Results tagged ‘ Dontrelle Willis ’

Surprise!

It was my first time to the Arizona city of Surprise today and the drive up Rt. 303 from Goodyear was basically this: farm, farm, traffic light, prison, farm, farm, traffic light, farm, Surprise. The mountains were in the vista throughout.

On the sign welcoming visitors to the city limits, it said Surprise was founded in 1960. I found that particularly interesting since back in Ohio and especially in my original home state of New York, you don’t see many towns founded after the 1800s.

The 20-plus minute drive was a bountiful one for the Reds, which notched a 5-2 win over the Royals.

Some notes:

*Travis Wood was pleased with his outing — 3 ip, 5 H, 2 ER (on Billy Butler’s two-run homer), 2 BB, 2 K.

“I felt good. My pitches were working pretty well,” Wood said. “[Butler] was able to drop the head down on an inside pitch and put up two for them.”

*As has been chronicled in the past, Wood is an off-season workout partner of All-Star lefty Cliff Lee. They live five minutes apart in Arkansas. Someone asked Wood about the idea of facing Lee with the Phillies this season.

“I would absolutely love that,” Wood replied.

*Sam LeCure looked rather solid himself with two hits and four strikeouts over two scoreless innings.

*Dontrelle Willis probably had the most impressive pitching outing of the day with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. Willis was a nimple fielder as well. In his second inning of work, he made nice play retrieving Manny Pina’s grounder towards third base.

“We were yelling, ‘let that one go foul’ and after he picked it up and threw it, said ‘oh yeah, great play,’” manager Dusty Baker said.

Willis also covered first base nicely to get an out on a bunt play to the right side.

“He’s an athlete. I didn’t think he had a chance on that bunt,” Baker said.

*Over at the ‘B’ game this morning vs. the Indians in Goodyear, the Reds lost 7-6. Dave Sappelt had another good game by going 2-for-3 with a double. In ‘A’ games, he’s batting .533 (8-for-15).

“He can hit. He hit last year,” Baker said. “There’s more to being ready for the big leagues than hitting. Not to slight the kid at all, he’s doing great. There are a few things he has to work on.”

*Zack Cozart also homered in the ‘B’ game. Several of the Reds top hitters this spring are prospects. That’s no accident, the manager said.

“Like I’ve told you, spring is for the young,” Baker said. “It’s for young hitters, off-speed pitchers, winter ball guys and fastball hitters.”

*I talked to Fred Lewis for a Reds beat item before Tuesday’s game. Lewis is not 100 percent satisfied with his performance at the plate and working to get better. He’s been doing some tinkering with his swing, not all to his satisfaction.

“Eventually, I will be where I want to be,” Lewis said. “In the outfield, I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at. On the offensive side, I’m not happy with it. I’ve figured out that I’m frustrated with what I’m doing. I keep telling myself to go back to square one and do what I was doing before I got here. You can do a lot of stuff in the cages but it only matters what you do on the field.”

And in a late stunner from Brewers camp, Zack Greinke will miss Opening Day with a fractured rib. Greinke suffered the injury last month, playing basketball. He will start the season on the DL. It’s been a tough time for the Reds NL Central rivals. The Cardinals already lost Adam Wainwright (elbow) for the season and their other ace, Chris Carpenter, is bothered by a hamstring injury.

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Friday afternoon notes

Dusty Baker was a rather pleased manager following the Reds’ 3-1 win over the Mariners. Besides winning, there were no walks allowed and no errors committed. In fact, neither side gave up a walk — which is pretty rare in a spring game.

“That was a very clean and well-played game,” Baker said. “Good pitching.”

Other news and notes out of the game today:

*There was a very strong nice outing from Dontrelle Willis today with two perfect innings. Willis was taking something off on a couple of pitches and crossed up some hitters. Of his 24 pitches, 19 were strikes. It was a much better performance than outing No. 1.

“Dontrelle threw strike after strike, especially when he got the 3-2 count on the guy,” Baker said. “You can’t say anything bad today.”

*I spoke with SS Zack Cozart before the game and he’s been having a good camp. After a 2-for-3 game, he is 4-for-10 (.400) over five games. This quote didn’t make it into my Reds beat item on him today.

“This year is a lot different for me,” Cozart said. “It was my first Spring Training. I was happy to be here and in awe of some of the guys. This year, I feel more part of the team. I am on the [40-man] roster. I’m more relaxed. Even Brook Jacoby and Dusty Baker said the same thing. I feel more at home. They can tell in my play out there. I’m not pressing. I’m trying to prove I can play.”

*I also did a pre-game interview for a feature story with OF Chris Heisey, who did not fare as well going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts today. Heisey, like Cozart, is more comfortable being in camp after going through last year. There is more at stake as Heisey is trying to retain his extra outfielder’s job amid competition from Fred Lewis and Jeremy Hemrida.

“I still have to make the team and I still can’t coast through. It is a new season,” Heisey said. “Last year I helped the team off the bench but it’s a new year and we have to win this year. No guarantrees  I need to prove I can be the same guy this year and help the team off the bench and hopefully be that pinch-hitter again.”

*OF Juan Duran is only 19 but cuts an imposing figure at 6-foot-7. Duran was 2-for-2 today and sliced a liner into right field and slid into second base for a double.

“That’s why we’ve got him over here,” Baker said. “We’re letting the young guys play and see what they can do.”

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Thursday afternoon notes

Today was day two of the live BP between Reds pitchers and Reds hitters.

Among those that threw included Dontrelle Willis, Francisco Cordero, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, Nick Masset and Jose Arredondo. Willis threw well and at one point struck out Yonder Alonso with a pretty nifty curveball.

Drew Stubbs cleared the fence hitting against Arroyo. Todd Frazier took Cueto deep over the left-center field wall with a hearty blast. Juan Francisco hit a booming homer to right field against Volquez.

Being so early in camp, don’t read too much into the results — positive or negative. Some of the hitters in were told what pitches were coming by the pitchers. It’s purely a get work in session under simulated game conditions.

I tried to get video of live BP today and yesterday but the quality was poor. I flunked out of videographer school.

*Other drills included pitchers fielding their position and throwing to different bases based on varying situations devised by coach Chris Speier.

*It was reported, and I confirmed, that 1B prospect Yonder Alonso switched agents recently. Alonso is now represented by Dan Lozano, who also happens to be the agent for Joey Votto.

*Speaking of Votto, he was feeling under the weather yesterday and not so great today with an upper respiratory issue. However, Votto was cleared to participate in the workout after being seen by the medical staff.

*For MLB.com/Reds.com stories — there will be a feature on outfield prospect Dave Sappelt. He moved quickly last season and earned two promotions and ended in Triple-A — partially on need but mostly because of performance.

“He’s a very exciting player,” Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet said. “He’s aggressive. He swings the bat, puts the ball in play and runs. I would say the biggest thing is he creates havoc. He makes things happen. One thing about him is he’s not a low-key sit back and watch the at-bat player. He knows what he’s going to do and what’s going to happen.”

*In yesterday’s live BP, Jerry Gil’s velocity was hard not to notice. Gil, the former infielder that converted to pitching in 2008, can reach 97 mph.

“I feel way better than when I started pitching my first couple of years,” Gil said on Thursday. “I felt like my arm was going to fall apart. It hurt a lot in the beginning. But I got used to it and now I feel better. I thought pitching would be easy but it’s not that easy. You have to work hard.”

*Infielder Chris Valaika is trying to make the club as an extra player. Sitting on a bench could hamper his overal development if he’s not hitting every day, but Valaika felt it was something he could handle.

“That’s definitely a tradeoff,” Valaika said. “Getting your at-bats and playing every day is important for development. But just being in the big leagues and learning from Edgar [Renteria] and Miguel [Cairo] – guys that have been there and done that – I think that’s important as well.”

I’m getting an off day on Friday and will not be around the complex. Be sure to check for stories from colleague Barry Bloom, who will be on the case.

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Baker: No closer controversy

The topic of Aroldis Chapman and his role for this season came up this morning in Reds manager Dusty Baker’s office. But before a certain particular question could be asked, Baker jumped in with his own proclamation.

“One thing I want to squash right now: there is no closer situation controversy,” Baker said. “I know everybody wants to be in a hurry to rush [Chapman] in there but we’ve got to get him acclimated to what he’s doing first. Cordero, even though it’s been exciting a couple of times, still was second in in our league in saves the last two years. That’s something most people overlook. There are only a couple of non-exciting closers in baseball and one of them is getting older in Mariano.”

Francisco Cordero was actually third in the NL last season with 40 saves. He had eight blown saves. Near the end of last season, Baker staunchly defended Cordero when there was clamoring for Chapman to close games with his 100-plus mph velocity.

Right now, Chapman will continue to be used in the set-up role he gradually assumed over the final month of last season.

“I plan on using him like I used him last year and we’ll see how he progresses and things,” Baker said. “We need him now more as a reliever than as a starter. The fact he’s left-handed, the fact he seems to throw more strikes and it might be easier on his arm relieving right now.”

Chapman will be speaking to reporters after the workout today and I will have more on MLB.com.

In other news –

*Edinson Volquez was in camp today. A emergency light flashing on his plane in the Dominican delayed him two hours and he missed his connection to Phoenix.

*Dontrelle Willis was also back after he missed yesterday because his wife was having a baby.

*Drew Stubbs arrived to the complex today.

*There were no injuries from the first day’s workout.

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Report date almost here…

The Reds complex was a little quieter Tuesday than on my first day around — not surprising since pitchers and catchers officially go to work Wednesday. Lots of players were still getting in workouts and Jared Burton threw to Devin Mesoraco catching in the bullpen.

One of the things I watched was Aroldis Chapman long tossing with bullpen coach Juan “Porky” Lopez. Chapman was chucking balls from the center field warning track area to Lopez, who was at the foul line just beyond first base. Let me tell you, these were some impressive heaves.

chapman 021511.JPGI later had a nice chat with Lopez, who had a busy winter with his kids. His son, Jack, is a star high school shortstop in Orlando and likely to be drafted this June. Jack also signed to attend the Univ. of Miami on a scholarship so he is a kid with options when the time comes to make decisions.

Among the people I saw in camp today that I didn’t see yesterday were Corky Miller, Daryl Thompson, Dave Sappelt, third base coach Mark Berry and catching prospect Yasmani Grandal.

Again, the weather is just spectacular today. I heard it might get colder by week’s end. And by colder, I mean the highs will be in the low-to-mid 60s. Don’t hate me for writing that.

ESPN and the Reds made news twice today.

Former Reds great Barry Larkin joined the network as a baseball analyst, it was formally announced today. Word had gotten out yesterday. Larkin had been with MLB Network since it launched.

Also — Baseball Tonight revealed its Spring Training tour itinerary and it will be in this camp on Wednesday. Larkin is not among the talent.

An item I didn’t expect was announced today. Ken Griffey Jr. is joining the Mariners as a special consultant. The club says Griffey will be involved in Major League Baseball operations and player development, as well as their Minor League system, marketing, broadcasting and community relations. Junior will also be at Spring Training this year. I always thought Griffey would lay very low after retiring so he could be with his kids. He went out quietly in the middle of last season. I’m glad to hear he’s going to be involved with the game to some degree. 

Today’s story on the Reds site and MLB.com will be on Dontrelle Willis. It will be very interesting to see how he fares in camp and whether he can earn a spot in a crowded bullpen.

Things really get rolling on Wednesday. There will be physicals in the morning, a meetings and the first formal workout should commence in the afternoon. Manager Dusty Baker will also be in camp for the first time and his daily sessions with reporters will also begin. 

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T-minus two weeks, and counting

In exactly two weeks on Feb. 16, Reds pitchers and catchers have their report date to Spring Training and Goodyear, Ariz. They begin working out that same day. In many ways, this off-season flew by quickly. (Maybe not to you, however, but definitely to me).

Most of the time in the current era, players do not wait until the report dates to get started. Virtually all have been working out on their own at home since November or December and some pitchers start a throwing program around the holidays. Many of them will be early arrivals to the spring complex.

I was told that Justin Lehr and Chad Reineke are already on site throwing bullpen sessions. Dontrelle Willis has been working much of the winter with pitching coach Bryan Price near their homes in Scottsdale but moved over to Goodyear last week for drills and to get comfortable in the Reds bullpens.

Matt Maloney, Daniel Ray Herrera, Sam LeCure and Jared Burton are planning on arriving this week. Several more could be on the ground by next week. Price said he would be at the camp to work with the pitchers.

“I think it’s good to be there to provide some of the essentials of coaching,” Price said. “It’d be hard for me to be sitting at home knowing guys are there working out five days a week.”

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Non-roster invites to Goodyear

This is a bit delayed, I apologize, but I was off the grid at a Reds Caravan stop in Vevay, Indiana and had no internet access. I will have a story about that stop later today on Reds.com.

But here is the list of Reds non-roster invites to Spring Training:

RHP Scott Carroll, RHP Jerry Gil, LHP Jeremy Horst, LHP Donnie Joseph, RHP Matt Klinker, RHP Justin Lehr, RHP Chad Reineke, LHP Dontrelle Willis, C Chris Denove, C Devin Mesoraco, C Corky Miller, OF Danny Dorn, OF Jeremy Hermida and OF Dave Sappelt.

There are no stunners on this list. The Reds signed Willis and Hermida a while back and the other guys were in the organization already.

*Lehr had Tommy John surgery and missed most of last season.

*Gil was previously in Reds camp a few years ago as an infielder. He converted to pitching a couple of seasons back and this will be his first time in big league camp as a pitcher.

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Reds lose Rhodes to Rangers

All fall and winter, it seemed like the Reds retaining LHP Arthur Rhodes was a formality. He wanted to return and the club wanted him back.

But on Thursday night, Rhodes had agreed to a one-year contract with the Rangers — according to a pair of baseball sources. Terms were not immediately known. The deal has yet to be announced by Texas.

The 41-year-old Rhodes was a key late-inning set-up man for the Reds the past two seasons. In 2010, he posted a 2.29 ERA in 69 games – his most appearances since 2001. That included a stretch where he tied a Major League record with 33-straight scoreless appearances – over 30 innings. He was also an All-Star for the first time in his 19-season career.

Complicating matters for the Reds was that other lefty relievers were getting larger deals than Cincinnati was willing to offer Rhodes. For instance, Scott Downs got three years and $15 million from the Angels while Pedro Feliciano received a two-year, $8 million deal from the Yankees. Rhodes had better seasons than both of those guys.

During the Winter Meetings, GM Walt Jocketty mentioned Rhodes was seeking a multi-year deal — which with him at 41, the Reds weren’t willing to do. AOL Fanhouse reported that Rhodes’ deal includes a vesting option for 2012. 

Without Rhodes, the Reds still have lefties Aroldis Chapman and Bill Bray in the fold. As for Dontrelle Willis, who signed a minor league contract last month to reboot his career as a reliever, his chances to make the team just got a whole lot better.

Rhodes was a Type A free agent but the Reds did not offer him arbitration earlier this month. That means they get no compensation picks as a result.

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