March 2013

25-man roster set

The Reds set their 25-man Opening Day roster on Sunday afternoon.

Who is out:

RHP Jose Arredondo outrighted to Triple-A Louisville
RHP Logan Ondrusek optioned to Louisville Double-A Pensacola
INF Jason Donald designated for assignment
INF Emmanuel Burriss re-assigned to Minor League camp.

Also sent to Minor League camp: C Corky Miller, OF Derrick Robinson, OF Denis Phipps.

Placed on DL: RHP Nick Masset

Who is in:

INF Cesar Izturis had his contract selected.
RHP J.J. Hoover
LHP Manny Parra
RHP Alfredo Simon

So I was one off in my roster bubble predictions from last week. I had Burriss making it.

Predictions, thoughts, pick to click

Upon the conclusion of Friday night’s Reds-D-backs exhibition game at Chase Field, my Spring Training is over. I’m headed home first thing Saturday morning.

Don’t worry, the final split-squad games will be covered and more importantly — so will the final roster moves assuming they are done before the Reds break camp.

My colleague, MLB.com’s Matthew Leach, recently wrote a NL Central overview with predictions and not shockingly, the Reds are the favorites. I agree that Cincinnati is the team to beat and should repeat as division champions.

My NL Central prediction:

1. Reds
2. Cardinals
3. Brewers
4. Pirates
5. Cubs

I don’t expect the Reds to win 97 games again, especially with the Astros gone from the division to the AL West. But the Cubs aren’t likely to be much better and despite having some good starting pitching, I don’t think the Pirates have improved themselves at all. The Brewers shaky rotation should be better with Kyle Lohse, but they have some injury issues – especially at first base.

As for the Cardinals, I expect them to very tough once again. They have a very good overall lineup and even without Chris Carpenter, the rotation is no slouch. I’d be stunned if it’s not a neck-and-neck race into September – with the Reds prevailing at around 91-92 wins.

That being said, there are some concerns. Sure it was Spring Training, but there were too many occasions this month where runners in scoring position weren’t picked up. Thursday vs. the Royals was a prime example when the bases were left loaded and there was one rally where runners were left on second and third. Perhaps when games count and plate strategies are different, this will improve.

The other issue – which can never been predicted – is health. Can the rotation have another season where all five starters are healthy all year? The law of averages would say that is unlikely. But unlike last year when there was little depth in the Minors, there is more this year. Tony Cingrani looks close to big league ready if he isn’t already. There is also Daniel Corcino waiting in the wings and Armando Gallaraga is a veteran who looked pretty good in camp. On the lineup side however, there is no known Todd Frazier type waiting in the wings to pick up for a downed starter. Henry Rodriguez can certainly hit but showed some atrocious defense this spring. Donald Lutz was very, very impressive at the plate this spring but still has some development to do. I would not look for Billy Hamilton any earlier than September. He showed there is some work to do to bring his game up to big league standards.

Links:

Click here for my Opening Day preview.

Click here for a story on Opening Day starter Johnny Cueto.

And click here for a pre-Opening Day feature on Shin-Soo Choo.

Speaking of that, my 2013 Reds “pick to click” is in fact, Shin-Soo Choo. I’ve been very impressed with Choo throughout Spring Training and I expect him to bring a lot to the leadoff spot. He should set the table nicely for the likes of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick and company by getting on base. He can also be good for 15-20 home runs and can drive in guys that get on base in the bottom third of the order. Choo has a smooth swing, a great work ethic and defensively, has looked fine in center field. He is also in a contract year before free agency, which certainly doesn’t create a lack of added motivation.

Once again, thank you to all for reading this blog, the Twitter and most of all, the many stories on Reds.com/MLB.com. I’m looking forward to my 13th season with MLB.com, including year No. 8 on the Reds beat.

3/29 at ARI

Reds lineup vs. D-backs

Choo 8
Phillips Donald 4
Votto 3
Ludwick 7
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Cozart 6
Mesoraco 2
Arroyo 1

First pitch is at 9:40 p.m. ET, at Chase Field

*Brandon Phillips was scratched from the lineup today because he is sick.

Dudes on the bubble

After an 8-3 Reds loss to the Royals on Thursday, let’s go right to another tour of the roster bubble:

*LHP Manny Parra — Parra did not make my earlier prediction of his making the team look too good as he allowed three runs, five hits and a walk in his two innings. What was most troubling was that all of his runs and hits against him came with two outs in the fifth.

*RHP Logan Ondrusek — A streak of rough outings came to an end as Ondrusek worked a 1-2-3 sixth with one strikeout while pitching on back-to-back days.

*RHP Jose Arredondo — Arredondo kept a good stretch going with a 1-2-3 seventh, also with one strikeout. He has allowed one run over his last nine innings over eight appearances.

*RHP J.J. Hoover — Taking over in the eighth, Hoover started with a walk and a double but allowed no runs as he struck out the side. He has two walks and a team leading 19 Ks in his 10 innings over nine appearances.

*Cesar Izturis — Was a shortstop substitute and was 1-for-2 with a sixth inning single. He is now batting .340. Izturis also made a nice diving stop to his left on a grounder in the ninth.

*Emmanuel Burriss — Took over at third base and was 0-for-2. He is now batting .214.

*Jason Donald — Subbed later in the game at second base and went 0-for-1. He is batting .263.

I will have more details on the Reds relievers in action today on MLB.com/Reds.com.

Other news and notes

*Mat Latos gave up five runs and nine hits over only three innings with one walk and five strikeouts. He did not have any issues with the left ankle that was whacked by a comebacker his last start, however.

“He was fine,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Before the game, he was coughing and like a lot of people wasn’t feeling too good. He got his work in. He didn’t throw the ball bad.”

*Shin-Soo Choo was 2-for-3 with a double and raised his solid spring average to .366.

*Baker was unhappy with several innings of missed opportunities for his lineup.

“We should have had eight runs,” Baker said. “We left [runners on] second and third twice and the bases loaded. We had a lot of opportunities to blow that game open early. If you give your pitcher some room like that, like they had, it’s a different story. We just have to get better picking up those runs.”

*For the first time this spring, Dutch pitcher Loek Van Mil (first name sounds like Luke) came over from the Minor League camp to work a big league game for the Reds. Van Mil, who is 7-foot-1 gave up one hit and struck out one in a scoreless ninth inning.

Roster predictions

The Reds are still at 34 players as of Thursday morning and have a few more moves to make before April 1 to reach 25. But there are really only two areas unresolved.

My predictions for the remaining spots up for grabs are in bold:

Bullpen:

Chapman, Broxton, Marshall, LeCure, Hoover, Parra, Simon

IMO: Alfredo Simon makes the team because not only is he out of options, but because the bullpen needs a long man. J.J. Hoover doesn’t deserve to go after a fantastic spring. He’s earned the spot. As for Manny Parra, he hasn’t had a great spring but the idea of a second LHP is appealing for Dusty Baker. Also, I’ve learned that because he has at least five years of big league service, he has the right to approve being optioned to the Minors. I don’t see that happening, although when someone asked this morning about Parra’s potential role, Baker replied that “he has to make the team first.” So the club might still be thinking this through. Logan Ondrusek really hasn’t had a good spring and has options left. Jose Arredondo is the tricky one. He is out of options and under contract. Perhaps the club could explore a trade. Nick Masset (shoulder) will start the year on the DL. He hasn’t pitched off of a mound yet.

Bench:

Mesoraco, Hannahan, Heisey, Paul, Burriss

This is somewhat tough to predict. Emmnanuel Burriss started camp hot at the plate and has since slowed down. But he’s looked very good defensively. To me, the job is going to come to both having best skills as shortstop and versatility. While Burriss isn’t as strong as Cesar Izturis at shortstop, he is very good and more versatile at other spots. Jason Donald is the one who is out of options but I think he trails the other two contenders.

3/28 vs. KC

Reds lineup vs. Royals

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

*Take away Latos, and this is the Reds Opening Day lineup and the regular lineup you’re likely to see many times throughout the year if everyone is healthy.

Lots of homers, Leake solid

The Reds lineup was humming pretty well on Wednesday during a 7-3 win over the Padres. Shin-Soo Choo, Ryan Ludwick and Joey Votto each hit home runs.

*In his final outing of spring, Mike Leake looked very good. His line: 6 ip, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

“First it starts with good pitching that keeps you in the game until you get the home runs,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Leake had it going on today. He and Mesoraco were on the same page and kept the ball down.”

*After the Reds made two more cuts on Wednesday — RHP Clay Hensley and LHP Wilkin De La Rosa — there are 34 players remaining in camp.

Here is a look at the days from some guys on the roster bubble:

*Cesar Izturis — started at 3B and was 0-for-2 with a pair of groundouts. He got some action defensively on back-to-back groundouts hit his way in the first inning and another in the top of the fourth.

*Jason Donald — replaced Izturis at 3B and was 0-for-2. He reached on an E3 in the bottom of the eighth and stole second base.

*Emmanuel Burriss — appeared as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and popped out to the catcher in his lone at-bat.

*Logan Ondrusek — Appearing in the top of the ninth, Ondrusek gave up a one-out single, followed by a two-run homer and then retired the final two batters. In his last three appearances, Ondrusek has allowed seven runs amd seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

3/27 vs. SD

Reds lineup vs. Padres

Choo 8
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Ludwick 7
Mesoraco 2
Robinson 9
Cozart 6
Izturis 5
Leake 1

Cueto finishes spring strong

A wild nine-run top of the ninth, with 13 men that came to the plate, helped give the Reds a 11-1 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night. It was a particularly rough inning for Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, who faced six batters without notching an out while allowing six runs.

*After dealing with mechanical issues that got him knocked around his previous start, ace Johnny Cueto looked very good in his final spring tuneup. Cueto blanked the Cubs for six innings with four hits and one walk while striking out five. He also had a single in the top of the third inning and scored a run.

“I feel really good. I’m ready to roll,” Cueto said via a translator. “I felt like I had a good Spring Training. It was good for me to end on a good note going into the season.”

Roster bubble summary:

*Emmanuel Burriss, who started at shortstop, was 1-for-5 and hit a RBI double to center field that scored Cueto in the third. Burriss also reached on an error in the ninth and stole second base. Defensively, he made a very nice diving stop behind second base on Anthony Rizzo’s sharp groundball. Rizzo still beat out the throw to first base for a single however.

*Jason Donald, who had missed several days with a knee injury, played an abbreviated game at second base and was 0-for-2. Donald was unable to turn a double play grounded to the shortstop in the fourth as Nate Schierholtz beat the throw to first base.

*Cesar Izturis replaced Donald and was 2-for-3 with a RBI ground rule down the right field line and a two-out single to left field. Both hits came in the ninth inning.

*Alfredo Simon replaced Cueto and pitched the seventh and eighth innings. Simon gave up one run and three hits with one walk and one strikeout.

*Finally check out this notebook item on reliever J.J. Hoover, who is awaiting word on his roster fate in the midst of a fantastic spring. Hoover is scheduled to work in Wednesday’s game vs. the Padres.

Mesoraco makes team

The Reds have made their decision on the No. 2 catcher’s role. On Tuesday at the deadline of a contractual clause to be added to the big league roster, the club offered non-roster catcher Miguel Olivo a $100,000 retention bonus to report to Triple-A Louisville. Olivo is still deciding on what he might do.

“I would hate to see him go,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Sometimes contractual things supersede, sort of preclude what you want to do.”

But it means that Devin Mesoraco will be on the Opening Day roster. He enters today batting .361 this spring and has looked tremendous in general at the plate.

“It’s not like Mesoraco didn’t earn it. He did play well,” Baker said. “Yesterday he had a bad game but other than that, he’s been great. You hope he’s gotten to the point where he’s mature enough where he realizes it’s only a bad game and then you forget about it and don’t dwell on it.”

In 21 games, Olivo batted .167 with one homer and four RBIs.

If Olivo does accept the assignment to Louisville, the next out clause he has is June 1, when he can ask for his release if he’s not on the big league roster.

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