Here is the Reds Hot Stove League show report for 3-14-07 a couple of days late. Tom Gamble was the host and Jeff Brantley joined him by phone. After talking hoops Tom asked Jeff abut Jr. and the possibility that he may not be ready to go by Opening Day. Jeff said it is very important for a player to play at least 7-10 games in ST before the regular season. He said t doesn't matter how good you are, you have to get your timing down and used to the aches and pains you get from hitting and playing the field. Tom asked is there a drop dead date where Narron has to project a lineup with or without Jr. Jeff said there probably should be some date. If he says he's not ready to play or doesn't feel good enough, you have to move on. You aren't going to just put him out there no matter what. Jeff said that although it's ST, the Reds have played pretty good without him.
Tom asked Jeff about Josh Hamilton and said he was amazed he's doing this well offensively considering the layoff. Jeff said he's been very impressed. Jeff said that while he maybe has not faced the best pitchers, the ones he has faced most of them have come to ST in game condition. They have had to make the ball club. The thing Jeff has noticed is the way he makes adjustments is similar to what great hitters do who have been in the majors a long time; which is from pitch to pitch. He has made quick adjustments against lefties and some pitchers are intimidated by him even though he lacks experience.
After commercial, Tom asked Jeff about the pitching and asked if Matt Belisle was the leading contender for the 5th spot in the rotation. Jeff said statistically he's pitched as well as anyone. He said the question is his makeup. Jeff said that Matt has said that he wants that spot in the rotation. Jeff also mentioned Bobby Livingston and you have to wonder why SEA got rid of him. Tom asked if there should be an open competition for all the spots in the rotation. Jeff said that he believes there is open competition. He thinks a lot of it is behind the scenes and a lot of what is said in public is to ease the minds of the guys for the spots. Jeff said he couldn't imagine any scenario that wouldn't involve Wayne and Jerry taking the best 5 starters north. (I sure can). He said if that means Kyle Lohse wants to nurse a sore hammy for the rest of the year he may do that but that's part of the reason his ERA has been in the 5s for the past few years. He said there's more to the rotation stuff than contacts and/or throwing the ball 90 mph.You have to have guys with guts and the will to win that take the ball every 5th day (And some guys who can get some outs). He said we know what pitching in GAB entails. If you leave a ball up, it's going to get hit out.
Tom asked about Paul Wilson. Jeff said a lot of the makeup of the staff comes down to options and maneuverability. He said you don't want to make a quick decision in ST and write off a Milton or Lohse. Coutlangus, Livingston and Belisle have all pitched well. He said decisions could come down to the last day and they won't be easy. Jeff said the decisions on the non-pitchers should be much easier than the ones they make on the pitchers.
Tom asked Jeff when Jr. plays if he will be in RF. Jeff said he thinks there is no doubt about it. He said he doesn't know if Jr. will be real happy about it at first. Jeff said that if he's the Reds and he thinks he has a chance to win, then Jr, has to be in the lineup every day and he has to be healthy. He said that CF is much more taxing than RF just like middle IF is more taxing than 1st or 3rd. He said a lot of Jr.s injuries have come from hitting a wall or diving or giving extra effort to make a catch and we saw what happened to the offense when Jr. was out in Sept. (Funny, I got the same answer last year when I asked why they don't move him to RF. They said he could stay healthier in CF). Jeff said Jr. helps the guys around him get better. Whether they pitch to Jr, or walk him to face Dunn who, according to Jeff, has looked great this spring. (But that can't happen since it's against Narron's Law to bat two lefties back to back).
After commercial, Fredo... I mean Enquirer beat writer John Fay joined Tom by phone. Tom asked John about Josh. John said the thing about Josh is he doesn't swing and miss a lot. And he has such power he hits the ball a long ways when he makes contact. He said he had no idea he'd be hitting .571 in 28 ABs. He said when you see him every day and you see his talent, you really can't be shocked. Tom asked John about Jr. and basically asked him the same questions he asked Jeff. John said Jr. told the media he'd tell them when he was ready to play. He still thinks Jr. can be ready by Opening Day and due to the new Basic Agreement, the club can't discuss his condition with the media and Jr. isn't saying anything either. Tom asked John about what he wrote in the paper about Jr. perhaps not playing so he won't have time to learn to play RF by the time the season starts. Tom said he has been told by some people that that may actually be the case. John said Jr, took exception to that but some people are wondering if it's more than the hand. He said Jr. took BP off Lohse the other day and he throws hard and Jr. got some hits off him. He said he just wrote what a lot of people have been thinking.
Tom said with the exception of Jr, the lineup is solid and they have been performing well during ST. John said the one exception is Ross but that's not a big concern. He said Dunn is having a great spring and Gonzo has been making great plays at SS. He said the defensive upgrade at SS needed to happen.
After commercial they made fun of the Devil Rays. Then Tom asked John about the pitchers and the decisions the Reds would have to make. John said a guy like Sarloos could have been the 3rd starter for the Reds last year. They have a lot of choices. Belisle has looked good and Wilson has looked good at times (Fredo must have a thing for long hair). He said Livingston has looked good too. He said the overall depth is better and they can ship some good pitchers down to LOU. He mentioned that they brought in some power arms like Burton but he doesn't see how they can keep him. Tom asked about Wilson and Santos and asked if options played a part in making the team. John said it is a huge factor and Wayne has got guys who have had options whereas DanO would pick up guys who were out of options. He said guys like Livingston and Salmon can be sent to AAA. He said that a decision has to be made on the non roster guys. He said Hermanson looked good and would be stunned if he didn't make the team. Tom asked him what the most pleasant surprise and the biggest disappointment was. John said Josh was the biggest surprise and they won't hesitate to put him in RF n Opening day if Jr. is hurt. He said he will have some down times but his talent is so huge and he hasn't shown any rust. The biggest disappointment was that they didn't look good defensively at first but that's improved.
Tom asked John about the two big acquisitions last year, Ross and Phillips. Tom said Brandon has looked good so far but Ross has started slow. John said Ross tailed off some in the 2nd half and it's a concern he hasn't started well. He said that perhaps putting Javy back there a couple three times a week would help Ross stay strong. He said Brandon has put on 10 lbs and he was pretty skinny before. He compared him to Pokey Reese defensively.
After commercial Tom said that Juan Encarnacion and George Grande's BFF Jim Edmonds could begin the season on the DL for StL.
The first caller sad he was impressed what Jeff had to say about the rotation earlier and how it wasn't etched in stone. Tom said he's skeptical about that although he does believe that things are said to relieve the pressure they feel. The caller then made some silly analogy to a compressor in a factory. Tom said that up until now they have struggled to fill the 5th spot and now they have several candidates for it. The caller thinks that if guys like Milton don't perform, Bob will give his blessing for Wayne to cut him. Tom said if you make a bad investment, don't compound it by keeping it.
Thus endeth the Reds Hot Stove League show report show for 3-16-07. So let it be written. So let it be done.