Spotlight on Williams in debut today
By Hal McCoy
Dayton Daily News
CINCINNATI | The focus the past few days has been on Sean Casey's return to Cincinnati, his first appearance since the Cincinnati Reds traded him to Pittsburgh in December.
Who: Pirates (Santos 0-1) at Reds (Williams 0-0)
When: 1:15 p.m.
Radio: WLW-AM (700); WONE-AM (980)
How about Dave Williams? Where is his attention? He is the guy the Reds acquired from the Pirates for Casey and me makes his Reds debut today, starting against the Pirates.
"Spring training was rough for me, as it always is, but I'm getting a clean slate and hopefully I'll have a successful season," he said. Williams was 1-2 this spring with a 6.75 ERA and gave up 29 hits in 20 innings. "I always tell my agent that one day spring training is going to get me released.
"When Lloyd McClendon managed Pittsburgh he called me in (after spring training) and said, 'You're in the fifth spot, but you're on a short leash,' which was fine with me. Next thing you know, I'm leading the team in wins. He asked me, 'Hey, what happened?', and I said, 'Well, the bell rang.'"
The Cincinnati bell rings for Williams today.
Blowing up Burnitz
Pittsburgh's Jeromy Burnitz swung at a pitch in the dirt from Kent Mercker to strike out and end Friday night's game, dipping Burnitz to 1 for 26 for his career against Mercker.
Asked about it, Mercker covered his ears and said, "I didn't hear that. I did NOT hear that." Superstitious, huh?
"I had a feeling it was something like that or they wouldn't have had my sad butt in there," he said. "I struck him out with a drop-down change-up, a pitch I'd never thrown so I know he'd never seen it.
"The thing is, last year he hit a rocket off my wrist and ricocheted to third baseman Richie Aurilia and he made a great play," Mercker added. "And two years ago in Wrigley he hit one against the wind that was caught. Without the wind, it clears Addison Street."
Blowing up Maddux
Manager Jerry Narron was discussing the catching schedule for when Jason LaRue comes off the disabled list Tuesday and said, "The only day he won't catch next week if Wednesday because Javier Valentin is going to catch if he is alive."
That's because the Reds face Chicago's Greg Maddux in Wrigley Field and Valentin hits Maddux like a soft-throwing pitching machine – 6 for 10 with four homers.
"You need to see as many pitches against him as you can," said Valentin. "None of his pitches are going to be down the middle and you'll see lots of off-speed stuff. He wants you to put it in play and get yourself out. You are going to get one good pitch to hit from him per at-bat and you better not miss it."
Blowing up second base
Two writers were chatting with pitcher Matt Belisle when fellow pitcher David Weathers walked by and said, "Hey, Matt, you play second base, too?"
It was a reference to the Reds acquiring Brandon Phillips, the fourth second baseman on the roster. Amazingly, the writers were talking to Belisle about Phillips.
"That guy can really play some defense," said Belisle. "He is so smooth, so good. I played in the minors against him and in the Arizona Fall League.
He is fun to watch. I saw him mostly play shortstop, but he is just as good at second base."
Blowing the location
Even Sean Casey's father, Jim, is confused about his son's trade from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. After Friday's game, the elder Casey was standing outside the Reds clubhouse for quite a while.
Finally, he was asked what he was doing and he said, "Waiting for Sean."
Told that Sean was in the visiting clubhouse with the Pirates, Jim Casey slapped his head with both hands and said, "My gosh, I forgot."
Blowing up an AB
During Friday night's 7-6 victory over the Pirates, Ken Griffey Jr. came to bat in the eighth inning with one out and the bases loaded. He swung at the first pitch and popped to third base.
"That was bad enough," said Griffey. "But what really ticked me off was hearing the umpire (Ed Hickox) yell, 'Infield fly rule, the batter's out,' even before I left the batter's box.'"
Outfielder Chris Denorfia is a player everybody seems to like — a player like former Reds outfielder Brady Clark, now a star in Milwaukee. Like Clark, though, Denorfia can't seem to stick in Cincinnati.
He was optioned to Class AAA Louisville during spring training, then recalled when outfielder Quinton McCracken was place on the DL. Now, even though is 2 for 2 with two runs this season, he was optioned back to Louisville Saturday to make room for the club's fourth second baseman, Brandon Phillips.
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