Climbing down from the bridge, but keeping the torch lit until Dusty's fate is settled
Notes: Healthy Freel out to win job
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Outfielder Ryan Freel doesn't like sitting still and couldn't wait to get to Reds camp. He's already been around for about 10 days.
"I'm excited to get going," Freel said. "It's been a long offseason."
Longer than most.
Freel had season-ending right knee surgery to repair cartilage damage in August. Add that time lost to the month he missed in the first half because of a concussion from an outfield collision, and the 31-year-old missed a total of 81 games because of injuries.
The knee rehab Freel did all winter is over, and he is ready to formally begin camp.
"I'm 100 percent. For the most part, I'm not restricted," Freel said. "I'm not jumping over fences and doing anything stupid. As far as cutting and running, I'm clear to do all of that."
This should be a pivotal camp for Freel. Last season, he slumped to a .245 average in 75 games and had a career-low .308 on-base percentage. He opened 2007 as the regular center fielder, but now is competing to keep the job against Norris Hopper and Jay Bruce, baseball's best prospect.
"I don't take anything for granted. I feel like I have to earn the job," Freel said. "I know a lot of people are talking about Jay Bruce. I know a lot of people are talking about Hopper having a great year last year. I was banged up and didn't do what I would have liked to have done, performance-wise.
"I don't think they know who the center fielder is. I don't think there's a set man there right now. It's a job that's up for grabs."
Freel, who was signed to a two-year, $7 million contract extension in April, is used to being unsettled. Until last season, he held a super-utility role and manned up to five different positions.
"I never had a position -- I don't think I do now," he said. "I'd like to play out there [in center field]. I've been a utility guy that plays every day when I'm healthy. I think there's still a utility mark next to my name anyway. It doesn't say 'Ryan Freel, outfielder.' It says 'infielder/outfielder.'"
Castro improving: Along with Freel, infielder Juan Castro has been granted permission to report early because he is coming back from an injury. Castro had ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow in August.
"I'm not 100 percent," Castro reported. "I feel 80 percent. My elbow is feeling pretty good and not sore. I have been able to throw without pain."
Castro was optimistic he could be ready by Opening Day.
"It all depends on the progress," he said.
Camp cut-up: Reliever and resident humorist Kent Mercker was back in camp as a non-roster player after he took last year off. Mercker, who had Tommy John surgery in 2006, was signed to a Minor League deal last week for a potential fourth tour of duty with the Reds.
"I'm still here. They haven't sent me home yet," Mercker joked. "I talked to the general manager and everything."
Seen and heard: Although there were no formal workouts on the reporting day for pitchers and catchers, there was activity. Hopper and Freel were among those taking swings in the cage. Several pitchers were throwing on the practice field.
Reliever David Weathers arrived with his 7-year-old son, Ryan. Later, they were on a field, with Ryan taking swings against his father.
Left fielder Adam Dunn checked in early, with his toddler son, Brady, in tow. It was a brief visit to drop off belongings at his locker.
"I'm officially here -- now I'm leaving," said Dunn, who planned to take in the Daytona 500 Sunday before returning to camp on Monday.
Right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. has already been in camp working out but was not seen around on Saturday.
Power pack time: A 10-game Reds "power pack" ticket package will go on sale at 9 a.m. ET on Feb. 23 on reds.com. The power pack includes tickets to the March 31 Opening Day game vs. the Diamondbacks and admission to weekend three-game series vs. the Indians (May 16-18), Red Sox (June 13-15) and Cubs (Sept. 5-7).
For more information, go to the ticketing section of reds.com.
"On-base percentage is great if you can score runs and do something with that on-base percentage," Baker said. "Clogging up the bases isn't that great to me."
-FayDusty Baker was walking of the field smiling after Sunday’s workout.
Why so happy?
“I just realized: Damn, I miss this.”
When you miss the first pitchers and catchers workout, you’ve got to love baseball. Workout included a lot of PFP (pitchers fielding practice), some pitchers throwing off the mound and little batting practice for the catchers.
Not exactly highlight reel stuff.
But it was baseball, under sunny skies, temperatures in the high 70s. A cure for the wintertime blues.
But Baker was pleased with the way the club looked.
“Most guys look in good shape,” Baker said. “Which I encourage. There’s not much time between when report and the games start. If you’re not ready when you get here, you’re either going to get passed up or get hurt.”
The Reds work out again tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
You know what's better than Castro at 100%? Castro at 80%. That makes me warm and fuzzy inside.
What sucks is I believe he'll find a way onto the roster at some point this year. And if he does, it would tell me the Reds truely don't have the desire to win because it wouldn't take much effort to find a better player to hold down the 25th spot. Cut him now.
"....the two players I liked watching the most were Barry Larkin and Eric Davis. I was suitably entertained by their effortless skill that I didn't need them crashing into walls like a squirrel on a coke binge." - dsmith421
www.kylevoska.com - Golfer? Check out my blog for golf tips.
Notes: Baker looks for leadoff man
Veteran free agents Lofton and Patterson among possibilities
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Leading off for the Reds, Kenny Lofton?
Lofton is among several free agents still without a team as Major League camps opened for Spring Training. Manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday that he's spoken with Lofton and another veteran center fielder, Corey Patterson.
"They're both out there looking for a job," Baker said. "We have to see if it fits the budget here and all kinds of stuff."
Space is also an issue, especially in trying to get Lofton. The Reds' 40-man roster is currently full, leaving only Minor League contracts and non-roster invites available -- unless another move is made to make room.
"I know Kenny would like a big league contract," Baker said.
Rumors about Lofton and Cincinnati first surfaced last week. The 41-year-old has played for 11 different teams over a 17-year career, including pennant runs for Baker in 2002 with the Giants and 2003 with the Cubs.
If Lofton were to be signed to a guaranteed contract, it would likely put a dent in top prospect Jay Bruce's chances of making the club out of camp. Bruce is battling for the center field spot with Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper.
"We're trying to get best pieces of the puzzle and do what's best for everybody concerned, now and for later," Baker said. "I haven't seen Bruce play. On the other hand, you see [Ken Griffey Jr.] came in at 19. Corey Patterson looked like he was rushed a little bit on to the Cubs and didn't get time to mature.
"It's like raising your kids -- you don't know if you did it right until later. You hope you did it right. It's something that's very hard to judge -- when is now?"
Bruce, 20, was the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year and blasted through three levels last season to Triple-A.
"It's no secret that this guy is a star of the future," Baker said. "He could be a star of the present, who knows? I'm very impressed talking with him, but there's more to baseball than just hitting, too."
In 136 games with the Rangers and Indians last season, the lefty-hitting Lofton batted a combined .296 with a .367 on-base percentage and 23 stolen bases. He has a career .372 on-base percentage.
Patterson played for the Cubs from 2000-05 and the Orioles from 2006-07. He batted .269 in 132 games last season, but owns just a career .298 on-base percentage -- not close to being an ideal stat for a leadoff hitter.
If the Reds don't sign Lofton, Patterson or someone else, Freel and Hopper are both considered capable leadoff hitters. Both have done it for the Reds.
"That's probably the most unappreciated, hardest-to-find-quality position on a baseball team," Baker said. "You have to have one and they're so hard to find."
If Bruce wins the regular center field spot, it would leave the Reds without a prototypical leadoff man.
"He's volunteered [and said] 'Oh, I can bat leadoff, no problem,'" Baker said.
"I want to help the team by doing anything to make us better," said Bruce, who hasn't batted leadoff since high school. "I'm not a typical leadoff hitter, but if I had to, I would."
Despite a team loaded with power and home run threats, the 2007 Reds scored 783 runs but gave up 853 -- a differential of 70 runs. Baker believes creating scoring chances is important, and that starts with the leadoff man.
"I led off in the Minor Leagues -- I know what it's all about, leading off," he said. "The greatest challenge I ever had -- my Triple-A manager, Mickey Vernon, told me to see how many games in a row I could lead off a game getting on base. That's a heck of a challenge. I did it like 16 or 17 times. But it puts that thought process in your mind. It puts the pitcher in the stretch right away."
Let's get physicals: Before pitchers and catchers could participate in their first workout, they had to take physicals Sunday morning. The process began just past dawn and took several hours.
Rotation candidate and prospect Homer Bailey was one of those who went through his physical without issue.
"I wish I could do my own physical," Bailey said. "I want to draw my own blood. In high school, I had [arthroscopic] knee surgery and I told the doctor to just numb it because I wanted to be awake and watch it. Then he held up the big novocaine needle and said, 'Are you sure?' I said 'OK, knock me out for two minutes.' Then I snapped back up after that and watched."
Working out: All 41 pitchers and catchers participated in the first workout on Sunday afternoon. Still rehabilitating from shoulder surgery, lefty Bobby Livingston was the only pitcher not permitted to throw. Outfielder Ryan Freel and Juan Castro also participated in the first session.
The approximate two-hour workout featured pitcher fielding drills, bunting practice and bullpen sessions. Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, Jeremy Affeldt and Francisco Cordero were among those who worked in the bullpen.
I like Jay Bruce leading off.
There, I said it.
"But I do know Joey's sister indirectly (or foster sister) and I have heard stories of Joey being into shopping, designer wear, fancy coffees, and pedicures."
Do you think leading off would lead to fewer strike outs(I know I know strike outs aren't all bad) or would it lead to more.
I would think it would help cut down on the K's but Stubbs seemed to do the opposite in A ball when he got moved out of the leadoff spot.
When people say that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to sports or writing, I think: Man, you should see me in the rest of my life.
Going, going and long gone
By Hal McCoy | Monday, February 18, 2008, 08:54 AM
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A soupy fog and a few raindrops were around early Monday morning, but by the time the Cincinnati Reds were ready for Day 2 of spring training the sun was peeking through fluffy clouds.
Even without the fog, new manager Dusty Baker was still feeling his way around - off the field as well as on. Baker got lost Sunday trying to find his way back from the complex to his condominium on Siesta Key.
But Baker isn’t as lost as some of the names on a chart hanging in his office. The chart lists all the pitchers in camp just two springs ago when Wayne Krivsky took over as general manager in February, 2006.
“We keep that chart up there because it was the last one (former pitching coach) Vern Ruhle put together,” said Krivsky. Ruhle died of cancer last year.
There are 31 pitchers on that chart. Twenty-two are no longer in the organization, “And a lot of them are out of baseball,” said Krivsky.
“That’s a lot of turnover in two years,” said Baker as he looked at the chart. After a slight pause and a grin, Baker added, “Wayne came in and cleaned house. But it was needed, wasn’t it?”
Indeed, it was.
Of the projected starters just two years ago, only Aaron Harang is left. The others were: Brandon Claussen, Eric Milton, Dave Williams and undecided between Mike Gosling, Justin Germano and Elizardo Ramirez.
There are 33 pitchers in camp this spring and only three were in camp two years ago - Harang, Matt Belisle and Todd Coffey. Kent Mercker was there, too, but he left and came back again.
Even with 33 prospects and suspects in camp, Krivsky remains attentive toward adding a pitcher and said, “If there is one out there we can get, if the price is right…”
Kyle Lohse is out there, but the Reds had him last year and traded him. Josh Fogg and Jeff Weaver remained unsigned, too.
“For this time of year, that’s a lot of talent still out there,” said Krivsky. “I’ve never seen it quite like this.”
Baker, of course, would like as many pitching options as he can get, but he knows time marches on and said, “Everybody is looking for one (starting pitching). Even Boston, now that Curt Schilling is down. There are some guys out there unsigned, but if you bring a guy in right now you have guys in your camp who say, ‘Hey, they’re still bringing guys in. Are they dissatisfied with me?”
uhhh, gee Javy, it's the first time he's probably thrown a breaking pitch in months...cut him some slack.
All the young arms
Most of the top young pitchers didn't throw until today. Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto all threw for the first time.
The one thing they all have in common is ball comes out easy and gets to the plate hard.
Javy Valentin caught Volquez, the right-hander the Reds got in the trade for Josh Hamilton.
"He needs to work on his offspeed stuff," Valentin said. "It was his first day. maybe he was trying to impress. But he's a got a good arm. His fastball moves. He's a good real live arm. That's what you need. Put him in the bullpen or whatever."
Josh Roenicke was as advertised. He throws as hard as anyone.
Adam Dunn, Brandon Phillips, Edwin Encarnacion are all in camp. Phillips is over the bout with the flu.
the reds will workout again tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
Fay on Bailey:
He looked good. A few pitches got away from him. But he's airing it out pretty good. He and Volquez looked to be throw at about the same velocity.
Cordero adds stability to Reds bullpen
Addition of star closer allows other relievers to fit into new roles
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Reds have reason to expect their bullpen will be improved from last season.
Actually, they have 46 million reasons.
That happens to be the amount of dollars plunked down to get the best free-agent closer available in former Brewer Francisco Cordero. The November signing of Cordero to a four-year contract, with a $12 million fifth-year club option, was considered an offseason coup for Cincinnati. The Reds outbid National League Central rivals Milwaukee and Houston for the right-hander's services.
Cordero's new beginning with the Reds became real with Saturday's reporting of pitchers and catchers and Sunday's first workout.
"It's good to be here and get to know everybody, my new teammates," Cordero said. "I'm excited to see what it's going to be like."
So are Reds fans who became hoarse constantly booing last year's edition of the bullpen. Although former closer David Weathers did a solid job with 33 saves, it was getting to Weathers that was the primary problem.
The seventh inning, and especially the eighth inning, often killed would-be wins in demoralizing fashion. The bullpen owned an NL-high 5.13 ERA and NL-low 34 saves in 2007, while Reds opponents scored more runs in the eighth (123) than any other.
By adding Cordero, the Reds can take what worked best last year -- Weathers -- and move him to set up in the eighth. Right-hander Jared Burton, another bright spot in the second half of 2007, is also a late-inning positive.
"What [Cordero] does is it allows you to go backwards -- closer and backwards," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "This is going to be a big part of our team, any team, especially now with guys not having complete games. Most of the pressure falls on the bullpen, especially early in the year when guys aren't really ready to throw a whole bunch of pitches or go deep in a game."
The rest of the roles are up for grabs for a broad slate of pitchers. Mike Stanton, Bill Bray, Jon Coutlangus and Kent Mercker are some of the lefties, while Todd Coffey, Gary Majewski and Marcus McBeth are among the right-handers.
"That first month, especially, that bullpen comes into play big time," Baker said. "If you can shorten the game to 6 1/3, 6 2/3, 7, 7 1/3 [innings], you can start going in fractions and set it up. You've got guys in position to succeed rather than just who's the strongest."
If the Reds' bullpen can protect leads for starters in the sixth-through-eighth innings, it will be up to Cordero to be the anchor man in the ninth. A two-time All-Star, including last season, he converted 44 of 51 save opportunities with Milwaukee and posted a 2.98 ERA. He has 177 saves lifetime with the Tigers, Rangers and Brewers.
As a high-profile free agent acquisition, Cordero understands that expectations to deliver results are high.
"I always say I'm not guaranteeing that I'm going to help the team win the World Series," Cordero said. "The only thing I can guarantee is that I will do my best. I'll try to do what I do best. I'll try to save every game I can and help my team in any way. I don't put any pressure on me. I just have to go game by game, save every game and look at the results at the end."
Pitcher search continues
Volquez throws for first time as Red
BY JOHN FAY | JFAY@ENQUIRER.COM
SARASOTA, Fla. – Reds manager Dusty Baker says the club still is pursuing a starting pitching.
“Everybody I know is looking for one,” Baker said. “Maybe except Boston. But they might be looking for one with (Curt) Schilling hurt.”
The Reds have talked to the Oakland A’s about right-hander Joe Blanton. But Blanton remains with the A’s. Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee reportedly is available.
Free agents like Kyle Lohse, Josh Fogg and Odalis Perez are still available.
But Baker says there comes a time when you go with what you’ve got.
“There are some late (free agents to sign) out there,” Baker said. “But you’ve got to move forward with who you have here. You don’t want the guys here thinking: ‘They’re looking at somebody else. Are they dissatisfied with me?’ You’ve got get rid of that notion.”
The Reds’ plan is to fill the final two spots in the rotation from a field of five young starters – right-handers Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez and left-handers Jeremy Affeldt and Matt Maloney.
Volquez, acquired in the Josh Hamilton trade, threw for the first time Monday.
Javier Valentin caught Volquez.
“He needs to work on his off-speed stuff,” Valentin said. “It was his first day. Maybe he was trying to impress. But he’s got a good arm. His fastball moves. He’s got a real live arm. That’s what you need. Put him in the bullpen or whatever.”
BRAY HURTING: Left-hander Bill Bray is being held back because of shoulder soreness. That’s not a good sign given all the trouble he had last year. Bray broke a finger in fielding practice during spring training. That led to a shoulder problem.
Bray spent the first half of year rehabbing. He finally joined the Reds July 20. He went 3-3 with a 6.23 ERA.
He thinks his current problem stems from rehab.
“I overcorrected,” he said. “Now, I have to go back and correct that.”
Bray also had appendicitis last month. That kept him from training for two weeks.
He’s confident he’ll get over this in short order.
“Once I get past this little hiccup, I’ll be in a better place,” he said.
HATTY TO SOX? The Providence Journal reported that the Red Sox inquired about trading for Scott Hatteberg before signing Sean Casey.
“It wasn’t a good year to be a free agent first baseman,” Hatteberg said.
ALL BETTER: Second baseman Brandon Phillips was in camp Monday. He’s over his recent bout of flu.
“I’m good,” he said.
RELYING ON POLE: Baker is seeing a lot of pitchers throw for the first time.
It helps him that Dick Pole returns as pitching coach. Pole worked with Baker in Chicago and San Francisco.
“It helps a lot,” Baker said. “It takes time to learn guys – physically, emotionally and mentally. That’s one reason I was glad I kept most of the staff here. We don’t all have to learn about everybody.”
Baker wants to know more than what a pitcher throws.
“Coaching is a lot more than Xs and Os, philosophy and stop watches,” Baker said. “You have personalities that you have to mesh together.”