, with first-pitch strikes to 23 of his 29 batters. His biggest jam came when he had the bases loaded with no outs in the fourth and Latos escaped with just one run.

“That’s huge, but of course I would have liked to have gotten out of it with no runs,” Latos said. “I think any pitcher would. But you look back a couple games and I give up two or three runs right there and my pitch count goes way up and I could potentially cost us a game, so it was good to get out of there with one run.”

No. 1 star: Brandon Phillips — 3-for-3, 2-run HR, 3 RBIs. Phillips’ RBI single in the first was the game’s first run, but he gave Cincinnati some daylight in the seventh when he hit a two-run homer to left field, his seventh of the season. Lifetime vs. his former team, the Indians, Phillips is now batting .347 (50-for-144) with eight homers, 26 RBIs.

“I’ve been struggling when I have runners in scoring position since moving to the fourth spot,” Phillips said. “I’m doing my job, OK, but there’s always room for improvement. I stepped my game up today. I know a lot of people were very happy about that. I try to do the best I can do from the four-hole, try to protect Joey Votto as much as possible. When you get clutch hits like that, positive things happen. That’s why we won the game today.”

News and notes:

*The Reds are 24-10 this season when they score first and 25-10 when they get a quality start.

*Joey Votto has multi-hit games in seven of his last 11.

6/13 vs. CLE

Reds lineup vs. Indians

Heisey 8
Valdez 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Ludwick 7
Hanigan 2
Latos 1

*Lifetime vs. Indians starter Derek Lowe, Ryan Ludwick is 9-for-19 (.474) with four homers and 10 RBIs.

*The Reds lead the NL in fielding percentage this season (.987).

*I had this a few weeks ago, but it’s now official that Reds head trainer Paul Lessard will be representing the club at the All-Star game and working for the NL team next month in Kansas City.

*Ohio State head football coach, and former U.C. assistant, Urban Meyer will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch tonight.

*There is a Strike Out Hunger food drive tonight as Reds players wives and volunteers from St. Vincent de Paul will collect non-perishable foods. Fans who donate the minimum two food items will receive a view level ticket to the July 30 game vs. the Padres.

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