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OnBaseMachine
03-17-2008, 10:52 AM
The other thread is getting long so I'll just start a new one for this.

Volquez, Cueto close in
Baker all but says youngsters will be starters
BY JOHN FAY | JFAY@ENQUIRER.COM

SARASOTA, Fla. - Reds manager Dusty Baker came as close as he could to saying Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto will be in the starting rotation.

Baker was asked after Volquez's outing Sunday if Volquez and Cueto were separating themselves from the rest of the rotation competition.

"You want me to say it, or are you going to say it?" Baker said. "They're pitching like they belong alongside (Aaron) Harang and (Bronson) Arroyo in the rotation. They're dealing.

"They came in ready to pitch. They played Winter Ball, so they're ahead - not so much with velocity but with command. That's what you need. They're pounding the strike zone. If you walk people, you have no chance. If you get behind people, you have a little chance."

The young Dominican right-handers - Cueto is 22, Volquez is 25 - have been the talk of Reds camp this spring. They throw hard with good off-speed stuff. But what's been most impressive is the way they've fearlessly attacked tough competition.

That's what Volquez did Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies' "A" lineup. He pitched five shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out six in the Reds' 6-2 loss.

"Their guys were saying how hard it was to pick up his pitches," Baker said.

Volquez needed only 69 pitches to get through five innings, largely because he threw 47 strikes.

Volquez lowered his spring ERA to 3.46.

Most impressive: Volquez's 19 strikeouts and three walks in 13 innings.

Cueto has a 1.00 ERA in nine innings this spring. He's given up six hits and one walk and struck out eight.

The Reds' Opening Day rotation is looking like it will be Harang, Arroyo, Cueto, Volquez and veteran Josh Fogg. Fogg has out-pitched everyone else competing for a rotation spot - Homer Bailey, Matt Belisle and Jeremy Affeldt - and he's won 10 games five of the past six years.

Sunday was Volquez's first start. He began by striking out reigning National League Most Valuable Player Jimmy Rollins with a drop-off-the-table changeup on a 3-2 count.

"My changeup was my best pitch today," Volquez said. "I threw four sliders, four curves or something like that. I found out in the bullpen that the changeup was better today, so I better use it."

Volquez retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced - five by strikeout. His changeup was fooling guys big time, especially when they were expecting his fastball, which topped out at 96 mph.

Volquez, obtained in the Josh Hamilton trade, says the difference from the past is control - of his pitches and of himself.

"I'm throwing more strikes," he said. "That's what I'm going for. I control my emotions, too. I'm getting old, man."

He was not intimidated by the Phillies' lineup.

"When those guys go to home plate, I think, 'This is a big guy,' " he said. "I pitch like normal. But facing Ryan Howard, oh man. He's a big guy."

After going to the three-ball count on Rollins, Volquez didn't go to a three-ball count again until facing Howard with two outs in the fourth. Howard ended up singling.

"He was looking for a changeup," Volquez said. "That's what good hitters do."

Jayson Werth followed with a single, but Volquez struck out Geoff Jenkins for his sixth strikeout, leaving the runners stranded.

Volquez was at his best in the fifth. He got a routine groundball on the first pitch, but Brandon Phillips booted it. Volquez walked the next hitter. But he got out of it. Brett Myers popped up trying to bunt, Rollins hit into a fielder's choice and Shane Victorino grounded out.

Cueto will face a a similar test today when the Detroit Tigers come to Ed Smith Stadium.

The smart money says Cueto will go right after the Tigers.

"That's the way he and Volquez pitch," Reds Dominican coordinator Mario Soto said. "They have good stuff. They throw strikes. They go after you."

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080317/SPT04/803170421

Highlifeman21
03-17-2008, 11:25 AM
"They came in ready to pitch. They played Winter Ball, so they're ahead - not so much with velocity but with command. That's what you need. They're pounding the strike zone. If you walk people, you have no chance. If you get behind people, you have a little chance."

Dear Homer Bailey,

Hopefully in Louisville you'll be able to buy a map to help you find the strike zone. I eagerly await an email or text message from you proving you can consistently find said strike zone. Until then, enjoy the Kentucky Derby, some mint juleps and some hot browns.

Best Regards,

Dusty Baker.

bucksfan2
03-17-2008, 11:41 AM
Dear Homer Bailey,

Hopefully in Louisville you'll be able to buy a map to help you find the strike zone. I eagerly await an email or text message from you proving you can consistently find said strike zone. Until then, enjoy the Kentucky Derby, some mint juleps and some hot browns.

Best Regards,

Dusty Baker.

And what effect will winter ball have on Volquez and Cueto come June, July, etc?

flyer85
03-17-2008, 11:47 AM
And what effect will winter ball have on Volquez and Cueto come June, July, etc?for Volquez I don't think it is an issue. In the case of Cueto, his workload and pitch counts should be monitored closely. IMHO, he is in the area where a young arm is vulnerable to injury through overwork.

Highlifeman21
03-17-2008, 11:52 AM
And what effect will winter ball have on Volquez and Cueto come June, July, etc?

Cueto should be on a strict pitch count if he comes North for Opening Day. Cueto should never, at any time, under any circumstance throw more than 100 pitches while wearing a Reds uniform in 2008.

Volquez is older, and looks to be more physically mature, and I would put his pitch count at 110. I would also make sure that every 5 starts he's under 500 pitches.

Will either of these happen? Probably not.

I'm a fan of both of their mechanics, so I wouldn't be worried about them having dead arm in the middle of the summer.

KoryMac5
03-17-2008, 12:06 PM
Dear Homer Bailey,

Hopefully in Louisville you'll be able to buy a map to help you find the strike zone. I eagerly await an email or text message from you proving you can consistently find said strike zone. Until then, enjoy the Kentucky Derby, some mint juleps and some hot browns.

Best Regards,

Dusty Baker.

I think Homer needs to pull his arm over and ask for directions. Hopefully their is somebody in the minors that he clicks with to make the lightbulb come on.

OnBaseMachine
03-17-2008, 02:50 PM
Another solid performance today by Cueto against a very tough lineup. After a rocky first inning where Cueto worked out of a jam, he settled down and retired 11 of the final 12 he faced. His final line:

4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 4 K...both hits were bloops to the first two hitters of the game.

His updated spring line:

13 IP, 8 H, 4 BB, 12 K, 2.08 ERA

By Hal McCoy | Monday, March 17, 2008, 09:22 AM

For most of this spring it has been like a day of leisurely sailing on placid Sarasota Bay for rookie pitcher Johnny Cueto - no issues, no roiling waves or sandbars.

That changed Monday against the Detroit Tigers and instead of sinking to the bottom of the bay the 22-year-old rookie pitcher responded with the savvy and verve of a pitcher twice his age - like his opponent Monday, 45-year-old Kenny Rogers.

In the first inning, Cueto was up to his neck in hungry alligators. Four of the first five Tigers reached base. And while two scored, the damage could have been much more dire. Instead, Cueto got out of that mess and pitched three nearly perfect innings after the first - no runs, no hits, one walk.

That’s a commendable rescue by a kid that was worthy of a guy with 20 years on his resume.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/cincinnatireds/

BRM
03-17-2008, 05:09 PM
I saw this on Fay's blog.



Detroit manager Jim Leyland gave Cueto a major compliment to Dusty Baker.

"He said he'd take Cueto," Baker said. "He wasn't tampering. He was joking. I was talking to him before the game about what happened to him with (Joel) Zumaya and (Juston) Verlander. Those guys came out of A ball. It's a matter of sometimes you go with the talent, especially when you haven't been winning with the stuff you've been using. (Cueto's) made an impression on everyone around this Grapefruit League, not just us."

With Jeremy Affeldt going to the bullpen, the Reds' rotation is starting look settled. Baker was asked he was convinced Cueto could do what he's done down here once the season begins.

"I never said I wasn't convinced," Baker said. "I just can't say that. I don't want to squelch other guys and I don't want him to think he has it made. Not that he'd do that. I don't think he's that kind of young man.

"This guy wants it badly."

OnBaseMachine
03-17-2008, 05:24 PM
I hope and pray Cueto is in the Opening Day rotation. With a rotation of Harang/Arroyo/Volquez/Cueto in the first four spots, this team can possibly win the NL Central IMO. Cueto's stuff and command is so good that I think he can make an impact as a rookie. I've loved this kid since the first time Marc Lancaster mentioned him (Cueto) impressive the Reds brass back in spring training of 2006. Another reason I'd like to see him stick with the big league season all year is so that he can get a big league salary for a full season. This is a guy who signed for 3500 dollars, which is the steal of the century. That's not a whole lot of money. I'd love nothing more than for him to have a big year for the Reds and start drawing that big league check for himself and his family.

fearofpopvol1
03-17-2008, 05:30 PM
It seems like barring a catastrophe of some sort, Volquez and Cueto are in, but I wonder how up for grabs that last spot is between Fogg and Belisle? It definitely appears that Fogg has the edge, but I wonder how much of an edge that is. I'd like to see Belisle get the nod and Fogg in long relief, but I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Fogg take over the spot if Belisle struggles. They're both making similar coin, but Belisle has more upside (which I guess isn't hard with Fogg). Though supposedly Fogg can be cut at the end of spring training for a $100K buyout. I don't know, at this juncture, why you wouldn't roll with that. Put Tom Shearn in long relief if you must.

Isn't is funny how a month ago, Belisle was a lock for the #3 spot and now he is in serious jeopardy of not even making the rotation? Crazy.

Matt700wlw
03-17-2008, 05:34 PM
Isn't is funny how a month ago, Belisle was a lock for the #3 spot and now he is in serious jeopardy of not even making the rotation? Crazy.

He was a lock in the minds of some....that is all ;)

OnBaseMachine
03-17-2008, 05:35 PM
Here is another quote from Leyland on Cueto:

Leyland smiled and said, “If you don’t want Cueto, we’ll take him off your hands.” And that was before he saw him pitch. Afterward, Leyland said, “Some of the best crude stuff I’ve seen. Good velocity, good breaking ball. One of the best-looking young pitchers I’ve seen. Very impressive.”

http://www.daytondailynews.com/o/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/cincinnatireds/

Aronchis
03-17-2008, 05:56 PM
Taking away Belisle's spot in the rotation based on spring training mumble is stupid. Cueto has earned the right to start the year in the rotation. But that just means Fogg isn't necessary at this time.

Things change as the season goes along. Everybody gets ready in their own way.

savafan
03-17-2008, 06:00 PM
Here is another quote from Leyland on Cueto:

Leyland smiled and said, “If you don’t want Cueto, we’ll take him off your hands.” And that was before he saw him pitch. Afterward, Leyland said, “Some of the best crude stuff I’ve seen. Good velocity, good breaking ball. One of the best-looking young pitchers I’ve seen. Very impressive.”

http://www.daytondailynews.com/o/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/cincinnatireds/

High praise indeed.

TRF
03-17-2008, 06:00 PM
Fogg's 2008 ST is the biggest mirage since Carlos Almanzar.

Aronchis
03-17-2008, 06:03 PM
Fogg's 2008 ST is the biggest mirage since Carlos Almanzar.

Santos

wheels
03-17-2008, 06:08 PM
Who was that crazy cat from a few years back that kept smacking himself in the nads?

Manzanillo! That's the guy....I think he takes the cake.

OnBaseMachine
03-17-2008, 07:42 PM
Cueto making case for rotation spot
Strong start against Detroit on Monday impresses Baker
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- As the puzzle that is the Reds' rotation comes together, it's become clear that prospect Johnny Cueto is a better fit than veteran Jeremy Affeldt.

Another solid outing in the Reds' 5-3 win over the Tigers Monday put Cueto another step closer to going north with the team when camp breaks. The 21-year-old right-hander didn't have it so easy vs. Detroit, but proved another important point: he can handle adversity.

Cueto gave up two earned runs and two hits with three walks and four strikeouts in four innings. In the first inning, Detroit and its nearly regular lineup started off with back-to-back blooped singles. With one out, Cueto walked consecutive batters, including Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded. Another run crossed on Jacque Jones' groundout, but Cueto had limited the damage.

"It's not like he's pitching against some slouches over there," manager Dusty Baker said. "That's a heck of a lineup over there. Today was going to be a big test for him, and he's passed this test today like he's passed all the others."

Although Cueto went into a full count against pitcher Kenny Rogers, he retired eight in a row and 11 of his last 12 batters. He threw 74 pitches overall, 44 for strikes.

"I felt good," Cueto said through interpreting teammate Javier Valentin. "I went to the next inning trying to be more aggressive and tried to challenge some hitters."

At times, especially early, Cueto seemed to pace about the mound more often than in his previous outings where he seemed to pump strike after strike in rapid procession.

"Once he got settled in, he started making pitches like he's capable of," catcher Paul Bako said. "He made it a lot easier on himself. You could see him kind of doing some mannerism stuff. He was kind of out of whack with his mechanics. Once he figured that out, he was fine."

"He seemed unfazed," Baker said. "You know he was bothered by it. He handled it like a veteran. He demonstrated damage control after they blooped a couple of balls in there. We were hoping he'd go deeper in the game. When you don't have your real good stuff, you keep your team in the game until we can score some runs."

Through four games, including two starts, Cueto has a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings. He's walked four and struck out 12, and has had scouts and opponents buzzing around the Grapefruit League.

"That's one of the best-looking young pitchers I've seen all spring," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "That's some of the best crude stuff I've seen all spring. I don't know anything about him, but he's got talent. He's good. He's very impressive."

Leyland and Baker spoke before the game and Baker got some insight to how his counterpart handled bringing along young pitchers. Last season, Cueto started at high Class A but got a taste of Triple-A with four starts before finishing at Double-A.

"I was talking to [Leyland] before the game about what happened with him and [Joel] Zumaya and [Justin] Verlander," Baker said. "These guys came out of A ball. Sometimes you go with your talent, especially if you haven't been winning with the same stuff you've been using."

Baker has all but said that Cueto will begin the season in his rotation, but hasn't made it official.

"I don't want to squelch other guys and I don't want him to think he's got it made yet," Baker said. "I don't think he's that kind of young man, but I want to keep pushing him and keep him rolling."

Just before Monday's game, Baker told Affeldt he was out of contention for the starting five. The left-hander will work out of the bullpen this season.

Affeldt was 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in four starts, totaling 11 2/3 innings. Over his last two starts, he gave up 13 earned runs on 15 hits.

The Reds signed Affeldt as a free agent to a one-year, $3 million contract with the promise he'd get a shot at the rotation. The former Rockies reliever was 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 75 games last season.

"He wishes he had a little longer time [to compete] but he knows what to do in the 'pen and he's been successful in the 'pen," Baker said. "Time is running out as far as us getting him deep into the ballgame. Two or three times around we've seen he's had difficulty with it."

If Cueto makes the team, that leaves four pitchers fighting for the two remaining rotation spots -- Josh Fogg, Matt Belisle, Homer Bailey and Edinson Volquez. Fogg is starting on Tuesday vs. the Pirates in place of Affeldt, who was originally scheduled. It will obviously be a pivotal start for Fogg.

Belisle nor Bailey have distinguished themselves this spring. Volquez, who has a 3.46 ERA, with 19 strikeouts to three walks in his four games, seems to have the inside track for one of the spots.

"Cueto and Volquez haven't earned a spot yet," Baker asserted. "I think they've painted a pretty good picture. We'll let you know when it happens."

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080317&content_id=2437612&vkey=spt2008news&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

remdog
03-18-2008, 10:05 AM
Isn't is funny how a month ago, Belisle was a lock for the #3 spot and now he is in serious jeopardy of not even making the rotation? Crazy.

Crazy? Maybe. But a good thing all in all. Since the Reds chose not to haul in a proven #2 starter the kind of spring that Volquez and Cueto have had is their only possible lifesaver. I love what these two have done so far and I hope that they continue it on to the regular season.

Belisle at #5 might just be a good thing for the Reds and a very good thing for Belisle. At that order in the rotation there's less pressure than the the #3 or #4 spot. The 'crazy' thing is that, so far, Edinson and Johnny seem to be handeling the pressure better than Matt.

Rem

Sea Ray
03-18-2008, 10:18 AM
The 'crazy' thing is that, so far, Edinson and Johnny seem to be handling the pressure better than Matt.

Rem

Or maybe they're just more talented. On a good team Matt Belisle is a bullpen pitcher. Let's hope this is a good team.

remdog
03-18-2008, 10:45 AM
Or maybe they're just more talented. On a good team Matt Belisle is a bullpen pitcher. Let's hope this is a good team.

Agree completely.

Rem

OnBaseMachine
03-20-2008, 10:54 PM
Volquez threw two more shutout innings tonight with two strikeouts against the Twins. He now supports a 3.00 ERA and a 3 BB/21 K rate in 15 innings this spring.

remdog
03-20-2008, 11:24 PM
He now supports a 3.00 ERA and a 3 BB/21 K rate in 15 innings this spring.

While Josh is having a terrific ST (and I'm very happy for him) Edinson isn't too shabby either, is he. :)

Rem

WMR
03-20-2008, 11:32 PM
Fogg's 2008 ST is the biggest mirage since Carlos Almanzar.

You are brilliant.

WMR
03-20-2008, 11:33 PM
Or maybe they're just more talented. On a good team Matt Belisle is a bullpen pitcher. Let's hope this is a good team.

Wrong.

Belisle would warrant a spot in the rotation for the majority of MLB ball clubs.

reds44
03-20-2008, 11:41 PM
Wrong.

Belisle would warrant a spot in the rotation for the majority of MLB ball clubs.
He had a 5.32 ERA last year in 178 innings. He gave up 212 hits.

That's nothing short of awful.

WMR
03-20-2008, 11:43 PM
Do we really have to go over Belisle's numbers last season and what they really show?

TRF
03-20-2008, 11:49 PM
He had a 5.32 ERA last year in 178 innings. He gave up 212 hits.

That's nothing short of awful.

He also had a K/9 almost right at 7 in the second half, doesn't walk a lot of batters, and it was his first year starting. Nearly all his peripherals were the same as arroyo's, and similar to Harang's 2004 season.

Nothing Fogg has done has ever been close to what Belisle did last year. Yes, I'd have preferred an era in the mid 4's, that said, he eaked out 8 wins, and the pen blew how many for him?

Fogg in the rotation makes my head hurt a lot.

reds44
03-20-2008, 11:50 PM
Here's some fun stuff. Somebody on here talked about how Josh Fogg (and excuse me for not looking up the exact quote) had one of the worst years in the history of baseball as a starter in 2006?

Belisle 07:
177.2 IP
212 H
111 R
105 ER
26 HR
30 GS
5.32 ERA

Fogg 06:
172 IP
206 H
115 R
105 ER
24 HR
31 GS
5.49 ERA

Big difference? No. I'm sure I'll hear about hw unlucky Belisle was with his 125/44 K/BB and how Fogg was just awful with his 93/60 K/BB ratio. In the end, the were both bad.

I'd rather start Belisle, but I've never seen such love for such a bad pitcher before.

Screwball
03-20-2008, 11:52 PM
I'd rather start Belisle, but I've never seen such love for such a bad pitcher before.


That's the whole point. He's not a bad pitcher.

TRF
03-20-2008, 11:57 PM
Here's some fun stuff. Somebody on here talked about how Josh Fogg (and excuse me for not looking up the exact quote) had one of the worst years in the history of baseball as a starter in 2006?

Belisle 07:
177.2 IP
212 H
111 R
105 ER
26 HR
30 GS
5.32 ERA

Fogg 06:
172 IP
206 H
115 R
105 ER
24 HR
31 GS
5.49 ERA

Big difference? No. I'm sure I'll hear about hw unlucky Belisle was with his 125/44 K/BB and how Fogg was just awful with his 93/60 K/BB ratio. In the end, the were both bad.

I'd rather start Belisle, but I've never seen such love for such a bad pitcher before.

The difference being that was Foggs 5th year as a starter. And it was far from his best year.

Patrick Bateman
03-21-2008, 12:43 AM
Here's some fun stuff. Somebody on here talked about how Josh Fogg (and excuse me for not looking up the exact quote) had one of the worst years in the history of baseball as a starter in 2006?

Belisle 07:
177.2 IP
212 H
111 R
105 ER
26 HR
30 GS
5.32 ERA

Fogg 06:
172 IP
206 H
115 R
105 ER
24 HR
31 GS
5.49 ERA

Big difference? No. I'm sure I'll hear about hw unlucky Belisle was with his 125/44 K/BB and how Fogg was just awful with his 93/60 K/BB ratio. In the end, the were both bad.

I'd rather start Belisle, but I've never seen such love for such a bad pitcher before.

ERA continues to be a terrible indicator of future results.

ERA is the reason that people thought Bailey was ready for the majors. He wasn't.

ERA is why people thought Gary Majewski was the key to fixing the bullpen. He wasn't.

ERA was one of the reasons that people thought Eric Milton would make a fine back of the rotation option. He wasn't.

Generally speaking, a lot of bad decision are made on pitchers because of the amount of runs scored against them. Of course this assumes that a bazillion other factors independent of the pitcher are the same for everyone abound (unlike Fogg having a defense with a skill level infinite times better than Belisle). ERA is now the reason why people think that Fogg and Belisle are similar quality pitchers. Seems like a poor excuse to drop a younger, better option from the team. The Reds continue to run into the same mistakes without learning.


There are severe differences between Belisle and Fogg. Fogg has a history of being a terrible pitcher. Belisle on the other hand has bascially finished the developmental portion of his career, and is ready to contribute. Plus if you ignore ERA and simply look at the factors that Belisle has much of a control over, you have a guy that is clearly better than Fogg based on last season alone (and he should only improve). There's a clear talent level difference between them. Belisle throws harder, and IMO, can locate much more effectively than Fogg. Belisle shouldn't be judged on a smallish sample size where there were clear factors hindering his performance that had little to do with him.

WMR
03-21-2008, 12:49 AM
ERA continues to be a terrible indicator of future results.

ERA is the reason that people thought Bailey was ready for the majors. He wasn't.

ERA is why people thought Gary Majewski was the key to fixing the bullpen. He wasn't.

ERA was one of the reasons that people thought Eric Milton would make a fine back of the rotation option. He wasn't.

Generally speaking, a lot of bad decision are made on pitchers because of the amount of runs scored against them. Of course this assumes that a bazillion other factors independent of the pitcher are the same for everyone abound (unlike Fogg having a defense with a skill level infinite times better than Belisle). ERA is now the reason why people think that Fogg and Belisle are similar quality pitchers. Seems like a poor excuse to drop a younger, better option from the team. The Reds continue to run into the same mistakes without learning.


There are severe differences between Belisle and Fogg. Fogg has a history of being a terrible pitcher. Belisle on the other hand has bascially finished the developmental portion of his career, and is ready to contribute. Plus if you ignore ERA and simply look at the factors that Belisle has much of a control over, you have a guy that is clearly better than Fogg absed on last season alone. There's a clear talent level difference between them. Belisle throws harder, and IMO, can locate much more effectively than Fogg. Belisle shouldn' be judged on a small sample size where there were clear factors hindering his performance that had little to do with him.

I was hoping you would post.

:clap:

BCubb2003
03-21-2008, 04:45 PM
ERA continues to be a terrible indicator of future results.

ERA is the reason that people thought Bailey was ready for the majors. He wasn't.

ERA is why people thought Gary Majewski was the key to fixing the bullpen. He wasn't.

ERA was one of the reasons that people thought Eric Milton would make a fine back of the rotation option. He wasn't.



ERA stole your bicycle.

Good post.

paulrichjr
03-21-2008, 09:50 PM
Read the Cueto stuff...then the Hamilton...then the Volquez...I think the Volquez is the most interesting given what was said...

Watch out NL Central!!!!

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/spring2008/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=3304727&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab3pos1

Cueto, others turning heads with eye-popping springs

SARASOTA, Fla. -- How can you tell when a pitcher has inspired a scout to awaken from his somnambulant spring-training state?


When he bolts to attention as his radar gun begins to rattle. And, especially, when he then feels the need to start texting the gun numbers to his disbelieving friends.

"94-mph 2-seam ... 96 4-seam ... 96, 95, 94, 95, 94 ... 95 fb, 88 sli (slider), 87 sli, 96, 88 sli, 86 (change)."

The vignette we just described is true. Those text-message excerpts? Also 100 percent true. The scout will remain nameless. The pitcher who provoked this text-a-thon? He will not remain nameless.

AP Photo/Al Behrman

Johnny Cueto could begin the regular season in the Reds' starting rotation.
That name, for future reference: Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto. Remember it. We'll help you remember it, in fact, by naming him the 21-year-old captain of our 2008 Spring Training All-Eye-Popper Team.

So what did a guy need to do this spring to qualify for this team? It wasn't too complicated:

Just have himself a spring training that blew up the stat sheet, woke up every scout in the ballpark and even caused a fan or three to stop leaning against the tiki bar.

So let's start at the top -- with the buzz-master champion of the entire state of Florida:

Johnny Cueto, RHP, Reds

SPRING STAT LINE: 0-0, 2.08 ERA, 13 IP, 8 H, 12 K
Cueto and fellow Reds phenom Edinson Volquez (more on him later) have turned into more than mere March curiosities this spring. They've moved their new veteran teammates to start actively lobbying -- loudly -- for both of them to make the team.

"I don't know where they're going to start the season," said Adam Dunn this week. "But I would be pushing for them to start the season with us."

Well, thanks for the advice. The Reds aren't tipping their hand on that front. But they might have a mutiny on their hands if one, or both of those two, don't open the season in the rotation.

Cueto has been putting on a show from day one, blowing mid-90s fastballs past good hitters, freezing them with his dive-bombing slider, throwing invisible changeups on any count and doing it all with a presence and command that makes it tough to believe he's still only 21.

"His stuff speaks for itself," said catcher Paul Bako. "But for me, what's even more impressive is just where he is as a pitcher at a young age, and the way he commands the ball. He's got three 'plus' pitches, and the way he can pitch with those pitches has impressed me much more than his stuff."

"You see so many guys this time of year throwing [their fastballs] in the high 80s and low 90s," said one scout, "that when a guy comes along who throws it 94-97, to both sides of the plate, down in the zone, and complements that with a hard upper-80s slider and a changeup that goes straight down -- all for strikes -- let's just say it catches your attention."

Well, he's got our attention, anyway. All he has left to catch at this point is a spot on the Reds' roster.

And now, the rest of our All-Eye-Popper Team:

Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves

SPRING STAT LINE: .462 AVG., .475 OBP, .692 SLG, 3 DOUBLES, 2 HR, 12 RBIs
It isn't often that a team with October ambitions goes out and trades a .332 hitter to open a spot for a 25-year-old phenom with 319 career at-bats. But the Braves told us exactly what they think of Escobar when they dealt away Edgar Renteria before the offseason was even a month old.

"You don't trade a Renteria unless you've got a replacement who's close to him," said manager Bobby Cox. "And this guy has got a chance to be an All-Star, I think. Great defense. Great arm. Can hit. Has power. If he wants to turn it up a notch, he can hit the ball out. I can't say enough good things about him. He's a player."

The Braves will miss Renteria's leadership. But in terms of talent on the field, Escobar's spring performance has shown us there's just about no drop-off there.

"They're basically getting a younger Renteria," said one scout. "I think they get a little concerned that he occasionally tries to do too much defensively. And he's a little more of a free swinger than Renteria. He's young, so he doesn't work counts like he should. But in terms of talent, I don't know that there's any drop-off."

Josh Hamilton, CF, Rangers

SPRING STAT LINE: .556 AVG., .600 OBP, .972 SLG, 5 DOUBLES, 2 TRIPLES, 2 HR, 13 RBIS
We didn't think it would be possible for Hamilton to pop more eyeballs this spring than last spring, when he came back from nearly four years out of baseball to just about leap off the field at us. But he's pulled that off, one spring after his stunning trade from Cincinnati to Texas in December.


Josh Hamilton has been the best player in Arizona. When he hits the ball, it has a completely different sound than just about any player out there. ... In that park in Texas, he could hit 50 [home runs]. He's that good.
--A scout

"Josh Hamilton," said one scout, "has been the best player in Arizona. When he hits the ball, it has a completely different sound than just about any player out there. He's just a different player. If he stays on the straight and narrow, and he stays healthy, he could hit 40 home runs this year. Wait. You know what? In that park in Texas, he could hit 50. He's that good."

So how could the Reds have ever traded this guy? Read on.

Edinson Volquez, RHP, Reds

SPRING STAT LINE: 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 15 IP, 21 K
A scout we know announced to a large delegation of onlookers the other day: "The best trade this winter was Edinson Volquez for Josh Hamilton."

And after that Josh Hamilton riff a few paragraphs to the north, you would probably agree -- except that this scout meant it the other way around. That's how dazzling Volquez has been this spring.

That news might shock people who saw Volquez go 3-11, with a 7.20 ERA, in three different passes through Texas. But this spring, at age 25, he has totally clicked it into gear. In fact, he's tied with the Mets' duo of Johan Santana and John Maine for the lead in the whole sport in strikeouts.

But it isn't the number of whiffs that has stood out. It's how this guy has piled them up.

His first three March outings, in order, went: four punchouts in 2 1/3 innings against the Red Sox, eight K's in four innings against the Yankees and six strikeouts in five innings against the Phillies. And that's three of the four best lineups in baseball we're talking about.

"Unbelievable movement," said a coach of one of those teams. ... "Electric stuff," gushed one scout. ... "His changeup is really, really, really dirty," said Bako.



Parra

Manny Parra, LHP, Brewers
SPRING STAT LINE: 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 14 IP, 7 H, 15 K
Looks like the wait is over for the brightest pitching prospect in the Brewers' constellation. It took awhile, thanks to 2005 shoulder surgery. But Parra has been ridiculous this spring, throwing his whole four-pitch arsenal for strikes and demonstrating exactly why he was this team's minor-league pitcher of the year last season.

He has an option left. So the Brewers haven't committed to keeping him in the big leagues. But in reality, he might be the biggest reason you're hearing so many trade rumors these days involving Claudio Vargas and David Bush.

"I think he's forced them to put those guys on the market," said one scout, "and to change roles on that staff. This guy has got 'pluses' across the board. If he gets command of his fastball, he has a chance to be a big winner."

Chase Headley, LF, Padres
SPRING STAT LINE: .371 AVG., .385 OBP, .771 SLG, 3 DOUBLES, 1 TRIPLE, 3 HR, 12 RBIs
The Padres' top prospect wasn't supposed to jump all the way from third base in Double-A to left field in the big leagues this spring -- even coming off a season as the Texas League Player of the Year. But Jim Edmonds' calf injury gave Headley an opening. And even though he's still likely to wind up in Triple-A, all he did all spring was keep on hitting.

This is a team with a certified outfield jumble on its hands, with Edmonds and Brian Giles rehabbing and Headley, Paul McAnulty and Jody Gerut jockeying for spots. But it's hard not to notice that Headley has had only one day off all spring. So clearly, the Padres wanted to take as long and close a look as possible at a 23-year-old switch-hitting offensive machine who has been a source of nonstop conversation.

"He's still rough defensively in left," said one scout. "But he can swing the bat. There's no doubt about that."



Longoria

Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays

SPRING STAT LINE: .313 AVG., .477 OBP, 719 SLG, 2 DOUBLES, 1 TRIPLE, 3 HR, 9 RBIs
Here's another stud prospect who probably isn't going to make the team. But that to-keep-him-or-not-to-keep-him debate has made Longoria an even more compelling topic this spring.

The Rays opened a position for him by moving Akinori Iwamura to second base. And Longoria has put on a show all spring, offensively and defensively. So obviously, the only reason this team wouldn't keep him can be summed up this way: $$$$$.

Spending even three weeks in Triple-A would cost him enough service time to buy the Rays another season before free agency. So that's almost certainly what's going to happen. But at age 22, he has done nothing to suggest he won't be a huge star.

"He's going to be a hell of a player," said one scout. "You can see that. But what's really impressive is just the way he handles himself on the field. When you watch him, he looks like a major-league player."

Manny Delcarmen, RHP, Red Sox

SPRING STAT LINE: 1.17 ERA, 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 5 K, .148 OPPONENT AVG.
The first time the Red Sox brought Delcarmen to the big leagues, in 2005, he handed out seven walks in nine innings. But apparently, he's figured out that control glitch -- because this spring, he has faced 28 hitters and walked none of them.

Now everyone who has seen him under the palm trees acts as if he's about to turn into one of the most dominating setup men in baseball.

"It's working," said manager Terry Francona. "He's pounding the strike zone. And it's fun to see guys get to a point in their career where they can either level off or take it and run with it. He looks like he wants to go run with it. His ball is exploding through the zone. And he's commanding it."

Alexei Ramirez, 2B-SS-CF, White Sox

SPRING STAT LINE: .366 AVG., .400 OBP, .610 SLG, 5 DOUBLES, 1 TRIPLE, 1 HR, 10 RBIs
This 26-year-old Cuban defector started spring training as a mystery man. Now, a month later, he's the first guy that any visitor to the White Sox camp talks about.

Don't ask where he's going to play. Don't ask if he's going straight to the big leagues. The White Sox haven't settled on any of that (although they're thinking long and hard about installing him in center field). They just know he got four hits in the first spring-training game of his life, and he's been a monster all spring.

"He's your eye-popper, based on tools alone," said one scout. "He's got the whole package -- the body, the bat speed, hands, arm, body control. How it translates remains to be seen. But when you think of players, he just looks the part."

paulrichjr
03-21-2008, 10:16 PM
One more article.......
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/spring2008/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=3304727&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab3pos1

• One scout says Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto "is from another planet. He's like Pedro [Martinez]. Throws in the 90s, good breaking ball and feel, loves to pitch. But the feeling down here is that there's a reason Homer Bailey's been available in the right deal."

Here is the real link...Sorry for the mistake

http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=gammons_peter

BCubb2003
03-21-2008, 10:27 PM
One more article.......
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/spring2008/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=3304727&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab3pos1
But the feeling down here is that there's a reason Homer Bailey's been available in the right deal."

Isn't everybody available in the right deal? Even Pedro was available in the right deal.

The reports on Cueto are starting to get scary now.

OnBaseMachine
03-21-2008, 10:39 PM
One more article.......
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/spring2008/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=3304727&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab3pos1

• One scout says Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto "is from another planet. He's like Pedro [Martinez]. Throws in the 90s, good breaking ball and feel, loves to pitch. But the feeling down here is that there's a reason Homer Bailey's been available in the right deal."

That article you linked is to the Jayson Stark article. Was there supposed to be another article?

cincrazy
03-21-2008, 10:42 PM
ERA continues to be a terrible indicator of future results.

ERA is the reason that people thought Bailey was ready for the majors. He wasn't.

ERA is why people thought Gary Majewski was the key to fixing the bullpen. He wasn't.

ERA was one of the reasons that people thought Eric Milton would make a fine back of the rotation option. He wasn't.

Generally speaking, a lot of bad decision are made on pitchers because of the amount of runs scored against them. Of course this assumes that a bazillion other factors independent of the pitcher are the same for everyone abound (unlike Fogg having a defense with a skill level infinite times better than Belisle). ERA is now the reason why people think that Fogg and Belisle are similar quality pitchers. Seems like a poor excuse to drop a younger, better option from the team. The Reds continue to run into the same mistakes without learning.


There are severe differences between Belisle and Fogg. Fogg has a history of being a terrible pitcher. Belisle on the other hand has bascially finished the developmental portion of his career, and is ready to contribute. Plus if you ignore ERA and simply look at the factors that Belisle has much of a control over, you have a guy that is clearly better than Fogg based on last season alone (and he should only improve). There's a clear talent level difference between them. Belisle throws harder, and IMO, can locate much more effectively than Fogg. Belisle shouldn't be judged on a smallish sample size where there were clear factors hindering his performance that had little to do with him.

I agree with most of what you say, but on the same hand, Belisle has had chance after chance after chance to grab ahold of a spot with this team, and he hasn't yet. It hasn't exactly been a rotation brimming with talent over the years, and sooner or later the excuse can no longer be used that he's "developing."

There's no question that he has the stuff... but so does Kyle Lohse for that matter.

paulrichjr
03-21-2008, 11:39 PM
That article you linked is to the Jayson Stark article. Was there supposed to be another article?


Sorry for the mistake..


http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=gammons_peter

Young pitchers will shape AL East
posted: Sunday, March 16, 2008 | Print Entry
filed under: MLB

Phil Hughes has looked dominant this spring. "He was," says one GM, "the best player on the board in the Johan Santana talks."

Ian Kennedy has looked like a young Mike Boddicker, an artist. We have seen Joba Chamberlain, and there is a very good chance that Ross Ohlendorf will be a significant setup part of the Yankees' bullpen.

The esteemed Bill Madden of the New York Daily News checked with the Elias Sports Bureau and found that no team has won the World Series with two rookies starting 25 games. Indeed, there is a lot of pressure on Hughes, Kennedy, Chamberlain and Ohlendorf, but what is so different in the American League East is that the three teams that can win the division -- and you might be surprised by how many people on the west coast of Florida believe that the Jays have a legitimate chance to win the division -- are all dependent on young pitchers.

Toronto is dependent on 25-year old Dustin McGowan and 26-year-old Shaun Marcum. Scouts who saw closer B.J. Ryan this week say he was as good as he ever was, which makes Jeremy Accardo (30 saves, 2.14 ERA) even more significant. "If A.J. Burnett can make 30 starts," says a GM, "they can be right in it." One AL hitting coach says "Marcum and McGowan (who were 24-16 combined) can be as good as anyone. That pitching is good enough to win."

Boston has Jon Lester, who is essentially a rookie given his time off due to chemotherapy, as the No. 2 starter. Clay Buchholz is going to end up being important. Manny Delcarmen had a monster spring.

"This division can be decided by whose young pitchers come forward the strongest," says one GM. "The fact that McGowan and Marcum had 52 starts between them last year makes them even more dangerous if Burnett and Ryan are healthy."

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has said all winter that as he watched Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lester and Jonathan Papelbon clinch the World Series, he was further convinced that teams can win with young players. Throw in Tampa Bay with Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza and the rest of their emerging young pitching, and the game's best division has become the young power arms division.

There seems to be no question about Cameron Maybin's talent. "He's about where Hanley Ramirez was two years ago," says Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. "There is no question about his ability; the question we have to answer is whether or not he could be hurt by struggling in the big leagues at this point."

Maybin, who came from Detroit in the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis deal, looks like an elite college hoop wing, which is not surprising since he's Rashad McCants' cousin (he has yet to take on Ramirez, the former Dominican slam dunk king). But Maybin has only 49 major league at-bats. "He has a chance to be special," says Gonzalez. "But we don't want to set him back."

• One scout says Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto "is from another planet. He's like Pedro [Martinez]. Throws in the 90s, good breaking ball and feel, loves to pitch. But the feeling down here is that there's a reason Homer Bailey's been available in the right deal."

• The one place that seemed to make sense for Barry Bonds is Seattle, especially if Richie Sexson struggles and they can move Jose Vidro to first base. But indications are that if Sexson doesn't bounce back -- and Sexson's convinced he will -- then Vidro indeed will go to first, but Jeff Clement would get the first shot at being the DH.

• There are those with the Mets who believe Mike Pelfrey may need more time. In his last outing, Pelfrey was 89-92 mph -- mostly 89-90 -- and is struggling with his command. "He's got to get ahead in the count, and he's having a hard time doing that," says manager Willie Randolph. What you don't see are a lot of swings and misses.

• Look, this whole Rays-Yankees thing is overstated. In their last 40 regular season meetings, Tampa Bay has an even split with the Yankees, so this just galvanizes them even more. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi taking his players' backs is clearly a positive for New York and its energy level entering the season.

• An attribute one most likes to see in young players is accountability. Case in point, the Cardinals' No. 1 starter Adam Wainwright. "We went into Arizona last September with a chance to win, but I made four or five bad pitches against Brandon Webb, we ended up losing a game I should have won and went on to lose four straight." No wonder Dave Duncan loves the guy.

• From an AL scout on Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds: "He can play third base well, and he might have as much power as anyone around." Reynolds hit 17 homers in 366 plate appearances last season, and his .844 OPS would have placed him in the top six among NL third basemen. Juan Gutierrez, one of the pitchers acquired from Houston in the Jose Valverde deal, has a chance to start the season with the Diamondbacks. "He throws 92-94 with a slider and a pretty good feel for pitching," says an Arizona official. "He may be able to help us right away."

• From another scout on the White Sox: "They're a much more energetic team than they were. Orlando Cabrera brings a lot of energy, so does Nick Swisher, and the Cuban second baseman, Alexei Ramirez, is the damndest player in Arizona. His energy is incredible. He's a wild man, all over the field, swings at everything, but he could be pretty good and a lot of fun to watch. John Danks has thrown the ball well, but they still have to decide whether or not to trade Joe Crede or Paul Konkerko. They have time for that."

• Oakland keeps calling on Coco Crisp, but Boston is still asking for pitching and young catching that GM Billy Beane won't give up.

• The raves about Oakland's young pitching seems universal. Henry Rodriguez, at 19 years old, has been 96-100 mph with some sink and a changeup. Then there are the two pitchers acquired from the White Sox in the Swisher deal. Fautino De Los Santos "might go through the minors to the big leagues in a blur," according to one scout who says De Los Santos has been up to 97. Gio Gonzalez has been up to 94 mph. And Greg Smith, from the Dan Haren deal, is a sleeper to make the club, a Brian Bannister type.

• Yankees players were dazzled by the one inning David Price threw against them. "He hit the first batter," says one Yankee, "and struck out the next three at 97, 98 then 99. He can be special."

• Some Giants scouts have handed out a sheet with close to a dozen players that are available, including Randy Winn, Dave Roberts, Steve Kline, Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia and others.

• One baseball executive says "Billy Butler of the Royals is the best young hitter I've seen all spring."

• The Yankees have told Andrew Brackman, the 6-10 NC State fireballer/power forward who signed and had Tommy John surgery in August, to forget about trying to pitch in 2008. "They told me not to even think about pitching this season, just get healthy," says Brackman, who may be a monster talent. As for his hoops career, he knows how to win some hearts. "My favorite player of all time is Tyler Hansborough," says Brackman. "I tried to cover him. I love him."

Patrick Bateman
03-22-2008, 01:26 AM
I agree with most of what you say, but on the same hand, Belisle has had chance after chance after chance to grab ahold of a spot with this team, and he hasn't yet. It hasn't exactly been a rotation brimming with talent over the years, and sooner or later the excuse can no longer be used that he's "developing."

There's no question that he has the stuff... but so does Kyle Lohse for that matter.

Belisle has gotten basically one crack at being a starter. He was given a fair chance and he claimed a spot by outpitching the competition. He then went on to have a mediocre season, with some strengths, and some weaknesses, but more than anything Josh Fogg has shown at any point in his career. Fogg vs. Belisle should never have been up for debate.

OnBaseMachine
03-23-2008, 01:17 AM
Please Wayne, get us another catcher!

Valentin could be key man for rookie pitchers
Cueto and Volquez can only benefit from having a catcher who speaks their native language.

By Kyle Nagel

Staff Writer

Sunday, March 23, 2008

SARASOTA, Fla. — During the past few weeks, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez have become two Cincinnati Reds starting pitchers surrounded by optimism.

The two have other things in common. Both lack significant major-league experience — Cueto hasn't seen the big leagues at all, while Volquez made 20 appearances in the past three seasons with Texas — and both are natives of the Dominican Republic.

Those factors make Javier Valentin, the Reds catcher, a potentially important figure in the young pitchers' development. Combining his regular pitcher-catcher communication duties with the fact that he speaks their native language, Valentin could play a role in the potential success of Cueto and Volquez.

"Sometimes it's kind of difficult, because you have to learn the guy and learn the pitcher," said Valentin, who will start his fifth season with the Reds. "You have to find out what he likes to do in a situation. In the past, I had a lot of veteran pitchers, so I was learning. Now I'm trying to pass it to younger pitchers."

Valentin said the pair might feel more comfortable coming to him because Spanish also is his first language. He notes, though, that neither is tentative. Both have shown aggressiveness and a lack of the usual nerves that can hinder a first-time regular starter.

Their maturity should help fans feel comfortable with two young starters in the rotation.

"If he's ready to pitch, let him pitch," Valentin said. "How are you going to know if he can do it unless you give him a chance to do it? Give him the chance against major-league players in a major-league lineup."

That looks like it's going to happen soon enough, as Cueto and Volquez should fall in behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo as the third and fourth starters (or vice versa). As David Ross works to recover from lower back spasms, Paul Bako and Valentin will likely start the season as the Reds' two catchers. Manager Dusty Baker has said the Cueto and Volquez can work with any catcher despite a potential language barrier.

"They have to trust us," Valentin said. "We're 100 percent behind them, and they can be comfortable with us."

http://www.daytondailynews.com/s/content/oh/story/sports/pro/reds/2008/03/23/ddn032308reds.html

WMR
03-23-2008, 01:43 AM
Valentin is one of the worst game-callers I have ever seen.

Topcat
03-23-2008, 06:45 AM
Catching is a need to position for sure. but all of a sudden David Ross healthy doesnt seem to bad I bet to his bashers huh ;)

KronoRed
03-23-2008, 06:11 PM
Valentin is one of the worst game-callers I have ever seen.

Let Pole call the game.