View Full Version : Reds minor league notes(Friday, April 7)
04-07-2006, 07:40 AM
Szymanski serves as mentor to Bruce
Reds' outfield prospects learning from each other
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
DAYTON, Ohio -- If any reminder was needed that Jay Bruce turned 19 this week, the sight of him dancing on the tarp around home plate during batting practice Thursday afternoon gave testimony to his youth.
As "Stacy's Mom" blared over the loudspeaker at Fifth Third Field, Bruce shook his hips, sang along and bounced his batting helmet like a basketball. Dayton's starting center fielder proceeded to step into the batter's box and rock a few balls off the center field fence, some 400 feet away.
If Bruce, Cincinnati's first pick in last year's draft, was nervous as he prepared for his full-season debut against South Bend, he was shaking it off as easily as he moved to the music. The idea that he'll be taking over for his idol, Ken Griffey Jr., someday at The Great American Ballpark isn't all that far-fetched. After all, the Reds did make him the 12th overall pick and with such a pedigree comes great expectations.
In a stark contrast to Bruce, B.J. Szymanski -- Dayton's other prized outfielder -- was a bit more composed Thursday afternoon, not as interested in the music as he was with sizing up hitting coach Alonzo Powell, who was throwing batting practice. The expectations placed on Szymanski (second round, 2004) are a bit different but no less great as he begins his third season with the Reds.
Injuries have limited the 23-year-old Szymanski to 72 games over his first two seasons, forcing the club to return him to Class A Dayton, where he spent last year. When healthy, he is a brilliant talent, hitting for power from both sides of the plate while utilizing the speed that once made him a top wide receiver at Princeton.
Though Szymanski initially was disappointed that he wouldn't be starting the year in the Florida State League, the situation probably couldn't have worked out better for either player. His future and that of Bruce are expected to be intertwined for many years and it's already obvious that these two native Texans have formed a bond. Szymanski has -- intentionally or not -- taken on the role of big brother, rooming with Bruce and serving as a mentor, sharing with him the experience of spending two injury-plagued seasons in the Cincinnati system.
"I've learned a lot just from living with him," said Bruce, who hit .266 with nine homers and 38 RBIs while splitting 54 games between the Gulf Coast and Northwest Leagues last season. "It's just a blast being around him. He's been here before, so I'm trying to take as much from him as I can. I don't have to ask him too much because he leads by example.
"I've asked him things like what it's like dealing with the fans here (in Dayton), but it's more of a wait-and-see what he does thing. I really can't explain it. I just take what I can from him every day."
One thing that Szymanski should be able to impart on Bruce is a sense of maturity. That's not to say Bruce isn't already mature. But the way Szymanski has handled returning to Dayton after missing much of last season with hand and knee injuries is commendable. He says he's fine mentally and physically and is ready to put the nagging ailments that have limited him since turning pro in the past.
To that end, he understands why the Reds chose not to start him in Sarasota. They want him in a comfortable setting where he won't press. And in time, his talent will force Cincinnati to make a move. For now, though, he and Bruce will serve as the heart of Dayton's batting order while filling two-thirds of its outfield.
"Jay and I clicked immediately," said Szymanski, a psychology/pre-med major at Princeton who is putting the finishing touches on his thesis. "We're both light-hearted, go-lucky kinds of guys. And I think we're pretty much interchangeable in the outfield. He's still very young, what is he, 19?
"But I'd match his athleticism with anyone's. He is further advanced than I was at that age. I was much more of a raw athlete and he's a sheer baseball talent. He's far ahead of me. But we have the same sense of humor and we're both very light-hearted."
Bruce, however, had the upper hand, if there was one to be had, on Thursday night in Dayton's 7-5, 11-inning loss to the Silver Hawks. He had two hits, including a double, and a stolen base, while Szymanski went hitless in five at-bats with a pair of strikeouts.
"This is like a dream, the biggest thing that ever happened to me," Bruce said. "I'm not taking anything for granted. Not everyone gets a chance like this, so I'm going to make the best of it."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
04-07-2006, 07:44 AM
Bats' lumber gets off to a slow start, 4-1
Bannon's home run one of just five hits
By Darren Desaulniers
Special to The Courier-Journal
OTTAWA — The offensive punch the Louisville Bats are expected to have this year didn't show itself last night.
The International League team, which lacked firepower in recent years, added several sluggers for 2006, but the Bats managed just five hits and lost their season opener to the Ottawa Lynx 4-1.
Maybe starting the season in chilly Canada had something to do with it. The temperature topped out at 46 degrees.
"We opened up at home last year -- it was a lot nicer, and that was a big difference," said Bats manager Rick Sweet, whose team beat the Lynx 5-4 in the first game in 2005.
Although last night's temperature wasn't ideal for baseball, Sweet was familiar with it. He managed the Lynx for part of the 2000 season -- although by the time he took over the club from Jeff Cox, the warmer weather had rolled around.
"You just play in cold weather," he said. "This weather is very acceptable this time of year in most of the United States and Canada. You give me this (today) and I'll be very happy."
Last night Louisville's Justin Germano made his fifth consecutive opening day start. His previous four starts, in order, came for Class-A Fort Wayne, Class-A Lake Elsinore, Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Portland last year.
Germano didn't survive the fifth inning this time as the Lynx hit him up for three runs and six hits in 41/3 innings.
The only offense the Bats provided him came on Jeff Bannon's fifth-inning home run to left field. But Sweet was happy with what he saw.
"I like the way guys are approaching their at-bats and the way they're approaching the game," he said. "I've got 12 guys, and all of them are going to play. They want to be here. I'm very, very happy with my club."
The Lynx scored single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings before Jason Standridge came on in relief.
Lynx designated hitter Alejandro Freire singled and scored in the second, then walked and scored in the fourth. He was the leadoff hitter both those innings.
The Lynx added a fourth run in the seventh off Ryan Wagner.
Other than Bannon's blast, the Bats were held in check by four Lynx pitchers. Starter Kurt Birkins allowed three hits in five innings.
"They played a good ballgame," Sweet said. "They got some big base hits when they needed it, their pitching did a nice job and overall they played better than we did all the way around."
Louisville's Mike Gosling will start the second game of the four-game set at 6:05 tonight. He'll oppose Cory Morris.
Dragons' defeat has silver lining
Too bad it had Silver Hawks, too; visitors win 7-5 in 11, despite good debuts of Griffin, Wood
By Marc Katz
Dayton Daily News
DAYTON | The end result was not so good, but it was a promising start for the seventh edition of the Class A Midwest League Dayton Dragons Thursday night at Fifth Third Field.
A cool night and an hour-long sprinkle before the game kept the crowd from overflowing, but an 8,343-person sellout still had a good time watching mascots Heater and Gem arrive on skateboards, if not seeing defending champion South Bend beat the Dragons 7-5 in 11 innings.
Among other things:
• Rookie second baseman Mike Griffin, an honor student from Baylor, hit two triples and a double, knocked in three runs and scored twice from the leadoff spot.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," Griffin said. "It was great in front of all those fans."
• No. 1 Reds draft choice Jay Bruce collected two hits — one a double — and stole a base.
• No. 2 Reds draft choice Travis Wood (like Bruce a 19-year-old) struck out five in 3 2/3 innings while walking only one, but struggled in the fourth when he allowed four of his six hits and all three runs.
Still, that strikeouts-to-walks ratio was impressive, and he rang up three called strikeouts.
• It rained at various times during the game, but never enough to stop play. There were few in the stands when it ended, however.
• The loss dropped the Dragons to 3-4 in season openers.
• "Those last three innings, we couldn't get that first guy on," manager Billy Gardner Jr. said.
• Pitchers for tonight's second game will be right-handers Carlos Fisher of the Dragons and Anthony Cupps of the Silver Hawks.
Contact Marc Katz at (937) 225-2157.
Tom Archdeacon: Dragon follows dad to baseball
By Tom Archdeacon
Dayton Daily News
DAYTON | While nothing from this game will go into that special room, that's okay. He has stuff on display in there. And besides, the place already is chock full of memorabilia.
As the Dayton Dragons' season opened Thursday night at Fifth Third Field — with a 7-5 loss to South Bend — the curtain quietly rose on one story that dovetails the minor leagues and majors all under one name:
That was the last name of the Dragons' 24-year-old designated hitter — J.D. Roberts — who went 0-for-4 Thursday.
It's also the name everyone could read on the back of the player who — forever frozen in one of the most heated baseball moments ever caught on film — may have saved a home plate umpire from being throttled in that July 24, 1983, game.
It's more famously known as the Pine Tar Game, and it involved J.D.'s dad, Leon, who ended up with an 11-year big league career. Leon now is the Cincinnati Reds' minor-league hitting coordinator, but back in that July '83 game, he was the bear-hugging Kansas City Royals' roommate of George Brett.
Brett had just hit a two-out, two-run homer to give the Royals a 5-4 lead over New York in the ninth. Yankees manager Billy Martin rushed to the plate, conferred with ump Tim McClelland and it was ruled Brett's bat was coated with too much pine tar.
He was called out, giving the Yankees the temporary victory (days later it was overturned) and sending the Royals star into a rampaging charge.
"That's the No. 1 story every one brings up about my dad," J.D. said with a laugh Thursday. "They say, 'We were watching (ESPN Classic) last night and saw your dad in the Pine Tar Game. George Brett was trying to kill that ump and your dad — No. 16 — was holding him back.' J.D, who also wears No. 16, was talking baseball memories and how so many of his dad's are on display in that memorabila room Leon has at his home.
"There are lots of photos (including the hug), bats, maybe 150 signed balls," J.D. said.
Asked if anything of his was in there, J.D. smiled and nodded: "My favorite thing — he's hung it up — is my little Royals jersey from when I was 3 years old.
It was his last year in baseball and I only remember a few things:
"Brian McRae running around 'cause his dad Hal was playing. And (pitchers) Bret Saberhagen and Mark Gubicza always joking with me."
J.D. said some of his own home run balls — from his prep days in Texas, at the University of Michigan, and last year in Billings — are on display, too.
That he's got his own space in the room is a sign he's also finding his own place in his dad's shadow.
"Until I was 20, I worried a lot about playing professional baseball. I put a lot of pressure on myself because of who my dad was.
"Finally he sat me down and said he didn't care if I wanted to be a school teacher, a rocket scientist, whatever, as long as I did my best and was happy. Right then, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders."
That made it easier once he was taken in the 2004 draft by the Reds. "A lot of guys joke with me saying, 'Man, you should be the best hitter here with your dad and all,' " J.D. said. "And I say I'm proud of him, but I'm just trying to make my way as best as I can."
Thursday was another step.
It didn't offer anything for the room, but it did lift the curtain on a father-and-son story worth watching this season.
04-07-2006, 07:49 AM
Dickerson rated one of the best
By David Paschall Staff Writer
Being related to a famous professional athlete has its perks, unless you’re trying to make your own name athletically.
Chattanooga Lookouts center fielder Chris Dickerson is a cousin of Eric Dickerson, the Hall of Fame running back who set the NFL’s single-season rushing record in 1984 with 2,105 yards as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. By the time Eric’s career was winding down in the early 1990s, Chris already had his fill of comparisons.
"When I was in elementary school, that’s when it started," Dickerson said. "Every team we played against was like, ‘Little Eric. Little Eric.’ Eve r since I started playing sports, people automatically made the assumption I had to play football. It bugged me then, and I guess it still bugs me. I want to be my own person."
Though not as known as his 45-year-old cousin, the 23-year-old Dickerson is plenty prominent with Cincinnati Reds officials. The 6-foot-3, 226-pounder entered his first Double-A season, which began Thursday night in Jacksonville, rated by Baseball America as the organization’s top athlete.
After hitting.303 in 84 games two years ago at Single-A Dayton, Dickerson hit just.236 in 119 games last season at high Single-A Sarasota. Most minor-leaguers are not promoted following.236 seasons, but the Reds believe Dickerson is different than most.
"When you say athlete, the first things you think of are run, jump and throw, and he can do all those very good," Lookouts manager Jayhawk Owens said. "He’s got the great ability to make his body do what he wants it to do. If he starts out with a bad two or three weeks at the plate, I’m not calling anybody with the Reds to complain. I’m going to let himself dig back out of it.
"I’m going to be very patient with Dickerson."
As a child growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley, Dickerson enjoyed several sports.
Soccer and football were his favorites, though he also played basketball, baseball and hockey.
"When I was younger, I never really liked baseball," he said. "I just did it because my friends were doing it. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school when I started focusing on it. I had knee surgery and had to stop playing football, and I needed a lower-impact sport.
"I was going to run track but was talked out of it. After my junior year, it took off."
Dickerson received a scholarship to the University of Nevada and played three seasons for the Wolf Pack, earning freshman All-America honors in 2001. Following his junior season, he was drafted by Cincinnati in the 16th round.
Last year’s struggles were the result of playing all summer in Florida — "I don’t do humidity well," he said — and Cincinnati’s policy of requiring all Single-A players to take the first pitch. The policy was scratched toward the end of last season and was not retained under new ownership, but that wasn’t soon enough for Dickerson.
"That system took away the aggressiveness of certain hitters," he said. "Teams aren’t stupid, and they found out about it. It was a joke. Guys were throwing 85 mph fastballs right down the middle, and right off the bat you’re down 0-1. We were constantly behind in the count, constantly hitting with two strikes.
"When they finally lifted it, everything just turned into bad luck. My teammates were telling me to change my shirt, do something else, because I was hitting balls right at people."
Dickerson has heard about the adjustment hitters have to make against Double-A pitching but believes his confidence is high after holding his own this spring in several big-league camp at-bats. A big season would further enhance his value with the Reds, though it likely wouldn’t decrease the comparisons to his cousin.
"I think there is always going to be that," Dickerson said. "Wherever I go, that’s always a question. It helps some because I’m in baseball, but since I was 8 or 9, it’s all I’ve heard all the way through every sport I’ve played, everywhere I’ve gone."
E-mail David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org
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04-07-2006, 07:53 AM
Wood won't dwell on one game
Reds pitching prospect has control problems in opener
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
DAYTON, Ohio -- Travis Wood doesn't want to dwell on his performance Thursday night during Dayton's Midwest League opener against South Bend. Not the good, not the bad, not the mediocre.
Rather, he says he'll try to learn from his frenetic outing, working to improve on the control issues that plagued him during the latter part of his 3 2/3 innings he tossed at Fifth Third Field. While Wood was long gone by the time the Silver Hawks finished off Dayton, 7-5, in 11 innings, his effort was noteworthy for several reasons.
First, the good. Wood worked his way through the first two innings with relative ease, retiring six of the first seven he faced. He struck out three during that stretch, getting ahead in the count against four of the seven.
Secondly, the bad. He ran into trouble in the third and fourth innings, falling behind in the count, struggling with his control, particularly during his final inning of work.
As for the mediocre, that would constitute his final overall line. Wood scattered six hits while striking out five and walking one. He allowed three runs, all earned, on 78 pitches, discovering quickly that it will take a bit more effort to dominate the way he did last season in the rookie leagues.
Wood pitched to a 1.29 ERA in 48 2/3 innings last year, allowing only 28 hits while splitting time between the Gulf Coast and Northwest Leagues. But he allowed more hits and more runs against South Bend than he did in any of his 14 outings last season.
"I thought I did good but I did have control problems," said Wood, whom the Reds grabbed in the second round last season from Bryan High School in Arkansas. "I got through most of four innings but I had a bad last inning. It happens. I was falling behind a little more (toward the end) and I was trying to get my mechanics back. Sometimes it's tough to make in-game adjustments but I felt like I did it for the most part.
"You can't dwell on tonight, though. It's a long season. Everyone has bad innings or bad games. You just have to learn from each and every one of them."
While the Silver Hawks pounded Wood out of the game in the fourth, he might have gotten chased an inning earlier had he not made a pair of sparking defensive plays. After allowing a leadoff single to Richard Mercado, Peter Ciraco squared to bunt and popped the first pitch into foul territory on the first base side. Wood raced over and dived headlong, snagging the ball before it hit the ground for the first out.
Lyson Septimo smacked a hard grounder up the middle two batters later, a shot that would have scored a run had it gotten through. But Wood picked it cleanly, tossing to first to end that threat.
The 1-0 advantage the Dragons held disappeared in the fourth. South Bend picked up back-to-back singles to start the inning. After Wood got Orlando Mercado looking, Trey Hendricks lined an 0-1 offering off the left-field wall for a run-scoring double, knotting the score at 1-1. After a walk and a strikeout, Wood looked like he might wiggle free, only to have Ciraco end his night with a two-run single.
"I was just concentrating on getting that last out in the fourth inning and I really thought that I was going to get it," Wood said. "That's baseball though. Things come and go."
Wood added that even though it was only one outing, he noticed the difference between South Bend's hitters and the ones he faced last year in rookie ball. That much was evident by the patience they displayed, not chasing many of the pitches that he was able to get hitters to chase last year.
"I thought for going out and pitching on Opening Night, he handled himself well," Dragons manager Billy Gardner Jr. said. "He fell behind in the counts in the latter part of his outing. He threw a very good changeup, though, when he was behind in the count. For a first time out, I was pleased with the job he did."
Fortunately for Wood, the Dragons chipped away at the lead South Bend took in the fourth, eventually getting him off the hook with a three-run seventh inning.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
04-07-2006, 07:53 AM
Thanks for posting the articles.
04-07-2006, 08:17 AM
Much thanks would give ya rep if i could !
04-07-2006, 10:52 AM
OBM, you are a true defender of the cause. Thanks for doing this.
04-07-2006, 11:15 AM
Miracle spoil opener for Reds
Top Reds prospect Homer Bailey touched for two earned runs in 2006 season debut.
BY PHIL DENIS CORRESPONDENT
SARASOTA -- The Sarasota Reds' second Florida State League season began with a thud Thursday night when the Fort Myers Miracle took a 7-3 victory before 681 at Ed Smith Stadium.
The loss spoiled the debut of Sarasota's 19-year-old right-handed pitcher Homer Bailey, Cincinnati's No. 1 draft pick in 2004.
Bailey threw 82 pitches -- 55 strikes -- in his 42/3 innings of work. He allowed five hits, two earned runs and struck out five from the Minnesota Twins' affiliate. Bailey didn't walk a batter.
One of Bailey's few mistakes came in the top of the third inning when Luke Hughes sent an 0-1 fastball over the left-field wall for a three-run homer.
Bailey (0-1) also gave up two unearned runs in the fifth.
Former Sarasota High and Manatee Community College star Jeremy Schmidt came on to pitch for the Reds in the ninth and gave up one run in 2/3 of an inning.
Shortstop Adam Rosales was Sarasota's offense star. Rosales smacked a solo home run in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead and a run-scoring single in the sixth.
Reds catcher John Purdom doubled in the other run in the fifth.
A two-man crew of substitute umpires officiated Thursday's game.
The Association of Minor League Umpires is on strike. The union and the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation were unable to work out a new contract by Thursday's opener.
FSL president Chuck Murphy has a list of six, two-man crews in each of the league's 12 cities to work games during the strike.
The possibility of a strike has been ongoing for several months as umpires are seeking salary raises, higher per diem payments along with improvements in travel and insurance.
Thursday's first pitch was delivered by the Reds' new mascot -- RalliGator. The name -- yes, it's a spinoff of the University of Florida's mascot -- was selected during an off-season contest, according to Sarasota general manager Dan Wolfert.
The teams will continue the four-game, two-city series tonight at 7 at Ed Smith Stadium concluding Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at William Hammond Stadium in Lee County. Right-hander Sam Lecure (5-1, 3.27 earned run average last season with the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League) is Sarasota's scheduled starter. Fort Myers has selected righty Anthony Swarzak (9-5, 4.04 with the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League in 2005) as its probable pitcher.
Tonight's game will be followed by a fireworks show.
Fort Myers' 30-year-old manager Kevin Boles didn't need directions to the stadium. He is a graduate of Cardinal Mooney High.
Four SaraReds -- pitchers Erik Lohse and Joel Barreto along with first baseman Tonys Gutierrez and outfielder Jeremiah Piepkorn -- started the season on the inactive/disabled list.
The Reds will be home next Monday through Friday for five games that begins with a three-game series against the Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia Phillies) and will be followed by a pair against the Lakeland Tigers.
04-07-2006, 05:39 PM
No problem guys. I enjoy doing it.
I wonder what's wrong with Tonys Gutierrez? I hope his injury is nothing too serious.
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