March 2013

Latos pleased with outing

Four home runs and four errors for the Reds came on Sunday as they ended up with a 7-7 tie as the final vs. the Indians. All seven of the Reds runs came via the home run.

Here is some of the scoop from the afternoon:

*Mat Latos had this line: 5 ip, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K… As someone who had gotten off to slow starts in his previous outings, Latos had a brisk first inning with two groundouts to the mound and a groundout to second base. He was very pleased with his outing.

“It’s just being comfortable in the first inning,” Latos said. “It’s Spring Training all over again, you get anxious nervous and excited all at once. Today I just tried to settle down and throw the baseball, hit my spots and locations. Everything worked really good today. My curveball felt really good coming out of my hand and my changeup was something I’ve been working on.”

*I will have more on this in a few days for a longer story, but Latos said he made a point of seeking out Mario Soto when he got to camp so he could get help improving his changeup. It’s never been a pitch he was previously happy about.

*Latos gave up one run in the third inning and two more in the fourth. The third inning run was unearned following a Joey Votto error.

“He started out well and then he had to adjust and go to his breaking ball,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “The one thing about these Indians is they can hit. They’ve always been able to hit.”

*The Reds scored five first-inning runs against Indians starter Justin Masterson. Xavier Paul tattooed a three-run homer off of the batter’s eye in center field. Two batters later, Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer to left field.

*Frazier is 6-for-16 (.375) with two homers in his last six games.

*Back-to-back homers came in the seventh for the Reds as Chris Heisey went deep to left field and Denis Phipps followed with a long shot that also hit the batter’s eye, but higher.

*Of the four errors committed by the Reds, one was a fielding miscue in the ninth by 3B Henry Rodriguez. He has six errors this spring.

“It was an odd game,” Baker said. “We jumped them early and didn’t get any more for a while. They slow-walked us down and we jumped them again. It was the four errors that do you in. That’s four extra outs we gave them. They [the Indians] made a couple of errors. It wasn’t a real sharp game. It turned into a home run derby.”

*Yes, the Reds wore green hats for St. Patrick’s Day.

Chapman decision to come soon

By Sunday afternoon, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty had already heard all about pitcher Aroldis Chapman’s public wishes to remain as the team’s closer. Jocketty did not want to discuss the issue in depth.

It’s not a lock that Chapman will get what he wants, however.

“It would certainly be considered but we don’t let every player tell us how they want to be used,” Jocketty told MLB.com.

Chapman, and manager Dusty Baker, have both voiced a desire for a quick resolution to the situation – one way or the other. Jocketty was also in that camp.

“We’ll get it done this week, the next few days probably,” Jocketty said.

The money is in starting

So Aroldis Chapman wants to be the Reds closer? My hypothesis is that his agents wished he might reconsider. Not that more money means more happiness, the big dollars are in starting pitching.

Here are some of the very large recent signings of starting pitchers:

RHP Felix Hernandez: 7 years, $175 million with Mariners (signed 2/13/13)
RHP Zack Greinke: 6 years, $147 million with Dodgers (signed 12/10/12)
RHP Matt Cain: 6 years, $127.5 million with Giants (signed April 2012)
LHP Cliff Lee: 5 years, $120 million with Phillies (signed in Dec. 2010)
LHP Cole Hamels: 6 years, $144 million with Phillies (signed July 2012)
LHP CC Sabathia: 5 years, $122 million with Yankees (signed Oct. 2011)

The biggest closer contract ever signed was last winter by Jonathan Papelbon with the Phillies. It was four years for $50 million.

I don’t think that Chapman voicing his opinion on wanting to close will change the dynamics too much. It’s going to come down to what the organization feels is best for the Reds and Chapman in the long term.

My opinion on the matter hasn’t changed one iota. I still think Chapman should start. I think it’d be better for the club to have him work 150-200 innings rather than 70-75. I think there are too many situations where a closer isn’t needed to win. Starting pitching wins pennants and Chapman could be one of the best starters in baseball.

3/17 vs. CLE

Reds lineup vs. Indians

Robinson 8
Cozart 6
Votto 3
Paul 7
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Donald 4
Mesoraco 2
Latos 1

This game is televised on Fox Sports Ohio. First pitch is 4:05 p.m. ET

Chapman wants to close

After his start vs the Giants Saturday, Aroldis Chapman gave his most direct answer yet about his job preference between starting and closing:

“I would like to be the closer,” Chapman said via translator Tomas Vera. “But it’s out of my hands.”

Here is the full story on MLB.com.

Quick update: Dusty Baker was pleased to hear that Chapman had voice a preference.

“I was going to talk to him after he pitched today for that purpose,” Baker said after the game. “You hear all kinds of stuff from this camp, people talking and everybody thinks they’re in the know.

“We were going to do what’s best for the organization and for him. But he makes it a lot easier when you get the person’s blessing.”

Baker often tries to use players in spots or positions where they say they are most comfortable.

“Like I’ve said, a man in the middle is a man in constant turmoil. We have to discuss it and then we’ll see,” Baker said.

More camp cuts

The Reds had another round of cuts Saturday morning.

Optioned to Triple-A Louisville: RHP Curtis Partch, IF Henry Rodriguez, 1B Neftali Soto and RHP Pedro Villarreal;

Optioned to Double-A Pensacola 1B/OF Donald Lutz.

There are 39 players on the spring roster remaining.

3/16 Two lineups for price of one

Split squad action for the Reds today — both road games that begin at 4:05 p.m. ET

Reds lineup vs. Brewers

Choo 8
Cozart 6
Votto 3
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Heisey 7
Izturis 4
Hanigan 2
Leake 1

Reds lineup vs. Giants

Hamilton 8
Burriss 6
Lutz 9
Ludwick 7
Soto 3 Hessman 3
Hannahan 5
Donald 4
Olivo 2
Chapman 1

I will be in Scottsdale for the SF game.

Cueto felt strong; Reds lose

As I returned to action Friday, the Reds dropped their third-straight game with a 5-1 loss to the Rockies. Here is some news you can use:

*Johnny Cueto’s line: 6 ip, 5H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR. Cueto retired a stretch of eight in a row before Michael Cuddyer hit a one-out single, followed by Todd Helton taking a first pitch deep for a two-run homer to right field in the top of the fourth inning. Cueto was only slated to work five innings but stayed for the sixth and is the first pitch to work that long this spring. As a matter of fact, no one else has worked five innings yet.

“I feel good. I felt strong,” Cueto said. “I worked on my breaking pitch [in the sixth.]“

“He looked pretty good. He wasn’t really sharp,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He was kind of fighting himself. He was quite animated because he wanted to be sharper. … Strength wasn’t the problem. It was a matter of location.”

*Cueto, who did his postgame interview in English, also was 1-for-2 at the plate with a broken bat single to short right field in the third inning. There were no issues for the oblique he injured during the playoffs last year. When asked about his health for Opening Day, he replied “I’m ready.”

*Baker wasn’t too thrilled with his team’s performance overall.

“We hit into three double plays. That’s six outs on three pitches. We couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark,” Baker said. “We left a couple of runners on third. That’s frustrating to see. It’s amazing the later you get in the spring how some of the guys that were looking good are not looking quite so good. We’ll see. We’ll keep running them out there until we have to make a decision.”

*Joey Votto, Zack Cozart and Chris Heisey were excused from the Reds complex all day on Friday. In my notebook today, Baker explains why.

*1B Neftali Soto, who started on Friday in Votto’s place, left the game after one inning with a mild quadriceps strain and was replaced by Donald Lutz. Soto hit a two-out double to center field in his only at-bat.

*Rockies mainstay (and a member of Reds camp last spring) Jeff Francis threw five scoreless innings with four hits allowed and three strikeouts. Francis is having one fine spring as he has blanked opponents in 18 of his 19 innings.

*The Reds did not reach the scoreboard until the bottom of the eighth when Derrick Robinson hit a RBI triple to right field that scored Bryson Smith.

*J.J. Hoover struck out the side in the top of the ninth in a strong appearance.

*During this game, Team USA was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic in the second round with a 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico. That means Brandon Phillips will be returning to Reds camp sooner than later. Phillips was on deck when the Americans went down in the ninth.

Hamilton update; catching up

I had a brief chat Friday afternoon with Billy Hamilton, who has missed the past several games with mild strain of his left hamstring. It was tweaked a week ago while stealing a base.

Hamilton expects to resume playing on Saturday.

“I’m all right. There’s nothing wrong with it,” Hamilton said.

In 11 games, Hamilton is 2-for-18 (.111) with eight strikeouts this spring. The strikeouts have been a sign of the challenge he faces as he nears the big leagues. But overall, the 22-year-old believed camp has gone as he expected it would.

“Of course, it’s going to be different going from the minor leagues to the big leagues,” Hamilton said. “The stats haven’t been showing what I’ve done really well. As long as you’re learning stuff, it makes Spring Training better. It’s not how you perform all the time. I feel like this Spring Training has been good for me for learning.”

Catching up on other stuff this week:

*Dusty Baker told reporters that he hopes to have a decision on Aroldis Chapman’s status as a starter or closer sooner than later. Chapman will face the Giants at Scottsdale on Saturday while Mike Leake will take on the Brewers in Maryvale.

votto-cleveland-show

*Joey Votto is not around the camp as of yet today. His voice can be heard Sunday when Votto appears in the animated series “The Cleveland Show,” which airs Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET. Jimmy Rollins and David Ortiz are among other big league players that will appear.

*My friend and colleague Alyson Footer had a great story this week on what is sometimes really discussed during manager mound visits. Baker may have the best tale of all inside this piece.

3/15 vs. COL

Reds lineup vs. Rockies

Choo 8
Burriss 4
Soto 3
Ludwick 7
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Olivo 2
Izturis 6
Cueto 1

No DH for the Reds … and this time it’s of their own volition.

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