September 2013

Where things stand

Greetings from Houston, where I am still wrapping my head around the fact that the Reds and Astros will meet in an Interleague series of three games.

After the outcomes at Milwaukee and vs. the Cubs, a sweep of worst record in baseball Houston would seem rather paramount, no? Maybe not paramount, but certainly needed.

Here are where the Reds are in terms of the postseason hunt.

84-66, Third place and 3.5 games out of first place in NL Central behind STL & PIT. 12 games remain for the Reds.

CIN is 4.5 games up on WAS for the second NL Wild Card spot. The magic number for the Reds to clinch is 9.

If the season ended today:

St. Louis at Pittsburgh on Monday, September 30 to determine the NL Central champion (the teams have the same W-L record but Pittsburgh won the season series, 10-9), then:

NL Wild Card: Cincinnati at Wild Card #1 (PIT/STL)

NL Division Series ‘A’: NL Wild Card winner (CIN/PIT/STL) at Atlanta

NL Division Series ‘B’: LA Dodgers at NL Central champion (PIT/STL)

Games 148-150: at MIL

I’m not at Milwaukee for the three games vs. the Brewers. I will join the trip in Houston and be covering every game the rest of the way until the season ends … whenever that might be.

Please talk amongst yourselves (nicely)…and thanks.

Hamilton’s present and future

For my off day story on MLB.com/Reds.com, I focused on Billy Hamilton and his prospects for helping the Reds in the postseason. You can click here to read that piece.

What didn’t make the story were the prospects of Hamilton being the Reds’ center fielder in 2014. That possiblity largely hinges on the Reds’ ability to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, who is expected to command a hefty price this winter as a first-time free agent. I recently asked Reds GM Walt Jocketty about Hamilton and Choo.

“We’re hopeful and confident we can bring Choo back. We’d like to bring Choo back,” Jocketty said. “We’ll see what happens. We’ll make a good effort to bring him back. If not, then we’ll give Billy the opportunity to see what he can do. There’s no question defensively that he’d be able play there right now and handle base running and everything else. It’s just a question with the offense. We’d have to be patient with him if he’s out there every day and let him gradually grow into it. Ideally, I’d like to work him in a little slower but we’ll see what happens.”

Smartly, Hamilton wasn’t ready to think about where he might be next season.

“I’m just doing what I can now to help the team. I’m not worried about next year right now,” Hamilton said.

As for what Hamilton did for Triple-A Louisville earlier this season, he batted .256/.308/.343 with 75 steals. In the big picture, Jocketty was pleased.

“He’s had a tremendous year and he has only been playing center field for a year,” Jocketty said. “Every report I got from our own people and even people from other clubs, scouts and executives from other clubs, he was probably the best center fielder in the International League. I think with some more experience, he has a chance to be a great center fielder in the Major Leagues some day. We’ve been very encouraged.”

Hannahan goes deep

Reds reserve 3B Jack Hannahan has waited a long time to clear the fences in a game. It finally came on Wednesday in a 6-0 victory over the Cubs. In the sixth inning when the lead was only 3-0, Hannahan connected on a Jeff Samardzija slider for a three-run homer to right field. It was Hannahan’s first homer since July 20, 2012, for the Indians.

Teammates in the dugout were very happy for Hannahan, who had the ball and two lineup cards at his locker as mementos.

“[My] last three years, I’ve hit homers on Opening Day and to come in and finally play in a hitter friendly ballpark and look up in September, I see the goose egg in the home run column,” Hannahan said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get one. Pinch-hitting is more about looking for fastballs to hit. I’ve been more reacting to off-speed. That’s kind of what I’ve been working on and it paid off for me today.”

Hannahan had never notched a pinch-hit homer before in his career. But he had also rarely pinch-hit before this season.

“I’ve been in the American League. It doesn’t usually come around too much,” Hannahan said. “A lot of this is all new to me, being in the National League for the first time. I’m getting ready in the fifth inning. You can try to read Dusty’s mind but you never really know if a scenario is going to happen, or double switches. It’s been different with the pinch-hitting or going to play defense late.”

Click here for the full wrap up on the game and the importance of finishing with a 7-3 home stand.

Quick postgame notes:

*Mike Leake has a new career-high in victories as he improved to 13-6 with a 3.35 ERA.

*It was the 16th shutout of the season for the Reds pitching staff, which was second to only the Pirates’ 19 in the NL.

*Zack Cozart’s 15-game hitting streak was snapped with a 0-for-4 day.

*The Reds finished the season series vs. the Cubs 14-5.

*Todd Frazier hit a second-inning double, giving him a career high 27 for the season.

What’s next for Cueto? TBA

Reds RHP Johnny Cueto (strained right lat) threw 60 pitches to hitters Neftali Soto, Derrick Robinson, Jack Hannahan and Henry Rodriguez on Wednesday. All looked to be OK. Cueto threw both from his usual twist windup and from the stretch.

“He was throwing pretty good,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said after watching the session. “It’s not surprising to me. He’s so mechanically sound. He tired a little bit at the end, which was to be expected. It’s a matter of endurance. His velocity was still pretty good.”

The club’s medical staff has maintained it did not believe the turn in Cueto’s delivery was the source of his previous injuries, but rather the dragging of his shoulder. That has been corrected.

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“It’s just a little different,” Cueto said via translator Tomas Vera. “The difference is I stay more in front when I decide to do the whole turn. That way I can do it better.”

What’s next for Cueto?

“I don’t know,” Baker said. “We’ll have to see how he comes out of this one. We’re trying to be optimistically cautious.”

“I don’t know,” Cueto also said. “It depends on what they’re going to do. The front office, the GM, will all sit down together. I don’t know what they’re going to do. I feel good. I feel ready. That’s their problem now.”

I will have more on Cueto, Tony Cingrani and Billy Hamilton soon in my Reds notebook on MLB.com.

Game 147: vs. CHC

This has been updated since the original post.

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Tuesday odds and ends

*The last time Tony Cingrani returned from the disabled list and started on Sept. 5, vs. the Cardinals, Ryan Hanigan caught even though Cingrani is paired usually with Devin Mesoraco. On that night, Mesoraco was bothered by a sore left hamstring.

On Tuesday, Cingrani is again working with Hanigan. This time, there is nothing wrong with Mesoraco.

“We’ve got a day game tomorrow, early 12:30 hot game. Leake is pitching,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I thought it would be excessive for him to catch tonight and the early game tomorrow. Plus, Hani has been swinging better than Meso is right now.”

*Before tomorrow’s game, Johnny Cueto will throw his second live BP session. It should be about 45 pitches.

*My friend and colleague, Alyson Footer, did a story today on how better nutrition has become a big deal all around the Majors. The story also includes a Reds perspective. Click here to read it.

*The 2014 schedule was released today. For those who get amped about the Reds-Cardinals rivalry, you won’t have to wait long. Six of the first nine games, including Opening Day at GABP March 31, are vs. the Cardinals.

*Joey Votto celebrated his 30th birthday on Tuesday.

Game 146: vs. CHC

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Shutout by the Cubs

The Reds have rolled the Cubs so much the past two seasons that losses like Monday’s 2-0 blanking at the hands of Chicago and Travis Wood stick out like a sore thumb. It was the first time the Reds were shut out by the Cubs since Aug. 19, 2008, snapping a streak of 86 games with at least one run scored against them.

Some quick notes:

*The game came down to a pair of solo homers allowed by Bronson Arroyo, who hung a changeup to Ryan Sweeney in the second inning and made a decent fastball offering to Luis Valbuena in the third. After that, Arroyo retired 14 of 16.

*Jay Bruce received his single-season career best 12th assist of the night when Dioner Navarro singled and was caught in a rundown between first and second base after the throw from right field was cutoff.

*Zach Cozart hit two doubles and extended his career-best hit streak to 14 games.

*Shin-Soo Choo was plunked in the back by Travis Wood in the third inning — his 25th hit-by-pitch of the season and a new club record.

For more on tonight, click here to read my game story on Reds.com/MLB.com.

Saddle up…

Reds pitcher Homer Bailey has a few mementos from his two no-hitters within 10 months. On Monday, Bailey received one that qualified as out of the ordinary. It was a finely appointed leather saddle, courtesy of reliever and teammate Jonathan Broxton.

Off the field, Bailey likes to ride horses and practice roping and keeps some equine in nearby Butler County during the season. Embossed on the sides of the saddle are the dates of Bailey’s no-no’s – Sept. 28, 2012, (vs. the Pirates) and July 2, 2013 (vs. the Giants).

“I had no idea,” Bailey said when asked if Broxton’s gift was a surprise. “What’s crazy is I just had another one come in. Now I’ve got three [saddles].”

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