About Me

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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Baseball Free Agent Signings Fewer And Smaller

bubble may have burst on Baseball's rising salaries.

The Reds signed two free agent veteran relief pitchers this off season, Jared Hughes and David Hernandez.  They let Zack Cozart sign with the Los Angeles Angels. The Cleveland Indians signed Yonder Alonso to a Major League contract while letting Carlos Santana test free agency. They brought back Rajai Davis, who hit the game tying home run in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 2016 World Series off the Cubs' Aroldis Chapman, to a minor league contract..  They also signed former Reds' catcher Ryan Hanigan and Mel Upton Jr. to minor league deals.

It is clear that the market is shifting to a buyers market.  Big names such as Eric Hosmer and Yu Darvish singed late.  Like the real estarte market in the 2000 it appears to have reached a point where prices could no longer go higher.

Joey Votto and Upton chimed in today on the free agent market.
Votto signed a 10-year contract in 2012, through the 2023 season with an club option for 2024.  The native of Toronto, Canada will be 40 years old when the contract runs out.

The Reds avoided big name free agents, signing a pair of veteran relief pitches in David Hernandez and Jared Hughes, while losing starting shortstop Zack Cozart to free agency.

“I think they (Reds’ fron office) made the right moves,” Votto said.  “Signing a free agent for more that three years, for example is an example.  I think Zack Cozart is a perfect example. I think they didn’t want to go past the three-year number with him.  They didn’t want to make a commitment and risk that one or two of those years not being competitive and burning the money just for signing sake.”

Votto believes that the Reds may get to the point like Milwaukee, siging Lorenzo Cain and offering Yu Darvish a five-year offer.

“At some point, we’ll probably do something similar to that,” said Votto, who has been criticized for being too selective and taking too many walks with runners in scoring position.

“I can’t speak for the business side of things,” Votto said.  “Everything they’ve ever said is we have the money to make that sort of thing happen. We’ll see. As far as making a signing during the off season, I don’t feel any sort of way about that.  Frankly, I don’t think I’d ever feel that sort of way about that because it’s not my place.  When they started chirping about my hitting style, privately I was upset about that but that’s because they need to worry about their job. I try to do my job and let the front office do their thing.”

Upton was less diplomatic.

"I think it is rather ridiculous, personally," Upton said.  "I got to catch the last wave of big free agency. I was part of seeing it head in the direction of the way it's headed now and it's sad.  It's unfortunate to see.  Where I'm at in my career, I'm more concerned about the guys behind us. I want them to be treated fairly. I feel like some guys sitting out on the market have put themselves in a position they shouldn't have to deal with.  I think as the player's union, we'll figure it out.  We'll get to the bottom of it. The next four years when its time to renegotiate, there are things we need to discuss."

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Scooter Gennett Wins Arbitration Over Reds

Scooter Gennett won his arbitration case against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.
The Reds will pay Gennett $5.7 million for the 2018 season, $600,000 more than the Reds’ figure, after putting himself in the record books with a four-home run game, that included a grand slam against St. Louis last season

“I said earlier, win or lose it was a good experience,” said Gennett, who hit 27 home runs last season filling in at secondbase for the Reds’ last season.  “To be able to go through that process, i wouldn’t have learned how things go. Obviously it’s nice winning, as athletes we want to win, but at the same time. I learned a lot.”

The Reds picked Gennett, who was born in Cincinnati, off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.

“There are no hard feelings or anything like that,” Gennett said.  “Our side did a good job.  Their side did a good job”

Gennett worked his way into a regular role with his offensive production and played five postions, pitching one inning.

The Reds have an opening at secondbase this season.  Jose Peraza, who was the starter at secondbase to begin the season will move to shortstop with the free-agent departure of All-Star Zach Cozart.

Today’s decision frees Gennett to pursue the job without distraction.

“To be honest, I haven’t focused or worried about any of the arbitration,” Gennett said. “But now that’s behind all I have to do is show up every day to be the best player I can be and the best teammate.”

World Series Hero Rajai Davis Signs Minor League Contract With Cleveland Indians

Outfielder Rajai Davis signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.

Davis had one of the most memorable moments in club history, a game-tying, eigth inning home run off the Cubs Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of game seven of the 2016 World Series.
Davis played in 134 games with Cleveland, who was without starting leftfielder Michael Brantley for most of the season.  Davis led the American League with 43 stolen bases and hit .249 with 12 home runs and 48 RBI.

The 37-year old veteran of seven teams over 12 seasons, signed with the Oakland Athletics for the 2017 season. The Athletics traded Davis to the Boston Red Sox on August 23.

Davis, who passed his physical today, played 117 games last season and hit .235 with five home runs.

The native of Norwich, Connecticut broke in with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006.  Davis has a .264 career batting average with 60 home runs and 373 RBI.

Davis provides insurance as a potential fourth outfielder, if he makes the team. Brantley had the deltoid ligament repaired in his right ankle over the off season.  Brantley is taking batting practice, long tossing and running in a stratight line in the early spring.  He will gradually increase his activity.

Friday, February 16, 2018

New Hair Style, Same Attitude For Luis Castillo

Reds players are rocking new hair styles.

Eugenio Suarez reported with platinum gray hair and a deep dark beard.  He was told it was backwards because my hair is brown but my beard is stone gray.

Luis Castillo has a curly mohawk style but his attitude for the season is the same as last year when he was an unknown in the Reds' clubhouse.

The Reds came up with a gem as Straily then 27, won 14 games for the last place Reds.  At the end of the season the Reds resisted the temptation to keep Straily and traded him to the Miami Marlins for a talented pitcher five years younger.

Luis Castillo came to the Reds in the deal and was impressive right away in spring training with his easy flowing motion that delivered the ball at nearly 100 mph.  He had a good change up.

“Velocity sets him apart,” manager Bryan Price said.  “We were impressed last spring but his breaking ball was a distant third.”

A Major League starter needs three quality pitches that he can throw for strikes.

Castillo started the season with Double A Pensacola and worked on his breaking pitch.  The work earned a mid-season promotion to the Reds where he had a deceiving 3-7 record.  The Reds were competitive in most games that he pitched but either lacked scoring or a tired bullpen surrendered leads after he left games.  His 3.12 ERA was tops among National League rookies.

From July 8 on his ERA was 2.84, the seventh lowest among pitchers with 12 or more starts.

That strong finish prompted the Reds to declare that he will be in the 2018 starting rotation barring something unforseen.

This season the confident native of the Dominican Republic arrived in Arizona with a job in hand.  It is his to keep as long as he performs.

“I have the same attitude,” Castillo said through interpreter Julio Morrillo.  “I am going to keep working to help my team win.”

Price also praised Castillo’s poise on the mound, rare for a pitcher his age, thrust into a Major League season.
“There are a lot of pitchers with the stuff to be in the big leagues,” Price said.  “It is rare for a young pitcher to feel like he belongs.  Doubts can creep into you thoughts about, how they’ll be accepted by teammates; what if they are hit hard.”

From the time Castillo stepped on the mound in Washington against the Nationals, he was comfortable.

“For me its the same game,” Castillo said.  “When you’re in Double A you compete against the hitter like you do in the big leagues, obviously, the hitters are a lot better but it’s the same.  I do try to focus more in the big leagues because you can’t get by with the mistakes you make in Double A.  Other than that it’s the same mentality. Just go out and compete.”

In his debut against Washington he gave up a home run to the second batter he faced, Brian Goodwin.  He gave up another hit in the first, walked a batter in the second, and walked the bases loaded in the third.  Castillo got out of both innings with double play grounders.  Anthony Rendon hit a home run in the fourth.

“He got into trouble with his command early, trying to make the perfect pitch” Price   “He managed the environment very well for a debut and he settled in.”

Castillo worked five innings allowing the two runs before he turned the game over to the bullpen, leading 5-2.  The bullpen gave up the lead in a 6-5 10-inning loss.

The 25-year old has shown that he can field his position and hold baserunners.  This spring he just wants to get stronger.  He knows the challenge ahead of him.

“I want to be ready for 162 games,” Castillo said.  “It is a lot different than a minor league season.  I want to be strong and help my team win.”

It appears he plans to stay in the big leagues all year.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reds Showing Best Health In Years

The Reds are starting spring training in good health.

The only restrictions are on Amir Garrett, who had hip issues late last season and Rookie Davis, who had hip surgery.

"Amir is not doing as much running and his PFP (pitchers fielding practice) is different," manager Bryan Price said. "Rookie is throwing."

Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan are ready to go.  The Bailey and DeSclafani start the spring healthy for the first time in two years.

“Everything feels good,” DeSclafani said. “I had a normal off season.”

A strained left oblique plagued DeSclafani in 2016.  The nagging injury which he suffered in his last spring training start, kept him on the disabled list until June 10.  That night he faced the Oakland Athletics in the Reds’ 61st game of the season.

The comeback was delayed by a setback.  DeSclafani made a rehab start in Pensacola on April 23 and another in Dayton on April 29 but he felt soreness.  The Reds shut him down for a month.  The 27-year old made his next rehab start on May 25.

DeSclfani came back strong and was a perfect 6-0 with a 2.94 ERA in his first 11 starts.  He finished the season 9-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 20 starts, one of which was his first career complete game on August 27 against Arizona.

Encouraged by the strong finish, DeSclafani and the Reds anticipated a full year of quality pitching.  That horse didn’t even get out of the gate.  He couldn’t even make a start in spring training with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

No surgery was required but DeSclafani spent the year on the disabled list.  He had several setbacks with his throwing program.  He made his first rehab start in the Arizona Rookie League on July 23 and was transfered to Dayton.  Against Fort Wayne, DeSclafani pitched four innings for the Dragons and it looked like he was close to returning.  He pitched another game for Dayton at Great Lakes on August 3 but left after nine batters with tendinitis in his right elbow.  It was back to resting and restarting a throwing program.  He didn’t pitch again until the instructional league.
“It was definitely frustrating.  It would have been nice to come back for even a little bit last year but it just didn’t work out,” DeSclafani said.

The silver lining for the native of Freehold, New Jersey was that he got close enough to start a normal off season throwing program.

“I was on a normal throwing program. I went through all my progressions,” DeSclafani said.  “It’s been a year now.  Hopefully, I can get myself to have a nice long, pain free year.”

DeSclafani is moving forward after a lost season.  There are no restrictions on him and he is throwing without pain.

“It just wasn’t meant to be last year,” DeSclafani said.  “I feel good now and that’s all I can control.  I’m looking forward to a nice long year.”

Finnegan is also ready to go.

“I’ve been ready since I left for the off season,” a confident Finnegan said. “Last year was tough. I’m not saying I’m the key but it was rough watching the team lose and wanting to help.”

Finnegan had a normal off season after dealing with a variety of injuries.

“I was never injured before.  It is going to happen sometime in your career.  Now I know what it takes to rehab,” Finnegan said.

The Reds will be cautious with Finnegan.

“We want to see him pitch some bullpens and live batting practice before we slot him,” Price said.  “I’m confident he will make the rotation.”

Finnegan is ready and believes he’s proven it.

“They saw my bullpen.  I don’t know what else they want to see,” Finnegan said.  “I’ve never had a good spring training.  In the past that’s just how it went.  I am concentrating on staying healthy.  That’s my only goal.”

As good as the Reds health is in general, the Reds were forced to void the minor league contract of RHP Jeff Manship, who was with Cleveland last year.  He failed the physical.

The Reds signed INF Cliff Pennington to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League camp.   Pennington was the first position player to pitch in a playoff game, when he finished an inning for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 14-2 loss to Kansas City

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tito Francona's Life Ends With Baseball Memories

When John "Tito" Francona was negotiating a contract with Gabe Paul of the Cleveland Indians for his 1959 contract, he asked for a raise.

"My wife is pregnant and I need a raise," Francona pleaded.

Paul, who was called "The Smiling Cobra", refused saying, "That's not my problem."

When Tito finished his 15-year career in which he hit .272 with 125 home runs, he became an agent with one client, his son Terry.

Paul was with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1989 as an assistant to the GM.  He was charged with signing free agents and wanted to sign Terry.  Imagine his reaction when Tito walked in representing his son.

"Remember that kid who wasn't your problem," the elder Francona said.  "He's your problem now."

Tito passed away suddenly in New Brighton, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night  Word spread through the Cleveland Indians, spring training camp on the day pitchers and catchers reported, where Terry Francona has been the manager since 2013.  The usual outgoing and personable Francona was not able to speak to the media about his father as arrangements were being made.

Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti spoke for him.

"It was such a deep bond and having a chance to talk to Tito (Terry) today, he was able to reflect back and talk about so many great memories he shared with his dad showed how deep that bond was.He said, 'I had the best mom and dad in the world and to have the chance over the past handful of seasons share a lot of those moments with my dad, for him to come to Cleveland and watch every game on TV.with a chance to talk about them with him afterwards were memories that he will continue to cherish."

Terry Francona will be away from the camp Friday and Saturday. He is not likely to meet with the media on Thursday.  Bench coach Brad Mills will also be away from camp on Friday, presumably to go to services for Tito. "They are still working through the specifics," Antonetti said.

Antonetti was not comfortable sharing the full details

'I don't know the full details yet.  I think they're still learning. It was sudden and late last night," Antonetti said.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Spring IS Here Reds' Pitchers And Catchers Report To Goodyear

Everyone in baseball is 0-0.

The pitchers and catchers are filtering into the Reds' complex on a cloudy (for Arizona) morning.  They will all take physicals and have a short meeting.

The real work begins tomorrow with the promise of some good tomorrows starting March 29 when the Reds open the season at Great American Ball Park against the Washington Nationals.

The position players report on Sunday the 18th and the first Cactus League game is against the Cleveland Indians on February 23.

Sceondbase is the only position in doubt with Jose Peraza moving to shortstop to fill the void left by Zach Cozart's departure.  Cozart signed with the Los Angeles Angels.   Dilson Herrera, who came from the New York Mets in the trade for Jay Bruce.  Scooter Gennett is the early favorite as the home run hitting replacement last season.

The rotation has more questions than an episode of Jeopardy. But Bryan Price answered in the form of questions by handicapping the eight competitors for essentially one open start

Yet this year the picture is more in focus than the past three seasons in which multiple pitchers were hurting.

“The good thing is that it is not open try outs,” Price said.  “But it’s not a get-your-arm the season spring training either.  This is a competitive group. Lack of preparedness will not bode well anyone who wants to make the rotation.”

Price listed the candidates:

Homer Bailey
Anthony DeSclafani
Brandon Finnegan
Luis Castillo
Sal Romano
Robert Stephenson
Michael Lorenzen
Tyler Mahle

The top four are penciled into the rotation.  The rest are competing for the fifth spot.

“There are too many pitchers in camp to get regular starts,” Price said.  “Amir (Garrett) and Jackson (Stephens) will get some starts.  Cody Reed will be competing more for the bullpen but that does not reflect the opinion of the organization that he is just a bullpen pitcher.  We still believe he can be a major league starter.”

Bailey and DeSclafani are coming off multiple injury years.

Bailey hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014.  He had bone spurs removed on February 8 and joined the rotation on June 24, making 18 starts. Bailey finished with 6-9 record and a 6.43 ERA. DeSclafani was limited to 20 starts in 2016, joining the team in June after recovering from a strained left oblique.  He missed the entire season with a stubborn sprained elbow that set him back on several occasions.

Finnegan, the only left hander of the group, made four starts.  He made three starts to open the season before a strained left lat put him on the disabled list until June 26.  Finnegan pitched four innings and placed on the DL again with a strained teres major.  Finnegan had surgery in July to repair a separated shoulder that was injured off the field.

The Reds will be cautious with Finnegan.

“We want to see him pitch some bullpens and live batting practice before we slot him,” Price said.  “I’m confident he will make the rotation.”

Castillo impressed the Reds with his live fastball and change up in spring training last year but started the season in Double A.

“We were impressed with him last spring but his breaking pitch was a distant third pitch,” Price said.  “He worked hard at it.  He came up and was better than the league.”

Castillo was promoted on June 23 and made a start against Washington. He had a deceiving 3-7 record but a healthy 3.12 ERA which was lowest among National League rookies.  Castillo also led rookie pitchers with a .202 opponents batting average.  From July 8 to the end of the season, Castillo turned in a 2.84 which put him eight behind Korey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and Robbie Ray for the lowest ERA among pitchers with at least 12 starts.

Velocity and good stuff were just part of what impressed Price and the Reds.

“His velocity sets him apart.  You don’t see a lot of guys throw 95-97 for seven innings and the stuff to pitch in the big leagues but it is rare for a young pitcher to have the presence and the comfortability that he showed last year.  He field his position he’s quick to the plate to control the running game.  There is a lot to like.  In his first start against Washington which is truly one of the best teams in the National League.  He got into trouble with command and trying to throw perfect pitches but he managed that environment pretty darn well for a debut and settled in.”

Those four will be in the rotation barring something unforseen.

“We have those four and we will get some starts for the others to see how it shakes out,” Price said.

Lorenzen will be trying to move back into the rotation from the bullpen.  Romano was 5-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 16 starts.  Stephenson was 5-6 with a 4.68 ERA in 11 starts but finished strong after returning from Triple A Louisville, going 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA in his last eight starts.  Mahle made his debut against Pittsburgh on August 27.  He made three starts with a 1-2 record and a
2.70 ERA.

Only Rookie Davis starts camp hurt.  He had hip surgery but is throwing on the side.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Xavier Catches A Break That Could Put Them On Top Of NCAA Ranking

Upset was in the air when Trevon Bluiett completed a four-point play with Xavier trailing Georgetown 86-82 with 38 seconds left in the game.

The Xavier Musketeers won the battle of attrition in the 96-91 win that could earn them their highest NCAA ranking ever. With a game left with number 1 Villanova and number 3 Purdue and number 5 Michigan State meeting next Saturday.  The Musketeers could move very close to the top.

Xavier coach Chris Mack set up a play to spring Bluiett for a 3-point shot.  Bluiett took a pass from Quentin Gooden and launched a pinpoint shot that found the bottom of the net as Georgetown's Jagan Mosely coming off the screen late to contest the shot fouled the Xavier star.  Bluiett sank the free throw and sand the Hoyas spirit.

"It felt good coming out of my hand," Bluiett said.  "I didn't expect to be fouled but I think he was off balance coming off the screen.  I didn't know if they (officials) would call it but I flopped.  I tried it earlier and they didn't call it."

Bluiett finished the game with 31 points, the 2,000-point career scorer also added four rebounds with a key rebound off a missed free throw by Sean O'Mara.

"The four-point play was one thing but I think the rebound off the missed free throw was big too.  They would have had to foul us and we could have stretched our lead," Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said.

The young Hoyas, had Georgetown (13-9, 3-8) in position to pull off a big upset of Xavier (21-3, 9-2) with four players near the 20-point level.  Junior Jessee Govan led the Hoyas with 23 points.  Freshman Jamarko Pickett scored 21.  Marcus Derrickson scored 19.  Jahvon Blair hit five big 3-point shots to keep Georgetown in a tight game with 20 ties and 21 lead changes.

Tyrique Jones was a .552 free throw shooter coming into the game but he made nine of 14 to foil the Hoyas plan for putting him on the foul line.  He made 4-of-5 in the overtime period to finish with 15 points.  Kerem Kanter scored 12 points, including Xavier's first seven points of the game.  Goodin had 11 points with two big 3-point baskets mixed in.

Bluiett made a 3-point shot off an inbounds play with two seconds left in the first half to give Xavier a 46-44 lead at halftime.

Xavier had its biggest lead at five points with 13:18 left in the second half.  Georgetown held its largest lead of five with 5:02 left in the first half.  The teams traded baskets most of the game.

"This shows our team that we can win a game like this," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.  "It is always good to play well but there are always nights like this in the Big East regardless of records.  Sometimes a little luck helps."

Xavier is now 12-4 against Gerogetown in the series.  They have battled twice in the NCAA tournament with Xavier winning in 1990 and Georgetown prevailing in 1995.

Xavier trails number 1 Villanova in the conference with its 9-2 Big East record.

Xavier will play at Butler Tuesday February 6 at 6:30 pm, looking for its seventh win in a row.

Georgetown will try to end its three-game losing streak at Providence on Tuesday at 8:30.


Xavier clinched a winning conference record for the 36th straight season. No other school in Division I has a similar streak higher than 31 straight.

Bluiett's 31 points were a new season high and the most since he scored 40 against Cincinnati on January 26 last season.

Kanter's 12 points gave him double figures for the third straight contest.

Goodin scored in double figures for the 12th time this season.

Kaiser Gates grabbed 10 rebounds to tie his career high.

It was Xavier's first overtime game of the season. They last played in overtime against Missouri on Novemeber 17 last season, an 83-82 win.

Xavier Could Crack Top Five With A Win Over Georgetown

The Xavier Musketeers are looking for its sixth straight win over the once proud Georgetown Hoyas who have four losses in its last five games.

The Musketeers were challenged on Tuesday by St. Johns, who upset number 5 Duke this afternoon.

Xavier (20-3, 8-2) have a golden opportunity to move into the top five in the nation with a win.

Georgetown (13-8, 3-7) earned its lone win during the previous five-game stretch against St. Johns

Led by 2,000 point scorer, Trevon Bluiett, the Musketeers will try to improve its record to 11-4 over Georgetown.  It is the ninth time they met as members of the Big East.  Xavier led by Tyrone Hill, Derreck Strong and Aaron Williams defeated Georgetown led by Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning 74-71 in the 1990 NCAA tournament to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the first time.  An Allen Iverson led Georgetown squad squad upended Xavier 68-63 in the first round of the 1995 NCAA tournament.

Coached by former star player and NBA great Patrick Ewing, Georgetown will start a freshman, Jamorko Picketto, who is scoring 8.5 points per game. Senior Jonathan Mulmore averages six points per game.  They are joined by a trio of juniors.  Jessee Govan is  using his Patrick Ewing like 6'10" frame to score 16.2 points per game and 10.3 rebounds.  Marcus Derrickson scores 15.6 points a game.  Kaleb Johnson has a per game average of 9.2 points per game.

Xavier counters with Bluiett, J.P. Macura 13 ppg, Quentin Goodin is running the offense while scoring eight points a game.  Karem Kantor scores 10.2 points per game and gathers 5.4 rebounds per game.  Freshman Naji Marshall averages 7.6 ppg.

If Xavier wins and moves past Duke in the top 5 it will be their highest national ranking ever, reached earlier this year and the 2015-16 season.  They are 3rd in the RPI ratings.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Xavier Sweeps Marquette Trevon Bluiett Joins Elite Club

Trevon Bluiett joined four other Xavier Musketeers with 2,000 career points in a 89-70 drubbing of the Marquette Golden Eagles on the second trip through the Big East.

Bluiett scored exactly the 13 points needed to join a club with Byron Larkin, David West, Romain Sato and Tyrone Hill.

 "It means a lot," Bluiett said.  "When I made that last basket I heard the gym erupt.  I saw my teammates come over to give me high fives, and reality kind of set in.  It was a special moment for me. I always wanted to come to a program where I could have an impact, whatever it was.  To leave my name in Xavier history is special."

The Musketeers closed out 3-point threat Marcus Howard forcing to drive for his game-high 33 points.  Xavier held Marquette (13-7, 4-4) to a season-low six 3-pointers.  By contrast the Golden Eagles made 15 in their four-point loss to Xavier on December 27.

Howard came into the game, making 57 straight free throws.  He missed his first chance of the game.and finished 2-for-4 from the foul line.

Bluiett chalked up a double double by grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds.

The net broke on Xavier's basket during the second half causing a 10-minute delay.

"We presented the net to Trevon," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.

Quentin Gooden led the Musketeers with 15 points.  Karem Kanter scored 14.  Freshmen Naji Marshall and Paul Scrugg has 10 apiece.

Howard accounted for nearly half of Marquette's points.  Harry Frolling scored seven points.  Everyone else scored six or fewer.

"We were outclassed in every way," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski.

Xavier, ranked 8th in the nation, never trailed in the game.  The score was tied at 5-5 when Howard made his first shot, a 3-pointer at 17:36.

Xavier led 51-33 at halftime.

In the second half Marquette could get no closer than 15 points.

It was the eighth time in the last 10 meetings that Xavier came out on top of Marquette.  The Golden Eagles swept the season series last year for the two wins.

Xavier will play at St. John's on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

Marquette will host number one Villanova at noon on Sunday.

Xavier Goes For Sweep Of Marquette

The Xavier Musketeers start their second trip around the Big East with a visit from the Marquette Golden Eagles, ne Warriors.

Xavier holds an (18-3, 6-2) record that includes a 91-87 win over the Eagles (13-6, 4-3) on December 27.

Xavier's Trevon Bluiett needs 13 points to join the 2,000 career points club.  He is sixth in the Big East with a 19.1 average.

The Golden Eagles starting five is led by Marcus Howard, who scores at a 21.5 points-per-game clip.  Howard, a 3-point specialist is also a marksman from the foul line.  Howard, a sophomore, is the only NCAA Division I player to be perfect from the foul line, 57 of 57.  Dating back to last season, Howard has connected on 66 straight.  The Marquette record is 68 straight set by Steve Novak in from 2004-2006.  The NCAA Division I record for a season is 73 by Villanova's Steve Buchanan in 2001-02.  The career record is 85 straight by Darnell Archey of Butler from 2001-2003.

Andrew Rowsey averages 20.8 for the Eagles.  He is second to Howard on the team and fourth in the NCAA in free throw shooting.  He was 16-for-16 against UNC-Ashville on February 14, 2014.  He tied a Marquette record by Brian Wardle in 1999 and Dean Meminger in 1970.

Rounding out the starting five are Sam Hauser 15.1, Sacar Anim 5.9 and Matt Heldt 7.5.

Bluiett is backed by J.P Macura at 13.4, Karem Kanter 9.9, Naji Marshall 7.5 and Quentin Gooden 7.4.

The Golden Eagles hold a 49-23 all-time mark over Xavier.  Marquette won both regular season meetings last season.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Xavier Turns The Red Storm Red Faced

The Xavier Musketeers, a new power in the Big East face a Big East charter member in St. John's at the Cintas Center.

The Red Storm (formerly Redmen) are coached by one of their great players from the 80's Chris Mullin, who led St. John's to a Final Four appearance in 1985.  Mullin then completed a 167-year NBA playing career with the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers.  He worked in the front office for the Sacramento Kings.

It is Mullin's third season as coach at St. John's and he is trying to rebuild a program.  His record is dismal 33-52 after the 88-82 loss to the Musketeers (17-3, 5-2).

St. Johns was 0-6 in the conference after a loss seven point loss to number 1 Villanova.

"We're trying to steal a win any where in the conference," Mullin said.  "I told my guys to be aggressive and not worry about mistakes."

That method nearly worked.

After trailing 42-32 at halftime, the Redman was perfect shooting from the floor in the first 11 shots over the first seven minutes of the second half.  Xavier, however, made eight of their first 10 shots.

The Redmen managed to pull even at 59-59 at the 12:19 mark.

St. John stretched the lead to 67-64 with 9:19 mark.

As quickly as the St. John shooters heated up, they got cold just as quickly.

Xavier went on a 15-0 run as St. John's missed six straight field goal attempts.  Shamorie Ponds, who scored 37 points against Villanova, hit a 3-point shot to break the slump.  He ended the night with 18 points.

Xavier got a huge performance from big man, Kerem Kanter who scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, which tied his season high.

"Karem played his best game in a Xavier uniform," Mack said.

Xavier used the 3-pointer in the first half.  It's first eight field goals were from 3-point range.

Justin Simon led St. John with a career-high 28 points, easily eclipsing his previous high of 17.  Marvin Clark II added 15 points to the Redmen's cause.

"It doesn't mean that much to me personally.  Scoring is not my game but I do what they need me to do," Simon said.  "Coach told me to be aggressive and have fun.  He told me not to worry about my mistakes.  I feel I did that."

Trevon Bluiett scored 23 points to lead the Musketeers.  J.P. Macura had 16 and Kaiser Gates added 11.

Mack turned in his 203 win as Xavier's head coach, passing Pete Gillen for whom he played.

"It's humbling. It really is," Mack said.  "When I first became the coach at Xavier, I didn't think about it.  Honestly, I didn't think about it yesterday. You think about the next game."

This game was tougher than most people expected.

"It was a very tough-earned wn," Mack said.  "You always worry about your team looking at the records and thinking it's going to be easier than it is.  I think the older guys knew it was going to be a tough game.  I thought our defense was average but picked up in the last seven minutes."

The win was the fifth straight over St. John's. and gives the Musketeers a 7-3 all-time advantage in the rivalry.  Since joining the Big East Xavier is 7-2 against St. John.

Xavier will take on Seton Hall, which is 5-2 in the conference after losing to Creighton, on Saturday in New Jersey at 2:30 p.m.

St. John will try to win its first conference game at Georgetown Saturday at noon.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Major League Invitation A Giant Step For Colerain/UC Grad Ryan Atkinson

Baseball at its top level can be a numbers game.

An estimated 14 million people play baseball in the United States alone.  There were 34,554 players in NCAA baseball programs alone and many more at the High School level.  Major League teams control 1,200 players on the 40-man roster with only 750 active at any one time during the season.

Ryan Atkinson has earned his way to Major League spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a non-roster invitee.  He will be among 25 pitchers competing for a spot with on the roster.

"We don't have it mapped out yet but he will get some innings in Major League games in the Cactus League," said the Diamondbacks' Vice President of Player Development Mike Bell, who is a Moeller High School grad and the son of former Red Buddy Bell and grandson of former Red Gus Bell.  "There is a good chance that he will start in the minor leagues after spring training but he's in the conversation and has a chance.  That's all you can ask for to be ready when there's a need."

Atkinson is a model of persistence.

The righthanded pitcher was not drafted out of Colerain High School or the University of Cincinnati, where his pitching coach JD Heilmann was a high school teammate of Bell's at Moeller.

'I talked to him about Ryan but that didn't influence our decision to bring him to spring training," Bell said  'He earned it.  He has a good stuff and had a very good year as we moved him through the system last year."

Atkinson left Cincinnati and entered the workforce with a nutrition degree as a personal trainer.  The itch to play baseball returned to him after a year without even picking up a baseball.  He wrote to the Independent Frontier League and was granted a tryout with the Evansville Otters.  Chris Carminucci, the Diamondbacks' scout assigned to the independent leagues was impressed and recommended the Otters sign him.  After 5 2/3 innings with the Otters, the Diamondbacks offered him a contract

Atkinson completed his first full season in professional baseball to earn the invitation to pitch against Major Leaguers in Cactus League games.  The 24-year old started in Low A and advanced two levels to Double A where he finished the season with the Jackson Generals.

Over the three stops, Atkinson made 26 starts and logged 141 2/3 innings.  He had a 9-10 record with a 3.30 ERA. He walked 60 and struck out 167, the most in the Diamondbacks farm system.

The Diamondbacks sent him to the prestigious Arizona Fall League, where he started six more games, pitched 21 innings with an even 3.00 ERA and a 1-2 record.  He struck out 23 and issued 15 walks.

Mill informed Atkinson with a phone call during one of his personal training sessions.

"I was highly excited," Atkinson said.  "I felt another door had opened for me too prove myself at the highest level.  I am very thankful to the Diamondbacks, for trusting me; believing in me and as always, giving me this opportunity."

It is rare for a player with just one season of professional baseball to be invited to spring training the next year.  It is even unusual for a high draft choice let alone someone signed after a year off.

"It has happened before but it is not normal," Bell said.  'Sometimes a pitcher just grows into it.  Ryan has good stuff.  He's a great kid, very respectful."

Mike Leake made pitched in the Major Leagues for the Reds without a day in the minor leagues. Scott Williamson, who was a ninth round pick of the Reds in 1997, made the Reds'zAA staff in 1999 with similar minor league experience to Atkinson's.

Bell cited Atkinson's "stuff" is very good and worked well at every level.  "Chris Carminucci liked his stuff the first time he saw him."

Many players have good enough stuff to be successful.  Atkinson pitched to Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers during a rehab assignment this summer.  "He has the stuff to be successful on the big leagues," Braun said.  "Those who make it are the ones that can be consistent with their pitches."

That is just what Atkinson wants to work on among other goals in spring training.

"I have the opportunity to learn from who are long term big leaguers," Atkinson said.  "I am going to absorb the knowledge to improve my game and be a big league pitcher.  I look at this as an opportunity to show what kind of player/person I can be on and off the field.  I want to gain quality relationships with players and staff.  That can be as important along with performance, to gain the confidence with your peers."

Atkinson has things he wants to work on skills he needs as a successful pitcher.

"I want to work on all aspects of my game but most importantly staying consistent," Atkinson said. "I don't want to change a lot but I want to be efficient pitching to hitters.  I want to continue to use my strengths."

Realistically, Atkinson will start the season in the minor leagues Bell pointed out but he has a chance to take the place of one of the 20 pitchers on the Diamondbacks 40-man roster if not one of the 12-13 pitchers Arizona will carry on the Major League roster.  Atkinson is one of four non-roster righthanded pitchers in the mix.  They invited one non-roster lefthander.

Atkinson is aware of the odds first hand, having gotten to this point through his own self determination.  He made his own breaks, giving him a chance to be something special.

"I am using this chance to work hard," Atkinson said.  "I can compete within the organization and more importantly, help this team get into the playoffs and continue to be a winning organization."