September 2012

First look at NLDS roster choices

My position player locks: Ryan Hanigan, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Ryan Ludwick, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, Dioner Navarro.

My pitching staff locks: Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, Sam LeCure, Jose Arredondo

By my count, that’s 21 locks. That leaves four spots.

On the bubble:

RHP Mike Leake — Leake told me today he knew he didn’t deserve to be one of the four starters in the NLDS. But he’s hoping to make the cut as a reliever, and can even pinch-hit or pinch-run. One issue is he wasn’t very good in his previous five appearances out of the bullpen in 2010-11.

C Devin Mesoraco — There are merits to the idea that carrying three catchers would free up Navarro to pinch-hit. But Mesoraco’s game log is an indication that he might not make the NLDS roster. He’s had exactly three at-bats over two games since his recall and nothing since Sept. 10. If he was going to make it, you’d think he would get some innings and at-bats to stay sharp.

INF Wilson Valdez — I don’t think Valdez will be left off of the roster, despite his .197 average. The club values his defense and that he can be viewed as a true shortstop behind Cozart.

INF Miguel Cairo — Being a versatile player helps his cause, as does his veteran presence. Cairo is batting .313 (5-for-16) in his last seven games but has a .179 average for the season. He’s never really gotten going at the plate.

INF Henry Rodriguez — A switch-hitter who has a bat the organization likes. But it might be a lot to ask of a rookie to take on a pinch-hitting role in the postseason.

SS Didi Gregorius — There is no doubt that Gregorius can pick it defensively. But if the Reds carry Cozart and Valdez, I don’t see Gregorius making it too.

RHP Alfredo Simon — After a tough couple of outings in April, Simon has been a mostly dependable and sometimes exceptional long reliever. The question is how much is a long man needed in a short playoff series, especially if Leake makes the roster.

RHP Logan Ondrusek — After struggling in August, Ondrusek was sent down and has been mostly decent since coming back up.

RHP J.J. Hoover — Having a nice rookie year, Hoover has mostly impressed over his two call-ups. He hasn’t allowed a run in eight of his last nine appearances since his Aug. 23 recall. The one time he didn’t look good was Sept. 19 at Chicago when he walked three, including one with the bases loaded.

LHP Tony Cingrani — There is no chance Cingrani will get a start in the regular season or postseason, but his college bullpen experience and his being left-handed make him an intriguing option. Not counting Chapman, the Reds only have Marshall as a lefty set up guy.

*I can envision a scenario where the Reds carry 10 or 11 pitchers for the NLDS, especially since it’s a best-of-five series.. If it’s 10, that would allow for 15 position players. In 2010, they carried 11 pitchers to the matchup with the Phillies.

*One other note: Teams can reset their rosters in advance of each round of the postseason. So anyone not carried in the NLDS can still be around the team and workout until they’re needed. Teams can also replace an injured player in the midst of a series if need be.

Baker suffered “mini stroke”

Reds manager Dusty Baker revealed on Tuesday that he suffered a “mini-stroke” on Friday as he was being discharged from a Chicago hospital.

Baker was initially admitted last Wednesday and diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, also known as an irregular heartbeat.

Chris Speier is managing the team at least through this weekend’s series at Pittsburgh. Baker is at the ballpark today but is not meeting with reporters. The club held a team meetings this afternoon.

“He did come down and address the team and looked great,” Speier said. “He lost a lot of water weight. He’s anxious, but again it’s one of those situations where I know today that I’m going to manage tonight and I’ll probably manage, at this point, probably through Pittsburgh. Then the plan I believe is, he’s going to rejoin the team in St. Louis.”

Here is the full statement from Baker and the Reds:

While in Chicago on Wednesday, Reds manager Dusty Baker was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as an irregular heartbeat. As he was being discharged on Friday, he suffered a mini-stroke and immediately was treated by the hospital’s stroke team, which minimized the effects of the stroke.

Dusty returned to Cincinnati on Sunday, and his condition has improved dramatically. His Cincinnati neurologist, Dr. Joseph Broderick, and cardiologists, Dr. Dean Kereiakes and Dr. Daniel Beyerbach, expect Dusty to make a full recovery and return to the dugout, possibly as soon as the season’s final series next week in St. Louis.

Dusty said, “While at Wrigley Field I was blessed to have our trainer, Paul Lessard, have the good sense to call in Cubs team physician Dr. Stephen Adams, who examined me in the clubhouse, immediately determined how serious by condition was and personally rushed me to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Broderick and Dr. Kereiakes are going to make sure I’m ready to handle the duties of managing before I return full time. My family and I are very grateful for the support we’ve received the past few days from Mr. Castellini and our ownership group, Walt, our friends, the baseball family and especially Reds fans. I’m feeling much better, and it’s great being back here in Cincinnati. Chris Speier and my staff are doing a terrific job, and I look forward to getting back to the dugout.”

9/25 vs. MIL

Reds lineup vs. Brewers

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

There has been no word from the Reds on whether Dusty Baker will manage the club tonight.

*UPDATE: Chris Speier is managing tonight’s game. There has been no update yet on Baker’s status however.

Leake skipped, updated rotation

The Reds have revealed an updated list of probable pitchers for the final week of the regular season.

Mike Leake was scheduled to start Tuesday vs. Milwaukee, but he is now being skipped and Johnny Cueto is moving up to make the start. Because of Monday’s off day, Cueto is still working on normal rest. He wasn’t tip-top sharp in his last start vs. the Cubs Thursday but still threw six scoreless innings and snapped a three-start losing streak. Leake will now pitch Saturday vs. the Pirates and Cueto will make his final regular season start on Sunday at Pittsburgh with a potential chance at getting 20 victories.

Here is the updated list of probable pitchers:

Tue vs Mil: RHP Johnny Cueto (18-9, 2.84) vs RHP Mike Fiers (9-8, 3.38)
Wed vs Mil: RHP Bronson Arroyo vs RHP Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.86)
Thu vs Mil: RHP Mat Latos (13-4, 3.60) vs RHP Wily Peralta (2-1, 3.04)
Fri at Pit: RHP Homer Bailey (12-10, 3.92) vs TBA
Sat at Pit: RHP Mike Leake (8-9, 4.73) vs TBA
Sun at Pit: RHP Johnny Cueto vs TBA

No. 1 seed vs. No. 2 seed?

Click here for the latest “if the season ended today” postseason matchup bracket.

There seems to be some debate over the merits of the Reds getting a No. 1 seed vs. a No. 2 seed because of the unique playoff format in the NLDS where the team with home field advantage gets Game 3, 4 and 5 and the lesser seed opens with Games 1 and 2.

*If the Reds finish with the No. 2 seed, they would likely end the season in St. Louis and fly directly to San Francisco to meet the No. 3 seed Giants on Saturday, Oct. 6. AT&T Park will be packed with Giants fans and a great homefield advantage for the Giants. (Update: Facing Cain, Bumgarner or Lincecum there would be no picnic either)…The Reds split a four-game series there in July.

*If the Reds get the No. 1 seed, they would fly home and await the winner of the Wild Card game — after possibly waiting out some tiebreaker game(s) for teams to get into the Wild Card round. So there is less opponent certainty there. They could fly to either Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia or Milwaukee.

Click here for Mark Clements’ Saturday story that offers more detail on possible opponents.

In the short view, the No. 1 seed doesn’t seem to be a much better perk over the No. 2 seed. On the other hand, the Reds have advance scouts watching all of the potential opponents so it’s not like the club won’t be prepared for any contingency. And it’s possible the Wild Card round winner might have used up their best starting pitcher(s) and worn out its bullpen just to advance to the NLDS.

Regardless, the Reds should have inner-confidence that it can beat any opponent in any situation.

In the long view, the top seed is best because that would give the Reds home-field advantage for the NLCS over any opponent in the best-of-seven series.

No matter what seed the Reds get, they would have home field advantage if they reach the World Series because the NL won the All-Star game.

So what would you rather see the Reds get — No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed?

9/23 vs. LA

Reds lineup vs. Dodgers

Heisey 7
Valdez 6
Votto 3
Frazier 5
Phipps 9
Cairo 4
Stubbs 8
Hanigan 2
Bailey 1

*No updates yet on Dusty Baker, but Chris Speier is managing his fifth-straight game tonight.

*UPDATE: Baker is flying home today and was released from the hospital. He is not expected to be at the ballpark tonight, however. But son Darren Baker is expected to visit.

*UPDATE #2: Baker visited the players in the clubhouse after BP and then headed home. He is not here for the game.

NL Central champions

Clinch stories on MLB.com:

Behind Latos, Reds regain reign of NL Central

Amid revelry of title, Reds keep Dusty in thoughts

After clinch, Reds can get top seed

Chapman seals division in return

Baker, Chapman updates

Just had the session with Chris Speier, who said that Dusty Baker is still in a Chicago hospital.

“He’s doing well,” Speier said. “They want to keep him just one more day to make sure everything is fine before they release him.”

Also – Aroldis Chapman is available today, but the preference Speier said was to give him a non-save situation if possible. Chapman has not pitched since Sept 10

9/22 vs. LA

Reds lineup vs. Dodgers

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

Magic number = 1

Hide the champagne and put away the playoff hats. The Reds haven’t clinched their division just yet.

We’ll forgo the Three Stars tonight and I will just say it was a great atmosphere at GABP tonight. These are the games any reporter wants to cover, regardless of the result. The 3-1 Reds loss in 10 innings to the Dodgers had all of the drama you might see in the postseason. The players sensed it as well.

“Tonight was the first opportunity you get to feel like you’re in a playoff game,” said Bronson Arroyo, who pitched great for eight innings and deserved better. “Especially knowing that L.A. is fighting for their life to try to get in this thing. Obviously we want to close it out as quickly as possible, especially at home. With a great ball game like that it would have been nice to pull it off. The crowd was great tonight and hopefully we can shut it down tomorrow.”

Click here for my game story that pretty much says it all.

Here is what Chris Speier had to say about Arroyo’s performance.

Until Saturday…

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