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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mat Latos Regrets That Alonso Was Traded For Him

Latos Reacts to a Pitch in Live BP
Mat Latos is excited about a new start with a new team but he wishes that Yonder Alonso was not one of the four highly respected prospects the Reds had to trade for him.

Latos is a native of Alexandria, Virginia but played high school baseball in Coconut Creek, Florida and in college at Broward Community College near Miami. Alonso played college baseball at the University of Miami.

"The one guy I didn't want to get traded for was Yonder Alonso," Latos said.

A writer told Latos nothing against you but I was unhappy they traded him for you.

"So was I," Latos said.  "He's got a sweet swing man."

The Reds gave up more than Alonso, a number one draft pick but also traded Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger.  Grandal was also a number one pick and Boxberger was chosen between the first and second round.  They also gave up former 17-game winner, Edinson Volquez.

"You look at it and its obvious that Cincinnati wanted me and thought I was worth more than the four guys they gave up.  At the same time, San Diego thought the four guys they got were more valuable than I am," Latos said.

"They did themselves a favor and me a favor," Latos said. "They go rid of me and they got a great deal. They did me a favor by sending me to a team that wanted me more than they did."

The 24-year old is trying to get to know his new teammates.

"I didn't know Joey Votto was so quiet," Latos said.  "Either he's quiet or he doesn't like me."

Latos had bursitis last spring and worried  it to pitch very well in the second half of the year.

He won 14 games in 2010 and only nine last season but had a good run the second half of the year.

"I had a talk with Jed Hoyer who told me enough of the 92-94 two seamers, go out and throw 95 like you use to," Latos said.

Latos has been in the middle of practical jokes already this spring.  He chatters constantly. And can't figure out when to golf or fish, so he does both.

"I golf for the comraderie.  When I'm shanking balls left or right, or I'm making new homes for ground hogs every time I'm trying to hit of the deck.  Occasionally, I'll have that one good shot. That will be on the first nine.  By the time I get to the back nine, I'm so aggravated with the bad shots that I had, 'I say you know what my fishing pole is right here', maybe I can do something I'm good at.

Aroldis Chapman Celebrates His 6th Birthday Today

Aroldis Chapman's birthday is listed in the Cincinnati media guide as February 28th but the Reds were just informed by trainer/interpreter, Tomas Vera, that Chapman was actually a leap-year baby born on February 29, 1988.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reds Young Shortstop Speaks Four Languages

Didi Gregorius was born in Amsterdam 22 years ago.  The athletic 6'1" 183 lb shortstop is rising quickly through the Reds system into which he entered as an undrafted free agent in 2007.

Five years later he is opening eyes with his glove in his first major league spring training camp.  His bat is coming along as well. In each of the last two seasons he has split the season at two levels.

Last year the lefthanded hitting shortstop hit .303 with five home runs and 28 RBI in 46 games at Class A Bakersfield for Ken Griffey Sr.  He was promoted to Double A Carolina and hit .270 with two home runs and 16 RBI in 36 games.  He stole a total of 50 bases.  His arm was rated the best in the California League last season, where he made the all-star team.  In 2008 his arm was ranked number one in the Midwest League, when he played at Dayton.

Not only is his arm impressive, the fact that he speaks four languages fluently is equally impressive.  He speaks Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento, which is a blend of Portugese, Caribean languages, Spanish and Dutch.  For instance Bon Dia is good morning, using the Spanish word dia, which means day.  Thank you is danki (pronounced donkey) which is clearly derived from Dutch danke.

Gregorius now lives in Curacao in the Caribean, the same island that Andruw Jones was born and raised.  Papiamento is widely spoken on the island.

King Pin Shawty Brandon Phillips Impresses at Peoria Lanes

Brandon Phillips Willie Harris With Reds Crew
Brandon Phillips is an avid bowler.  He joined a group of Reds front office and clubhouse crew at Peoria Lanes, in Peoria, Arizona.  Joining the group and bowling for the first time was Willie Harris.

"I bowled good," Phillips said. "We had a lot of fun.  Every game was over 200."

The group entertained the regular patrons of the alley.  "I was dancing and we were having so much fun," Phillips said.  "Everybody was looking at us the whole night.  It was pretty fun."

Harris had never bowled before but wasn't bad, rolling a 150 in his first game ever, then turning in a 160.

Phillips is DatDudeBP on twitter and tweets often, including last night when he posted a picture of the group at the lanes.  When he is bowling though, he uses KingPinShawty. Phillips started with a 202, then rolled a 237.  His third game was the eye opener as he bowled an entire game between his legs and scored a 214 which beat Harris' 155.

"He did," Harris confirmed, making a behind the back motion to illustrate.

Phillips bowled a conventional game with a 249.score.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marshall Is Making Cincinnati His Home

The Reds have agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension with set-up man Sean Marshall, who could become the closer down the road.

They traded three players to the Cubs to get the left-hander in December. He'll be the set-up man to new closer Ryan Madson this season. General manager Walt Jocketty says the contract extension puts the 29-year-old Marshall in line to become the closer if that role opens up eventually. Madson has a one-year deal with a team option for next season.

Marshall was entering the final season on a two-year deal that will pay him $3.1 million in 2012.

The Reds traded left-handed starter Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and a minor leaguer to get Marshall, who had a 2.78 ERA and 5 saves last season.

"I'm super excited," Marshall said. "Since day one when I came to the new facility over here. I got to meet my Reds teammates and the staff, I got to get back with Dusty (Baker), they are all very welcoming. The Reds have taken good care of myself. I can see they've taken good care of all their players. I'm excited to spend the next four years in a Reds uniform and hopefully help them to a championship."

Marshall would have been eligible for free agency at the end of this season.

"We made the trade for him with the idea to extend him," Jocketty said. "He's a quality person, I think he'll add a lot to our franchise for three years, actually we have him for four years now. If you look at the quality of his work. He's one of the top setup guys in the game and we have the flexibility if we want to use him in a few years as the closer."

Marshall has ambitions to close games and is
"As a reliever the premiere job is to be the closing pitcher. I think if the opportunity arises and I'm handed the ball in the ninth inning, I'd like to do what I do best, execute pitches.  I think I'm more than capable of it," Marshall said.

The deal gives Marshall stability and includes a partial no trade clause.

 "This deal gives me peace of mind and will make me pitch better," Marshall said. "I feel the deal is as good as I could get as a free agent. Them being open to a long term extension is what I was looking for.  We picked a few cities that we didn't think we'd want to live. There are a couple teams on the list but hopefully we'll just pitch well here and we won't have to worry about that."
Marshall took a good look around the area before he signed long term..

"I've always enjoyed the city," said Marshall, who visited the Greater Cincinnati Area in December.  "I've always enjoyed the city but we stayed downtown.  I didn't get to see a lot of suburbs.  My family and I are excited to make Cincinnati our home for the next four years."

Sean Marshall Signs a 3-year Contract Extension With the Reds

Sean Marshall signed a three-year contract extension with the Cincinnati Reds minutes ago.

The signing gives the Reds control of his services for four years.

Ryan Ludwick is Looking Good To Dusty Baker

Ryan Ludwick is another one of those players that took awhile to reach his potential. He was drafted in the second round by Oakland in 1999.

The 33-year old struggled through the Texas and Cleveland organizations until he had an epiphany in St. Louis, reaching power numbers that eluded him. After hitting 14 home runs in his first three seasons, Ludwick blasted 14 for St. Louis in 2006.  He followed with his best season in 2007 with a .299 average, 37 home runs and 113 RBI.

His numbers dipped the next two seasons.  The Cardinals shipped him to San Diego, the large ballpark didn't suit Ludwick  and they sent him late last season to Pittsburgh, but Dusty Baker said the park was only part of it.

Rick Hummel, a long time writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, was in Baker's office this morning.  He asked Baker directly if Petco Park was the reason or what Baker thought would cause such a drop off.

"Sometimes it just happens," Baker said.  "Everybody wants to know why, sometimes its mental, sometimes its physical. Sometimes its the situations you get into or lack of them.  The park may have something to do with it. The park would mess with anybody, especially if you're used to doing some trotting.  Then Pittsburgh wasn't playing him as much as they thought."

The Reds are hoping the fresh start will be the tonic that turns the outfielder back around.  Ludwick and Chris Heisey will compete for playing time.  After two days of workouts, Ludwick, has impressed Baker.

"He's looking good, real good," Baker said.  "He came in to camp in great shape.  He works hard. I was surprised St. Louis let him go in the first place."

Spring Training Adventure Provides Answers

Hal McCoy and I both had issues with our electronic devices.  McCoy's Kindle, full of 93 books, all of which he has either read or is reading, was on the fritz.  The 3/R button on my phone was inoperative.  I had to cut n paste an 'R' into every text and email.

We needed the 'Geek Squad" so we stopped by the best buy before our daily soup and salad.  McCoy needed his charger and didn't have it.  My phone is through Cincinnati Bell so I couldn't get any help.  It seemed like lost cause, then we made a discovery.  Raul and Theresea's our favorite Mexican Restaurant, a little shack south of the ballpark, had a more modern branch in the same shopping campus.

We ordered the "Mexican Hat Taco Salad.  The soup was something that we had never had or heard of "Menudo" soup.  We inquired about it.  The waitress, Michelle, who was outstanding by the way, couldn't adequately describe it so she brought us a sample.  Sold, it was as tasty as her service was swift and attentive.

McCoy wondered aloud what Menudo was.  I thought it meant, "New World".  When I was working in New York City, selling the first toy like PC's, the Commodore 64, Texas Instrument, Atari etc, little girls would come into the store and type on the display computers, "I love Menudo".  The little boys wrote, "I hate Menudo."

Menudo was a group of spanish speaking young boys.  I was told that Menudo meant New World.  One of the boys grew into a 90's pop star and had a hit with "Living La Vida Loca" but I could not come up with the name.  It drove me nuts temporarily.

I have two friends that I could use for a resource, the first Connie Schulten, can tell not only tell you which songs and artist sang, but who wrote it and the name of the background singers and each of the musicians.  The other, Mary Lou Schirmer, is similarly knowledgeable.  I sent an inquisitive text to both of them.

Mary Lou won this round of Name That Artist, a spin off of Name That Tune.  It was Ricky Martin, who was a member of Menudo before recording "Living La Vida Loca" to start his adult career.

Name That Tune was on morning TV when I sold appliances in New York, including home computers.

A colleague of mine, Clay Washington and I used to volunteer to dust the TV's while it was on so we could challenge each other. Since I was 10 years older than he, I would kick his butt.  I could recognize songs with just a couple notes but never the artist.  One of the local establishments, Majerle's has "Name That Tune" contests on Thursday.  Dan Majerle, of course is the former Western Michigan basketball player, who continued his career with the Phoenix Suns of the NBA.  The have "Live" karaoke too, which beats the alternative karaoke.

I would pay to see Mary Lou and Connie in a game of  "Name That Tune."  It would be a great match both know their music and lyrics.

It turns out neither of us needed the Geek Squad after all.  McCoy's Kindle mysteriously started working again.  My 3/R button returned to normal as mysteriously as it went away.

While we found answers on Sunday, the Reds seek answers.  We will be ready and willing to pass along those discoveries as they happen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Frazier Gets Even With Chapman

Two years ago Aroldis Chapman came to Goodyear and sent a buzz throughout the baseball world.

All eyes were on Chapman during the Reds intrasquad game as he faced his teammates for the first time in game situations.

Todd Frazier stepped in the batter's box to face the lefthander fresh out of Cuba.  As Frazier dug in knowing that Chapman can throw the baseball over 100 miles per hour, he had no idea what was coming next.

Chapman's first pitch drilled Frazier at the left knee cap.  Down went Frazier, who had to sit out four days until the swelling went away.

This afternoon, Chapman faced Frazier in live batting practice.  This time Frazier knew what was coming and launched the pitch over the left field fence onto Wood Boulevard.

"It too me two years but I got the SOB," Frazier said.

Video Aroldis Chapman Throws Live BP to Neftali Soto

Video A Healthy Scott Rolen Takes Ground Balls in Goodyear

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reds Pitcher Thanks Local Coach For His Help

Mark Brackman out of Moeller High School made his major league debut with the New York Yankees last September.

Over the winter he signed with the Reds and is in spring training, trying to win a spot on his hometown team.

The son of former Anderson High School basketball star, Mark Brackman, stands 6'10" and played baseball and basketball at North Carolina State.  His Moeller squad won a state title.

As a youth, Brackman, worked with former Colerain football and basketball standout, Russel Foster.  Foster operates a coaching clinic for young baseball hopefuls.

When Brackman made his major league debut, he sent Foster a copy of the lineup card..

Hall of Famer Signs Autographs

Hal of Fame writer, Hal McCoy signs autographs for fans with his signature cigar.  Fans waiting for player signatures descended upon McCoy after the Reds workout on Friday.  None of the fans were from Dayton where Hal has covered the Reds for 40 years.  One was from San Francisco, one from Glasgow, Kentucky.

Live Batting Practice Hitter's Nightmare Stubbs and Heisey Taking Next Step

Reds pitchers have been throwing for a week now without a batter in the box.

The position players have now arrived, the next two days the pitchers will pitch live batting practice.

Instead of lobbing the ball like the coaches do in normal batting practice, the pitchers will be working on their pitches at game speed.  It is a tough day for hitters.

"It's not a very good day for the hitters," Dusty Baker said.  "The pitchers are way ahead of the hitters.  It seems like pitchers are throwing a thousand miles an hour.  I remember those days from when I played.  You have to make sure you don't develop bad habits, pulling away, flinching.  You have to have it.  Pitchers can have all the bullpens they want but until they have a live hitter up there, they don't have a window to throw to."

Over the winter Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey needed things to work on.  Stubbs struck out 205 times to set a club record.  He needs to cut down.  Heisey had problems hitting lefthanded pitchers.  He hit .271 against righthanders but .197 against lefthanders.

Both are young still a work in progress.

"They are young number one and number two, they are underclassmen for awhile.  When you're coming up through the minor leagues your playing against guys your own age.  When you get up here you're facing guys that have made a living doing this for a long time," Baker said.

They are hoping to see the results of their winter work during the spring schedule of games but Baker cautioned about reading into too much into the numbers.

"Spring training can lead to a lot of misconceptions.  Pitchers aren't pitching to a scouting report here, during the regular season they will pitch to your weakness.  That's why some players have a good first year.  No one knows them yet," Baker said.  "My first year I hit .321 then fell of.  We had Hank Aaron, Rico Carty, Ralph Garr and a pitcher told me I was the toughest out because he didn't know me yet.  That's where the adjustment comes in."

Adjustments take time.  It is not like you have a switch to turn on and off.  Players have to shed habits they have developed over the years, many of which were successful when facing lesser talents.

"That's why you see players change organizations and suddenly get it.  Sometimes you give up on a guy then things you've told them click in and they're successful with someone else.  If you do that you're inviting similar problems. It's easy to say get rid of a guy.  Where are you going to find talent like Stubbs?  He wasn't a number one draft choice for nothing."

Heisey was a lower draft choice that has excelled against certain pitchers and not others and it wasn't only lefthanders.

"Heisey had trouble against pitchers that used the other side of the plate.  I know where he likes the ball.  I know there are certain pitchers he will struggle against.  That's my job.  He likes the ball up and in.  Ludwick likes the ball down and away.  It isn't always lefty, righty.  People wonder why a guy hits three home runs one day and isn't in the lineup the next day.  He was having success against a pitcher he should hit."

Heisey and Stubbs are trying to take the next step and overcome their offensive weaknesses but Stubbs has an edge.

"Stubbs is a different animal," Baker said.  "Stubbs is as big a part of our defense as anybody.  He's as good as there is in the league. The Big Red Machine had Cesar Geronimo.  They didn't get Geronimo to hit.  They got Geronimo to play centerfield and play defense.  To win you have to prevent runs as well as score them. You have to catch that ball.  The Big Red Machine had gold at just about every position.  We are getting there.  We already have three in the infield.  Stubbs and Bruce are knocking on the door.  My best team in San Francisco had a lot of Gold, Matt Williams, Robby Thompson, Barry Bonds, Willie McGee and Royce Clayton."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Joey Votto Excited About 2012 Wont Talk About Contract Extension

Joey Votto watched with excitement as the Reds made several big acquisition this winter.

"I'm excited. It seems like a trend.  We picked up Scott Rolen, made a big splash by signing Aroldis Chapman.  I think the front office did a great job getting Matt Latos, Ryan Madson, Ryan Ludwick and some others.  We took some chances with who we gave up but got a lot in return," Votto said.

Many have speculated that given the huge contract that Prince Fielder signed with Detroit, that the Reds could not afford such a contract and made the moves to win now.

Votto won't discuss it.

"I am going to make it pretty simple for you and give you the same answer everyone else gets.  "I'm going to leave those things to the front office, my agent and myself. I'm going to keep it private.  It's not fair to the fans, myself or the team.  I don't want it to become a distraction.  As much as players want to say it doesn't affect them. I'm human.  It's exhausting.  The fans know about it, the team knows about it and management knows about it.  I don't want it to creep into the season.  Whether I sign and extension with the Reds or get to the point of free agency, I will have a comment about it.  I'm lucky.  I signed a three year contract that has two more left.  I'm in a position that I don't have to comment."

Votto said he didn't know enough about Ryan Braun's situation to comment on it but said he isn't concerned that Braun's overturned suspension could cost the Reds games.

"I don't care about that.  I think we have enough," Votto said.

Video Reds Squad Plays Catch as Baker Watches

Reds Line Up For Physicals

The hallway at the Reds complex in Goodyear is crowded with players waiting for physicals.  This is the deadline for reporting to camp.  They will take physicals today and workout as a full squad starting on Saturday.

The pitchers and catchers have been working out since Sunday.

Scott Rolen Sighted

One of the biggest spring questions is the health of Scott Rolen, who was spotted at 8:30 am Phoenix time.

Rolen, 37, played in just 65 games last season  He hit just .242 with five home runs and 36 RBI.  His absence
left a big hole in the Reds lineup, forcing Dusty Baker to use Brandon Phillips in the cleanup role behind Joey Votto for much of the season.

Rolen had surgery on his left shoulder on August 3rd to remove bone spurs.  He was shut down for the rest of the season.

Reds media relations director, Rob Butcher, told the press that Rolen will be busy for the next two hours.

Position players are undergoing physical examinations.  Rolen, Joey Votto and Miguel Cairo were the last position players to report for today's deadline.

Baseball Cards Not Kid Stuff Anymore Topps Still Tops

Some 50 years ago, the thrill of opening a pack of baseball cards to see what players were in the pack was the highlight of a kids day.

If you turned in three pop bottles you could buy a pack and get a stick of bubble gum and have a penny left over after paying your nickel.  The Topps company has been producing the cards for 60 years according to Director of Sales, David Reel, who obviously has not been working with Topps since the beginning.

Reel, who lives in Mason, OH, was watching Mike Leake open packs from a sample box of its current edition.

Leake looked like a teen with a skateboard tucked under his arm as he separated out his favorite players, some of the cards included Hall of Famers in gold trim, a feature of the new set.

Baseball cards became big items in the 80's.  Rare cards were selling for thousands of dollars.  Several competitors joined Topps in the marketplace.  Instead of buying packs at a time the now 30 year olds were buying whole sets.

The business was swiftly changing and growing.

In the 50's and early 60's my for example my friends and I would buy pack after pack until we found our favorite players or players from our favorite teams.  The "doubles" duplicate cards of players that were traded or ended up clothes pinned to the fender of your bicycle to make it sound like you had a motor.

I always accused Topps of intentionally making Reds players scarce in Cincinnati so that we would buy more packs.  Then I you'd get two crummy Bob Uecker cards in one pack.

Reel denied the charge.  "They used to print them in sheets and cut them.  They weren't as high tech then.  Sometimes a two of a players card would stick together and they'd end up in the same pack.  They were hand sorted.  They tried to distribute certain players to certain markets but it didn't work.  Now they are random and sorted by computer controlled machine."

There was no Major League Baseball Players Association and card collecting was simply "kids stuff". The players would get a small fee to get their picture taken for the cards

Then the 80's arrived.  The players formed a union and as more card publishers entered the field.  Card makers were making big money.

The players wanted a bigger piece of the pie.

One of Reel's jobs was to get the players to sign a release.  There is a pool of money based on revenue that is distributed equally among the players.  Albert Pujols and Paul Janish get a check for the same amount.

For the last three seasons Topps has owned the exclusive rights to publish the cards.

Now a pack of cards in its "regular" edition sells for $2.50 retail.  There is no longer that sweet smell of bubble gum that lingered on the cards for months.  There are 10 cards to a pack now.  There were five or six in our youth.

A single card cost five times more than an entire pack back then.

The impish Leake may have had a purpose in mind for sorting the cards.  A Hank Aaron mysteriously appeared on Dusty Baker's desk.  Aaron was one of Baker's first teammates.  Baker constantly uses Aaron in stories in which he is making a point.

"Who put this card on my desk?" Baker asked.  "I was about to accuse Leake."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bronson Arroyo Health Drew Stubbs Swing Keys to Exciting Season

Bronson Arroyo passed reporters in the clubhouse.

"I don't have desert fever, so I'm ahead of last year," Arroyo said.

He was tested for "desert fever" a reaction to a mold that is found in desert soil.  The test were negative but mononucleosis prevented the rail thin 35-year old bonne vivant from a winning season after three seasons with 15 wins or more.

"It's a matter of location rather than velocity," Dusty Baker said. "Early it was strength. Some guy who had mono it effected him for a year and a half.  The thing about Bronson is he didn't complain about anything.  He took his lumps and we took the lumps along with him.  He's a big part of the equation."

The Reds starting pitching slipped from its division winning 2010 season and Arroyo won 17 games in 2010 and just nine last season, not to mention suffering two more losses.

"And don't forget everybody is entitled to a bad year.  It's lost a lot in modern sports, you're not entitled to a bad subpar year.  They talk about career years all the time on the top side but never talk about subpar years on the bad side. Steve Carlton lost 20 games man.  You lose 20 games in modern times, they want you gone."

Arroyo is not a power pitcher so his margin of error is smaller.

"A power guy can make mistakes in the middle of the zone and a guy will pop it up, just by shear velocity.  Bronson is a pitcher.  He works harder than anybody we got.  He's a good example to the young guys as far as going about your business.  Everybody sees him as a guitar playing dude but he works hard man.  He takes   his career very seriously.  I've never seen a guy workout during the All Star breaks."

Another key is for hitters to cut down on strikeouts.

"We have more guys that can hit down in the order than up," Baker said. "You can't have two double play guys back-to-back in the lineup.  You don't want two strikeout guys back-to-back. If you don't put the ball in play you have zero chance," Baker said  "The guys that strikeout a lot, strikeout all their lives."

Stubbs name was mentioned first when the subject came up.

"Stubbs wasn't the only guy, you know.  He just had the most but he was second in the league in runs scored," Baker said.  "The name of the game is he who touches home plate most wins. It's very simple. Can he be better; definitely."

A wave of confidence came over the Reds manager as if the problems face last year had been addressed.

"There are exciting times coming, exciting times ahead," Baker said.  "This season will be easy for you to write.  That's my goal.  Think about it if it's easy for you guys to write, how are we doing?  That's my goal. Then tweeters and bloggers will have nothing to talk about."

Oh yeah Dusty. LOL

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Former Fairfield Coach Could Have Cost the Reds an Ace

For 17 years Gary Yeats has been retired from teaching and coaching baseball at Fairfield High School.  The man led the Indians to two Ohio State Baseball Championships, then decided to move to Sedona, AZ to rest on his laurels.

The man knows a baseball player when he sees one, so the Reds have hired Yeats to guard the entrance to the players parking lot and suggest Mexican Restaurants to the media.

Early this week a young man in his early 20's drove to the players lot entrance and announced that he was there for a tryout.

Calmly Yeats tried to explain to the naive dude that it really doesn't work that way.  He even offered to get a number to call to find out where the team has tryouts.

The would be star, did not want to hear that.

"I'm pretty good," the driver said.  "You're blowing me off.  I don't like to be blown off."

The diplomatic Yeats finally wore the kid down and he drove out of the lot taking a right turn toward the camp just 1/2 mile up the road that houses the Cleveland Indians.

"The Indians will probably give him a tryout and the guy will throw 100 miles and hour," Yeats said. "Then I'll get fired."

But he is too valuable to the organization.  Without him no one would know the culinary south-of-the-border genius or the little taco stand hidden in a former ice cream establishment we affectionately call the "Taco Queen".

Young Reds Play the Weighting Game

Jay Bruce isn't getting any younger at 25 or thinner.  Homer Bailey at 25 was still a 207 pound bean pole.

The young stars poised to reach their prime, wanted to accelerate their improvement.

For Bruce it was dropping pounds for Bailey it was gaining pounds.

Surprisingly, Bruce's goal was easier to reach.  Us mortals can close our mouths now.

"I added a little more running but just changed my diet a little," said Bruce who dropped 16 pounds since the beginning of the year. "I cut down on grains and the obvious stuff, no fried foods, no cokes."

Bailey consulted a nutritionist from Newport, KY, Brian Wieferins.

The expert prescribed seven hearty meals per day, six eggs for breakfast.

"That was easy," said Bailey.  "I'd just go out and collect six."  His family raises chickens in LaGrange, Texas.

"I would just eat, eat eat.  I ate a lot of fruit, get the biggest steak I could find and a lot of vegetables. Three sandwiches for lunch It wasn't like going to Macdonalds, but it was a lot of fun," Bailey said.

Bailey went from 207 to 227 in four weeks but it wasn't all that much fun in the beginning.

"Brian told me to eat until I couldn't eat anymore but not to make myself sick.  It was hard the first week, but I got used to it."

Both players are hoping changing their bodies will prevent injuries.

"I thought that taking 15 or 16 pounds off my joints would help me through the long season and to be a little quicker," Bruce said.

"I don't feel heavy," Bailey said.  "It's kind of a theory that this might help me stay away from injuries.  I don't feel it will hurt anything, how's that?"

The young righthander has had minor shoulder problems that have cost him starts the last two years.

Baker is only concerned with how the two budding stars perform.

Since Baker was a hitter in his playing days he had more commentary on Bruce's body change than Bailey's.

"Jay's swing will be quicker with less trunk to rotate," Baker said.  "He will be able to wait longer on pitches."

That would allow Bruce to cut down on strikeouts.  "Our bodies change as we get older. We have to adjust.  I've seen it work both ways.  Some players play better with a little extra weight.  When Fernando Valenzuela came up he started to lose his baby fat and his performance went down.  He had to put weight back on.  In most cases it's better to lose weight.  Less weight on you knees, saves injury and their is less chance of pulling an oblique.  Jay was never fat he just wasn't suave and cut."

Bruce hasn't noticed any difference in his swing with the slimmer frame while hitting in the batting cage in Beaumont, Texas.

"I haven't felt any difference.  I am as strong as I was.  Dusty has been around a long time.  We'll see what happens when I face live pitching," Bruce said.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brett Tomko Back With the Reds

Brett Tomko came out of Florida Southern College to the Reds with the confidence that he would star in the Major Leagues.

He was 22 when the Reds drafted him in 1995. His competitive nature prevented him from listening to a lot of advice.

Tomko pitched well enough to debut with the Reds two years later on May 27, 1997.  He pitched six good innings in a 2-1 loss to the Phillies but was felt as if he belonged.

"I had a chip on my shoulder," Tomko admitted.  "We all do.  That's what makes us competitive."

Tomko won 29 games for the Reds in 2 1/2 seasons.  He had 11 wins in 1997 and 13 in 1998 but he slipped in the Reds 99-win season in 1999.  He was 5-7 with a 4.92 ERA in 26 starts and he was miserable.

Then just 26 he butted heads with manager Jack McKeon, who called him Bert rather than Brett.  Tomko was insulted.  He took issue with things the writers wrote about him at the time, refusing to talk to the media for awhile.  There was the story of teammate Greg Vaughn pushing the righthanded pitcher against a wall after he was sulking after a game.  Vaughn told him, "This isn't about you.  Its about the team."

After the season the Reds traded Tomko to Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr.

He wandered around the big leagues like the Moses in the wilderness.

Two seasons in Seattle, one in San Diego where he won 10 games, one in St. Louis, 13 wins, two in San Francisco with one 11-win season, two half seasons in Los Angeles, back to San Diego, Kansas City Royals and back to San Diego.  He made the Yankees as relief pitcher in 2009, working in 15 games with a 1-2 record, then was released on July 29.  He signed with Oakland a week later.

Oakland put him in its starting rotation.  Tomko seemed to be back to his winning ways.  He won his first two starts with 11 innings of work, allowing just one run.  He won the 100th game of his career for Oakland on September 14th.  He shutout the Texas Rangers but pinched a nerve in his right shoulder in the ninth inning.

"I threw nothing but curveballs to finish the game," Tomko said.  "Four days later my twin sons were born.  I couldn't hold them.  My arm was numb.  I had a burning sensation like a bad sunburn.  Just a wrinkle in my skin was like holding a match to it.  I would be feeding my daughters and it would be burning the whole time."

The A's resigned him in February, knowing he was hurt.

"I had to learn how to through again.  I couldn't lift a one pound weight.  I would try to throw to someone and overthrow by 3 feet."

He went to the Rookie League in June of 2010.

"I was getting bombed by rookie leaguers.  I would throw as hard as I could and it would come out 83," Tomko said.

He improved enough to go to Class A  Stockton.

"There were times I thought I couldn't go on.  I was in Stockton and called my wife to tell her I was coming home.  I had some good years now its time to do something else."

He nearly made the Texas Rangers staff out of spring training last year.  He was called up on April 24 and pitched in eight games for the American League Champions.

Tomko wanted to come back to the Reds in spite of a grudge he once held for Jack McKeon.

"I talked to him for 40 minutes at the World Series.  We had a good talk.  He called me Bert and said some things I didn't agree with.  I hated him for years.  We had a good talk but why hold a grudge.  I see now that a lot of things he told me were constructive.  I am more mature now.  We used to make fun of the veterans that filtered through when I was with the Reds the first time.  Mike Morgan pitched for 10 teams.  I couldn't imagine that. I saw guys like Joe Oliver come back to the organization."

Now 38 the San Diego resident has been married for 8 1/2 years with two daughters.

"I wondered what it would be like to come back to Cincinnati.  I almost came back a couple of times in 08 I had talks with the Reds but it never really blossomed. This winter I talked to Baltimore and Anaheim but this is where I wanted to come.  It's surreal. The same people are here Rob Butcher, the media relations director, Gary Wahoff the traveling secretary, all the clubhouse guys, Rick and Mark Stowe.  This is where I wanted to be it has been a weird week.

Tomko signed on Sunday and is invited to try to win a spot on the Reds staff this spring.  His Reds comeback  is underway.

Finally Goodyear Arizona, Cincinnati Reds Spring Home

We arrived at the Reds facility at 7:30 local time (9:30 Cincinnati), looking like the 2,069 miles of bad road I just traveled in 36 hours, mostly Texas.  EW WEE that is one Big A-- State..

Hal McCoy will be my daily traveling partner as I am his driver for the spring, since his sight prevents him from driving.  Hal the Hall of Famer, is now number nine on the Base Ball Writers Association list, meaning there are just eight writers who have been members longer.

I tried to come up with a Reds player that wore the number nine to call Hall this spring but could only come up with Joe Oliver.  With due respect to Joe, I will call Hal, Roger Maris, who is a more fitting choice to match Hal's baseball writer status.

We meet with Dusty Baker at 8:30 and I will be writing of today's happenings later.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Xavier Holds On To Beat Dayton in Overtime 86-83

Tu Holloway scored 32 points and sealed the game with a rebound as Xavier prevented Dayton from taking a game in Cincinnati for the first time since 1981.

Xavier's turbulent season was marred by the loss of a 17-game home winning streak, a conference record 43-game winning streak against Atlantic 10 foes and most likely its string of five straight regular season conference titles.

But after dropping a 72-67 decision to the Flyers in Dayton on January 21st, Xavier avenged the loss and kept sent the Flyers up I-75 with another loss.

Holloway led all scorers but had help from Mark Lyons 20 points and Dezmine Wells 12.

The Flyers were led by Kevin Dillard with 20, including a huge basket with 1.2 seconds left to send the game to overtime.  Chris Johnson scored 18 as did Paul Williams.  Matt Kananaugh added 12 to Dayton's effort.

Dayton Is Trying to Beat Xavier In Cincinnati For the First Time in a Generation

The Dayton Flyers have not beaten Xavier in Cincinnati in the lifetime of any of the current players.  Xavier coach Chris Mack was nine years old in 1981, the last time a Dayton Flyer team beat Xavier in Cincinnati.

The Flyers overcame a 9-0 run early in the first half and came back to take a five-point lead at halftime in the Cintas Center, current home of the Musketeers.

Dayton defeated Xavier 74-72 on January 10, 1981 and has not won in the Queen City since.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reds Answer Questions Starting Monday

It is time for me to head west.  While I navigate the 1,800 miles from Cincinnati to Goodyear, AZ, I will be forming questions that the Reds will need to answer.

Can Aroldis Chapman make the transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation?
Will Scott Rolen's surgically repaired shoulder, allow him to play more games and protect Joey Votto in the batting order?
Will Homer Bailey and Jay Bruce live up to their potential?  Will Zack Cozart take over at shortstop and excell?
Will Bronson Arroyo shake off a subpar season and return to his form of consistency?

Spring games are for answering questions like these these on the major league level but it wasn't that many springs ago that Votto and Johnny Cueto established themselves.

Could Daniel Corcino burst onto the scene like Cueto a fellow Domincan did in 2008?
Will Denis Phipps make fans forget that the Reds traded talented prospects to obtain Mat Latos?

I will be reporting on this blog dailey from Goodyear with quotes from those who have intimate knowledge of the game.  I will blog about fun things to do in Phoenix and provide many dailey anecdotes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Xavier Improves to 7-3 in the A-10 with a 84-66 Win Over Rhode Island

Statistics can be misleading and so can a team's record.  It has been said with enough statistics, one can prove our smallest state Rhode Island is bigger than Texas.

When the Rams ventured to the Cintas Center to take on one of the A-10's better squads with just two wins in conference play it was misleading.  Rhode Island defeated UMass and Dayton in those two wins.  They are among the highest scoring teams in the A-10 but managed just 17 points in the first half.

"They are among the highest scoring teams in the league and I thought our defense was A plus," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.  "They are a great offensive rebounding teams with the athletes they have and that didn't happen tonight."

Xavier didn't score a lot either with just 27 points in the half after a slow start themselves.

"We had to get into a rhythm," Tu Hollway said.  "I myself had five turnovers but we were playing good defense.  I had to get locked in for the second half."

Holloway was locked in enough to turn in a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.  He committed just one turnover in the second half.

Travis Taylor scored 12 points and Mark Lyons scored 10 both coming off the bench.

Brad Redford showed signs of coming out of his season-long shooting slump, hitting two 3-point shots in five efforts.

"When you're not hitting your shots, you have to keep practicing.  I've had my teammates to help keep me up," said Redford, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Billy Baron, the son of coach Jim Baron, led the Rams and all scorers with 22 points.  Orion Outerbridge chipped in 13 points.

How can a team look so good against UMass (17-6, 6-3 A-10) and Dayton (15-8, 4-5 A-10)?

"We hit our shots against UMass and Dayton and that helped our rebounding and defense.  We came out tonight and didn't hit our shots.  Xavier took advantage," Jim Baron said.

Rhode Island (5-20, 2-8 A-10) won at Dayton and beat UMass on its home court in consecutive games.  Now they have dropped two in a row to Temple (18-5, 7-2 A-10) and Xavier (16-8, 7-3 A-10).

Rhode Island will play Charlotte on Saturday, while Xavier has a showdown in Philadelphia against Temple.

Ludwick and Francis Signing Now Official Carlos Fisher Designated For Assignment

The Reds made the signing of OF Ryan Ludwick official on Wednesday.  They also announced that LHP Jeff Francis signed a minor league contract and was invited to spring training.

To make room for Ludwick on the 40-man roster, Carlos Fisher was designated for assignment.  The Reds have 10 days to waive, trade or release Fisher.  If Fisher clears waivers, he can accept assignment to the Reds minor league camp.

Listed below is the Spring Training Roster for 2012:

18 pitchers..Jose Arrendondo, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Andrew Brackman, Bill Bray (L), Aroldis Champman (L), Johnny Cueto, Josh Judy, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Sam Lecure, Kyle Lotzkar, Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall (L), Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek, Jordan Smith, Pedro Villarreal

2 Catchers...Ryan Hanigan, Devin Mesoraco

14 Infielders...Miguel Cairo, Zack Cozart, Juan Francisco (L), Todd Frazier, Didi Gregorius, Paul Janish, Kris Negron, Brandon Phillips, Henry Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Neftali Soto, Chris Valaika, Wilson Valdez, Joey Votto (L).

6 Outfielders...Jay Bruce (L), Chris Heisey, Ryan Ludwick, Donald Lutz, Denis Phipps, Drew Stubbs

16 Non Roster Invitees

10 Pithchers...Nick Christiani, Daniel Corcino, Jeff Francis (L), Sean Gallagher, Donnie Joseph (L), Ron Mahay, Chad Reineke, Clayton Tanner (L), Kanekoa Texeira, Clay Zavada (L)

4 Catchers...Tucker Barnhart, Brian Esposito, Corky Miller, Dioner Navarro

1 Infielder....Willie Harris

1 Outfielder...Daryl Jones

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lakota West Grad and Reds Minor Leaguer Has A Good Winter League Season

Matt Klinker, who pitched for Lakota West and Furman University, finished the Venezuelan Winter League season with a 1-2 record in five starts for Los Bravos de Margarita.

Klinker had a 3.07 ERA in 29 1/3 innings.

Klinker pitched for Double A Carolina last season plus a few games for Triple A Louisville.

He was 6-7 with a 5.23 ERA in 14 starts with Carolina.  Klinker was 3-1 with a 6.33 ERA in four starts for Louisville.

Elder Grad and Xavier Hurler Placed on Chicago White Sox 40-man Roster

Charles Leesman, a lefthanded starting pitcher, was placed on the Chicago White Sox 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule V draft.

Leesman was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 40th round in the 2005 draft out of Elder High School.  He elected to take his talents to the Xavier Musketeers.  The White Sox picked Leesman in the 11th round in 2008.

Last season, Leesman was 10-7 in 27 starts for the White Sox Double A Birmingham Barons club.  He had an ERA of 4.03.

Dave Miley Leads Indios De Mayaguez to Puerto Rican Winter League Title

Former Cincinnati Reds manager Dave Miley, led the Mayaguez Indians to the Puerto Rican Winter League title last month.

Miley managed the Reds for a season and a half from 2003 to 2005 after spending 15 years as a minor league skipper.  Miley took over the Columbus Clippers after the Reds fired him at mid-season 2005.

The 49-year old was drafted by the Reds in the second round in 1980 as a catcher out of Tampa Chamberlin High School.  Miley never made the major leagues as a player.

He turned the Clippers around when he took them over. His team went worst to first.  Miley followed the Yankees Triple A team when they switched their agreement to Scranton Wilkes-Barre.  The Yankees Triple A affiliates have a combined record of 409-304 with Miley managing them.

He told Javier Maymi of ESPNDeportes, "I am not thinking about that (managing in the major leagues).  I'm not even going to talk about that.  If the phone rings, we'll talk.  I really like my job with the Yankees."

Miley managed a pair of Cincinnati minor leaguers with Mayaguez, Dayton thirdbaseman, Dave Vidal and Billings outfielder, Juan Silva.  Former Elder and Xavier University pitcher Charles Leesman, who pitches in the Chicago White Sox organization, was on Miley's staff.