Results tagged ‘ Willy Taveras ’

Stubbs, Baker meet about hitting

Reds manager Dusty Baker had center fielder Drew Stubbs in his office this morning to talk about hitting and Stubbs’ recent struggles. His average is down to .233 and he’s struck out 11 times in the last 24 at-bats over seven games.

“He’s been a little bit defensive,” Baker said. “He keeps waiting to see if it’s a ball or strike and you don’t have that kind of time. You have to start your swing and stop it versus going from a stop to a start. He’s a smart kid. We’re talking about hitting in a mathematical sense.”

Baker, who started Chris Heisey for Stubbs, realizes he’s criticized for playing Stubbs regularly in center field. While Stubbs is ranked seventh in the NL with 85 strikeouts, he’s sixth in the league in steals and has 36 RBIs. He’s batting .289 since moving to the seventh spot on May 7. And defensively, no one on the Reds can cover more ground in center field.

“His upside potential is amazing,” Baker said. “I know people get on me for playing him. But this isn’t a Willy Taveras situation. People were upset because we were playing Willy. But we were playing Willy because we knew we were trying to trade Willy. You can’t trade somebody if he’s not playing.”

Taveras, of course, was the much-maligned center fielder the Reds employed last season. He was traded over the winter to Oakland. He’s since been released twice.

Stubbs said he’s confidence has remained strong.

“This is a constant battle to stay sharp in this game,” Stubbs said. “This is such a tough game. You’re going to go through your series of ups and downs. The key is to maximize the time you’re feeling good and rolling up there and minimize the times that you’re not.”

*One thing fans don’t get to see or hear as much is Baker’s knowledge of the game, especially how he gained that knowledge. Although he likes to surround himself with younger people and his hip to the current culture, he is also a link to baseball as it was played in the 1960s and 70s. It’s that experience he passes on to younger players like Stubbs.

“When I was rookie, Ron Fairly was with the Cardinals,” Baker said. “He called me into another room and gave me a two-strike approach. I was on the other team. Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda — those guys taught me how to hit with runners in scoring position. Back then, guys would talk a lot especially if they knew you could hit. Pete Rose took me to his house to talk about hitting. I left a runner on third once with less than two outs and Bob Watson took me over to his house. He said ‘don’t be leaving money out there.’ He taught me a theory and philosophy on how to pick them up.”

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Busy Monday for the Redlegs

Remember when everyone complained about the lack of Reds hot stove activity from October through mid-January?

Since then — Aroldis Chapman, Miguel Cairo, Orlando Cabrera have been added. And on Monday, fan non-favorite center fielder Willy Taveras was subtracted. Jonny Gomes could be returning any day with a Minor League deal if the two sides can come together.

What did you think of the latest moves?

Personally, I was not overly wowed with the Cabrera signing but I understand why the Reds felt they had to make it. To them, the lineup wasn’t strong enough to wait while Paul Janish developed as a hitter. The front office wanted more of a sure thing.

Cabrera won’t be a defensive liability but he won’t nearly as sound as Janish, who I think would have come around offensively — eventually. I also think Janish’s defensive ability is so good that he would have saved more runs to make it worth starting him. Is the offense Cabrera might provide worth all the extra money? I would have pocketed it for later in the year when more tweaks might be needed.

You can debate the merits of the signing but you can’t debate the motive. The Reds have to feel they have the pieces in place to contend.

As for the trade, I was amazed the Reds found a way to trade Taveras and not have to eat any of his salary. That’s a huge plus. Anything Aaron Miles can do is pretty much a bonus at this point. I’m not expecting much but I’m also not expecting him to struggle as bad as he did last year.

When you add up the money — Taveras’ $4 million salary compared to $2.7 million for Miles and the difference that went to pay Cabrera — the Reds could have done much worse under the circumstances.

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The Sheldon Awards

Since reporters are mysteriously not permitted to be in the Baseball Writers Association of American (BBWAA), I have no vote for the year-end awards — either local or national. So — I will hand out my own little awards on this here blog.

This recognition and a dollar will almost get you a pack of gum.

Reds MVP: Joey Votto. No Reds hitter was as indispensible as Votto this season and that was proven during his absence for personal issues. When he was in there, no one was a bigger threat. He hit a career-high 25 homers and tied a career high with 84 RBIs entering Sunday, despite playing in just 130 games. He will be the first Reds player to hit over .300 since 2005. After his return from the DL, he missed only one game and when he was in there, no one worked harder. I give him the edge over Brandon Phillips.

Most outstanding pitcher: Bronson Arroyo. Few in the Majors were better than Arroyo in the second half. There was the string of quality starts (23 total) and the 12-straight outings of at least seven innings and three or less runs. That means the Reds always had a chance when he pitched after the All-Star break. Despite calls from panicked fans to get rid of him during the first half, he finished with a 3.84 ERA. Had he gotten some better run support, Arroyo might have been in the 18-20 wins range.

Rookie of the year: Drew Stubbs. Since he only came up on Aug. 19, he probably lacks the at-bats to qualify. But this is my award, so the rules go out the window. Stubbs made the Reds better once he became the leadoff hitter and he led the club in homers and steals and was second in runs scored since his arrival. Honorable mention must go to Daniel Herrera and Ryan Hanigan, both have been solid all season and have plenty to build on for next year.

Good Guy Award: Lots of candidates in the clubhouse but I’m going with Jonny Gomes. In his one year here, he demonstrated the meaning of solid clubhouse presence.

Biggest surprise: For my year-end story that will be out this week, I put Gomes but Nick Masset and Daniel Herrera would have definitely been solid choices. Dusty Baker was in agreement when he was asked.

“Probably Gomes, Nix, Danny Herrera and Masset big time,” Baker said. “Masset, probably the biggest. He’s elevated himself to a different role, a more important role through performance.”

Biggest disappointment: Willy Taveras. No explanation really needed but a .275 OBP and 18 walks doesn’t cut it for a leadoff hitter who was signed to a two-year, $6.25 million contract last winter.

Looking ahead to 2010:

I’d understand why if it didn’t happen, but I’d like to see Paul Janish open next season as the starting shortstop. His glove is sensational and he will never cheat with his effort. If only he wasn’t batting .213. With Stubbs instead of Willy Taveras leading off and more offense from behind the plate, the Reds might be able to handle a lower offensive production from Janish. He could also get better as he gets more experience.

Johnny Cueto made the next step but now must get his arm rested and ready for 200 innings. Last night, Cueto hinted he would do winter ball again in December. But there is an “extreme fatigue rule” in place. For any pitcher that pitches 170 innings in a season, it’s up to the club. Cueto pitched 171 1/3 innings this year.

“It’s our decision,” assistant GM Bob Miller said. “We’ll evaluate it.”

Unless it’s a few innings to tune up for Spring Training, Cueto should skip winter ball. But obviously there is a lot of pressure in the home country — in this case, it’s the Dominican Republic.

Don’t underestimate the message that no one has named Jay Bruce outright as the right fielder next year. While it’s his job to lose,  he needs to show up ready to rock and blow everyone out of the water at Spring Training — because he’s more than capable of doing it. Like he says, he needs to be a hitter and not a slugger.

If the Reds eventually want to name Dave Duncan their pitching coach, that’s their choice. But it will be an expensive choice — almost like adding a free agent player. There are some good choices inside the organization like Ted Power and if he wanted the job, Mario Soto.

Goodbye, George:

George Grande revealed on Sunday that he was doing his final Reds TV broadcast after 17 years. He informed Fox Sports Ohio and the team earlier this week that he was opting out of his contract.

“I wanted to spend more time at home, basically,” Grande said. “I love the Reds, what I do and I love my job. I just need to be home on a regular basis, not just four or five days a month, to keep up on things.”

Grande said he would still do work with Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame.

“If there is something that comes along where I don’t have to travel on a regular basis, I will do that too,” Grande said. “I’m not leaving to take another job. I’m leaving to spend more time at home. If something happens, fine. More than anything, I will miss the people. I will miss everybody I worked with. We’ve all been pretty lucky and fortunate — the broadcasters and writers, everybody – to have a great relationship. The people I worked with made 17 years a joy.”

It’s sad knowing George won’t be back. There isn’t a nicer guy in the business. He might have been the most positive person I’ve ever met. If he’s ever had a bad day, you wouldn’t know it. Best of luck….

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Pittsburgh all locked down

As Marty Brennaman said to me today, Thursday’s game is being played before an “intimate audience.” No matter what the announced attendance is here, the actual crowd inside the ballpark will be a mere fraction. The upper deck was closed and fans were told they could move to other sections.

Because of the G-20 Summit that started today, the locals were essentially told to stay away from downtown. Most of the local businesses are closed and you can forget driving to navigate a car across most of the streets on the south side of the river.

As I walked to PNC Park, there were metal detectors at the entrance of my hotel and I probably saw platoons of police marching through town in various spots. It all told me that I’m glad I’m leaving town as soon as the game is over.

Reds lineup:

Taveras 8
Sutton 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 9
Balentien 7
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

At first glance, you might be wondering why Willy Taveras is already back in there and Drew Stubbs isn’t after Dusty Baker made the Wally Pipp reference the other day.

“You have to play some time,” Baker said. “Stubbs has been playing every day. We all have to earn our keep.”

Baker was asked what kind of role he envisioned for Taveras if Stubbs was the regular center fielder next season.

“I don’t know. You’re asking questions that are way down the line,” Baker said. “Willy was struggling before Stubbs got here. He’s been out a long time and the door opened for Stubbs and he really kicked that door open.”

What about Chris Dickerson? He’s been out for a month with a sprained ankle.

“He has to come back,” Baker said. “Right now, Stubbs has played better than both of them. Dickerson’s average is higher but Stubbs has been way productive. Dickerson’s upside is still tremendous. There’s a lot of competition out there and we’ll find a way to get playing time for all that will help us – the best players at that particular time and day.

“Dickerson still has action big time. I’d rather have too many than too few. They’re all pretty good outfielders and have speed. Stubbs has shown more power than almost any of them and stealing bases  and better defensively the more familiar he becomes with the ballparks.”

What the Reds end up doing with Taveras next season will be a big $4 million question. He wouldn’t make an effective bench player so I don’t see how all three of them could be kept. That’s also a lot of money to write off by just releasing him. Teams like the Red Sox and Yankees routinely do that, not the Reds.

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Taveras off DL and to bench

CF Willy Taveras was activated from the 15-day disabled list. Taveras hasn’t played since Aug. 19 because of a strained quadriceps. With Drew Stubbs playing pretty well, it will be interesting to see how much Taveras gets to play during these final couple of weeks.

Entering Tuesday:

Taveras (98 games) — .238, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 25 SB, 18 BB, 57 K, .273 OBP

Stubbs (32 games) —  .265, 8 HR, 15 RBI, 7 SB, 10 BB, 38 K, .315 OBP

During his session with reporters, manager Dusty Baker was asked about how he’d work it out in center field. His reply was very telling:

“Not to be smart about it but I will work it as I feel like it,” Baker replied. “Stubbs has been playing good. We’ll see how Willy is feeling. I asked him and he said he still feels a little something. Hey, we’re doing fine with who we’ve got out there.

“He’s been out quite a while. Sometimes, Wally Pipp is still alive, you know what I mean?

For fans on the blogs that have ripped Baker all season for playing Taveras, that probably wasn’t the answer you were expecting.

Incidentally since Stubbs joined the Reds on Aug. 19 (notice the date), he leads the Reds in homers, total bases (65), steals and runs scored (20). His 36 hits are second to Brandon Phillips, who has 41.

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 9
McDonald 7
Hernandez 2
Cueto 1

 It’s an interesting time in Pittsburgh this week as the city prepares for the G-20 Summit that begins on Thursday. President Obama will among the world leaders in town. The 20 countries represented will account for 85 percent of the world’s ecomony. As far getting around town, it will account for 100 percent of the headaches. Police are already on every corner and the city is bracing for protesters and traffic issues. Much of downtown, especially by the convention center, will be in lockdown mode starting on Wednesday night.

“I found myself looking at the top of buildings a lot,” Baker said. “I didn’t see anybody but I know they’re up there.”

By chance if you’re coming to town for the games during the series, especially if you’re driving, I’d allow for some extra time to get here.

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Bruce back, Francisco up

OF Jay Bruce’s rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville was ended and he was activated from the disabled list on Monday.

In 10 games for the Bats, Bruce was 7-for-33 (.212) with five walks and six strikeouts. He was out briefly with a mild-strain of the groin, which he dismissed.

“It’s nothing,” said Bruce, who went 0-for-3 as the DH on Sunday. “I just didn’t want to take the chance of pulling my groin on a rehab assignment. It wasn’t that important. We took a precaution and it’s fine now.”

Louisville was eliminated from post-season play on Sunday during a 5-3 loss to Durham.

Bruce still wasn’t in manager Dusty Baker’s lineup — in part because he is 1-for-15 lifetime vs. Astros lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez.

“I just have to see him run and all that stuff,” Baker said. “That’s the main thing. He said his wrist feels fine. I just want to make sure his legs are right.”

You may remember that Bruce fractured his right wrist on July 11 at New York while attempting a sliding catch. In a sign he wasn’t afraid of re-injuring it, his right forearm had the scab from a raspberry while attempting a diving catch on the warning track at Durham.

Before going on the DL, Bruce was batting .207 with 18 home runs and 41 RBIs. He was also in a 0-for-14 skid. There were no thoughts of bagging the season even with just 19 games left and nothing to play for as a team.

“Hopefully I can finish up strong. That’s the plan,” Bruce said. “I want to help these guys win some games.”

The other notable transaction of the day — 3B prospect Juan Francisco was called up for the first time from Louisville.

In 131 games combined with Double-A Carolina and Louisville, Francisco batted .295 with 31 homers and 93 RBIs. He showed no signs of adjustment issues in AAA — he batted .359 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 22 games.

Obviously, the Reds have a third baseman for this year and next in Scott Rolen. Francisco is a potential left fielder down the road. He will spend time at instructional league this fall to learn the position he said he played just twice this season at Louisville.

“I can do it. I’m ready,” said Francisco, who speaks very little English.

Don’t expect him to see Francisco this season in left field, according to Baker.

“Like a lot of September call-ups, I’ll use him to pinch-hit and maybe play third base on days that Rolen doesn’t play,” Baker said. “That’s it for now. We’re working him out in the outfield. But you just don’t come up in the big leagues and just play outfield for the first time. [Billy Hatcher] will work him out every day and hope we see some improvement.”

Personally, I’d like to see Francisco get more than marginal amounts of play because I’d like to see how big league ready his swing is. But you also don’t want to embarrass a guy by sticking him the outfield when he doesn’t know the position well. Just being in the Majors for the first time has to be pressure enough.

Bruce had this assessment of Francisco after watching him the last couple of weeks at Louisville.

“He’s got some special pop, I’ll tell you that,” Bruce said. “He’s got a chance to be a really, really good player. It’s all about learning and making adjustments so we’ll see.”

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 9
McDonald 7
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

Injury report: Besides Bruce, Laynce Nix (neck), Ramon Hernandez (knee) and Willy Taveras (quadriceps) all took early BP on the field today.

“Nix is probably ahead of the other guys. He said his neck feels a lot better,” Baker said. “Taveras is still feeling something in his leg. Ramon could be in better shape or semi-ready by the weekend. He’s not in game shape. He says he feels a lot better than before he went down. At the same time, the guy hasn’t had at-bats either. We’re trying to win games too.”

Nix is eligible to come off of the DL on Tuesday.

Unlike Bruce — there is no more rehab assignments possible for the other guys because all of the organization’s Minor League seasons are over.

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Gomes' rebound season

Among the myriad of off-season decisions that need to be made will involve outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Gomes has resurrected his career in Cincinnati — he came into Sunday batting .276 with 19 home runs and 48 RBIs. Not too shabby considering he’s done that with 243 at-bats after starting the season in Triple-A Louisville. He’s played well vs. right-handers (.255/14/31) and lefties (.317/5/17). He’s one of the best clutch guys on the club with a .323 average w/RISP. He’s also been a great addition, personality-wise, to the clubhouse.

“I wanted to get on track and back on the map,” Gomes said on Sunday. “I did have a couple of 20 homer seasons in the big leagues under my belt without a lot of at-bats. The other one where I didn’t hit 20, I hit 17. Last year I didn’t have many at-bats.”

Gomes is making $600,000 at the big league level this season. The Reds could offer him arbitration, which is something he said he would accept. If they don’t and he becomes a free agent, it becomes less of a guarantee.  

Getting a chance to play, without the help of roster attrition, would be a factor.

“I think I’ve earned that opportunity,” Gomes said.

“It depends on needs, what’s out there, which kids might be ready coming up behind these guys,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

OK like yesterday with center field — you’re the GM. Do you bring Gomes back for 2010 and if so, does he start in left field?

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Gomes 7
McDonald 9
Hanigan 2
Bailey 1

News of the day:

OF Willy Taveras and C Ramon Hernandez have started running the bases back in Cincinnati. There is a good chance that both players could be activated this week while the Reds are home.

LHP Matt Maloney threw on the side on Saturday but still has some soreness with the blister on his middle finger. It’s not known when Maloney might get another start yet.

With Louisville one game away from elimination in the playoffs, Baker wasn’t expecting a lot of call-ups since much of the 40-man roster is already up or on the DL. When asked if Yonder Alonso might come up, Baker responded “probably not.” Alonso might need a break to get ready for the Arizona Fall League.

And in the classy move of the day, the Cubs and their writers held an informal ceremony on the field for Hal McCoy on his last time working at Wrigley Field. Among the gifts was a No. 37 from the scoreboard — the number of years that Hal covered the Reds. Lou Piniella, Cubs GM Jim Hendry and former Red Ryan Dempster were among those sent Hal off the right way.

Hal McCoy night at GABP is Wednesday.


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Center fielder is in charge

In center field for the Reds since his call-up, speedy Drew Stubbs has mostly been as advertised defensively. It doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done.

During the second inning of Friday’s game, Geovany Soto hit a sacrifice fly to right-center field. Stubbs went after the ball but deferred to Darnell McDonald in right field. The runner was scoring either way but the club wants Stubbs to be more assertive because it’s not the first time that’s happened.

“I want Stubby to get more comfortable and take control of it,” first base/outfield coach Billy Hatcher said Saturday morning. “I’m just trying to get Stubby in a situation where he takes control of the outfield so he can catch everything that he can catch.”

Stubbs is aware that he needs to be the boss of the outfield.

“It’s the primary responsibility for the center fielder, if you’re able to get to the ball, to be the one in charge and the one that takes it,” Stubbs said. “That’s the main thing – communication. It’s usually an issue with guys you’re playing with for the first time and you’re not experienced playing with. We’ve had a little of that the first couple of weeks but I think we’re settling in well and getting the feel for what balls each of us can get to.”

OK, here’s the question for you:

You’re in charge of setting up the 2010 Reds….who is your center fielder?

Stubbs, Chris Dickerson or….Willy Taveras?

I’m pretty sure I know your answer of who you don’t want there.

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Yet another player down

I am literally whistling the theme song from M*A*S*H as I write this entry because another player has prematurely left a game with an injury.

This time it was 2B Brandon Phillips, who departed Thursday’s Reds-Giants tilt in the bottom of the third inning. The issue was a sore left wrist. Phillips was hit by a pitch there on Saturday and missed Sunday’s game. He’s been playing with it the past couple of days.

Drew Sutton pinch-hit for Phillips in the third inning and remained in the game at second base.

This week alone — Phillips, Joey Votto and Willy Taveras (quadriceps) have exited mid-game with an injury. Johnny Cueto officially went on the DL today, too, because of shoulder inflammation.

Postgame update:

“Before the game, he said ‘I don’t know if I can go. I will do what I can,'” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Phillips. “Then he took those swings off of [Giants starter Matt] Cain. I could see him wincing and could tell he was in pain. He’s day-to-day and hopefully he will be back [Friday].”

“I couldn’t hold the bat on my bottom hand today,” Phillips said. “Maybe it was because we had a early game today, it couldn’t take its time to heal. It swelled up. It’s been bothering me for a while. I was feeling it a little bit yesterday and today I was feeling it a lot. If it was a night game, I would have been able to play the whole game.”

Phillips, who was 0-for-1 with a fly out vs. San Francisco, is batting .260 with 17 home runs and a team-leading 75 RBIs. He hoped to be in the lineup vs. the Pirates.

“If I keep on icing it, I should be,” Phillips said. “I tried to play today so why not try tomorrow?”

On the bright side, the Reds salvaged one game out of the Giants series with a 2-1 win in 10 innings. The winner came on Drew Stubbs’ leadoff homer in the bottom of the 10th — his first in the big leagues.

The only question after Stubbs connected against Bobby Howry’s 2-0 fastball was: fair or foul? The hit kissed off of the left field foul pole.

“I knew I got it good enough. Luckily it tucked right inside the foul pole,” Stubbs said.

“When it went out, I thought it was [fair],” Baker said. “Then I saw it hook at the last minute. I was like ‘please stay fair,’ because we needed that one real bad. You don’t know how bad we needed that one. We got it.”

As he did a postgame TV interview on the field, Stubbs was drenched by Jonny Gomes with a Gatorade cooler. Bronson Arroyo followed up with the ol’ shaving cream pie.

Stubbs was 0-for-4 with three Ks heading into the final at-bat.

 “You have to be able to put the failures behind you. That’s something you’ll do a lot of in this game. The best hitters fail 70 percent of the time. I think I was able to clear my head up there and put together a good at-bat.”

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Stubbs promoted, Taveras DL'd

The Reds placed center fielder Willy Taveras on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of a strained right quadriceps muscle. Outfielder Drew Stubbs was called up from Triple-A Louisville to make his big league debut. Stubbs, 24, was the Reds’ first round Draft pick in 2006. He is batting leadoff tonight vs. the Giants.

Taveras was hurt in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s 8-5 loss to the Giants. He grounded a ball to the pitcher but appeared to hurt himself as he ran out of the batters’ box.

stubbs 081909.jpgIt’s been a disappointing season all around for Taveras, was signed as a free agent to a two-year, $6.25 million contract in the off-season to be the Reds leadoff hitter. He is batting .238 with one homer, 15 RBIs, 25 steals and a .273 on-base percentage that is the lowest of any Major League player this season with at least 400 plate appearances. He has 18 walks, but only four of them came since May 24.

Stubbs was batting .268 with three homers, 39 RBIs, 46 stolen bases and a .353 on-base percentage for Louisville.

Louisville manager Rick Sweet called Stubbs at 12:30 a.m. last night as he was getting ready for bed.

“At that time of night, it probably means something is happening,” Stubbs said. “I don’t think it’s completely set in yet. It’s more euphoria and excitement. I think when the game starts, it will sink in a little more. Everything has been kind of a blur the last few hours.”

Reds manager Dusty Baker had no qualms throwing Stubbs into the fire against Giants lefty starter Barry Zito.

“I don’t know exactly how I’m going to use him,” Baker said. “But I will give him an opportunity to play, spot him against some very tough guys once I see how his stroke has progressed from when I saw him in the spring. You want to give guys the best chance you think they have to succeed.”

For those wondering, Stubbs was assigned uniform No. 6.

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