March 2013

Decision: Chapman to be Reds closer

After deeply considering switching Aroldis Chapman into the rotation, the Reds have abandoned the plan and announced Friday that the lefty will return to the bullpen as their closer.

Chapman’s return to the closer’s role means that Mike Leake will leave camp as Cincinnati’s fifth starter.

“Like last year, it was a tough decision but I think we felt what gave us the best opportunity as an organization to win this year would be to leave the rotation as is,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We had four guys that pitched 200 innings. Hopefully we can do that again. We have another guy who is capable of pitching 200 innings in Leake. That’s a very strong rotation.

“We’re a team built to win now. In our opinion, this gives us the best opportunity.”

“He is the closer,” Baker said. “On the days he can’t pitch, we’ll have Broxton. It’s no different from last year. We’re going to limit his consecutive days just like we did last year.”

Both Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker denied any split within the organization during the decision-making process.

“You guys made a big deal out of this,” Jocketty said. “You’ve exaggerated the point where you think there’s a big in-house battle. There is not a big in-house battle. We approached this spring exactly the same as last year with Chapman that he was going to be either a starter or closer.”

“Contrary to what people think, they’re always trying to have a division or wedge between the manager and general manager,” Baker said. “This ain’t the first time that has happened. It’s like [it’s done] for the lack of a story. It’s not right.”

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Choo: ‘I feel a lot better now’

Reds CF and leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, who hasn’t played in a spring game since March 15 because of back spasms, was not in Friday’s lineup vs. the Dodgers. But Choo has made a lot of progress and could return very soon.

“It’s good,” Choo said. “Yesterday, I did a full schedule of batting practice, shagging in the outfield, running. It was great, no problem. Today, I will do it again and if it feels real good, I think I will play [Saturday].

“In my career, I’m not hurt that much. The first time I felt it, I was worried about it. Twenty-four hours later, I felt great. It’s not really a major injury. I feel a lot better now.”

Choo doesn’t believe he will have any trouble being ready in time for Opening Day.

“If I had this same feeling during the regular season, I could play,” Choo said. “It’s Spring Training and I still have a little more time. I don’t want to make it worse. It’s more important for the season. I want to play every day, 162 games.”

3/22 at LAD

Reds lineup vs. Dodgers

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

*Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to follow Leake. His number of innings to pitch remains TBA, however.

No Chapman decision yet

Contrary to a report this morning, manager Dusty Baker and GM Walt Jocketty denied that a decision was reached on the future of pitcher Aroldis Chapman. No announcement is coming on Thursday.

“I don’t know where that came from. We didn’t say that,” Baker said. “There’s plenty of speculation every day. We’ll let you know soon. Then we can put it to rest and no more talking about. I’m sure everybody has an opinion one way or the other no matter which way we go. It’s a topic of discussion.”

Chapman is supposed to follow Mike Leake out of the bullpen on Friday. Baker would not say how many innings Chapman is scheduled to pitch.

Reds lineup vs. A’s

Robinson 8
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Ludwick 7
Heisey 9
Frazier 5
Cozart 6
Hanigan 2
Cueto 1

*Coming over from the Minor League camp, Mark Prior is one of the pitchers expected to follow Cueto.

*Shin-Soo Choo (back spasms) is not ready to return yet but was expected to do a full workout today.

Final off day of camp

My smiling face won’t be at Reds camp all day Wednesday. The same can be said for most of the Reds, since it’s their last scheduled off day of Spring Training.

I spent the morning doing the hike up Squaw Peak (see picture below). Believe it or not, it’s harder going down since it’s easy to wipe out. I fell twice and now have a hitch in my giddyup as a result. Oh well…

I wrote about Mat Latos for the off day story. Feel free to read it by clicking here


Slugfest vs. Sox

In a game that had a combined 25 hits, the Reds emerged with a 10-6 win on Tuesday. Here are some extra news and notes about the day that was:

*This was not a pretty game as the two teams combined for four errors. Perhaps the tone was set from the very first batter of the game when 3B Todd Frazier dropped Dewayne Wise’s routine pop up in foul territory for an error. It meant an unearned run for Homer Bailey as Adam Dunn later hit a three-run homer off of the batters eye in center field.

“He looked pretty good,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Bailey. “Our defense, we didn’t help him any. We gave them a lot of outs in that one inning and that’s why his pitch count got up high. He threw the ball well though. You have to remember he’s throwing against a pretty good offensive lineup. They used the DH and we didn’t. That’s another offensive player.”

*Bailey’s line: 4 1/3 ip, 9 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR. Gordon Beckham hit a leadoff homer against him in the third inning.

“I was feeling good. That’s the most important thing,” Bailey said. “Probably from the stretch, my slider and curveball wasn’t quite where I wanted it. That could be the thin air, it could be me and it could be a bunch of things.”

*Dunn had four RBIs in the game. So did Chris Heisey, who smacked a three-run homer to left field in the five-run bottom of the fourth. Jay Bruce made it back-to-back long balls when he followed Heisey with a drive to right field. Bruce has two homers in two games and four for the spring.

“The main thing is our offense has been better lately and our guys are starting to swing better,” Baker said.

*The Bruce homer chased White Sox pitcher, who gave up 10 runs and 11 hits in only 3 1/3 innings.

*Brandon Phillips was 2-for-3 with a RBI single in the fourth inning and two runs scored. In my notebook today, Phillips talked about having a great time playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

“I’d do it again. It was fun,” Phillips said. “It was more than I expected. I loved every second of it.”

*LHP Manny Parra replaced Bailey and gave up four walks in 1 1/3 innings of work. One of those walks was to Dunn with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth.

*RHP Jose Arredondo worked perfect for 1 1/3 innings with two strikeouts. Arredondo has not allowed a walk in six of his seven appearances this spring. He was sometimes walk prone in past seasons.

*The Reds have their final scheduled off day of spring on Wednesday. It should a quiet day on the big league side of the complex as there is nothing scheduled.

“I’m staying away,” Baker said. “A couple of guys like Choo have to come in for treatment. Most of the guys are staying away.”

Hamilton sent out

Reds CF and top prospect Billy Hamilton was part of the latest roster cuts from Spring Training. On Tuesday, Hamilton and RHP Drew Hayes were re-assigned to the Minor League camp.

Hamilton, 22, batted .174 (4-for-23) with two triples and nine strikeouts. He was in camp as a non-roster player.

“He hasn’t been switch-hitting that long. His record here in spring training, he’s not doing real well for a guy that has speed,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the move was revealed. “He’s striking out too much. He had to come here to see where his development is, where he is, and realize he has some ways to go. If he didn’t, he’d be here already.”

During the eighth inning of Monday’s 4-3 win over the Rockies, Hamilton hit one of those triples to the gap in right-center field. Had Tyler Colvin not cut it off quickly, Hamilton might have had an inside the park home run.

“He was really flying,” Baker said. “We’re enamored by speed because there’s less of it around. When I was playing, if you couldn’t run, you better be able to hit a bunch of home runs because most guys could run.”

The expectations are that Hamilton will begin the season at Triple-A Louisville.

There are 37 players left in Reds camp.

3/19 vs. CWS

Reds lineup vs. White Sox

Robinson 8
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Heisey 7
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Burriss 6
Mesoraco 2
Bailey 1

Gametime is 4:05 p.m. ET at Goodyear Ballpark.

Arroyo in a groundball-a-thon

Here is the deal from Salt River Fields, after a Reds 4-3 win over the Rockies on Monday…

*Bronson Arroyo looked pretty good as he pitched 5 2/3 innings with 1 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 K. First batter Dexter Fowler hit a 1-2 pitch for a leadoff homer in the first inning but most everything else was kept on the ground. There were 11 groundballs that resulted in 13 outs, including double plays in the third and fourth innings.

“This spring has had a lot of groundballs,” Arroyo said. “A lot of guys are real quick in spring. They’re feeling strong. They want to get a lot of at-bats. They’re feeling a little antsy at the plate. They want to hit the ball in play hard. It’s a little indicative of them hit the ball off the end of their bat. That’s why I’m getting a lot of groundballs.

“I felt good tonight – it was a night game, it felt like a regular game today. I knew I was going to get deep in the ballgame and I was going to hit and all that. It was nice. Fowler starts me off with a bomb-bomb and everything else went smooth from there.”

*In the third inning, Arroyo tattooed a ball all the way to center field warning track. Fowler could not make the catch as the ball skipped off of the wall for a double.

“He (Fowler) didn’t know I’ve been hitting in the cage with that Johnny Bench knuckle-shuffle, man,” Arroyo joked. “I’m telling you, I switched it up. I might start driving the ball 300 [feet] off the tee too.”

*In the top of the sixth, the Rockies did the right side shift on Jay Bruce — something I honestly don’t recall that happening too often in past seasons. Well, Bruce certainly beat the shift. On a 3-2 pitch from LHP Christian Friedrich, he absolutely crushed a solo home run that landed well beyond the right field fence and towards the very back of the grassy hill. Bruce has three homers this spring.

*J.J. Hoover replaced Arroyo and struck out all four batters faced. Hoover, who is fighting for one of the final bullpen spots, has struck out seven in a row over his last two outings.

*In the top of the eighth, Billy Hamilton hit a line drive to the gap in right-center field. Even though right fielder Tyler Colvin did a fine job to cut off the ball from going to the fence, Hamilton briskly made it to third base with a head-first slide and easily had a triple. Had Colvin hesitated or had a slight misstep, Hamilton might have had an inside-the-park homer.

*The Reds announced Monday that 1,500 tickets to the April 1 Opening Day game vs. the Angels will go on sale at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday. The tickets are only available at the Great American Ball Park box office window, and are limited to 1,000 view level seats at $32 each and 500 standing room only at $20 each. There is a limit of four tickets per person.

*Finally, here is a video that’s called A Day in the Life: Sam LeCure. Shot in the early days of camp with the Reds reliever, it gives you some idea about the work pitchers do as they perform all of their drills and other actvities. I’m just impressed he was able to pitch in the bullpen with a wireless mic attached to a belt behind his back.

3/18 at COL

Reds lineup vs. Rockies

Heisey 8
Izturis 4
Lutz 3
Ludwick 7
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Cozart 6
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

*Brandon Phillips was in the original lineup but is not now. No word yet on why.

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