Monday, July 31, 2006

Brandon Claussen

Brandon Claussen pitched 5 2/3 innings for Triple-A Louisville tonight allowing six earned runs on seven hits, walked three, struck out four, and surrendered two home runs.

The obligatory "change of scenery"

"When you come to a team that wants you, your confidence is boosted up," said Eddie Guardado. "You want to prove to (your new team) that you can still pitch.”

Those words might also apply to another former Twin, Kyle Lohse, who was dealt to the Reds today.

Lohse is just 2-5 with a 7.07 ERA. He has pitched better since the Twins shipped him to the bullpen, but he wasn't pleased with the move.

A source close to the Twins told me the 27-year old's struggles are mostly mental and not physical. Most scouts agree he has quality stuff.

When I mentioned the Reds have a solid clubhouse and that might help Lohse adjust, the source said the Twins clubhouse was a pretty good one too and it didn't work out.

Lohse wants to be a starting pitcher. Jerry Narron says that possibility might be dependent on Brandon Claussen's performance tonight. The Reds need a starter for Saturday.

Lohse has some ability. You've got to figure the Reds are hoping he can crack the starting rotation. The bullpen is about as deep as it can get.

Not sure about this one ...

The Reds have acquired 27-year old right-hander Kyle Lohse from the Twins in exchange for minor league pitcher Zach Ward.

In 172 appearances, including 152 starts, Lohse has gone 51-57 with a 4.88 ERA. He averaged 188 innings from 2002 through 2005.

Lohse was 2-5 with a 7.07 ERA in eight starts and 14 relief appearances for the Twins this season.

The 22-year old Ward, a third-round draft choice, was 7-0 with a 2.29 ERA in 18 starts and two relief appearances at Single-A Dayton.

Stay tuned.

Sean Casey to first-place Tigers

We can no longer pity Sean Casey.

The last-place Pirates dealt the former Reds first baseman to the red-hot Tigers moments ago.

Detroit owns the best record in baseball. If this keeps up, Casey could be on his way to the World Series.

Let me be among the first to offer Casey my congratulations. This is a well-deserved opportunity for one of the game's true gentlemen.

Just as I was about to ...

cue the sound of crickets chirping on deadline day, the Reds complete a deal.

They've acquired left-handed reliever Rheal Cormier from the Phillies in exchange for Justin Germano.

They've also agreed to a one-year contract extension with Cormier through the 2007 season, with a club option for 2008.

Brandon Watson was optioned to Triple-A Louisville to make room for Cormier who is 2-2 with a 1.59 ERA in 43 appearances this season. He owns the lowest ERA among NL relievers.

There is a 4:30 p.m. press conference scheduled to discuss the deal for Cormier and ... ?

Watson moving up

Right-hander Sean Watson, the Reds' second-round pick in the 2006 First Year Player Draft, has been promoted from Billings to Single-A Dayton.

In seven games with the Mustangs, including four starts, Watson went 0-0 with a 1.52 ERA in 23 2/3 innings of work. He struck out 19 and walked five while limiting the opposition to a .190 batting average.

Watson ranked second all-time in saves at the University of Tennessee.

In other news, top pitching prospect Travis Wood has been placed on the DL with a left ankle sprain suffered in his last appearance.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Men at work

GEORGETOWN, Ky. - The opening of Bengals training camp on Saturday was part CSI, part soap opera and part comedy.

Chris Henry arrived sans dreadlocks perhaps hoping to shed his legal troubles just as easily.

Odell Thurman was a no-show with head coach Marvin Lewis hinting that he might be lost for the season.

Carson Palmer emerged from the locker room amid cheers and chants of "Carson-Palmer" at the urging of Willie Anderson.

And, the first act of the Chad Johnson Show went off without a hitch. That is, if you chose to ignore Johnson's mohawk hairdo and bright orange pants and shoes.

Sam Adams is as big as advertised. The Bengals hope they're as good as most pundits expect them to be.

A crowd estimated at 4,200 greeted the Bengals at Georgetown College.

Of course, Palmer's rehab saga will be the running story of camp. While Lewis remains mum on the QB's progress, Palmer was more forthright.

"I have confidence in my knee as far as running with it and cutting," he said. "As far as getting hit, I don't think I'm ready for that. I don't think my knee's ready for that. I'm looking forward to getting back in there and getting bumped around. Just to get rid of any jitters."

Palmer said he appreciates all of the cards and get-well wishes he's received.

"It's been unbelievable," he said. "Elementary schools, entire junior highs. It's been funny to see the drawings on the get-well cards. I've got pictures of me lying on the field with my leg all crooked."

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Worldwide Mis-Leader

I don't know Peter Kerasotis, a columnist for Florida Today Newspaper, but I just became a fan.

Good stuff.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Steady Eddie

You can add Eddie Guardado to the list of quality additions made by Reds GM Wayne Krivsky.

The Reds were struggling to find a pitcher capable of being a dependable back-end of the bullpen guy. So, they acquired the left-handed Guardado from Seattle in exchange for a minor leaguer and cash.

In his first 7 appearances with the Reds, Guardado posted a 1.35 ERA and had five saves.

“That’s me, the problem solver,” Guardado said last week with a laugh.

After being slowed by forearm stiffness, Guardado returned tonight to toss a scoreless ninth inning in the Reds' 8-4 victory in Houston.

After spending 11 seasons in Minnesota, where he led the majors with 45 saves in 2002, Steady Eddie was dealt to the Mariners. He posted 59 saves in three seasons with the Mariners before being shipped to Cincinnati.

“The deal for Eddie really set our bullpen up,” said Reds manager Jerry Narron. “He’s an experienced guy. He knows how to close games out.”

The acquisition of Guardado added a veteran arm to the Reds’ bullpen and a positive influence to the clubhouse.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said the gentlemanly Guardado. “I was struggling with Seattle. When you come to a team that wants you, your confidence is boosted up. You want to prove to (your new team) that you can still pitch.”

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bengals blotter

Defensive tackle Matthias Askew is the latest to be added to the Bengals' growing rap sheet.

Cincinnati police report that Askew has been charged with obstruction and resisting arrest after being approached for a parking violation at around 8 p.m. Saturday on Beekman Street in South Cumminsville.

The 24-year old Askew reportedly was tased and arrested after he refused to comply and attempted to flee the officers.

When will it end?

Highlight Freel

Ryan Freel did plenty to earn a spot on Sportscenter during Saturday night's 8-7 victory over Milwaukee.

He hit two home runs, including the eight-inning game-clincher, and made a couple of nice catches in the outfield. But, the most lasting image of Freel will likely be of him retrieving a baseball from within his uniform shirt after being hit by a pitch.

The soon-to-be baseball blooper occured when Freel was struck by a pitch and the ball somehow snuck inside his shirt sleeve before coming to rest at his waist. As Freel walked to first base, he looked like he was giving birth to rawhide.

"It was weird," Freel said. "All of sudden I felt this ball. I thought it was my dip can."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Cubs free Willy is reporting that the Cubs have traded former Reds right-hander Scott Williamson to the Padres in exchange for two minor-league pitchers.

Williamson was 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA in 28 1/3 innings for the fifth-place Cubs.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but Willy was a media favorite during his tenure with the Reds.

I'm sure he's pleased to be pitching for the first-place Padres and free from the mess in Chicago.

Injury free - knock, knock

Things have been so bad the past few years in the Reds minor league system that success is being measured in surgeries.

Reds GM Wayne Krivsky likes the number he’s seen so far this season – zero.

“Knock on wood, we haven’t had a surgery in the minor leagues on a pitcher,” Krivsky said prior to tonight's game. “We’re doing something right there. That was the concern coming in, the number of injuries we’ve had in recent years.”

Krivsky discussed the improvements made in the Reds' farm system for next week's Downtowner Newspaper column.

Although wins often take a back seat to player development, the two often go hand in hand.

Through 450 games, the Reds' minor league affiliates have gone 233-217 with three clubs (Triple-A Louisville, Double-A Chattanooga and Rookie League Billings) residing in first place.

Friday, July 21, 2006

There's no escape

During a party bus tour of Aruba on Tuesday, we stopped at a local dive bar tucked away in an alley near downtown Oranjestad. This place was far off the beaten path, a virtual invisibility to most tourists.

But, they had cold Balashi beer on tap, great island music and baseball on TV. As I'm sipping my Balashi and jamming to the Carribean sounds, a familiar voice catches my ear - George Grande.

Couldn't be, I thought. Could it?

Yep. As it turns out, the bar had a satellite dish and, by pure coincidence, had chosen to show the FSN Ohio feed of the Reds/Mets game.

In a random watering hole, on an island nearly 2,000 miles from home and just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, I hear, "It's going to stay in the park".

The next time you choose to poke fun at Grande and Welsh, please stop to consider the worldly reach of these two international icons.

Room with a view

Our view from Room 443 at the Hyatt Regency resort in Aruba.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Get-away day

Just as I was about to turn my attention squarely toward an Aruban vacation, one last check of the e-mail revealed an eight-player deal involving the Reds and Nationals. Back to work.

I asked my editor if he wanted a re-write, knowing for sure he would. I scurried out of the house, laptop bag in tow, and raced 20 minutes to the ballpark arriving just as Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez were completing their final remarks as members of the Reds.

I wrote and recorded comments from Reds GM Wayne Krivsky and manager Jerry Narron and headed to the press box to rewrite my column. What a day.

Anyway, Krivsky's take is that bullpen help is difficult to find and costly but it's what the Reds need to contend. So, he "gulped" and made the deal while paying an admittedly steep price.

Gotta figure a move to fortify the starting rotation is in the offing.

Quote of the day:

“I gulped a lot (when agreeing to the trade),” Krivsky said. “I know there are a lot of people leaving angry messages. Other people will think the trade's great. There will probably be polls. Cincinnati leads the nation in polls.”

On that note, I'm packing for Aruba. I'll keep abreast of things from a distance. An aqua-blue watered, sandy-beached, paradise of a distance.

Gary Majewski

Majewski, 26, pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He posted a 2.93 ERA in a team-leading 79 appearances for the Nationals last season. He is 3-2 with a 3.58 ERA and 5 saves this season. The right-hander's tied for fifth in the major leagues with 46 games pitched. He'll join the Reds on Friday.

Bill Bray

Bray, 23, ranked among the top prospects in the Nationals farm system. The left-hander posted a 3.19 ERA in 19 relief appearances for Washington. Bray was the 13th overall pick in the 2004 first-year player draft. He'll join the Reds on Friday.

Royce Clayton

Clayton, 36, will take over for Felipe Lopez at shortstop. His career fielding percentage of .974 ranks seventh among all major league shortstops. Clayton was an All-Star in 1997. He is a 13-year big-league veteran. He'll join the Reds on Friday.

Daryl Thompson

The 20-year old right-hander is recovering from surgery performed by Reds medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek. Ranked as the 10th-best prospect in the Nationals farm system. Krivsky likened Thompson's makeup and style to former big-league hurler Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd. Will begin Reds career with GCL Sarasota.

Brendan Harris

Appeared in 17 games for the Nationals. Batted .283 with 5 home runs and 32 RBI for Triple-A New Orleans. Originally a fifth-round draft choice of the White Sox. Versatile, hard-worker with some pop in his bat. Will begin Reds career at Triple-A Louisville.

The Big Bopper

Lee May, who will be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame this weekend along with Tom Browning and Tom Seaver, just missed playing for the Big Red Machine.

But, had May not been traded, the Reds might never have emerged as baseball's juggernaut in the 70's.

On November 29, 1971, May was dealt to the Astros in exchange for future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, and other Big Red Machine stalwarts Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Ed Armbrister and Denis Menke.

During an interview yesterday at the Reds Hall of Fame for my weekly column, May spoke of the trade and what might have been:

"I have no animosity toward the Reds, they started me on my way," he said. "We had an abundance of power. That was the thing to do, go down and get some speed. And, they got Joe Morgan."

May also offered another theory about the trade, which resulted in moving his good friend Tony Perez back to first base:

"I always told Tony, 'the reason they traded me was to get you off third base', you were horrible over there'," May said laughing.

May hit .274 with 147 home runs and 449 RBI in seven seasons with the Reds.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The stretch run

The proverbial second half of the baseball season begins in earnest tomorrow. Before I jet off to Aruba, thought I'd offer up my unscientific predictions for the stretch run:

1) Once the Yankees and Red Sox are through battering each other, the Blue Jays will emerge as AL East champs.

2) The Astros are one solid offensive acquisition away from winning the NL Central. They nabbed Aubrey Huff from the Devil Rays today. They're not done dealing.

3) Unfortunately, it'll take more than just one starting pitcher to put the Reds into the playoffs.

4) Not going out on a limb to say the Braves' postseason run has finally come to an end. Perhaps the Yankees' as well.

5) Dusty Baker won't finish the season as Cubs manager.

6) The Dodgers win the NL Wild Card; the White Sox earn that distinction in the AL.

7) Both the NL and AL West Division titles will be decided on the season's final day.

8) The Reds will fail in their bid to snare the All-Star Game. The recently-expanded convention center still falls short of adequate capacity. And, getting city leaders on the same page to effectively promote such an effort would be futile.

9) Homer Bailey will pitch for the Reds this season.

10) The Tigers win the World Series to complete one of the great turnarounds in baseball history.

Pasa un bon dia!

Monday, July 10, 2006

PNC Park's a gem

Intimate, distinctive, charming. Is this park really in Pittsburgh?

For the next 24 hours, PNC Park will be home to the stars. It boasts one of the best city views of any big-league park. My only criticism is of a professional nature - I think you can see West Virginia from the press box.

The ballparks I've visited and my impressions (in no particular order):

1) Wrigley Field - no less great than the neighborhood which surrounds it.
2) Fenway Park - claustrophobic charm.
3) Yankee Stadium - Ruth's house is awe-inspiring.
4) Camden Yards - favorite of the new era.
5) PNC Park - love it.
6) Comerica Park - Like PNC, it has charm. Unlike PNC, it now has a good team.
7) AT&T Park - the Bay setting is beautiful, but please stop changing its name.
8) Busch Stadium - every home game's a holiday in St. Louis - not just Opening Day.
9) Veteran's Stadium - where I had my first-ever $6 beer. Seems so long ago.
10) Jacobs Field - It's in Cleveland. Can I still admit I like it?
11) Great American Ball Park - Would be much better without mascots, cheerleaders and a scoreboard that tells fans when to cheer. Best "natural" view.
12) Coors Field - surrounding neighborhood rivals Wrigleyville. Great mountain views.
13) Tropicana Field - is that artifical turf, or shag carpeting?
14) Metrodome - glad they're getting a new one. Is it too late to reconsider a roof?
15) Miller Park - like it's predecessor, County Stadium, a beer drinker's paradise.
16) Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field - without the Big Red Machine; dormant.
17) Skydome - lids on the beer to prevent spills. Ultra polite. Oh Canada!
18) Old Comiskey - like its South Side roots - rustic, rough.
19) New Comiskey - much better post-renovations.
20) Safeco Field - one of baseball's most underrated ballparks. I was pleasantly surprised.

My excuse for ...

missing Reds Hall of Fame weekend:

Wife and I are heading to Aruba. It's the final vacation of the year.

Afterwards, I'm in this thing for the long haul.

Hall of Fame fodder

Tom Browning likes to say he was "perfect for one hour and 52 minutes of my life".

The former Reds pitcher, who tossed the only perfect game in club history on September 16, 1988, will be afforded yet another opportunity to relive that rare achievement this weekend when he is inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame along with Lee May and Tom Seaver.

Festivities begin at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at the Reds Hall of Fame with the unveiling of the plaques for each of the inductees. Browning and May are expected to attend.

The Reds Hall of Fame will host a "meet and greet" with fans from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday. Several Reds HOF members will be on hand to pose for photographs. But, the press release says they will not be signing autographs.

Browning, May and Seaver will be officially enshrined into the Reds Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony prior to Sunday's game.

Festivities conclude with a gala at the Hyatt Regency downtown at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Friday, July 07, 2006

It's never too early - Part II

The Reds' poor performance of late didn't prompt this venture into the subject of the NFL, but this tune should have Bengals fans humming along.

From our pals at Deadspin:

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Embargo lifted ... Bronson lone Red

All-Star Selection Sunday is always an interesting day around big-league ballparks.

At around 3:30 p.m., the official All-Star rosters are released to the media with the stern directive that the information not be made public via radio, TV, print or the internet prior to 8 p.m.

The reason?

The All-Star rosters are released early so reporters can get reaction from the All-Star players following their respective games in time to meet deadline for that day.

The info is protected so that it can be released officially during ESPN's selection show at 7 p.m.

No one was surprised that Bronson Arroyo was named to the NL squad. Brandon Phillips and David Ross were deserving omissions. Ken Griffey Jr. fell just shy in the fan vote.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

This one belongs to Marty

A classic call from the Hall of Famer. This'll stand the test of time.

From the Elias Sports Bureau ...

Dunn’s walkoff slam was the first of its kind in the majors (two outs in the ninth inning or later and the home team trailing by exactly three runs) since July 28, 2001, when Brian Giles victimized Billy Wagner to give the Pirates a 9-8 win over the Astros.

Dunn’s grand slam capped Cincinnati’s comeback from a 7-0 deficit in the eighth inning. The Reds were the first team to win a game after trailing by seven-or-more runs in the eighth inning or later since the Marlins rallied from a 9-2 deficit in the eighth inning to beat the Red Sox in Boston, 10-9, on June 28, 2003. It was only the third such win in Reds franchise history. The others were in 1951 against the Braves in Boston and in 1995 against the Mets in Cincinnati.

It's Dunn already

Prior to Friday night's game, Adam Dunn was speaking to a reporter about the most oft-cited criticisms of his play - bad in the field, walks too much, strikes out too much, doesn't hit when it matters. Now, we can add "not enough walk-off grand slams" to the list.

"I don't go by numbers," said Dunn following Friday night's miracle win. "I go by how I feel and if I'm giving good at-bats. The first couple of months I didn't do that. The past three or four weeks I've been feeling pretty good."

Reds Manager Jerry Narron had this to say:

"I don't understand all of the complaints. I mentioned to him in Cleveland that he had more RBI and home runs than he did at this point a year ago. I don't think he'd heard that from anybody."

If you're looking for Dunn to defend himself, think again. It's not his nature. Last night, he said his walk-0ff slam ranked second to one he hit in Little League. His demeanor is the same whether he's delivering a walk-off win or striking out three times.

What you see is what you get with Dunn. And, on Friday night, what you got from him was the most thrilling victory of the season and a tie for first place.