Good Friday morning. Sorry for no blogging on Thursday. It was a quasi-day off for me. I came in only for the Homer Bailey stuff and then left while Tyler Emerick took care of the rest. Tyler did a nice job and you should click here to read his notebook on Billy Hamilton, Mat Latos and Trevor Bell.
*Speaking of Latos, today was his third-straight day of throwing. He is up to 60-70 feet. Manager Bryan Price believes Latos is inching closer to being able to throw from a mound again, but not yet.
“I think we have to make sure the strength is there,” Price said Friday. “The good thing is he’s strong enough to go out there and not just be weight-bearing, but be able to be active and throw and keep his arm in shape.”
*RHP Jonathan Broxton has been throwing every day this week, alternating days of long tossing with a shorter distances. Having yet to experience any issues, Broxton is expecting to throw from a mound on Monday.
“We’ll see how it goes and see how I feel,” Broxton said. “Hopefully everything will feel normal.”
*During Thursday’s live batting practice, Price was impressed with RHP prospect Michael Lorenzen, and the deception he has while pitching.
“It’s not being able to see the ball and the pitcher being able to hide the ball well,” Price said. “It’s also that it looks like it’s going to come out easy and he’s going to pump it in there at 88. The next thing you know, it’s on you at 95-98. That’s real good deception.”
*High winds apparently made Thursday’s first pop-up drill more of a challenge than usual
“You have no idea what type of weather you’re going to get as far as the wind issue,” Price said. “We have our fundamentals set up weeks in advance on what days we’re going to do each fundamental. It would happen that the first gust of wind we’ve had out here in about six weeks would happen yesterday when we have our first fly ball communication drill. That’s why we’re here. I think we revisit this in another few days. I don’t think we’ll have the same issue.”
More later if anything comes up …
On Wednesday morning, a vice president of sales from Topps was in the Reds clubhouse signing players to their annual contracts — including Homer Bailey. Per every season, he came armed with fresh packs from series 1 of the 2014 Topps Baseball Cards set.
Reds pitcher Mike Leake was particularly pleased with his card. Instead of pitching, the card shows Leake hitting.
“They finally got it right,” Leake joked.
A source has told MLB.com that Reds pitcher Homer Bailey has agreed to a six-year, $105 million contract with the club on Wednesday to avoid arbitration. It comes with a mutual option for a seventh year worth $25 million with a $5 million buyout.
The Reds have not made an announcement of a deal.
More to come ….
UPDATE: Reds GM Walt Jocketty did not confirm that a deal was done. Click here for the full story on MLB.com.
The first of a few Spring Training transitions begins on Wednesday. After five days of just having pitchers and catchers engaged in workouts, the Reds’ full squad will report.
For those who haven’t had them already as early arrivals, position players will take physicals Wednesday morning. A team meeting is slated for 11 a.m. MT, followed by the first full-squad workout. Then the next hurdle to clear will be getting to the first spring game, which is Feb. 26 vs. the Indians.
Some quick nuggets from Tuesday:
*Jay Bruce was the latest early arrival to camp.
“My off-season was great. I am ready to go,” Bruce said. “It’s exciting to be back. Different look this year, that’s exciting as well. I look forward to the next month and a half, for everybody to get on the same page and we’ll get this train rolling in the right direction.”
*Bryan Price said that Devin Mesoraco is ready to assume the responsibilities of being the Reds’ regular catcher.
“It’s his time to run with the opportunity,” Price said. “He’s earned this opportunity. It’s not just based projection and potential. We feel that the growth that Devin made last year suggested he was ready to take on a more significant role. His ability to lead, his ability to prepare with our game reports, our scouting reports, and being able to transition that to our pitchers, has really improved.”
*On MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM Sunday, GM Walt Jocketty talked about Homer Bailey’s contract talks. But he was also asked about the chances of locking up closer Aroldis Chapman.
“That’s a possibility. We have talked about that,” Jocketty said. “We’re trying to take a couple steps at a time here before we move too far ahead but, yeah, our goal is to try to retain as many of our young players as we can. But we’re limited to how far we can go with that because of the market size we have.”
*Only one picture for you today. It’s RHP Chien-Ming Wang throwing during his bullpen session.
Talks to finalize a multi-year contract remain active between the Reds and RHP Homer Bailey.
“We’ve made progress,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “There are still some outstanding issues. Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east.”
Bailey’s arbitration hearing is scheduled Thursday in Florida. He would have leave camp to attend. Assistant GM Bob Miller would represent for the Reds.
UPDATE: A close comparable to Bailey, Indians RHP Justin Masterson, signed a one-year, $9.72 million contract to avoid arbitration.
Also, click here for my story today on Bailey.
*One of the Reds pitching prospects that will be interesting to watch this spring is RHP Robert Stephenson. The 21-year-old was a first-round Draft pick in 2011. Currently in his first big league camp, he could be a factor in the Reds rotation as soon as 2015, if not sooner.
Manager Bryan Price likes what he has seen from and heard about Stephenson, who reached Double-A Pensacola last season.
“I did see him pitch in instructional league his first year, 2011,” Price said. “Certainly he was very impressive and he’s taken the game to a completely different level from the last time I saw him pitch in instructional league to the type of season he had last year and the types of bullpens he’s throwing now. It’s my first chance to see him do the PFP stuff and what kind of athlete he is. I have a lot of confidence in our player development group because they rave about it – not just his stuff but his work ethic and commitment to the craft.”
Some of the developments from Monday:
*RHP Michael Lorenzen, the 38th overall pick and a compensation round selection in last year’s Draft, got a helping hand from Tony Cingrani during Sunday’s workout as pitchers worked on fielding and covering first base.
“He got a little bit astray on the drill and it was great when I saw Tony Cingrani remind him ‘hey, on this play you want to stay on a straight line,” Price said. “‘You’re covering first base. Stay on the straight line and don’t deviate from the line to first base on this play.’ Then the next three or four of them was ‘boom, boom, boom,’ perfect. He’s an athlete learning to pitch who is making really quick adjustments. I’m really happy with him.”
*Price doesn’t expect the organization will let Lorenzen return to his roots as an outfielder and hitter. But that doesn’t mean he won’t get to handle a bat anymore.
“We don’t want to get too far removed and deprive him of his athleticism,” Price said. “We want him to do things that are athletic. We want him to stay in touch with that. We haven’t defined yet if he’s going to be a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher in the big leagues. But right now, he’s going to get a lot of innings. He’s going to have to handle the bat as he gets to the higher levels. We want him to maintain those skills, just like we’ve used [Mike] Leake in the past as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner. Those are options that we could look to utilize when Michael gets to the big leagues.”
*LF Ryan Ludwick reported early to camp today and said his surgically-repaired right shoulder was 100 percent.
“I got cleared to lift upper body weights Nov. 6. It feels good to be strong again,” Ludwick said.
*Full squad workouts begin on Wednesday. Price expected pitchers to throw live BP to hitters on Thursday and Friday.
*One of the interesting, but probably not surprising things, to come from talking with Homer Bailey today: Not only does he not own a suit, Bailey doesn’t own a tie, either. Bailey was thinking about buying both to be ready for his arbitration hearing on Thursday. Of course, that probably won’t be needed now that he is close to signing a multi-year contract.
Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey’s arbitration hearing is slated for Thursday, but it looks like he won’t need to go to Florida to have it. Bailey confirmed Monday morning that he is near to agreeing on a multi-year contract with the Reds.
“It feels like we’re really close,” Bailey said. “That’s all I can say. This whole process has been a long drawn out deal. That’s the way it goes. To say this as confident as I’ve been, yeah, I think so.”
As of last week, there was a large gap in the negotiations but that difference was bridged as a hearing loomed closer.
A report from the Cleveland Plain Dealer said the deal could be worth around $100 million over six years.
Bailey filed for $11.6 million while the Reds had countered at $8.7 million. One year ago, the Reds and Bailey avoided arbitration with a one-year, $5.35 million contract. He said that as the hearing draws closer, he hasn’t been getting more nervous or stressed.
“Not so much. There are a lot of things that we have in place, I think,” Bailey said. “I feel like a majority of it is fairly worked out. It’s some of the little details, I think, that we’re really close with. With us being here and everybody in different time zones, it puts a little bit of a damper on things.”
In 32 starts last season, Bailey was 11-12 with a career-best 3.49 ERA. He achieved career bests in innings (209) and strikeouts (199). On July 2 vs. the Giants at Great American Ball Park, he threw the second no-hitter of his career.
Improvement has come mainly over the last three seasons, as Bailey went a combined 33-29 with a 3.79 ERA. Over the 549 innings that span, he has a 3.40 strikeouts-to-walks, a 1.21 WHIP and 105 ERA+.
How confident is Bailey that a deal might get done soon? He has yet to buy a plane ticket to go to the hearing.
“Not yet. But I also don’t have a suit so I might have to go to Men’s Warehouse today,” Bailey said.
Greetings from Day 3 of Spring Training in warm Arizona. Because I had a bunch of stuff to write today, I wasn’t able to be outside for much of the workout — so I lack photographic evidence except for one shot below.
Here are some nuggets from Sunday:
*I did a feature on Bryan Price today (click here to read) and among the topics that surfaced was that he reached out various current and former managers. One of them you might be familiar with.
“I spoke with Pete Rose a few weeks ago, which was a real treat,” Price said this morning. “Rose, because he managed in Cincinnati. What’s it like to be the manager of the Cincinnati Reds? The one thing he really impressed upon me … how important it is to maintain the relationships that you have. And when you have an issue with a player, to deal with that situation with the player myself. It’s easy when something happens … to grab your coach and tell them to go explain to him why we don’t do that. [He also talked about] the importance of having players that love to come to the ballpark. … and prepare, talk baseball, to find a way to win that day.”
*Price also talked with Tony LaRussa, Bud Black, Joe Maddon and his former boss, Bob Melvin. Price was a pitching coach for the Mariners and D-backs when Melvin was the skipper.
“He has unbelievable communication and accountability,” Melvin said. “He treats everyone the same and has always gotten the respect of his staff. You know what you get from him. He’s face value right away.”
*For a story at a later date, I talked to RHP Jose “Jumbo” Diaz — who has spent 12 years in the Minors, including last year as the closer at Triple-A Louisville. I’ve often written “Player X has lost weight” camp stories but Diaz will be like no other because he lost 70 pounds in one off-season! It’s a pretty cool story and I look forward to writing it.
*I also met RHP Chien-Ming Wang and he could be an intriguing player in camp if a spot were to open. Wang is a former two-time 19-game winner who is still trying to come all the way back from shoulder surgery. A story on him is also forthcoming soon.
*Among the early arrivals I saw were Chris Heisey and Skip Schumaker.
*Back to the photo, courtesy of Jamie Ramsey. It’s my first “action” shot of camp taken as I asked a question of Price during this morning’s media session.
Now that the Reds are past the report date, physicals and the first meeting before the workout could begin, it was more of a normal day of Spring Training on Saturday morning.
Click here to read today’s notebook. There are items on Mat Latos talking about his knee, J.J. Hoover on the beard policy and Jeff Francis.
Here are some extra items of note:
*Bryan Price is not ready to name an Opening Day starter as of yet.
“I have an idea of what I want to do,” Price said. “I’d like to make sure our guys are healthy. We know Mat has been banged up. Johnny has been the man and continues to be but we want to make sure he is healthy. Homer has turned his corner I think. Me personally, I love Johnny at the top of our rotation. There are other guys I would be happy with at the top as well.”
*Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Chien-Ming Wang, Sean Marshall, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake were among the pitchers that threw in the bullpen today. I watched Chapman for a little while and nothing looked out of whack from my untrained eye.
*Todd Frazier and non-roster invite Chris Nelson were the latest position players to report early on Saturday.
*3B Jack Hannahan told me he has been in Arizona for about a month. He spends his off-seasons in his hometown of St. Paul, Minn., where temperatures were particularly brutal. While Cincinnati had below zero temperatures, it got down to between 30-40 below zero in the Twin Cities. Yeesh.
*Before the workout, several Reds players were watching the Team USA-Russia Olympic hockey game on the clubhouse televisions. The USA won in a shootout. Ryan LaMarre and Donald Lutz are both former hockey players. LaMarre, a Michigan native, even pointed out that American T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues was from the Univ. of North Dakota. Oshie scored the goals in the shootout that gave the U.S.A. the win.
*My (hopefully) final word on the enforced facial hair policy: It’s really not a big deal. No players are complaining and the (faux) controversy seems to be coming entirely on social media. Just because players are being told to trim their beards, it doesn’t mean they are not being given instructions on hitting or pitching or philosophies on forming a winning club. It’s part of the attention to detail and preparation Price promised to instill when he took the job. It’s not even a new rule. It’s just an enforcement of a rule that already existed. And it’s not even harkening back to the days when no facial hair of any type was allowed. Corky Miller still has his mustache and J.J. Hoover still has a beard. Let’s move on.
I will have some more on this later on MLB.com/Reds.com but the Reds’ new beard/mustache policy seems to have become a source of fan controversy after Day 1 of camp. To be clear, the team is not going back to the old days and strict rules of totally clean shaven players.
As the media session started Saturday morning, manager Bryan Price seemed aware this issue had become something.
“Should we talk about the beard?” Price said. “I think every year you reinvestigate some time in your policies. We’re going to spend some time with our core group of more established players and really talk about what we feel is important, not just from my perspective but from a team and organizational perspective. I don’t think you’re going to be terribly successful if you sit there and turn back the clock on the clubhouse too far. I believe in our initial policy that facial hair is fine but just keep it under control.”
Price said that owner/CEO Bob Castellini did not ask him to make this an enforced rule. Some players last season, including J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure and Logan Ondrusek had burly beards that have become a facial hair fad in the Majors (think the Red Sox).
I talked to a couple of players and neither were upset by the enforcement of the rule.
Longer hair — like Johnny Cueto’s and what Bronson Arroyo had when he was with the team, is still permitted.
Someone asked the most important question about this issue — is Corky Miller’s mustache safe?
“Corky is going to be just fine,” Price said.
More blog, news and notes later after the workout. The players are taking the field soon.