Sunday, May 28, 2006

Scott Hatteberg ... leading off?

Jerry Narron strongly considered it.

In fact, had Brandon Phillips, who was hit on the wrist by D'Backs starter Juan Cruz on Saturday, not been able to play, Narron might have made the move today.

Narron had an "alternate" lineup in mind for Sunday. One that featured Hatteberg in the lead-off spot, Adam Dunn in the No. 2 hole and Felipe Lopez batting cleanup.

Hatteberg does own a .403 on-base percentage and only struck out 12 times this year. And, you can't blame Narron for wanting to shake things up.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Greetings from down the hall

One of the unique natures of my work with is the opportunity to cover the visiting clubs on a regular basis.

Despite feeling a bit out of touch with my responsibilities on the Reds side, it's a good experience working in the visitors clubhouse with a different group of players and coaching staffs.

The Diamondbacks have an accommodating clubhouse, helpful staff, and manager Bob Melvin has been in a good mood this weekend.

I only mention that because a D'Backs beat writer, who shall remain nameless, said that's not always the case.

I'll transition back over to the Reds side on Sunday, giving beat writer Mark Sheldon a spell.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Reds move Dave Williams

The Reds today acquired minor league right-hander Robert Manuel from the New York Mets in exchange for Dave Williams and cash.

Manuel, 22, will report to Single-A Dayton.

In 2005, Manual ranked among Gulf Coast League leaders in wins (8), ERA (2.06), strikeouts (49) and innings pitched (56 2/3). He combined for 54 strikeouts and just four walks in 61 2/3 innings for Brooklyn and the GCL Mets.

Williams, who was acquired from the Pirates in exchange for Sean Casey in December, went 2-3 with a 7.20 ERA in eight starts for Cincinnati. He was designated for assignment on Saturday.

It'll be interesting to watch Manual's progress, seeing as how he was indirectly acquired in exchange for the ultra-popular Casey.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Remember "Red-Seat" homers?

Well, unlike at old Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field, all of the seats at Great American Ball Park are red. So, now we track home runs hit into the left-field bleachers.

Here's an updated list for 2006, received from Rob Butcher just seconds after Carlos Lee's blast off Claussen:

1) David Ross 4/7 off Matt Capps (Pit)
2) David Ross (2) 4/18 off Jason Vargas (Fla)
3) Edwin Encarnacion 4/18 off Jason Vargas (Fla)
4) Miguel Cabrera, Fla 4/19 off Aaron Harang
5) Miguel Olivo, Fla 4/19 off Aaron Harang
6) Reggie Abercrombie, Fla 4/19 off Michael Gosling
7) Jason Lane, Hou 4/29 off Aaron Harang
8) Juan Encarnacion, StL 5/1 off Bronson Arroyo
9) Austin Kearns (2) 5/12 off Ryan Madson (Phi)
10) Carlos Lee, Mil 5/24 off Brandon Claussen

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fair is fair

When their team plays poorly, a big-league manager assumes much of the blame. When they play well, the skipper is said to be doing a good job. And, rightly so.

Despite a recent five-game losing streak, the Reds remained tied for the second-most victories in the National League. They spent 37 of 50 days in first or second place in the NL Central Division. At 27-19, the Reds are performing above most fans' expectations at this point in the season.

So, when does Reds manager Jerry Narron get his due? I'm not holding my breath.

I hear from a disturbingly large number of fans who believe the Reds are winning in spite of Narron. That couldn't be any further from the truth.

When the Reds play well, they are executing what Narron preaches. They did so throughout a club record 17 victories in April.

Fans, and a certain group of talk radio hacks, like to ridicule Narron as the "Baseball Guy" and for his unrelenting mantra to play the game "the right way".

It was Narron who kept the Reds from busting apart at the seams following the ouster of Dave Miley last June. He guided them to a 46-46 record. He's 27-19 this year.

The Reds are winning. Narron is the manager. C'mon, give him some love.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Twins get new brrrrrpark

A new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins became reality today when the Minnesota House passed a bill to approve funding for a 42,000-seat open-air facility in downtown Minneapolis.

Yes, I said "open-air" - no roof.

Welcome to Hypothermia Field in the land of the two-month summer.

It'll be frigid in April and downright numbing in October. A World Series pushing the 1st of November? I shiver at the thought.

Regardless, a new ballpark for the Twins is good for baseball. It also brings to an end the era of multi-purpose domed stadia.

The Metrodome isn't so bad. I like the proximity of the press box to the field and the way they honored past greats with banners in the outfield. It's still a dome with artificial turf and bereft of character, but it beats the old Astrodome and present-day Tropicana Field by a long-shot.

"It would help, but you can't always get what you want," said Twins outfielder Torii Hunter about the lack of a roof. "You just have to take that sandwich and not that filet mignon. Sometimes you have to take a sandwich and be satisfied."

I guess Hunter likes cold cuts. Perhaps the Twins could try a rectractable blanket?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dave Williams - Part II

I was fully expecting something to be done with Dave Williams this weekend, i.e. a move to the bullpen.

Friday: deadline for Williams column to go to press.

Saturday: Williams designated for assignment.

Oh well. Darn weekly deadlines.

Anyway, the move with Williams was unexpected, but it shouldn't have been. The Reds' new ownership team has been pretty consistent in their message to this team. When they say they want to win now, I believe them.

Panera Bread

Everyone knows Panera Bread is a great place for a scone or sandwich, breakfast or lunch. It also has free wireless internet service making Panera a great place to surf the web, do homework or hold business luncheons.

Panera's free wireless can also be a life-saver for preps sports writers.

When a district title softball game starts more than an hour late and extends into extra-innings at a venue one hour from home without accommodations to write or e-mail a story, it's always helpful to know in advance the location of the closest Panera Bread.

Thank you, Union-Centre Boulevard Panera.

By the way, the Smokehouse Turkey hit the spot.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dave Williams

Poor guy.

First, Williams is tagged as the guy exchanged for Sean Casey. Then, he gets lit up like Eric Milton circa 2005.

Jason Bay's first-inning grand slam today helped Williams' ERA balloon to 7.20.

“Just have to keep banging it out,” said Williams last week. “Part of being a competitor is keeping your head up and trying to keep your team in the ballgame. That’s what it means to be a professional.”

If he can carry this type of positive attitude with him to the bullpen, Williams could be an asset to the Reds yet.

This could get ugly

Important information for those of you venturing to Cleveland for the Reds/Indians series at Jacobs Field:

The game on Saturday, June 24 has been moved to 1:25 p.m. to accommodate the FOX national broadcast.

The game originally was scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Let's see, Winking Lizard by 5 p.m., Warehouse District by ...

Not lovable, just losers

Things are getting downright ugly at Wrigley Field these days.

I realize the Cubs are in a bad way, but whatever happened to the "Friendly Confines"?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Movin' on up

Dayton Dragons infielder Paul Janish, who was leading the Midwest League with a .398 batting average, has been promoted to the Sarasota Reds of the Florida State League.

Janish ranked second in the MWL with a .435 on-base percentage and third with a slugging percentage of .612.

A fifth-round draft choice by the Reds in 2004, Janish had 5 home runs, 6 doubles and 18 RBI for Dayton prior to his promotion.

Enjoy the weather in Sarasota, kid.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Eric Milton

In today’s Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, Eric Milton threw 30 pitches in two innings and did not allow a baserunner.

The game between the Reds and Pirates was called after two innings because of heavy rain.

Milton underwent arthroscopic surgery on April 24 to debride the lateral aspect and lateral cartilage in his left knee.

It was reported that Milton made it through today's brief outing "without complications".

UPDATE: Milton will be reinstated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and start against the Tigers in Detroit.

Hall of Fame memories

The debate still rages as to whether the founding of our National Pastime occured in or near the sleepy village of Cooperstown, NY. In fact, much evidence exists to the contrary.

Regardless, most people who visit Cooperstown, which lies on the shores of Otsego Lake in picturesque upstate New York, will tell you there isn't a more appropriate location for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I last visited Cooperstown in 2000 when I was assigned to cover the Hall of Fame induction of Tony Perez, Sparky Anderson and Marty Brennaman.

One impromptu interview I conducted that weekend will always stick in my memory.

While strolling down historic Main Street in Cooperstown, I happened upon Hall of Fame hurler Bob Gibson. The Cardinals great had just completed an autopgraph session and was standing alone. I seized the opportunity for a one-on-one Q&A.

Gibson, who still carries his reputation as one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball history, was more than accommodating.

"What do you remember most about facing Tony Perez?" I asked.

He responded with a stare similar to the one which had struck fear in so many batters during his playing career.

"If Tony Perez had faced me every day," Gibson said. "He wouldn't have been inducted in the Hall of Fame".

Gibson's expression was so serious I wasn't sure whether his comment was meant to be a joke or the ramblings of a bitter old ballplayer.

Later that afternoon, I got my answer.

During his induction speech, Perez acknowledged the Hall of Famers seated on stage behind him. When he got around to Gibson, Perez said,

"I know that if it were not for Bob Gibson ... I would have been here earlier than today".

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Pitching not the problem

Pitching lines for Reds starters during this weekend's series against the Phillies at Great American Ball Park:

Friday: Elizardo Ramirez 6 IP 3R 7H 3BB 7K

Saturday: Dave Williams 8 1/3 IP 2R 5H 0BB 5K.

Sunday: Brandon Claussen 8 IP 1R 4H 1BB 7K.

The Reds lost all three.

Entering today's action, Reds starters had produced a 2.90 ERA in their past 19 starts but went just 9-7 in those games.

The Reds have lost 4 of the past 7 games when their starting pitcher has produced a quality start.

Meanwhile, manager Jerry Narron says his club is most successful when they aren't waiting for someone to hit a home run.

Isn't that just what the Reds were doing the past three days?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

It's history

Hal McCoy's telephone rang in the press box in the 7th inning tonight at Great American Ball Park.

"Hello?", said the Hall of Fame Reds beat writer.

Said the caller from the Dayton Daily News, "I hear you have a perfect ...

At that moment, Adam Dunn singled to center field to end Jon Lieber's bid for history.

"Not anymore," said McCoy.

Hey, why not?

No-hitters pitched against the Reds:

Cy Young, 9/18/1897 at Cleveland 6-0

“Big” Jeff Pfeffer, 5/8/07 at Boston 6-0

James (Hippo) Vaughn, 5/2/17 at Chicago 0-1

Tex Carleton, 4/30/40 vs Brooklyn 3-0

Lon Warneke, 8/30/41 vs St. Louis 2-0

Ken Johnson, 4/23/64 at Houston 0-1

Don Wilson, 5/1/69 vs Houston 4-0

Ken Holtzman, 6/3/71 vs Chicago 1-0

Rick Wise, 6/23/71 vs Philadelphia 4-0

Friday, May 12, 2006

Effectively wild

Phillies rookie Cole Hamels walked five batters tonight in his much-anticipated big-league debut.

But, the left-hander surrendered just one hit and struck out seven in a 92-pitch effort.

Hamels fanned Ken Griffey Jr. twice and displayed a composure on the mound beyond that of the typical 22-year old.

At 6-3, 175-pounds, Hamels beared a striking resemblance to another lanky young hurler.

Homer Bailey.


That's one word used to describe the reaction in the Louisville Bats clubhouse tonight when it was announced that outfielder Rob Stratton had been released.

Stratton was leading the team with six home runs and 12 RBI. At 6' 2" 275 pounds, he was an imposing presence at the plate and a popular guy on the team.

The move made room on the Bats roster for Chris Denorfia who was optioned to Louisville when Ken Griffey Jr. was reinstated from the disabled list.

The plethora of outfielders in the Reds system made Stratton expendable, but the timing of the move is somewhat curious.

The Reds' outfield situation isn't anything new. Robbing the Bats of their top RBI-man in mid-May has many in Louisville scratching their heads.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pet peeves - Part II

During the construction phase of Great American Ball Park, I was asked for my personal wish-list for the Reds' new park.

Among my criteria was that it be designed in such a fashion as to render the "Wave" obsolete.

I was told that the "Gap" and various other contours and nuances in Great American Ball Park would make the "Wave" more difficult to execute than at the circular bowl-shaped Cinergy Field.

Perhaps this would discourage the fans? No such luck.

Still to this day, whenever there's a lull in the action in the latter innings, Reds fans engage in a choreographed effort to stand up and sit down in unison section by section.

When timed correctly, the "Wave" is supposed to imitate a rolling surf. Instead, it most often looks like a poorly orchestrated Catholic church mass.

I particularly enjoy watching the "conductors". You know, the fan or group of fans who start the whole process. It becomes an incredible source of pride for these individuals as they admire their handiwork as it rolls throughout the ballpark.

Ahh, life's great achievements.

Great American Ball Park is one of only a few big-league parks where the "Wave" is still attempted.

Let's make it the last.

He's back

The endless speculation can end - Ken Griffey Jr. was reinstated from the DL today.

And, yes, he's in tonight’s starting lineup, batting third and playing centerfield.

Oh, and the corresponding roster move was optioning Denorfia to Louisville.

There you have it. Moving on.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Runnin' Reds

Reds media relations guru Rob Butcher on the spot with these stats:

Felipe Lopez has four stolen bases tonight for the first time in his career.

It's the most in a game by a Reds baserunner since Ryan Freel’s team-record five steals on July 27, 2005 at Los Angeles.

The Reds have six stolen bases in a game for the first time since August 16, 2002 vs. Houston.

They haven’t had seven stolen bases in a game since 1997.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Things are looking up

Reds left-hander Chris Hammond pitched 2/3 scoreless innings tonight to drop his ERA to 9.35.

This might not sound like a notable occurence, but Hammond's ERA hasn't been below 10.00 in quite some time.

That's what I call progress.

C'mon it's approaching 10 p.m., the score's 7-1 and Alfonso Soriano's home run just landed in someone's soup at Newport on the Levee.

You have to laugh.

Pet peeves - Part I

Throwing a home run ball back on to the playing field is a tired tradition.

Sure, it was cute and unique when Cubs fans would do it at Wrigley Field. But, stop it already.

Ryan Zimmerman's home run off Claussen moments ago landed in the center-field stands an estimated 408-feet from home plate. Seconds later, and rather predictably, the ball was thrown back on the field.

If you don't want the ball, give it to a kid. Do you really think Zimmerman cares?

All seriousness aside, this is a funny story from a few years back:

When a fan of an opposing team (yes, it was the Reds) refused to throw a home run ball back at Wrigley Field, a group of Cubs fans took up a collection of about 20 dollars, bought the ball from him and threw it back themselves.


Like father, not like son

Delmon Young, son of former Red Dmitri Young, was suspended 50 games today for throwing a bat at an umpire during a heated argument over a called-third strike on April 26 at Pawtucket.

Young's suspension, the longest handed down in International League history, also requires him to perform 50 hours of community service.

Young is considered Tampa Bay's top prospect. Some within the organization would like to see him undergo anger-management counseling.

"I'm not really such a bad person," Young said. "I may act up a little bit every once in a while, but I'm not really a bad person."

The only time his father ever acted up was while pulling a clubhouse prank or yucking it up with reporters.

Dmitri Young was a fun-loving gentleman, and one of the most genuinely nice athletes I've encountered during my career.

Early indications are, this apple fell far, far from the tree.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Homer Bailey

Tonight at Jupiter:

Six innings pitched, no hits, no runs, one walk. He struck out 11 of 20 batters faced.

Bailey's going to be at Single-A Sarasota for how much longer?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Kudos for Kearns

A day after having his 7-game hitting streak stopped, Austin Kearns went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a home run helping lead the Reds to a 9-8 victory at Arizona.

Kearns, once among the most heralded prospects in Reds history, has been derailed in recent years by injuries and inconsistency.

This season, Kearns has started all but one game. He's batting .328 with six home runs and 22 RBI to go along with his usually steady glove-work. He hit safely in 24 of 31 appearances.

Is Kearns finally going to live up to the lofty expectations that followed him to the big leagues in 2002?

Aurilia's absence disables Reds

Not only has Rich Aurilia been a valuable veteran presence in the Reds clubhouse, he was one of the hottest hitters on the club prior to being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin.

Aurilia hit safely in 11 consecutive starts prior to the injury, going 17-for-45 (.378) with five doubles, three home runs and six RBI during that stretch.

The Reds' offense has produced one run in each of their past two games, both losses. They are 13-4 when Aurilia starts.

Aurilia's absence isn't entirely to blame for the Reds' brief but disconcerting slump, but they are clearly a better team with him in the lineup or available off the bench.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Set-back for Wilson

No indication as to how serious this is, but Paul Wilson will not make his rehab start for Louisville on Sunday due to a fatigued right shoulder. His next start will be determined in the next few days.

Wilson, as you know, has been operating under a 90-pitch count during his rehab from right shoulder surgery.

He said he felt fine following his rehab stint at Dayton last week with nothing but "normal soreness".

It appears the fatigue in his shoulder is something that surfaced following his outing this week in Louisville.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Give credit where it's due

Innings pitched for each Reds starter in their most recent appearance:

Harang 8.1
Arroyo 9.0
Claussen 6.2
Ramirez 6.0
Williams 6.2

Reds pitchers have produced six consecutive quality starts and 10 in their past 13 games helping the club go 10-3 during that stretch.

Normally the pitching coach would get credit for this type of success.

Well, with Reds pitching coach Vern Ruhle home in Florida receiving treatment for cancer, Tom Hume has assumed the bulk of that role.

Whatever Tommy's doing is working.

Denver got it right

The neighborhood surrounding Coors Field, commonly referred to as Lower Downtown or "LoDo" was once a collection of burned out buildings, a virtual slum. Nobody lived there. Nobody went there.

It was described as a war zone. So bad in fact that an area one block east of where Coors Field resides today was known as "Crack Central". Homeless people routinely slept on the sidewalks and suburbanites stayed away.

But, a group of visionaries decided LoDo would be a good place to build a ballpark for Denver's new MLB franchise. Their sales pitch was that LoDo's revitalization would make Denver a better, safer city. It worked.

The result has been one of the best baseball environments in the country. The abandoned buildings have become bars, restaurants, art galleries, apartments and condos. Any crime element that existed in LoDo pre-Coors Field has ventured elsewhere.

Whenever I go to to the Mile High City, I make it a point to visit LoDo's Bar and Grill, the Wynkoop Brewery and other nearby establishments. Historic Union Station stands as a symbol of Denver's past, one likely lost if the neighborhood had simply been left to deteriorate.

Many Denver residents thought it would be insane to build the Rockies' ballpark in a slum. Truth is, LoDo was in far worse shape at that point in time than Over-the-Rhine was during the debate over building the Reds' new park at Broadway Commons.

Coors Field didn't rescue LoDo. It simply served as the overwhelming catalyst to jumpstart revitalization efforts already on-going. Much like a ballpark at Broadway Commons might have done for Over-the-Rhine and the then-bustling Main Street bar district, which is barely bustling today.

Denver got it right with Coors Field.

And, although Great American Ball Park turned out to be a beautiful venue on the riverfront, Cincinnati really missed the boat.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Final word on attendance

I'm always reluctant to delve into the issue of attendance in my weekly column because, honestly, no good ever comes from chastising fans in print.

The last time I wrote an attendance-related column was in 1999. The surprising Reds, much like this season, were off to a hot start. But, it took a couple of months before the fans caught on to their magical season.

I wrote a column for the Downtowner Newspaper which my editor titled "Reds are up to bat, but where are the fans?".

Jim Bowden, Reds GM at the time, approached me at batting practice and thanked me for the column. Why don't I feel like that's a good thing?

This just in ...

Paul Wilson's line tonight in Louisville:

6ip, 6h, 2r, 2er, 1bb, 1k, 91 pitches.

Wilson's keeping his pitch-count up. That was one of his primary goals.

One strikeout might indicate his velocity isn't quite there, but he appeared to have good control.

Viva Javy!

Javier Valentin was kicking himself after being out-guessed by Astros closer Brad Lidge with the tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday.

He made amends this afternoon by singling to right to score Austin Kearns with the game-winner helping lift the Reds to a 2-game sweep of the Cardinals and finish off a 4-1 homestand.

Most fans probably don't realize how valuable Valentin is to the local media. For one, he's quite articulate in English. Two, he's an astute student of the game who usually can provide a pretty in-depth analysis of a particular play or pitching performance.

Lately, Valentin has been the go-to guy when it comes to discussing young Elizardo Ramirez, who speaks little English. When a translator (usually Felipe Lopez) isn't available, Javy's our man!

Today, Valentin was the man for the Reds, delivering the clutch hit that helped clinch their major-league leading 19th victory.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cincinnati: a baseball town

Attendance tonight: 20, 900.

Going into tonight:

Pittsburgh (7-19) : 291,134

Cincinnati (17-8) : 278,013

The Pirates had one more home game than the Reds, but it shouldn't even be close.

Lopez breaks out

After grounding out twice to begin the game, Felipe Lopez was sitting on an 0-for-17 skid.

Since then, he has two clutch two-out singles resulting in three RBI.

Reds 6 Cardinals 1 - Top 7th.

A colleague here in the press box just commented that Josh Hancock appeared to gain weight during the sixth inning.


Arroyo ... fan favorite?

Bronson Arroyo jogged out into the outfield moments ago amid cheers and a few cries of, "We love you Bronson", from the early-arrivals at Great American Ball Park.

Not sure if I ever remember a Reds pitcher being cheered during pre-game stretch.

Arroyo is 4-0 with a 2.34 ERA. But, still.

UPDATE: Arroyo is now 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA following his complete-game 4-hitter tonight.