*On Saturday morning, Reds manager Bryan Price was asked about a quirk in this season’s regular season schedule. The Reds host the Cardinals in an 8:05 p.m. ET ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game on May 25. The next day, Memorial Day, the Reds have to be in Los Angeles for the start of a series against the Dodgers. First pitch for that game begins at 5:10 p.m. PT. That’s a pretty tough turnaround.
“We’ll have to get that Concorde jet out of mothballs and get ourselves cross country in a hurry,” Price joked. “I get it. We can complain all we want. A lot of times this is driving the economy of baseball and everyone benefits from it. We all benefit from it. You know what? It’s always fun to go to Los Angeles and play the Dodgers. I don’t think there will be any reason for us to complain about the travel. It’s an inconvenience but it’s our obligation to be ready to play.”
*Price recalled that early in his big league coaching career, he appreciated the privileges of nice travel in the Major Leagues. He spent several years playing or coaching in the Minors so some of the tougher big league trips were no big deal, especially from Seattle.
“I was such a young coach at the time. You didn’t know any better,” Price said. “I was riding the busses from Bellingham, Wash. to Boise. This was a treat. I’m on a nice plane. We get in at 2 o’clock in Toronto? Great! You don’t care then. Of course, the players had to get up and play. They had a louder complaint than I did.
“There were times [in the Minors] that the guy at the wheel was falling asleep. One of our coaches was trying to stay up with him and talk to him … I guess someone saw him nod off again and they threw their book all the way to the front of the bus and it banged off the windshield. It kind of startled him and he pulled it back. You wanted to be asleep because you didn’t want to see how this guy was driving. It was classic.”
Other items following a 3-2 Reds win over the Rockies:
*We learned during the game that Mike Leake was scratched from Sunday’s start vs. the Padres because of an abdominal issue. More on that coming soon on MLB.com/Reds.com. Brett Marshall will start in Leake’s place.
*Rainy weather prompted Price to change his lineup and use many extra players. Three players also came over from Minor League camp to play. One of them, Mike Costanzo, played left field in the sixth inning. You might remember Costanzo briefly playing in the Majors for the Reds during the 2012 season. Mattair, who entered in the sixth at third base, went 2-for-2.
*Tony Cingrani looked pretty good during his first start of 2 ip, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. Cingrani struck out the side in the second inning.
“Cingrani was sharp,” Price said. “The pitching as a whole was good. We threw the ball really well. The great thing about Tony is he got his changeup over, threw a couple of good breaking balls and got a strikeout on a breaking ball. He had good fastball location so it was a great start to his season.”
*The Rockies lineup featured ex-Red Paul Janish at shortstop. Former Reds RHP Matt Belisle was used in relief. Colorado also has Drew Stubbs and Nick Masset, but neither made the trip over here.
*First pitch temperature: 61 degrees. But it got colder and rainy as the day progressed.
Through three games, the Reds have yet to use LHP Sean Marshall. After his shoulder injuries last season, Marshall’s spring throwing program was already a little more limited than others so he would not peak too soon and get overworked.
Now it appears the Reds want to slow him down a little more.
“He’s just a little stiff,” Reds manager Bryan Price said Saturday. “We’re going to be on the front end of this thing. We’re going to back him off. He doesn’t need a full Spring Training to be ready for Opening Day. He did all of his offseason throwing. Slowing him down a little bit here, hopefully, will pay dividends later in the spring.”
Marshall isn’t expected to see game action the first week of Cactus League games, possibly the first two weeks.
“We’re going a lot slower with him, No. 1, to make sure he’s completely strong, he’s pain free and we don’t have any setbacks,” Price said. “We’re going to be cautious on the front end.”
Marshall was limited to 16 games last season after he spent May 24-Sept. 15 on the disabled list, first with a shoulder sprain and then tendinitis that developed when he was close to returning in July.
It was a 4-0 loss for the Reds vs. the Indians on Friday. Story is on Reds.com/MLB.com but I’ve got some added information here to peruse.
*Manager Bryan Price was pleased overall with the pitching performances he saw today.
“That’s the common theme early in camp, just trying to get your delivery together and manage the adrenaline,” Price said. “Those are the big challenges. I thought for the most part, we were pretty good at it today.”
*Homer Bailey’s line: 2 ip, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. Bailey didn’t feel his sharpest out there. After a one-out walk to Lonnie Chisenhall, he fell into a 3-1 count on Ryan Raburn before allowing a home run to left field.
“I threw two pitches for balls that were just off. In the season, I’d probably make those pitches or get the groundball that I was looking for,” Bailey said. “I threw a slider down and away and a two-seamer down and in. Missed by about two inches. It’s Spring Training, I’m not going to hit those every single time yet.”
*Asked if he felt any different pitching after signing his six-year, $105 million contract, Bailey replied: “Nah, not really. Same as it was last year.”
*Aroldis Chapman looked really strong in striking out the side during the fifth inning. Price had this to say:
“One thing we do know is we keep tabs on our guys,” Price said. “They’re working out and they’re ready to go. We have a visual inspection on a lot of them and we had a pretty good visual on Chapman. We knew he would be ready when he got here — regardless of what was suggested otherwise.”
*Top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson took over in the sixth and made his debut. Stephenson got two quick outs and then encountered some trouble. First, there was a two-out walk and then a single with two strikes. He had Carlos Moncrief in a 0-2 count before allowing a RBI single. A second run scored when RF Juan Duran airmailed a throw meant for the plate into the third base dugout.
*First pitch temperature was 75 degrees.
The Reds now have a 1-1 Cactus League record after being roughed up by the Indians, 12-3, on Thursday. The game story will be on MLB.com/Reds.com.
Here is some other news you can use:
*Reds pitchers combined for 10 walks allowed and 12 hits, including six four extra bases. There were three home runs. Johnny Cueto pitched two scoreless innings while throwing 45 pitches but manager Bryan Price thought he was erratic.
“He wasn’t sharp,” Price said. “That’s quite often part of the first outings in Spring Training. It wasn’t just Johnny but to a man almost. We were up in the zone and situations, especially here, you get some balls up in the air and they hit some balls real well. You give up 12 runs on 12 hits, that usually means there were some extra base hits and some walks involved also. It’s going to get a lot better. These early outings for me don’t carry a whole lot of credence or any barometer.”
*Cueto gave up a one-out double in the first inning and issued two walks in the second inning. The second one, with one out in the second, brought new pitching coach Jeff Pico to the mound for the first time this season. Pico pointed out a mechanical flaw and Cueto recovered to get a lineout and a strikeout. Working with Pico this season after four years of Price as pitching coach was no problem for Cueto.
“I feel proud to have two good pitching coaches with us. I feel really well with Pico,” Cueto said.
*Price said all of his starters would work two innings the first time through the rotation, barring a long inning or high pitch counts.
“Typically with these guys, we’ll try to start with two innings and then advance an inning per start,” Price said. “Their pitch allotment increases every time that they go out.”
*Billy Hamilton led off strongly in the first inning again. Hamilton worked a full count vs. Justin Masterson before lining a single to left-center field. Shortstop Mike Aviles saw Hamilton turn wide and rushed a bad throw to first base that went into the seats. It was a single and a two-base error. Hamilton didn’t end up scoring, however.
*Zack Cozart drove in the first two runs in the second inning with a double through the gap in left-center field. Cozart tried stretching for a triple but made the first out at third base. Normally that would be a no-no, but the attempt fit in with the Reds’ push to run more aggressively during Spring Training.
“This is the place to be aggressive,” Price said. “We don’t want to make that out there at third base. However, the caveat is we’re imploring these guys to be aggressive on the bases. We’ll certainly continue to talk about our situational baserunning. If we’re going to err in Spring Training, it’s going to be because we’re overly aggressive or overzealous. And we can live with that.”
*Brandon Phillips was the only other regular besides Hamilton and Cozart in the lineup today. Phillips banged his thumb during Wednesday’s game but wound up being OK.
“He bent the nail back and bent the thumb back a little bit but he didn’t have any issues with it after the game,” Price said. “Brandon was in with [head trainer] Paul Lessard. He trimmed the nail back and all reports are good so far.”
*Prospect Michael Lorenzen made his big league camp debut in the seventh inning. Lorenzen started with a fly out and after a one-out single, struck out his third batter. With two outs, Cleveland’s Tyler Naquin hit an opposite field drive that kept carrying over the right field wall for a two-run homer.
*FOX Sports released its national television game schedule, which has been enhanced with the arrival of Fox Sports 1. The new cable network will air the following Reds games: April 8 vs. the Cardinals, May 15 vs. the Padres, July 26 vs. the Nationals, Aug. 23 vs. the Braves and Aug. 30 vs. the Pirates.
Regional TV games for the Reds on the original FOX network will be on May 24 vs. the Cardinals at GABP, June 14 at Milwaukee and July 12 vs. the Pirates at GABP.
*First pitch temperature was 73 degrees.
*It got a little salty in the press box between the Cincinnati and Cleveland writers today. The topic was music and bands and let’s just say there was plenty of disagreement in tastes. Some bands were trashed in the process and there was plenty of collateral damage.
New manager Bryan Price has a 1-0 record in the Cactus League following an 8-3 Reds win over the Indians on Wednesday. Click here for the game story.
Here are some items of note from the day:
*Billy Hamilton had a nice first plate appearance as the leadoff hitter, and provided a possible glimpse of the fits he could give opponents this season. Hamilton worked a 10-pitch walk. Before the next pitch to Brandon Phillips, he stole second base and moved to third base on catcher Yan Gomes’ throwing error. Hamilton would be stranded at third base, however.
“He really had to battle,” Price said. “He fought off some tough pitches and got on base and kind of set the table for us.”
*Hamilton’s third plate appearance in the top of the fifth was a bunt. But it was too hard on the ground right to the first baseman for the out.
*Phillips appeared to be favoring his left thumb somewhat after sliding into second base during a failed steal attempt in the top of the first inning. Trainer Paul Lessard emerged from the dugout briefly in the bottom of the first but did not go out to look at Phillips.
“He kind of bent his fingernail back, his thumb back a little bit but didn’t have any complaints,” Price said. “We’ll certainly follow up and check in on him when we get inside but I think he’s fine.”
*Alfredo Simon threw two scoreless and hitless innings with one walk in a smooth first start.
“All of my pitches were working really good,” Simon said. “I just tried to throw the first pitch for a strike and then keep going. I worked on my two-seamer. It was working really good.”
*For his at-bats, Joey Votto asked the Goodyear Ballpark people to play new walk-up music — specifically Todd Frazier’s usual Frank Sinatra music. Instead of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” “Fly me to the Moon” was played. Before the first AB, Votto stepped out of the box to let the music play longer and pointed to Frazier.
“I’m going to talk to him about that,” Frazier said later.
*Johnny Cueto is all set to make his spring debut on Thursday vs. Cleveland. Because of the injury issues Cueto had last year, there might be some extra eyes on him.
“He came into camp healthy and we’re all optimistic he will have a healthy season and pitch well all year,” Price said. “But because he’s had some setbacks and his history here with the Reds, there certainly will be a collective sigh of relief when we get through Spring Training and he’s locked in doing what he does. We’re like every other team. You’re always an injury away from having to remap your rotation or your starting lineup.”
*Former Red Scott Rolen surfaced today at the Phillies-Blue Jays game in Clearwater, Fla. In this story with our Paul Hagen, Rolen says he misses playing but isn’t formally retired. Earlier this week, we learned that the Reds have reached out to Rolen to be a guest instructor.
*It is a shorter than usual day at the Reds player development complex on Tuesday. The post-workout conditioning was bypassed for a day among other things. The first game is on Wednesday vs. the Indians and guys are itching to get started.
To this point, manager Bryan Price has been pleased with the camp.
“It’s been just the continuity with the players and the coaching staff,” Price said. “I really think we’ve got a really good bunch of people here. The players are completely focused in on what we’re doing. We’ve had really good, fluid workouts. There has been no loss of energy. There is some intensity to the drills we’re doing. There’s been a good really rapport, considering that it’s mostly a new coaching staff. The guys have kind of bought in to the message and our areas of focus.”
*After some struggles in the first half of last season, SS Zack Cozart finished strong. While Cozart is considered big in the defensive equation, Price has confidence that he can be a contributing offensive player, too.
“There is a lot more room with Zack as an offensive player,” Price said. “He’s been working his tail off to access it. I’m optimistic that this will be a tremendous year for him all the way around.”
*One of the drills performed today was pickoffs, rundowns and preventing breaks towards home plate. I saw some impressive pickoff moves from several pitchers. For various situations on a sign given, each infielder has a role of what to cover and one could see how much precision is needed to make the play. On one play, I saw catcher Corky Miller hustle up to first base to get a ball to get a runner caught between first and second base.
*Among the players ready to get started with games is new utility player Skip Schumaker.
“I think everyone is ready for games, especially the guys that have been here for a while,” Schumaker said. “I’m sure the pitchers are ready. They’ve probably done enough PFPs [pitchers fielding practice]. I think we’re excited to get this thing rolling.”
With Cactus League games about to commence, I’d expect a few Reds fans from outside of greater Phoenix or Goodyear, Ariz., to be in the area to take in some games. As I’ve done the past couple of years, I’ve put together some ideas for places to eat and see while you’re visiting.
Last year in the polite and soothing manner that are hallmarks of his personality, Marty Brennaman let me know that I should leave the food critic work to the professionals. He might be right, but I figured that an out-of-towner being armed with a little extra information to improve their experience can’t hurt. Besides, Marty could very well be visiting a few of these places himself.
I’m generally not a fan of high-falootin’ restaurants with pricey menus and four-hour waits. I like going to regular places and being casual. As a parent, I also try to notice if there are kids’ menus or if the place is at least kid friendly. And even though I’m eating on the company dime out here, I try to look for value whenever possible. I don’t mind spending a lot if I get a lot though.
There won’t be any mentions of national chain restaurants that can be found in or around Cincinnati. There are some chains in this group, but I believe most of them are regional or at least not at home. You’re going to notice after reading this that I like to eat pizza, a lot. That’s definitely a weakness that I fully embrace. I also don’t like sushi or any seafood, sorry.
Without further adieu, here is the 2014 list:
Culinary Dropout at the Yard – Phoenix: American comfort food of higher quality — fried chicken, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, sandwiches, craft beers and more. Get the fresh pretzel balls with melted cheese as an appetizer, too. What makes this place more special is the large outdoor patio complete with sofas, fire pits and a games area for cornhole, ping pong and fooseball. There is also the original Scottsdale location with the same menu but it lacks the outdoor space of the newer spot.
Federal Pizza – Phoenix: Wood-fired pizza restaurant in a location that once housed a 1960′s era bank building. It’s got good pizza, good craft beers, good music in the background and a hipster vibe going. You can eat inside or outside and there is even a drive-thru. This was a new find this year and I will be back.
Dillon’s BBQ, Peoria: Located 15-20 minutes north of Goodyear, but with multiple locations, this is a solid Kansas City style barbeque place. Bring an appetite. They offer giant plates with several varieties of meats, sauces and side dishes. Get the onion rings, too.
Raul and Theresa’s: One of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to it now has two locations in Greater Goodyear — both are about 10 minutes from the complex. The prices are very reasonable and it’s pretty authentic.
In-N-Out Burger: It’s all about fresh burgers and fries, nothing else. Go to Google for the web site’s secret menu and you can order items not listed, like “animal style” burgers, neopolitan shakes and grilled cheese.
Grimaldi’s: Thin crust “gourmet” pizza made in a coal fired oven. The sauce is on the sweet side but very pleasant. This is actually a chain but it’s not in Cincinnati. I’ve been to the locations in Glendale and Scottsdale and have never been disappointed.
Taste of Italy: A one-minute drive from the Reds’ complex, they do New York-style pizza by the slice and it’s also good. And cheap. Two slices and a soda for $5.
Oregano’s – multiple locations: Deep dish and thin crust pizzas are served here but the sandwiches are more memorable. A meatball hero is the size of Popeye’s forearm. Get the cookie pizza for dessert if you have room.
La Piazza – downtown Glendale: Good Italian food and wine. Solid all around.
Majerle’s Sports Grill: There are a few locations, including one in Goodyear. The food is solid but the number of flat screens make it a top sports bar, especially when the NCAA Tournament gets going.
Pizzeria Bianco, downtown Phoenix: It’s wood-fired individual pizzas and very good. It can be hard to get a table but they have expanded their downtown Phoenix location and added a second location in the city limits.
The Tee Pee — two locations: Very good Mexican food and funky atmosphere with kitschy items spread around. There is one in downtown Phoenix but I’ve been to the one on 42nd Ave and Indian School Rd.
Black Bear Diner, Goodyear Nothing overly special here but good, basic but good meals for all ages. You want breakfast for dinner, aka “brinner?” Go for it. Get a shake while you’re at it.
Roman’s Oasis, Goodyear It’s a dive with plenty of character to visit after a night game, but don’t even think of bringing the kids. This is a locals bar for beer drinking, but they do have decent food and a fish fry each Friday. There is also live country music on the weekends.
Rokerij, Phoenix: A very nice, but not kid friendly, restaurant. It is a great “date night” kind of place but be prepared for a wait. It’s a unique combination of Dutch-Southwestern smokehouse food.
Saddle Ranch Chop House: Also located in Westgate and Scottsdale, the food is not the main attraction. To me, it’s the mechanical bull. Perhaps Ol’ Marty might give it a spin?
Don and Charlie’s, Scottsdale: I’m honestly not going to gush over food. On that front, it’s not my favorite. What I do enjoy is numerous and unique sports memorabilia, namely baseball. Players, coaches, broadcasters and writers often come here. A reservation is a must. Do not order the Ned Colleti Chicken Schnitzel under any circumstances.
Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert: If you like seeing places featured on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives, you might think it’s worth the trip. When traffic is bad, it’s over an hour from Goodyear on the complete opposte end Greater Phoenix. It’s a very kid friendly place where you can eat inside or outside near a working farm. They feature burgers, fries, chicken fingers, shakes, onion rings and more. You can walk around a near farm field to work off what you ate.
Here are recreational places in the area:
Piestewa Peak: Also known as Squaw Peak, it’s the area’s second highest mountain peak in the area behind Camelback Mountain. It’s a little shorter and less steep of a climb than Camelback as well. But the views are still very stunning, especially on a clear day.
Camelback Mountain: An even larger, steeper hiking spot with multiple trails. The Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers recently did conditioning by hiking it. It can be treacherous in spots and bring plenty of water.
White Tank Mountain Regional Park A variety of trails from easy to difficult. I brought my family here last year and my oldest son enjoyed climbing the rocks near a waterfall.
Phoenix Zoo: I’ve taken my family here twice and they really enjoyed it. A great place to spend a day, especially before it gets hot.
Westgate — Glendale: It’s a large entertainment and restaurant spot and features Jobing.com Arena, the home of Phoenix Coyotes NHL hockey and concerts. University of Phoenix, home of the NFL’s Cardinals, is also here and hosts events. There is an outlet mall that opened last year with plenty of top-of-the-line shops. This is where national chain restuarants thrive, including the Yard House, a new Buffalo Wild Wings, Margaritaville and Chipotle.
Estrella Mountain Regional Park — Goodyear: Only about 10 minutes from the complex. They have good playsets for the kids but also a bunch of hiking trails. It’s a pretty remote place and definitely desert terrain.
Sedona: It’s two hours away but certainly worth the drive. Don’t forget to bring a camera. The mountain peak views and red rocks are simply spectacular.
Grand Canyon: It’s probably a four-hour drive and I hope to go for the first time this spring when the family visits.
Lots of things afoot at Reds camp on Monday, with only two days left until the first exhibition game vs. the Indians. Folks are getting eager to move on to the next, more tangible, phase of camp.
One of the activities that happened on Sunday was a drill for various situations. As opposed to the coaches or a pitcher throwing from the mound, Reds coaches used a pitching machine.
“First and foremost, it would be really taxing all of those pitches on the field,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “One thing you try to get from a pitching machine is repetition and speed and location as best you can. … It saves us from having to beat up our staff having to throw all of those pitches.”
There is another reason behind the use of the machine.
“It does lend itself to an area we really want to focus on and improve – our situational hitting, hitting to the count, hitting to the situation,” Price said. “We’ve spent some time working on our two-strike approach, running at third less than two outs, infield in, infield back. Just some really good situational opportunities that when you do it on the field, it gives you a lot better feedback than if you’re doing it in the cage.”
Hitting coach Don Long has instituted a points system to reward players for doing the right thing in a certain situation.
“It’s a competition for points,” Price said. “Everybody at the end of the day wants to know where they stand in their points accumulation.”
Who decides on how points are awarded, and how many?
“Don does and he’s the dictator,” Price said. “There is no other outside influence there. All judgments are final.”
Other items from camp on Monday:
*Jonathan Broxton took a step forward by throwing off of the mound in the bullpen today. Broxton, who had right forearm surgery in August to repair a torn flexor mass tendon, threw 15 pitches.
“No problems. I got that step out of the way,” Broxton said. There will be more on this in my Reds notebook for MLB.com.
*For my main story today, Joey Votto was asked about his thoughts on how people view his statistics as a hitter. Click here to read that.
*Like I wrote at the top, there is anticipation for games to begin. That includes Price, too.
“This is an important spring for me as well just getting acquainted with my position,” Price said. “It’s a new position for me. I’m really enjoying the administrative portion of putting together a lineup, your second wave of players.”
Reds manager Bryan Price announced that RHP Alfredo Simon, a reliever the past two seasons for the club, would start the Cactus League opener vs. the Indians.
Simon is being viewed as a potential rotation candidate, should Mat Latos and his left knee not be ready for the beginning of the regular season.
“We have to look really hard at the guys that are next in line,” Price said on Monday. “If we were to have any setbacks possibly where Mat wasn’t ready to start the season, we have to look at the group that we have here, which would include Simon. He’s got a starters background. He’s got a very durable arm so we want to look at him in longer stretches. We know he can pitch out of the bullpen.”
Simon, 32, is coming off a strong 2013 season where he posted a 2.87 ERA in a career-high 63 appearances. He upped his profile in the process going from long man to a late-inning reliever in bigger situations.
Price said Simon would be stretched out this spring for starting. They can decrease the workload later if it surfaces he wouldn’t needed to start.
More to come later …