Results tagged ‘ Norris Hopper ’

Jones leads list of three cuts

The Reds have whittled down the list of players in big-league camp to 33, with Jacque Jones being the biggest name to be sent down.

Jones, 33, has spent parts of 10 seasons in the big leagues with the Twins, Cubs, Tigers and Marlins. He was a non-roster invitee to Reds camp and officially was reassigned today.

“The bottom line is I didn’t hit,” said Jones, who was hitting .091 this spring in 44 at-bats. “You want to do well to try to justify a slot on the team. Dusty [Baker] was great, giving me the opportunity to play. I got at-bats, I just didn’t do anything with them.”

Jones planned to stick around Sarasota for a while to wait and see if any opportunities arose with other teams. Another option might be to accept an assignment to Triple-A Louisville and continue working on re-finding his stroke, if there’s the chance for him to play there. Last year, Jerry Hairston Jr. got sent down and worked with Louisviile hitting coach Smokey Garrett. He came back up and hit .326 over 80 games for Cincinnati.

“We’re trying to see if there’s room,” Baker said. “So he can do what Jerry did last year and work with Garrett, who I respect a lot.”

In addition to Jones, outfielder Norris Hopper and pitcher Daryl Thompson were optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Hopper, who once was a possible candidate for a backup outfielder spot, hit .135 in camp, going 5-for-37 with three stolen bases. Thompson hadn’t really been able to get any innings in big-league games, appearing just once and throwing two scoreless innings.

Cordero to get more work

The Reds have devised a plan they hope will get closer Francisco Cordero back on track. Cordero will get more work and pitch in some extra Minor League games, including one on Saturday.

“Instead of being three days in between, or a couple, we’ll get him on more of a routine and see if he can get into a rhythm,” pitching coach Dick Pole said on Friday. “Right now, he just doesn’t have good flow to him.”

Last night vs. Boston was Cordero’s roughest outing yet with four runs, four hits and two walks allowed in one inning. Most of the hitters were Minor Leaguers. Pole said that Cordero’s velocity was in the 92-93 mph range in the game.

“You have to take into account getting adrenaline flowing during the course of a season,” Pole said of Cordero’s lower pitch speed. “Last year, his results were better so we didn’t pay attention as much to it. Looking back at last year, his velocity was about the same and then all of a sudden the last couple of times he pitched, he was popping up to 94-95.”

The difference between last year and this year is Cordero is trying to return from right ankle surgery. That is the pitcher’s push off foot and the source of his power.

“He’s going to get more action,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He didn’t throw a lot this winter to get his arm strength up. He couldn’t because of his ankle operation and he’s a little behind. We still have two weeks and he’ll get some consecutive days. The more he throws the stronger he’ll get.

“It doesn’t do any good to get concerned. All you can do is figure out how to get him back. Concern helps no one and worry helps even less. You just have to go to work.”

Maybe, but is anyone wondering whether Cordero will be ready for start of the regular season? He has has an 18.00 ERA (12 ER over 6 IN) with 17 hits and four walks allowed in his six games. If he isn’t improving, would a stint on the DL and some extended spring training help? That would mean David Weathers would step up and be the closer.

FYI — both Pole and Baker both said that Cordero’s ankle is healthy.

Postgame news you can use:

  • Johnny Cueto gave up two earned runs and six hits over five innings. No walks, one strikeout. A majority of the hits were bloopers and not hard hit. The exception was pitcher Russ Ortiz’s RBI single to center field off of Cueto in the second. After, he faced the minimum and retired eight of his last 10 batters, getting a double play and a caught stealing along the way.

“He threw the ball good. He had good location, good movement,” Baker said.

  • Nick Masset gave up two earned runs and three hits over three innings with three walks and one strikeout. The outing didn’t start well. Masset began by giving up Darin Erstad’s double and Lance Berkman hit a 2-2 pitch to the right field corner for a two-run homer ruled just inside the pole. Then Carlos Lee walked.Masset’s final two innings were mostly smooth.
  • Norris Hopper was scratched from the lineup because of bronchitis.

Dickerson trying to prove himself

Sometimes when you write a lot of stories, you can forget about them. Players however, don’t always forget. Many of them read what the beat reporters write and part of the gig is being accountable for writing it. So when I was talking to outfielder Chris Dickerson Wednesday about his good spring, he dropped this sentence my way:

“I’m trying to prove to you that I’m not an anomaly,” Dickerson said.

I had no idea at first what he was talking about. But he remembered a story about the left field vacancy that I wrote . I had to go look it up. On Feb. 10, I wrote:

“But there are questions about whether Dickerson’s numbers were an anomaly since they’re superior than anything he had previously produced in the Minors.”

So there you go. We talked about it today, I told him I looked up the story and everything seemed fine. But like many players, statements that carry even a shred of doubt about a performance seem to be something Dickerson uses as motivation. Batting .375 entering tonight, Dickerson has certainly had a solid spring and if he continues that way, I can’t see how he isn’t on the 25-man roster in April.

Last season Dickerson batted .304 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 31 games. He batted .287 at Triple-A Louisville and was red hot before his August call-up but is a .260 hitter lifetime in the Minors.

“People want to say that was just a great six-week performance and that’s it,” Dickerson said. “Just like everybody else, they look into the Minor League performance. I just want to come out here and continue to show people I can play and that I’m the same player I was those last six weeks.”

More on this story later on the web site.

News you can use:

  • Fifth starter contender Micah Owings acknowledged his less than pretty line in a Minor League game on Wednesday. (4.1 IN, 9H, 7 R, 6 ER, 5K, 1 HB)

“The results probably didn’t indicate how I felt,” Owings said. “The first three innings went well and I felt good. Looking back, I could have probably done a couple of things differently. Those guys were just swinging.”

“It’s not easy pitching against the young guys,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s a bigger deal for the kids to face them than it is for them to face the kids. You call home and tell them what you did. ‘Daddy, I think I’m ready.'”

Much of Owings trouble began after a bunt play when he made an error throw to third base. He also hit a solo homer in the game.

“The first at-bat was ugly. I saw three pitches, made three swings and sat down,” Owings said. The next at-bat, I broke my bat on the first pitch and fouled it off down the line. I got one of [Norris Hopper's] bats he gave me because I only brought one out there.”

  • Must have been some bat since Hopper also hit a solo homer in his Minor League game. Hopper isn’t known for his pop.
  • Baker plans to play all of his regulars for nine innings against the Red Sox, except for Alex Gonzalez, who is going six. None of the regulars will be on the Friday trip to Kissimmee to play the Astros. Ryan Hanigan isn’t playing today but will be catching starter Johnny Cueto on Friday.
  • We’re one day short of the three-year anniversary of Bronson Arroyo’s trade from the Red Sox to the Reds for OF Wily Mo Pena. It was former GM Wayne Krivsky’s first trade with the club. Still like it? Arroyo is 38-37 with a 4.05 ERA since coming to the Reds but he’s pitching 200 or more innings in all three seasons. It’s still a no-brainer to me and I’m sure Boston GM Theo Epstein wouldn’t mind a do-over. Arroyo gets to face his old team tonight — but Boston also didn’t travel its ‘A’ lineup.
  • In the clip ‘n save — Baker has liked very much what he’s seen from catcher Craig Tatum, who reached Triple-A last season.

“He’s one of the most improved hitters I’ve seen as far as approach and keeping things simpler,” Baker said. “He’s strong. He’s got a cannon for an arm.”

Tatum starts tonight and has benefitted greatly from Ramon Hernandez’s extended leave for the WBC.

Reds lineup:

Taveras CF, Gonzalez SS, Votto 1B, Phillips 2B, Bruce RF, Encarnacion 3B, Dickerson LF, Tatum C, Arroyo P

Red Sox lineup:

Baldelli CF, Lowrie SS, Wilkerson 1B, Bailey RF, Carter LF, Green 2B, Chavez 3B, Brown C, Lester P 

Masset discussion, bullpen for Bailey?

It’s getting late in spring and in the previous blog post about the probable starters, Nick Masset’s name was nowhere to be found. Nothing has been determined officially, but all signs are pointing to him no longer being in contention for the rotation’s fifth spot.

Masset has a 6.75 ERA through four games, including three starts, totalling 10 2/3 innings.

“We have to sit down and talk about it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We might be making some decisions soon because there are not enough innings without ‘B’ games or split-squad games.”

It’s likely down to Micah Owings and Homer Bailey, who have both pitched well this spring. Owings has been nearly unstoppable. Baker caught the last couple of innings of Bailey’s minor league outing Monday (see previous post for line) and liked what he saw.

The big mystery could be the last bullpen spot. Masset, who has been a long reliever for a couple of years, is out of options. Bailey has no history as a reliever but isn’t out of the question to do it if Owings beats him for the fifth spot.

“Possibly. It’s something we’ve discussed,” Baker said. “It’s something that depends on what’s better for him in the long run – do we pitch him or make him the fifth guy? With the Dodgers and Giants, a lot of our top young guys started out as long guys – Dave Stewart, Bobby Welch, Pedro Martinez.

“A lot of it depends on who has options left and who doesn’t. There is a lot that goes into consideration as well as how you’re pitching.”

More news you can use:

  • Jay Bruce hasn’t hit well most of spring (batting .200 entering the day) but Baker wasn’t too worried.

“He kind of started this way last year too,” Baker said. “He was getting some hits early, but they were groundballs between first and second. His stroke isn’t really there because he’s fouling off pitches he would ordinarily put into play. He’s close. When you see him going to left field or up the middle that means he’s right there because he is not a pull hitter. When he starts trying to pull, that’s when most hitters get into trouble.”

  • Jacque Jones and Daryle Ward, who are both struggling offensively, were kept back in Sarasota to DH in Minor League games.

“They stayed back and hit extra and try to hope we can find their strokes.”

  • Alex Gonzalez and Norris Hopper will likely do the same thing on Wednesday while the Reds are in Port Charlotte.
  • Infielder Danny Richar probably had an outside chance at best to make it as a backup infielder. But despite some nice defensive plays, Richar entered batting .111 and was honest about his state of mind.

“I don’t feel like I’m playing the way I’m used to playing. I don’t feel confident,” Richar said. “I need to get that back. I’m trying to do too much. I need to play my game. Right now, I don’t feel like I’m playing my game.”

The Reds are wearing green hats for St. Patrick’s Day and several players had green shirts among their street clothes, including Brandon Phillips and Baker.

“Erin Go Braugh my brother,” Baker said to Phillips — both men laughed.

 

Owings' solid afternoon

Fifth starter candidate Micah Owings had another decent start for the most part against the Red Sox. His line: 3.2 IN, 3H 2ER, 1BB 4K…51 pitches/32 strikes

Owings started his outing by giving up back-to-back singles in the first inning but struck out Brad Wilkerson and induced a 4-6-3 double play by Rocco Baldelli. In the 1-2-3 second inning, his strikeout of Jason Varitek appeared to be a high fastball. Two batters later, he fooled Lars Anderson with a nice changeup.

With a lot of lefties in the Boston lineup, Owings used his changeup quite a bit. He’s also been working on his two-seam fastball.

20090303_bmo_cinvsbos_0157_mark.jpg“It was nice to see that,” Owings said of the Anderson strikeout. “It’s something I’ve worked more and more on in the course of the big leagues. It’s something I know is going to help me and another thing I can mix to keep hitters off-balance. I threw it a good bit today.” 

After a 1-2-3 third inning that required only 10 pitches, Owings was at 35 pitches and allowed to return for the fourth. Jed Lowrie led off with a ground-rule double and Varitek reached on a two-out walk. Jared Burton gave up the inherited runs on Paul McAnulty two-run double.

“He looked really good,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He didn’t have that many pitches. We were trying to take him to 50 pitches and he lost it there for a minute. He threw the ball very well today. He got the double play when he needed it.”

Through two starts totaling 6 2/3 innings, Owings has a 2.70 ERA with five hits, one walk and six strikeouts. The right-hander was asked if he was where he wanted to be at this point of camp:

“I don’t ever like to say that,” he responded. “I always feel like I can be better. I feel good about where I’m at but I’m going to keep working hard and not let up.”

With Homer Bailey doing very well and Owings looking good, the fifth starter battle could continue to be interesting for a while. It will still be one of the main subplots to watch.

Other items of note from a 9-8 Reds win:

Norris Hopper pushed a nice bunt past the mound in the fourth. Hopper was almost picked off of first base but out dashed the rundown and slid safely into second for the steal.

Jay Bruce was batting when Hopper was on base. First a dropped foul pop up in left field kept him alive. He was able to smoke a 3-2 Ramon Ramirez (a different one) pitch to right field.

Two batters after Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion had his first homer of spring. It easily cleared the left field wall.

Left field candidate Jonny Gomes hit an opposite field grand slam to right field in the five-run seventh. Gomes is batting .400 (4-for-10) with seven RBIs through five games.

Gomes’ slam wound up providing the deciding run. The Reds had a 9-2 lead after the top of the 7th. Boston scored three in the seventh off Jeff Kennard and three more in the eighth off Adam Pettyjohn to make it a one-run game. 

Phillips to bat cleanup, more news

Heard there was ice back at the ranch in Cincinnati. Sorry folks — mid 70s down here again. But don’t worry — we’re going to get ours Friday when it will get no higher in the 50s. So it’s not all sun and surf in Sarasota.

Here’s some stuff to keep you updated:

Dusty Baker said that Brandon Phillips will be his cleanup hitter this season.

images.jpg“Oh yeah. He’ll be better,” Baker said. “Brandon will have a good year. Everybody struggles sometimes that third or fourth year. Now Brandon will re-adjust to what they’re throwing him. Sometimes, they wouldn’t throw Brandon a lot of strikes. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see it. But when you’re smart like Brandon and take some time away from it, you can step back and see things.”

Also — reliever Bill Bray has started throwing in the bullpen after missing a couple of days with a sore shoulder.

Outfielder Norris Hopper has reported no trouble with throwing. Hopper is coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He began his throwing program in January.

There was another session of live BP for hitters. Francisco Cordero, Bronson Arroyo, Nick Masset, Micah Owings and Jared Burton were among those who took the mound. Hitters particularly had their hands full with hard-throwing lefty prospect Pedro Viola. Masset has dropped about 15 pounds since last season.

Owner/CEO Bob Castellini arrived at the complex Thursday.

 

 

Encarnacion to change hitting approach

Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, owner of a new two-year, $7.6 million contract that avoided arbitration, made his camp debut on Wednesday. In a good mood for obvious reasons, Encarnacion said he committed in the off-season to returning to his old approach of hitting.

“I want to try to stay more to the middle. Last year, I tried to pull too many balls and hit more homers,” Encarnacion said. “That’s why my average went down. I will be more consistent with my hitter. I know I can do it. I’ve done it before. I know I can hit better than that and I just have to keep working.

“You can’t go to the plate hitting like crazy. You have to go up with some plan. That’s what makes you a better hitter.”

One of the better clutch run producers before 2008, the 26-year-old Encarnacion  batted .251 with a career-high 26 home runs but only 68 RBIs in 146 games.

During his playing career, Reds manager Dusty Baker said he made similar mistakes.

“Sometimes it happens at that point of your career. It happened to me. It’s a disease – I call it home run-itis,” Baker said. “You start liking the trot. What happens is you end up hitting lower, less RBIs and have just as many homers. I got a letter from Joe Black, I’ll never forget it. I still have the letter. He told me to ‘remember you’re a hitter, not a slugger.”

Other notes from Wednesday:

Jerry Hairston Jr. worked out with the outfielders when workouts began on Tuesday. Baker said not to read too much into that. Hairston is also considered a backup shortstop option to Alex Gonzalez.

“It was day one. You have to start somewhere,” Baker said.

Hairston told me he will play shortstop for Team Mexico at the World Baseball Classic. His mother is Mexican.

Live BP:

It’s one of those days of the year when pitchers have total dominance over hitters — the Reds went through live batting practice. Pitchers faced hitters and threw at game speed. On one field, a group of hitters faced Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto in succession.

Volquez and Cueto throw in the mid 90s with some nasty breaking stuff.

“I don’t even want to get in there,” joked Norris Hopper as Volquez pitched.

The only hitter to really connect on a pitch was Daryle Ward, who cleared the right field fence against Cueto. On another field, Homer Bailey, Arthur Rhodes and Mike Lincoln also faced hitters.

Almost that time…

Early Friday morning, I will be catching my flight to Sarasota, where the forecast says it will be 76 degrees (not bad). If all goes smooth with the trip, I will head over to the complex around midday and see who is around. Maybe I will be able to start banging out some copy too. The pitchers and catchers report date is Saturday and it’s Tuesday for position players.

Media relations director Rob Butcher sent out a note earlier listing some of the early arrivals.

RHP Aaron Harang, RHP Jared Burton, OF Chris Dickerson, IF/OF Jeff Keppinger, LHP Arthur Rhodes, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Nick Masset, RHP Josh Roenicke, LHP Daniel Ray Herrera, RHP Daryl Thompson, C Ryan Hanigan, IF Adam Rosales, IF Paul Janish and OF Norris Hopper.

Who's in LF?

So the Reds identified acquiring a right-handed hitting, run-producing left fielder as a top priority in the off-season. You’re probably wondering ‘what happened?’

The choices weren’t great and in my mind, no one out there really was someone that could catapult the Reds into an instant World Series contender.

Now it appears left field will be by committee (er…platoon). The choices are Chris Dickerson, Jerry Hairston Jr., Jonny Gomes, Norris Hopper and Jacque Jones.

Who do you like and why? Who will win the job?

 

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