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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sparky Anderson Honored

Sparky Anderson Number 10
Sparky Anderson died on November 4 but was remembered in Goodyear, AZ in a ballpark he never got to see.



The Hall of Fame manager of the Big Red Machine was honored before the game with a video tribute, MC'd by Marty Brennaman.  Sparky's number 10 is stenciled on the grass just outside the Reds' thirdbase dugout.  Ken Griffey Sr. threw out the first pitch.

Bob Feller's Number
There was also a moment of silence for Dodger great, Duke Snider, who died yesterday in California.

Griffey Sr.Throws Out the First Pitch
The Indians also lost an icon over the winter when Bob Feller, "Rapid Robert" died.

His number 19 is stenciled in front of Cleveland's first base dugout.

Baker Keeps Contact with Mark Prior

Dusty Baker's detractors assert that he ruined the careers of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

Why is it a mystery?  Pitching is tough on the human arm.  Nearly every pitcher breaks down over the course of a career.  Bronson Arroyo is a notable exception.

Prior is attempting a comeback with the New York Yankees.  He has twice signed contracts with San Diego but hasn't pitched in the major leagues since August 10, 2006.

It is obvious that Prior, the only one who can truly judge, does not hold Baker responsible.

"I talked to him before we went to spring training," Baker said.  "How is he doing?  Did you hear?"



Professionally edited by ML Schirmer
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Get Out The Good Radar Gun Chapman Pitches Today

The Cuban Missle just walked into the clubhouse locked in on the Cleveland Indians.

The 23-year old lefthander that spins the radar at 105mph will make his spring debut against the Reds co-tenants at the Goodyear Complex.

Also, pitching is Dontrelle Willis, known as the "D-Train".  Willis just turned 29 years old in January.  He won a National League-high 22 games in 2005 but his career hit the skids.  The reason for the fall is inexplicable because health is not a concern.

"He just needs someone to believe in him," said Dusty Baker, who called the affable lefty.  Baker's wife, Michelle, grew up with Willis' mother and aunt in San Francisco.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Willie, Mickey and the Duke

Terry Cashman wrote a popular song in the 1980's about his childhood baseball memories of New York baseball in the 50's.

The New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees divided the baseball loyalties of the city then.  Cashman's chorus was Willie, Mickey and the Duke.  He was referring to the New York Giants centerfielder, Willie Mays.  The Yankees young star Mickey Mantle and the Dodgers favorite in the Flatbush neighborhood, Duke Snider.

After today, Mays is the only one left.

Snider died today at the age of 84 in Escondido, California.  He started his career about two days after Jackie Robinson, who broke the "color barrier" in the major leagues as the first black player.  Snider became a Brooklyn icon and was still with the team when they left Brooklyn for sunny Los Angeles.

Dusty Baker grew up a huge Dodger fan.

Baker's reaction, "Oh no. He was one of the first Dodgers (in Los Angeles).  He was managing Albuquerque when I came through my first year with the Dodgers.  I had a lot of conversations after that in Dodgertown (where the Dodgers trained in Vero Beach, Florida.  Jim Gilliam and Roy Campanella talked about him all the time.  He was a fine man. I have his picture up on my wall."

Reds Beat Indians 7-6

Last year Dusty Baker's Reds lost five games to the Indians in spring training.  They had a lead in the sixth but Cleveland rallied to tie.

An front office executive's wife, who doesn't quite understand that the results of spring games aren't the important thing, was worried about the season.  The Reds of course won the National League Central and Cleveland had to rally to avoid the American League Central basement.

In the first Cactus League game for both Ohio clubs the Reds needed a late rally to pull the game out.

Matt Maloney, who has an outside chance to crack the starting rotation, started in place of Edinson Volquez.  Visa problems prevent Volquez from pitching in front of paying customers.

"BP (Bryan Price the pitching coach) told me last night that I was starting today," said Maloney, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio.  "I think the bullpen is my best chance of making this team.  If given the opportunity, I will do the best I can.  I feel that I can be effective out of the bullpen."

"He threw the ball very well.  His fastball and curve was sharp and was change up was good," Baker said.

The teams were scoreless until Jay Bruce reached on a two-base error, stole third and scored on Jonny Gomes ground out.  After both starting groups left the game the Indians jumped to a 6-1 lead.  Lonnie Chisenhall, a top Tribe prospect hit two-run double and Ezequiel Carrera hit a home run off Donnie Joseph the Reds' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

"Joseph was a little nervous," Baker said.  "He started throwing the ball right down the middle after he got behind."

Dave Sappelt, the Reds Minor League Hitter of the Year, hit a home run.  Sappelt, is expected to be a leadoff hitter in the future.  Chris Valaika, followed Sappelt with a home run of his own and the Reds were down a run going into the ninth.

Chirs Heisey walked with one out and Jeremy Hermida singled.  Zack Cozart grounded a single up the middle to tie the game.  Corky Miller doubled to put the Reds on top.

Jose Arredondo pitched the bottom of the ninth.

Chisenhall greeted him with a double but he worked out of the inning to gain a save.

Arredondo and Daryl Thompson, who relieved Joseph, spent last season recovering from surgery.  Thompson pitched in a handfull of games but Arredondo didn't pitch at all.

"Arredondo, hadn't been out there for a while.  He was a little wild but everybody threw the ball well.  Thompson threw well.  We played good defense, ran the bases well, got timely hitting.  Our young guys came back and won it for us," Baker said.

"And we beat Cleveland finally," Baker said.

Two Local Players Are Pitching For Cleveland One For Cincinnati

Jensen Lewis from Anderson High School and Joe Smith from Amelia High are scheduled to follow Josh Tomlin to the mound against the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, Arizona.

Former Miami University pitcher, Chad Reineke is scheduled to pitch for Cincinnati.

Edinson Volquez Got His Work In

Edinson Volquez, already anointed the Reds opening day starter, is not allowed to participate in games in which the teams charge admissions.

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The U.S. State Department that is stationed in the Domincan Republic issued only a travel visa to Volquez.  His problems originated with his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

To keep him on schedule, the righthander threw live batting practice to a group of minor leaguers at the Reds complex.  He threw the equivalent of two innings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Volquez Will Not Start Against the Indians Visa Problems

Edinson Volquez was supposed to start against the Cleveland Indians in the exhibition opener.

Visa problems caused by his suspension for a banned substance prevented Volquez from obtaining a work visa. He has a visitors visa instead.  He will probably have to return to the Dominican Republic to get it straightened out.

In the meantime, the Reds opening day starter, is prevented from pitching in a game that people pay to see.

Reds vs Reds on Saturday. Cleveland Tomorrow

The Reds veterans dressed in gray pants took on the up-and-coming in white pants on Saturday.

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Travis Wood faced Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto (see video) without incident in the first inning.  Jonny Gomes led off the second inning with an opposite field home run in the second inning but that was all Wood allowed.

Logan Ondrusek struggled with control and allowed a single to Fred Lewis, who is challenging Gomes for playing time in leftfield.  The White Team scored three runs to beat the veteran loaded Gray Team 4-1.

The pitchers are  ahead of the hitters.  Jerry Gil, the converted outfielder and Matt Klinker threw very well in the game.

The regulars had just one at bat and left the game that lasted five innings.  It was informal and an inning would end when the pitcher reached his pitch count limit.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Face Off From Goodyear

Jonny Gomes and Bronson Arroyo participated in a "Face Off" for Brad Johansen of Channel 12 this afternoon.

In a game show format, Arroyo and Gomes were asked trivia questions such as "What kind of dog was Snoopy from the Peanuts comic strip?"

It is pretty entertaining and both players were competing at a high level.

It is expected to air as part of Channel 12's opening day special.

Reds Intrasquad Game on Saturday

The Reds will play themselves on Saturday, assuring themselves of a victory.

Basically, the veterans will be a projection of the starting lineup.  Dusty Baker put Drew Stubbs at leadoff.
Stubbs is competing with Fred Lewis for the leadoff spot assuming Lewis makes the team as the leftfielder.  However, Lewis is batting third for the younger group, while David Sappelt will leadoff.

Sappelt and Stubbs will be in centerfield and leadoff.

Stubbs is followed by Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jonny Gomes, Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco (DH), Todd Frazier will play thirdbase.  Frazier was drilled by Aroldis Chapman in his first at bat in last years intrasquad game. Paul Janish and Ryan Hanigan complete the lineup for the Gray Team.

Sappelt, Zack Cozart, Lewis, Juan Francisco, Jeremy Hermida, Chris Heisey (DH), Yonder Alonso, Chris Valaika and Corky Miller will hit for the White Team.

Travis Wood, Daryl Thompson, Jerry Gil, Matt Klinker will pitch for the White Team.
Logan Ondrusek, Phillipe Valiquette, Jeremy Horst and Jordan Smith will pitch for the Gray Team.

Jerry Gill has opened some eyes in camp.  He was with the Reds as an outfielder but hurt his elbow.  After surgery, Gill, who struggled at the plate but always had a strong arm, was converted into a pitcher.

Thompson threw very well in live batting practice.  He came to the Reds in the Austin Kearns trade made by Wayne Krivsky.  He and Bill Bray are still with Cincinnati.  The guys the Reds traded to Washington are not with them.  Thompson made his debut at Yankee Stadium on June 21, 2008.  He pitched five innings of shutout baseball.  Problems with his shoulder limited his activity for the last two seasons.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eric Davis Coaches Baserunners

Eric Davis stole 270 bases in his career with the Reds.  In 1986 he stole 80 bases.

Each spring Davis spends a couple weeks working with Reds baserunners to help them get proper leads and jumps on the pitcher.

In the picture on the left he is showing Chris Valaika how to get a good lead.

The video below shows the action the runner uses.  The Reds were taking live batting practice and working off of the pitchers motion.  Davis analyzed the runners and made instructions as others hit off live pitching.

video

Reds Young Infielders Are Knocking on the Door

Dusty Baker is having young Chris Valaika take ground balls and workout at shortstop and thirdbase in addition to his Louisville Bats position, secondbase.

Vailaika played well in place of Brandon Phillips when the Gold Glove secondbaseman needed time off with a hand injury last season.

The dilemma for the Reds is whether to allow Vailaika to play every day in Louisville or learn in a back up role at the major league level.

video


"That's where the balance comes in.  Is it better for him to help us here or is better for him to go play to help us and himself later?"  Baker said.  "Its hard to develop sitting.  A guy that's sitting should already be developed."

Bench strength is more of a veteran's role.

"They know how to stay ready and their confident because they have a background of success," Baker said. "Young guys don't have that yet.   We have a few of those, Valaika, (Todd) Frazier, (Zack) Cozart.  All of those guys are knocking on the door, big time," Baker said.

Votto Sick but Playing

They were going to send NL MVP Joey Votto home with upper respiratory discomfort but he felt good enough to participate in live batting practice and other baseball activity planned for the day.

"He called me last night and said he felt discomfort in his chest," Dusty Baker told the press.  "I told him to come in and have the doctor look at him, then we'll send him home.  We don't want to get the other guys infected."

After the doctor saw him Votto felt well enough to play.

"This is a great area (for breathing do to low humidity) but some people have trouble with the dust," Baker said.

Reds Play an Intrasquad Game on Saturday, Volquez Starts Against the Indians

The Reds will tune up for an intrasquad game on Saturday to tune up for the Cactus League opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Indians.

Travis Wood will pitch two innings, Darryl Thompson one, Jerry Gil one,Matt  Klinker one, Logan Ondrusek 1 Jordan Smith one, Phillipe Valiquette one, Jeremy Horst one and Donnie Joseph one.  There is a total of five full innings.

Edinson Volquez will start against Cleveland in Sunday's exhibition opener, weather permitting.  Rain is in the forecast.  Volquez will pitch two innings.  Sam LeCure will pitch two and Matt Maloney will pitch two against the Tribe.  Daniel Ray Herrera, Jared Burton and Carlos Fisher will pitch an inning each.

Bronson Arroyo will start the next game also against Cleveland on Monday.

Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto will pitch against split squad games one is against Oakland, the other is against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

Homer Bailey gets the ball against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

Travis Wood will complete the cycle with the starting assignment against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Notes From Camp Rivalries Gomes Young Top Catchers

Notes:

Baker talked about the rivalry.  The Cubs and Cardinals have had a long time geographical rivalry.  The Reds and Cardinals developed a competitive rivalry.

"You have historic rivalries," Baker said.  "But others pop up.  When I was with the Dodgers we had a rivalry with the Reds, then in the late 70's it changed to a rivalry with Houston."

Baker revealed the he had a run in with Reds pitcher and now his minor league roving pitching instructor Mario Soto.  "He hit me twice once in spring training and once in the season," Baker said.  "I told him if it happened again, we will go at it."

Baker talked about Gomes losing 30 pounds since he joined the Reds.  Gomes went from first and third the most in the league last year.  "You've got to do what you've got to do to stay in this game," Baker said.  "He's worked hard.  When I first saw him I asked him could he lose 30 pounds, he said 'How about 10'.  I told him I think you'd be better at 30.  I think he's lost 20-25 since he got here. He's been productive.  When you're operating on a moderate budget, you need guys like that, who are rebuilding their career."

"He might be in position with his weight and quickness, that I might let him run somemore," Baker said.

"Cairo was on a make it or go home route.  Edgar Renteria is like that, Hermida.  Like I tell them, I hope you can stay here but if you don't stay here or sometimes you play so well we can't afford you.  I hope your value is greater than when you got here."

Baker is impressed with Devin Mesoroco and Yasmani Grandal.

"They have good power for anybody, not just catchers.  They both work hard and pay attention."

Big News From Cardinals Camp and Notes

What started with a discussion of the first day of live batting practice for the Reds was overshadowed by the news that its rivals the St. Louis Cardinals suffered a setback.

The media contingent waited in the Reds clubhouse for Dusty Baker to be ready for his morning press conference when Jonny Gomes came by singing.  We were not familiar with the song but the last line was this, "I won't let you down, Adam Wainright gone."

The thought was he was visualizing hitting a home run off the Cardinals ace but we found later what he meant.

As Baker listed the pitcher that would throw on Wednesday, a writer told him that Adam Wainright had elbow issues.

Baker's first reaction, "Who are the going to blame for that?"

When Baker managed the Cubs, some thought his overuse of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior led to injuries that  cut short their careers.  Prior hasn't pitched since 2006 but is in the New York Yankees camp trying to make a comeback.

"I hate to see that though," Baker said.  "Not only is he a great pitcher but he's a fine young man.  Every time I've seen him he's been polite and respectful."

As the words came, the phone rang in his office.  Baker's son Darren was on the phone reporting that Wainright had a "significant" injury.  "He's my scout," Baker said with a smile.

A writer offered that not many teams can overcome something like that and that the Reds with such depth probably could.

"Yeah but its hard to overcome the loss of a pitcher like Wainright,"  Baker said.

Chapman Throws Live Batting Practice

It seems that everyone wants to see the 23-year old Cuban throw a baseball.  I met a reporter from Japan, who asked me when he was throwing.   She had a cameraman with her and got shots similar to these although they probably are edited better.  In this video he is finishing up by throwing to minor league outfielder, Dave Sappelt.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Volquez is the Opening Day Starter

Edinson Volquez will start the 2011 season on the mound against the Milwaukee Brewers on March 31.

"After much deliberation and talking to Bryan (Price), we are going to open with Volquez.  Arroyo will be secoond.  Then Cueto.  We wanted to go hard soft, hard soft.  We don't want Volquez and Cueto to try to out-radar-gun each other.  Whoever the fifth starter Homer maybe would be not soft but softer than the number one starting back."

Volquez, who was obtained from Texas along with Daniel Ray Herrera for the reigning American League MVP, Josh Hamilton after the 2007 season, will break a string of five opening days with Aaron Harang as the starter.

Harang signed with San Diego.

Volquez started just 12 games last season after recovering from an August 2009 elbow surgery.  He was the victim of Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the first game of the Division Series in October.

"It's been a long way back," said Volquez, who turned down a three-year contract for a one-year deal in hopes that this season will get him a bigger contract in the end.  "They gave me the opportunity to be the number one here.  The only thing I want right now is to win the first game."

"He's very confident and we think he can handle it," Baker said.  "Nothing much bothers him."

Volquez wears number 36 which was one by the Reds former ace from the Dominican Republic, Mario Soto, who started six opening games.

"I was looking for 45 but they gave me 36.  Mario was joking around and told me if you wear that number, you have to be a number one," Volquez said.

"He has the stuff to be a number one," Soto said.  "I know he's very happy about it."

Notes:

Baker would like to get Scott Rolen 50 at bats this spring.  He is most likely to bat behind MVP Joey Votto.
"If the guy batting behind him isn't ready, Joey isn't going to get much to hit," Baker said.

The Reds had a meeting with Frank Robinson and Umpire Supervisor, Randy Marsh to go over rule changes.  "They will tell us to be nice," Baker said.  "There are always a couple rule changes and the last couple years they talked about the speed of the game," Baker said.

Live batting practice has been pushed back until tomorrow.

"We always hated that day," Baker said.  "You have to see live pitching sooner or later but you don't get anything out of it.  You have to take some extra bats.  Even though they're your teammates they enjoy breaking your bats.  The smart pitchers get their work in but try to get you ready too.  Like Don Sutton, they know that if you're ready you can get them some runs.  Tommy LaSorda used to save the younger kids for the veteran group to ask us what we thought."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Too Many Catchers?

On of the puzzles Dusty Baker is trying put together is how to program each player to get ready for the season.

"Usually, the older guys take longer to get ready," Baker said.  "I pulled the stats from spring training last year.  The younger guys you don't know if they were a slow starter.  You try to program them so that they get hot around the same time.  It takes a while to get a feel for how many at bats or extra hitting they need.  There are some guys you try to slow down.  I remember on year Kevin Mitchell hit 15 home runs or something ridiculous like that.  We told him to save some of them for the regular season.  He said, 'I got plenty.'  Then he went and hit 49 during the season.  I don't know if there was a formula."

It is tough for the catchers.  The Reds have six in camp.  Ryan Hanigan, Ramon Hernandez, Corky Miller, Chris Denove, then the two first round picks, Devin Mesoroco and Yamani Grandal.

"It is hard to get them as many at bats,"  Baker said.  "You want them to catch some guys especially the ones they haven't seen.  The catchers other than Grandal have seen not knowing somebody."

Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez combined for a good season.  The tandem was very productive in 2010.  Hernandez got more at bats because Hanigan missed time with an injury, a broken thumb.

"They were both very productive, they were both strong, caught well, thew well.  They get along well which helps."

The Reds plan to use the designated hitter to get more position players at bats until the middle of March.

Twitter Hitter. Ochocinco A Cancer in the Reds Clubhouse Too?

Joe Kay of the Associated Press wrote an article about Brandon Phillips and his new tweeting habit.

It was so foreign to Reds manager, Dusty Baker that he referred to it as twitting, which come to think of it may be more accurate.  Baker wondered aloud what was the advantage of it.  The Reds manager loves to treat the troops as adults, so he is reluctant to sensor any of his players, hoping they are mature enough to police themselves and do, say and "twit" the right thing.

While we struggle with this new verb in the English language what is the past tense?  Do you replace the vowel with a short 'A"?  I'm not sure.

In Kay's piece Phillips claimed he will not hold back.   He also revealed that Chad Ochocinco encouraged him to make a name for himself and expose his every thought.

That would put number 85 in the unique position of being a cancer in the Reds clubhouse as well as the Bengal's locker room.

Phillips justification for saying what he thinks and letting the chips fall where they may is admirable.

"If you don't have haters, you ain't doing nothing," Phillips told Kay.  After a two year running snubfest aimed at Mark Sheldon of MLB.com and John Fay of the Enquirer, it occurs to me that they should use the same line every time a player gets upset at what they write or don't write.

As Baker pointed out Sunday morning, "If they put it out there themselves they can't claim they were misquoted."

Personally, I'm all for a player being upfront, honest.  The freedom to express ourselves is a fundamental principle of our country but when the blades of the fan get hit, stand behind it and deal with the consequences.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rainy Day in Phoenix But It's A Dry Rain

Dusty covered tumbleweeds and tweeting this morning.
                                                                                      No Gators in Arizona Though
"This used to be the tumbleweed capital of the world before all the construction.  You used to run over them on the roads," Baker said.

The rain will force the full squad workout indoors for the second straight day.

"Actually, the infielders took ground balls yesterday but the fields are in bad shape today.  The wind tore the tarp in half.  They tried to put the tarp on but the wind tore a hole right through it," Baker said.



Baker wants the outfielders to start making long throws to avoid sore shoulders.

Baker was asked about how many games Scott Rolen would play, 120?

"That's just a number.  How many did he play last year?" Baker asked.

Rolen played in 133 games but not all of them as a starter.

"That's about right.  I talk to him," Baker said.  "He trusts me.  I'll go by what I see.  If I see a swing that tells me there is stiffness, I'll give him a day off.  I will give him day games after night games.  Things like that to get him through the 14 games in row.  I kind of program for the off day."

Brandon Phillips has become big on twitter.  Baker does not follow and showed some concern over it.

"What's the advantage of some twitter?  What does he get for that?" Baker asked.

"In baseball you have a game every day.  I just hope its not too time consuming.  I remember Leake was tweeting last year.  But he only pitches every five days," Baker said.

Is there some concern that Brandon might say something on twitter to tick somebody off?

"Yes. You can't necessarily prohibit it can you?  I think number one you have to find out what the rules are. I mean, you have to really be careful because you set yourself up for more controversy.  You don't want to talk about someone on the team.  If you're going to tweet on a good game you got to tweet on a bad one too.  In football they have one game a week.  We have a game every day.  We have less free time," Baker said.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Votto Believes He Can Improve

The National League's Most Valuable Player still feels that he can be better.

What?

"Yes, I'd like to be more efficient.  I'd like to be a better teammate.  I'd like to be a better defensive player," Votto said.  "As far as a hitter, I feel like I wasted a lot of at bats last year."

Votto did not notice that he was pitched around last year as Dusty Baker observed.

"I honestly feel that every pitcher came after me," Votto said.  "The guys batting behind me, one looked like an MVP candidate early in the year (Scott Rolen) and Jonny (Gomes) looked like an all-star halfway through the season.  I think the guys batting so well behind me completely justified why I didn't feel they pitched around me."

"The ultimate guy who got pitched around was Barry Bonds said that he assumed every pitch was going to be a strike and every pitcher was going to come after him.  That's the most difficult thing about our job is to always be ready," Votto said.

Votto is not the type to want to lead but he wants to help the team as much as he can in the clubhouse.

"There is always room for improvement.  I'm starting to transition.  I'm still a young player.  The first few years, I played the role of the quiet rookie.  Keep your mouth shut.  I hope that in someway, I can help out in some way to make the team better and vice versa.  I think the team makes me better.  I don't see myself as a leader."

The attention for someone that doesn't seek it, could be hard to deal with but Votto sees it as helpful.

"Not to sound arrogant but I've been through things this off season that can help me get better.  I have the ability to compartmentalize that aspect.  Now its time to go to work."

The attention has come at a pace that suits Votto, who likes his privacy.

"It has paced itself very well," Votto said.  "It isn't like Aroldis, and Jay (Bruce) or Homer (Bailey) when a few years ago.  It kind of gets dumped on them. I've earned it.  I've had enough time to desensitize myself to it."

Rain For First Reds Workout

videoAll the players have reported and are ready to workout but the Goodyear weather is not ready.

Jonny Gomes walked past me as the wind was whipping, bending palm trees and pushing tumbleweed.

"What's up with this," said Gomes, who lives in the Phoenix area.  "Its not just the wind.  We haven't seen clouds for months.


Then I stood around as the team went into the batting cages to run, with former Fairfield High School baseball coach, Gary Yeats.  Yeats retired to Sedona, Arizona but the last two years has been working security at the Reds spring training facility.

His Fairfield teams won state Championships in 1985 and 1991.

"When I first moved out here, I went to watch some high school teams workout.   They didn't know what to do if the weather was bad," Yeats said.  "In Ohio we had every available space we could find to do something.  If there was an empty closet we had someone in it working on something, wrist curls, something."

Votto MVP Will Have to Adjust

By winning the MVP award, Joey Votto may have a target on his back this season.

"It started the year before," Dusty Baker said.  "D Lee (Cubs Derreck Lee) came up to me and told me how good he thought Joey was.  Good hitters appreciate good hitters."

Baker expects Votto to get a lot of attention.  He believes pitchers will start to pitch around him.

"I had Barry Bonds.  He was the epitome of that," Baker said.  "Bonds was the best at recognizing fear in a pitcher.  Jeff Kent was there to pick him up.  Last year Jonny Gomes and Scotty (Scott Rolen) did a good job of picking up Joey."

Baker knows about picking up an MVP.  "I was 22 and hitting behind Hank Aaron," Baker said.  "Hank told me number one don't strike out or hit a ground ball.  That's what they want you to do.  Get a couple singles or doubles and they won't pitch around me so much."

Gomes and Rolen will most likely to bat behind Votto.  Jay Bruce is another option but Baker would prefer not to have to lefthander hitters in a row.

"That may change because Jay is getting better at hitting lefties," Baker said.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Renteria Will Take Ground Balls at Secondbase

Dusty Baker wanted to talk to Edgar Renteria first but told reporters that he will probably take some ground balls at secondbase.

"I can tell you he's in great shape.  He's been working out.  We have a lot of depth now.  Paul Janish and (Zach) Cozart is coming too.  We also have (Juan) Francisco, (Todd) Frazier and (Chris) Valaika too," Baker said.

"We are still trying to determine his best position.  I had him come with me on the caravan.  He likes thirdbase the best.  He plays a pretty good leftfield."

Edgar Renteria took ground balls at secondbase last year with the San Francisco Giants, "just in case."

"I signed here because it is a chance to get into the playoffs.  I like what I saw with this team.  They are going to compete. I have a lot of respect for Walt (Jocketty).  We worked together for six years," Renteria said.  "You know what my position is but I will do whatever the skipper wants me to do."

Renteria was the World Series MVP for the Giants.

He went from that height to be looking for a job.

"That's kind of hard," Renteria said.  "But you have to be ready for any situation.  It isn't hard to be thought of as a backup.  Hopefully we have a good relationship here.  I will try to help."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dontrelle Willis Fresh Start in Cincinnati

At one time Dontrelle Willis was on his way to the top of the baseball world.  He was 21 years old when the Florida Marlins called him to the big leagues on May 9, 2003.

He won 14 games and helped lead the Marlins to a World Championship by beating the New York Yankees.

He won the Rookie of the Year award that season.  He led the league with 22 wins in 2005.  After two mediocre years he moved on to Detroit as Florida went to another youth movement.

Willis was never the same.  He had injuries but simply couldn't get his pitching act together.

This fall Dusty Baker was watching Cincinnati prospects in the Arizona Fall League when he ran into an old friend Ray Burris.

"He told me that I should give Dontrelle a call," Baker said.  "My wife grew up with his mom and aunt in San Francisco.  My wife said she's known him since he was that tall.  She said he didn't talk much.  I told her he's talking now."

There is no physical reason that Willis has struggled the last two seasons.  His motion was unusual so any little aspect that got out of sync could cause problems.

"The delivery hasn't been such an issue," pitching coach Bryan Price said.  "Is he more effective when he's herky jerky?  I don't know but his delivery right now is repeatable.  He's throwing a ton of strikes.  He seems to be very comfortable and pleased with this opportunity.  The good thing is we don't have to have a lot of high expectations for him."

Injuries haven't been the problem according to Price.

"There's nothing wrong with him physically," Baker said.  "There's nothing wrong with him mentally as people think.  He just needs an opportunity.  That's what I've excelled at, is giving guys an opportunity to excell without bringing in the past."

Chapman Will Be Used Like Last Year

Dusty Baker made it clear.

There is no closer controversy in Cincinnati.  Francisco Cordero will be the closer and Aroldis Chapman, the 23-year old with a fastball clocked at 105mph will be used in s setup role.

"We will use him like last year and see how he progresses," Baker said.  "He had how many appearances 15 at the big league level and a total of 50 (actual 54).  That's not a lot of experience.  He's a power pitcher.  It takes him longer to find the strike zone than a sinker, slider pitcher does."

Fans showed frustration with Francisco Cordero and were taken by the young Cuban's ability to spin the radar gun.

Chapman will do anything asked of him as he is obviously more comfortable in the US.

"Francisco was exciting at times," Baker said. "But he was second in the league in saves the last two years.  People forget that."

"We didn't get a good look at him in spring training last year because he hurt his back," Baker said.  "We're still learning about him.  Relieving is new to him.  Right now we need him more as a reliever.  First of all he's lefthanded."

The major leagues and being new to the US and its culture are a lot for someone to deal with.  Then add the hype and the expectations.

"My job is being a reliever, so I'm a reliever," Chapman said.  "Sure I want to be a starter but I don't think about that. I am a reliever right now and that's the job I'm going to do.  When they want me to be a starter, I will start to think about it."  Chapman pictured above spoke through interpreter, Tomas Vera.

"There is a maturation process," said Baker, who visited Cuba this winter.  "I had know about Cuban culture some because I played with Paul Casanova and Tito Fuentes and talked with Leo Cardenas.  I went to see for myself.  The guys on the Cuban team only take two weeks off the whole year.  He came here with no family, no support system.  He didn't know the language."

"Chapman handled the situation great.  He's a fine young man.  He's quiet but personable.  You wonder about his background but don't want to pry."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yasmani Grandal's First Hitting Session

With Dusty Baker watching intently along with batting coach Brook Jacoby, the Reds first pick in last year's draft, Yasmani Grandal hit in the batting cage for the first time.

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The switch hitting catching prospect out of the University of Miami, Florida has a nice compact swing.  He hit the ball hard from gap to gap as they worked on situational hitting, hit and run, moving the runner from second base, hitting with the infield in and back and sacrifice flies.

Tall Pitching Staff Begins to Throw

A lot of the Reds pitchers in camp could play for Chris Mack at Xavier or Mick Cronin at UC.

"I look around camp and I see some tall pitchers," Dusty Baker said Wednesday on the first day of Spring Training workouts.  Of course if he looked down he could see Daniel Ray Herrera, who at 5'6" is knee high to a secondbaseman or Mike Leake, who is generously listed at 6'1" but is more like 5'10".

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In this bullpen session Logan Ondrusek is 6'8", Aroldis Chapman is 6'4", Jordan Smith is also 6'4".  Jerry Gil a converted outfielder is the runt at 6'3" and local product Matt Klinker out of Lakota West High and Furman University is 6'4"

After Physicals the Work Begins

Bronson Arroyo and Aroldis Chapman and many others began the defense of the National League Central Title.

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Bronson Arroyo works on his pick off move.

Matt Klinker Competes With Many For Reds Job

Matt Klinker, the fun loving Lakota West and Furman University grad, is trying to crack a young, deep, talented staff.

"It's exciting," Klinker said after having a physical at his clubhouse cubicle.

"I want to perform well and turn some heads."

Klinker, who freinds affectionately call Klinkjaw, is 26 and spent three full seasons in the Reds system after being selected with the 15th pick in the 2007 draft.

He us 28-24 with a 3.90 ERA in professional baseball.

The Reds are loaded with good, young pitching talent.

"Our guys came in great shape and a lot of them got here early," Dusty Baker said.  "That tells me they realize that there is a lot of competition."

Baker said that he would get seven or eight pitchers ready as starters.  He said that there are a couple spots open for competition in the bullpen.

"We have a lot of guys that have major league experience that are still on the radar, like Daniel Ray Herrera.  Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney have been knocking on the door.  Don't forget we have Dontrelle Willis too," Baker said.

The competition doesn't scare Klinker.

"It's a good problem for the organization to have," Klinker said.  "We're stacked with pitching.  The cream will rise."

Klinker started 73 games in the minors and relieved in 15 other games. He is not locked into to either role.

"They're going to try me in a couple different roles in spring training.  I'll just do my best in whatever situation they throw me in."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eduardo Perez is in the House

I'm in my temporary home at the Comfort Suites in beautiful downtown Goodyear.

I went out to get the Johnny Bench's Homeplate duffle bag that I inherited from my dad that has my weights and workout clothes.

At the front desk checking in was Eduardo Perez, one of the truly nice people in the game.  Eduardo, who had a promising career take a south turn by a beanball that restricted his vision, is working as a Special Assistant for the Cleveland Indians general manager, Chris Antonetti.

Perez is still an analyst for ESPN.

I could not help but thinking he should be in the Reds camp but he played just three of his 13 seasons with the Reds, 1996-98. He appeared in 208 games with Cincinnati.  His best season in Cincinnati, Perez played in 106 games, hitting .253 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI.  The next season when Dmitri Young was getting more playing time, Perez showed his strength of character.

"How can I complain," he said.  "Dmitri is out there hitting doubles all over the place."

As a competitor hie did not like sitting but knew that the team came first.

Goodyear Arizona

A long drive from home but I arrived in the Phoenix area last night.

There are early arrivals as the pitchers and catchers aren't do until tomorrow.  Homer Bailey, Carlos Fisher and Jared Burton were working out this morning.

Dusty Baker and his coaching staff are do in today.  I have seen bullpen coach, Juan Lopez, known as Porky.

The place is beautiful and the weather is great.  It will be 79 today.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chuck Tanner Started With A Home Run and Only Got Better

Chuck Tanner died today at 82.

He may not be well known outside of the baseball world but within it he was well respected.  Not only was he a manager that could run a baseball team as he proved by winning a World Series with the "We are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979.

Tanner was such a nice man.  We who have had the good fortune to meet men in baseball like Tanner and Joe Nuxhall appreciate the humility of these men in a sport/business where ego can easily be exaggerated.

Tanner didn't even know me. But after ending his managerial career after three years in Atlanta with the Braves, he continued his baseball involvement as a scout for Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.  I would sit near him in the press dining room in Sarasota during the Reds spring training.  I am not now and may never be one of the "big time" writers as a stringer and free lancer but Tanner treated me like he did everyone else.

He also had a smile, a handshake and a good story.  But he was too humble to tell me this one.

His first major league appearance was against the Cincinnati Reds on April 12, 1955 in Milwaukee's Country Stadium.  He came into the game as a pinch hitter against Gerry Staley.  He hit the first pitch he saw for a home run.

He was just fun to be around.  The world could use more like him.

Bob Hertzel, who covered him in Pittsburgh said it best, "He hit a home run in his first major league at bat and only got better after that."

Snow Schmoe Its Spring

Face it. Its cold.  I see the snow still on the ground but baseball the all-time signal for warmer weather is coming.

I am heading out to Goodyear, Arizona Sunday morning for six weeks. The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians begin reporting for training on Tuesday.  Every day I will put an update about the Reds and even the Indians on this blog.

Baseball fans among you be sure to click follow on this blog.  I will do my best to keep you up-to-date with things of interest.  News, anecdotes, things to do in Arizona, pictures and maybe even video with sound.

There will be less talk about contracts, money and the business of baseball.  I want to capture the feel and the action. I want to get back to the reason we enjoy the game as a part of our lives.

I have been lucky enough to be able to string for the Associated Press during this period.  I am lucky enough to caddy for a Hall of Fame writer, Hal McCoy.  I sincerely hope that some of his talents rub off on me.

The Reds and Dusty Baker, I'm sure a looking to improve on a pretty successful season.  The Indians and their very likeable manager, Manny Acta will be young and inexperienced but intend to compete.

In addition to helping the AP, I will be writing copy for http://battleofohiobaseball.com/  plus this blog.

So click that follow key and enjoy the ride to spring, warm weather and baseball season.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Xavier Hangs on Over Saint Louis 76-68

Kenny Frease handled the first half but Tu Holloway took control in the second.

Holloway scored 20 points in the second half to lead Xavier to its 37th straight conference home win, an A-10 record.  Frease scored an even dozen in the first half and finished with 12.  Jamel McLean scored 11 and Mark Lyons contributed 15.

Brian Conklin led the Billikens with 24 and Rob Loe scored 18.  Loe had just three at halftime but brought Saint Louis back from a seven point deficit. Loe hit two 3-pointers and Conklin had three quick field goals to give Saint Louis a four point lead until Holloway hit a key basket at the 14 minute mark to tie the game.

Xavier built an eight point lead from there to take control.

Xavier Leads Saint Louis 31-24 at Halftime

Xavier is shooting 50% from the floor.

Kenny Frease made his first five shots and finished the first half with 12 points on six field goals.

Saint Louis made just seven field goals themselves in 23 attempts, a 30% shooting effort.

Saint Louis forward Cody Ellis left the game with an undetermined injury.

The Musketeers outrebounded the Billikens, 21-12

Xavier 15-6, 7-1 Takes on St. Louis 8-13, 3-5

The Xavier Musketeers attempt to extend their A-10 home court winning streak record to 37 games in a red eye special against the St. Louis Billikens, who have lost two of its last three contests.  They defeated UMass on Wednesday 69-53 at home.

Xavier lost for the first time in conference play at Charlotte 66-62 on Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Over Management, Coaching Etc. and Dusty Baker

If you read my profile, I have earned a living selling products and services, while writing about sports.

There is a parallel between athletic competition and sales.  Ability, technique and competition all play a part in sales and sports.  In sales a salesman must build a rapport with a stranger, control sales resistance and use knowledge and experience to make a sale.

To succeed in sports, an athlete must have skill, athleticism and a good scouting report to master the competition.

In both endeavors, one can do the wrong thing and end up with a good result.  On the flip said a player or salesman can be absolutely perfect and end up with no sale or a loss.

After either there are lessons to be learned.  A sales manager will point out what you did right or wrong.  A coach or manager will also.  Phone sales organizations record sales calls to critique.  Coaches use video to drive home a point.

Salesmen and athletes are undermined when a coach or sales manager can't resist trying to influence the result of a play or sale while its in progress.  Concentration and adjustment on the fly are critical for success.  If a coach is yelling at a batter at the plate to watch this pitch or that, while a 96 mile an hour fastball is on the way to the plate, the hitter is at a disadvantage.  A salesman should never be interrupted while talking to a customer.  Mistakes will be made and strikeouts will occur with or without interference but anything that gets in the way of concentration, creates problems.

Athletes and sales people are inherently competitive, more often aggressive but must not be overly competitive or aggressive.

Dusty Baker hates to lose.  It costs him sleep.  He really has trouble sleeping after a loss.  But he has studied managing coaching and even the "Management Techniques of Atila the Hun" and John Wooden's book.

Last season Baker showed what having faith in his players when they struggled would translate into wins down the road.  Like an investment, Drew Stubbs batting average and Jay Bruce's lack of power and average and propensity for strikeouts cost the Reds some games.

"If you believe in them, you have to let them fail," Baker told the press.  "We traded some lost games early for more wins later."

There are managers and coaches that are more hands on.

Tony La Russa and Bob Huggins come to mind.  While both win, they burn through personnel that would have performed better had they not had one eye on the bench or sideline during play.

La Russa likes to micro-manage and if Albert Pujols wasn't such a great talent, he'd be watching the post season on the sidelines.  He interferes with every thing and takes credit for every win, although he couldn't hit his way out of a tub of jello.

I have been at courtside right next to Huggins at the Cintas Center and Cincinnati Gardens and watched his younger players try to read a defense with one eye on the bench.  When the Cincinnati Bearcats went to the final four, they had good strong players that would tune him out to get the job done.  They were prepared don't get me wrong but during games, they would perform on their own.  I've also seen talented UC teams underachieve because freshman were looking to the sideline and juniors and seniors ignored Huggins.

The late Sparky Anderson said it best.  "Most managers get it wrong.  They get bad players and tell them what to do.  Successful managers get good players and just write out the lineup card."

Ta'Shia Phillips Leads the Musketeers Over La Salle 102-51

Ta'Shia Phillips turned in her 14th double-double of the season and 69th of her career in a blowout of the Explorers.

Phillips left after logging just 22 minutes with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Xavier built a 62-21 halftime lead then held La Salle without a field goal for the first 7:12 of the second half.

Xavier coach Kevin McGuff subbed liberally.  La Salle had just nine players dressed and Xavier's depth was oppressive.

Xavier played all twelve players and they all scored. Eleven Xavier played at least 10 minutes and 10 scored, including Amber Gray who scored nine. Freshman Shatyra Hawkes, who stands all of 5'3" and is known as "nugget" scored 12.  Sabrina Johnson had 11.

Ashley Wanniger out of Colerain High was the last to score, hitting a 3-point shot to give Xavier its first 100-point game since December 9, 2001 in a triple overtime game against Toledo.  It was the first time in regulation since they beat Eastern Kentucky 105-89 on November 28, 1998.

The irony was that Xavier's leading scorer and one of the top players in the country, Amber Harris, scored just four points.

"If you'd have told me that we would score 100 points and Amber would only have four of them, I'd have told you that a lot of things went right.  The thing I'm most proud of is the 27 assists," coach Kevin McGuff said.

Phillips was just as happy watching from the bench after La Salle was put away so early.

"Coach told us that we'd have to play as close to 40 minutes as possible," Phillips said.  'We strive for balance inside and out.  It was amazing to watch from the bench.  Sometimes you get so caught up in the game.  It's nice to sit a watch your teammates.  All of us scored so there you go."

Katie Rutan's five 3-point shots all in the first half signaled her recovery from an ankle injury that kept her out for close to five weeks.  Tonight she regained her stroke and confidence.

"She was out for five weeks.  You can't expect her to come back and shoot the way she did before, right away," McGuff said.

"I was a little rusty but a coach has been with me in the gym extra," Rutan said.  "It was a big deal for me.  My teammates may have confidence in me but I had to have it in myself.  I came out with a different mindset that I'm the best shooter in the gym."

Xavier Rolling Over Explorers 62-21 at the Half

La Salle coach Jeff Williams thought it might be a good idea to take Amber Harris out of the offense.

It is hard to argue the strategy considering Harris is the A-10's second highest scorer at 19.6 points a game and trails teammate Ta'Shia Phillips in rebounding with 10.5 a game.

Williams was somewhat successful.  Harris scored just two points in the first half.  The problem for Williams is that Harris had backup.  The poison he picked put him in a perilous predicament.

Tyesha Moss hit three early 3-pointers beyond the Explorers zone, then slipped behind the back of the zone to take a nifty pass from Harris to score again.  She had 11 points at the break.  Amber's twin tower inside Ta'Shia Phillips scored 14 inside and pulled in eight rebounds.

Once La Salle fixed that leak, Katie Rutan came off the bench and filled the basket with five 3-pointers in eight attempts for 15 points.  All-in-all XU made 10 of 18 from beyond the arc while La Salle managed a total of nine field goals.

It was Xavier's best offensive half of the season.

Xavier's 7th Ranked Women's Team Faces LaSalle University

Xavier (17-2, 6-0 A-10) host the LaSalle Explorers (6-15, 2-4 A-10) at the Cintas Center.

The Musketeers have won six straight after tough road trip to Duke and Stanford.

Xavier is 23-8 in the series, winning the last five meetings.  The Musketeers are shooting for its second straight Atlantic 10 slate.  They last lost a conference game on at Temple on February 25, 2009.  They have won 34 of the last 35 and 26 straight.

Reds Sign Volquez..Bengals Fire Bratkowski Ask For A New Scoreboard

Walt Jocketty signed all of the young players to contracts, avoiding the arbitration process. Edinson Volqueze, who finished the season strong signed today.  He was the last arbitration eligible player.

 The irony is when the players association first started, the owners insisted on arbitration.  That stance has cost owners millions upon millions.  The team submits a figure and the player submits one.  The arbitrator picks one or the other, considering what other players with similar statistics are paid.  Even when a player loses he gets a huge raise.  Joey Votto signed before Albert Pujols did which could have added millions to Votto's asking price.

The process forces teams to find negative things to say about its players to save money.  It is a no win situation for the team and general manager.  Jocketty signed Bill Bray, Votto, Volquez, Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto all of whom were eligible.  By paying a little more than market value up front, Jocketty saved payroll in the long run and keeps the Reds core of young players in the organization to build around for the long run.

The Bengals asked Hamilton County for 43.2 million dollars over the next 10 years for maintenance and improvements.  One of the items asked for is a new scoreboard.

The Bengals offense has barely taxed the current scoreboard.  To that end the Bengals fired offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski.  Bratkowski became the fall guy for an under performing offense.  Coaches get too much blame when bad things happen and too much credit when good things happen.  The Bengals offense was challenged by Carson Palmer, who I believe hasn't been 100 percent physically for two years.  Chad Ochocinco and Terrel Owens did more harm than good.  Both were inconsistent, ran poor routes, dropped key passes and never threw a block.  The running game suffered because of it.

A lot of fans blamed Bratkowski for an uninspired offense but poor execution on the part of key players made the offense look anemic.

As for a new state-of-the-art scoreboard, do we really need to see ugly football in HD.