Welcome back to the minors!
See this thread for information on released players from the offseason and spring training. Apparently C Kevin Coddington retired due to knee problems, while the Reds gave up on former high draft picks like LHP Drew Bowman (5th round, 2007) and Clayton Shunick (5th round, 2008). Lefty reliever Mace Thurman had a good 2010 but struggled in 2011 in a hitter’s league. I was a little sad to see non-drafted free agent Drew Poulk cut loose- the guy was a little old for his levels, but he could seemingly really hit. I fully expect to see utilityman Frank Pfister in coaching or broadcasting someday. And finally, I’m sad we won’t get to see more of the epic ‘stache belonging to Clay Zavada. He’ll get another shot.
AAA Louisville Bats
Record this week: 2-5.
Overall: 2-5, last place.
Red Reporter’s preview
4/5: Manager David Bell, freshly promoted up from Double-A, and a decidedly more veteran 2012 Louisville Bats squad opened their season at Huntington Park in Columbus against the Clippers (CLE). Lefty Jeff Francis, making his first non-rehab minor-league appearance since he went 16-3, 2.21 in Double-A and Triple-A for Colorado in 2004 as a young phenom, took the ball for the Bats against right-hander Zach McAllister, the man acquired by Cleveland in 2010 when they sent Austin Kearns to the Yankees. The 24-year-old McAllister was an excellent 12-3, 3.25 in Columbus last year, but struggled in four big-league starts (6.11 ERA). DH Danny Dorn, beginning his fourth full season at this level, hammered a two-run homer in the second to give the Bats the early lead. (CF Denis Phipps threw out a runner at home in the first to keep Columbus off the board.) 2B Chris Valaika added a solo shot the next inning. The Clippers got to Francis for two in the fourth, but LF Daryl Jones recorded the second Bats outfield assist of the game by gunning down the Clippers’ Lonnie Chisenhall trying to score on Ryan Spilborghs’ RBI double. SS Paul Janish’ solo homer in the seventh made it 4-2 (Francis left after six: 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 82 pitches/53 strikes) , but a Jones error was quickly followed by a two-run ground-rule double that tied the score in the bottom half at the expense of righty Nick Christiani. Veteran lefty Ron Mahay set down the Clippers 1-2-3 in the eighth, then Janish stepped up with two outs in the top of the ninth and smashed his second homer of the game off former Orioles closer Chris Ray to break the tie! New acquisition J.J. Hoover retired the side in order in the ninth for the save and the 5-4 Bats win!
4/6: The Bats again scored first, picking up a Jones solo homer in the top of the first off Kevin Slowey, but veteran Brett Tomko was also hittable. Tomko gave up homers to Chisenhall in the second and Matt LaPorta in the fourth, and left after five innings trailing 3-1 (5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). Meanwhile, the journeyman Slowey, trying to get a major-league job back after washing out of the bigs in 2011, permitted just one more hit over his seven innings. A freshly-converted Scott Carroll (1.2 IP, 3 H), Travis Webb (0.1 IP), and Carlos Fisher (1 IP, 1 K) held the Clips in check over the final few innings, but Louisville managed just one more run in the ninth and lost, 3-2. The Bats put their first two on base in the final inning when Jones walked and Valaika reached on an E-5, but CF Denis Phipps struck out and Valaika was picked off. Todd Frazier also struck out, but reached on a wild pitch to put men on the corners. 1B Neftali Soto’s single got the run home, but Danny Dorn flew out to end the game.
4/7: Columbus whooped starter Sean Gallagher for five earned in the second, building a lead that the Bats couldn’t erase and ultimately winning 6-4. Gallagher lasted 3.1 total (L, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR). Kanekoa Texeira threw 2.2 hitless (2 BB) and Josh Judy (1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K) and Ron Mahay (0.2 IP, 1 K) also did their part, but Louisville didn’t crack the scoreboard until the eighth. C Corky Miller hit a two-run homer in the eighth to make it 6-3, then DH Bill Rhinehart’s RBI single (2-for-5) in the ninth brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Paul Janish- but the shortstop popped out and Miller lined out sharply to right to close it out. 2B Kris Negron, seeking to erase memories of a brutal 2011, was 2-for-4 with steal #2.
4/8: The Clippers take three of four to open the season, scoring four in the eighth to win 7-4 after Dorn’s two-run homer (#2), had given Louisville a brief advantage. Nick Christiani struggled again, this time taking the loss (0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K). An untimely Valaika error at third didn’t help. Starter Chad Reineke was quality (6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 85 pitches/56 strikes). The Bats got just one hit in six innings off Columbus starter Scott Barnes.
4/9: On to Toledo (DET) to continue the road trip! Andrew Brackman seemed slated for bullpen duty when the Reds signed the Moeller grad in the offseason following his liberation from the Yankees system, but he’s starting for the time being. And his first one was quite excellent, as the six-foot-ten righty threw six innings of two-hit, one-run ball (W, 1 BB, 4 K, 76 pitches/47 strikes) in the Bats’ easy 9-3 victory. Control is key for Brackman (75 BB in 96 AAA IP last season) and he had it here. Carroll took care of the seventh and eighth (1 H, 2 K) although JJ Hoover gave up two in the ninth. Denis Phipps’ first hit of 2012 was a two-run homer. Valaika was 2-for-5 with a double and three runs scored, while Frazier added two hits and two RBI. Miller and Negron each added a pair of safeties from the bottom of the order, with Kris notching steal #4 through five games.
4/10: Again Jeff Francis pitched well (5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K), but again he’s the victim of some tough luck. Toledo got six innings of shutout ball from its starter, Thad Weber (coming off a 7-11, 5.65 year in the IL in 2011) and won it 3-1. Valaika singled home RF Felix Perez, who’d reached on an error, in the eighth for the lone Bats run.
4/11: Righty Luis Atilano, 26, was signed by the Reds to a minor-league deal in the offseason. Atilano, out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was originally a first-round sandwich pick of the Braves in 2003 but was traded to Washington in 2006 for journeyman 1B/OF Daryle Ward. It took him until 2009 to reach Double-A thanks to injury issues, then he was called up by the Nationals in 2010 and made 16 starts, going 6-7 with a 5.15 ERA. Last year he was hurt again, missing almost the entire year. He’s a groundball guy who posts very low strikeout totals- as in around four and a half to five per nine innings. So the Bats ran him out there (after DL’ing Brett Tomko) to face Toledo and its reliably veteran lineup in this one, and his Reds system debut ended after 54 pitches and 2.1 innings (L, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K). Kanekoa Texeira came on to stop the bleeding for a little while, as Louisville collected four hits (two by Janish, who is on fire here in April) off Taiwanese lefthander Fu-Te Ni but no runs through four innings. Negron led off the fifth with a base on balls, then was forced at second by the 2-for-21 Daryl Jones. Jones did advance to second on a throwing error on that play, but Valaika flew out. The 2-for-25 Denis Phipps managed to draw a walk, bringing up the 3-for-19 Todd Frazier. Frazier watched two strikes, then battled for a while- but popped out. Louisville got good relief work following Texeira (2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K) from Carlos Fisher (2 IP, 2 BB, 3 K) and Scott Carroll (1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K), but didn’t even threaten again until the ninth. Soto and Perez led off with back-to-back walks, but Janish grounded into a double play. C Dioner Navarro then walked, but Negron grounded out to finish things.
Transactions: 4/10: RHS Brett Tomko placed on the 7-day DL, retroactive to 4/8, with a right adductor spasm. RHS Luis Atilano activated. The Reds also traded INF Jose Castro, who’d spent the previous four seasons in the Reds system since arriving in August 2007 in the Jeff Conine deal with New York, to the Chicago White Sox. It isn’t immediately clear what the Reds got back, but it doesn’t appear to be a human. Anyway, Castro had his best offensive line last year with Carolina, batting .316/.353/.364 in 78 games along with .267 in 20 games for Louisville.
Notes: SS Paul Janish was named IL Batter of the Week for April 5-8, going 6-for-14 with two homers and a 1.000 SLG.
Nice stories regarding the steely resolve of 1B Neftali Soto and OF Denis Phipps.
AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos
This week: 4-3.
Overall: 4-3, second place, 2 games back of Mobile (ARI).
Red Reporter’s preview
What happened to the Carolina Mudcats? Dig here and here.
Think the “Blue Wahoos” is goofy? Could have been worse. And better.
4/5: New manager Jim Riggleman’s inaugural Wahoos squared off against Montgomery (TB) at Pensacola’s new Multi-Use Stadium (!?). 3B Henry Rodriguez, seeking to build on a strong 2011 split between Bakersfield and Carolina, hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 1st to put the BWs up 1-0. The Biscuits tied it in the third off starter Pedro Villareal, but otherwise the righthander worked 5.2 solid innings (5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 82 pitches/55 strikes). Clayton Tanner (1 IP, 1 K) and Justin Freeman took over in relief, but the stalemate remained until the bottom of the eighth- when Rodriguez stepped up following a two-out walk to SS Didi Gregorius. One two-run homer and a bullpen closeout later, and Pensacola won its Double-A debut 3-1. Freeman and lefty Donnie Joseph, both looking to rebound from awful 2011 seasons at this level, got the win and save, respectively. 2B Brodie Greene was 2-for-3 with a double.
4/6: The Wahoos again led early, scoring three in the second when 1B Mike Costanzo walked. He scored on Greene’s triple, and Brodie came in on C Mark Fleury’s double. A groundout put the catcher at third, where a Josh Fellhauer fielder’s choice and a resulting throwing error on SS Hak-Ju Lee made it 3-0. But Montgomery would hammer starter Curtis Partch (L, 3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER) and reliever Mark Serrano (3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER) mercilessly over the next few innings, piling up nine runs between the third and the sixth. The Biscuits took it, 9-3. Chris Manno (2 IP, 3 K) and Drew Hayes (1 IP, 1 BB, 2 K) did pitch well, but the Biscuits’ pitchers, including former Reds farmhand Jim Paduch, held them off the scoreboard.
4/7: After falling behind 4-0 after three, the good guys came back with a run in the fifth and three more in the seventh to tie it up at 4. C Brian Peacock (2-for-4) had a RBI double and Costanzo followed with a clutch pinch-hit two-run single (although he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double to end the inning). Justin Freeman took over from Clayton Tanner (2.2 IP, 1 H, 4 K) and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, then Donnie Joseph did the same in the ninth. 1B Joel Guzman led off the Pensacola ninth with a double, exiting for pinch-runner Fellhauer. Greene popped up a bunt and LF Cody Puckett (2-for-3) was intentionally walked. RF PJ Phillips grounded out third to first, but Peacock’s bunt single plated Fellhauer with the winning run! Not a bad way to go, considering Peacock had never hit higher than .258 in a pro season since becoming the Montreal Expos’ 39th-round selection in 2004. Anyway, Joseph got the W. Daniel Corcino’s Double-A debut was a little rocky (4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 80 pitches/45 strikes).
4/8: The Wahoos got four runs in the seventh to make a 3-1 lead 7-1, and they’d need it- the Biscuits scored four in the final two off Tim Gustafson (W, 3.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER), Manno (1 BF, HB), and Hayes (0.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) before Joseph got the final two outs for save #2. Starter Tim Crabbe wasn’t hit hard, although he fought his control (4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 75 pitches/42 strikes). Guzman was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer (#1) and Puckett had a pair of doubles and three RBI (.333).
4/9: Josh Fellhauer drove home Cody Puckett with an eighth-inning single, breaking a 5-5 tie and giving Pensacola four wins in five games to open their first season! That gave Justin Freeman (2-0) the win, despite the fact that he’d blown a one-run lead in the top of the inning. Clayton Tanner got the final two outs for the save, stranding the tying run on third. Costanzo launched a grand-slam homer in the third (#1) and Puckett, Fleury, Rodriguez, and Gregorius each had two hits. Starter JC Sulbaran’s first Double-A start was a success (5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 HR). The righty had done a much better job keeping the ball in the yard last year at Bakersfield (10 HR, 137 IP) versus his 2009 debut in Dayton (19 HR, 92.2 IP).
4/10: Trevor Bauer is well known to prospect mavens; he was the third overall pick in 2011 out of UCLA and is clearly making just a temporary stop in the minors on his way to the big leagues. Bauer spent a stint last year with Mobile (ARI), and he’s begun 2012 at the same level. The Blue Wahoos did run up his pitch count early, but they couldn’t hit him much at all. He seemed to get stronger as he went along, and at his 100-pitch exit he’d rung up eleven strikeouts (W, 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB). Pedro Villareal retired the first nine BayBears he faced, but a few hits mixed with two costly errors (2B Greene, C Fleury) put three on the board for the bad guys. Pedro settled down again but left down 3-0 (L, 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K). Mark Serrano took over and struck out four over two scoreless. Pensacola broke through in the eighth against reliever Matt Gorgen, as Henry Rodriguez picked up a one-out infield hit and moved to second on Mike Costanzo’s base hit. Cody Puckett singled home Rodriguez, and CF Ryan LaMarre walked. Phillips followed with another RBI single, although LaMarre was cut down trying to go to third. That proved pivotal, because Fleury then struck out to end the inning. The Wahoos went in order in the ninth, giving Mobile the 3-2 win.
4/11: Curt Partch got another shot after struggling in his debut, this time against Mobile and righty Charles Brewer, a 12th-round college pick in 2009 with approximately one-one hundredth the prospect cachet of Trevor Bauer. Partch allowed single runs in the fourth and fifth along with a boatload of hits (8.59, 4.1 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) but avoided the big inning due to a double play in the first and two outfield assists at home- one from LaMarre in center, one from Fellhauer in right. Justin Freeman came on with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth and got two outs to kill the rally (1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 K). Pensacola tied the game in the sixth when Costanzo smacked a two-run homer (#2). Tim Gustafson came on to pitch a scoreless seventh and eighth, but the Wahoos couldn’t get a baserunner. They did get a leadoff single from Puckett (.391, 2-for-4) in the ninth, but couldn’t get him past second base. Drew Hayes came on for the bottom of the ninth, and he did something we never saw in Dayton last year- he fought with his control. Leadoff batter walked, then the second man reached on a fielder’s choice with both runners safe. A wild pitch moved them both up and an intentional pass loaded the bases. Hayes fired back by striking out Ohio University alumnus Marc Krauss swinging, but C Ed Easley lofted a game-winning sacrifice fly (L, 7.71, 0.2 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K).
High-A Bakersfield Blaze
This week: 3-3.
Overall: 3-3, fourth place, 1.5 games back.
Red Reporter’s preview
4/5: SS Billy Hamilton, perhaps the best position player prospect in the Cincinnati system following the winter trades and the promotions of Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart, did something he’s not known for in the Blaze’s season opener against Visalia (ARI): he homered. It was a two-run bomb, in the third inning off lefty David Holmberg. Holmberg is a good prospect, too, ranking in the Diamondbacks’ top ten for this year. That shot propelled Ken Griffey’s men past the Rawhide, 3-1. Hamilton got the Blaze an insurance run with some classic Billyball: reaching on an error with two outs in the eighth, stealing second (1), moving to third on the catcher’s throwing error, and scoring on a wild pitch. Starter Dan Renken worked five (W, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K). Righty Brian Pearl got the save following scoreless relief work from fellow Dayton promotee Dan Wolford and offseason signee Wilkin de la Rosa.
4/6: Chad Rogers was a pretty successful reliever in Dayton last season, joining the Dragons about a month in from extended spring training (6-4, 3.99, 37 G, 72 K in 69 IP) but he was assigned to start in this one. It didn’t work all that well, although a good portion of that can be blamed on the Blaze defense committing four errors (L, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K). Six-foot-seven righthander John Holdzkom, a former Met signed in the offseason after missing most of 2010 and all of 2011, followed Rogers (3.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 WP) but wasn’t great either. Visalia starter Andrew Chafin struck out nine batters over five innings en route to a 9-3 Rawhide win. 3B David Vidal did hit a two-run homer in the ninth to finish 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Mike Griffin, the 28-year-old former Double- and Triple-A utilityman turned right-handed reliever, pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
4/7: Visalia took a 2-1 series lead with a 5-4 win. Starter Josh Smith, a Midwest League All-Star who led that circuit with 166 strikeouts in 142.1 IP, had a slightly bumpy introduction to the California League (L, 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HR). LF Donald Lutz homered, a solo shot in the seventh. Hamilton was 1-for-3 with a walk, run scored, and steal #2.
4/8: Veteran Travis Mattair, picked up from the Philadelphia organization in the offseason as a minor-league Rule 5 pick, smashed a three-run homer in the fourth and Bakersfield took advantage of three Rawhide errors to build a 5-0 lead early. They went on to win, 5-2. Lefty Tony Cingrani weathered his two-level jump with ease, stiffing Visalia on one hit through six innings (W, 1 BB, 5 K). The win earned the Blaze a four-game split.
4/9: Stockton (OAK) cruised into Sam Lynn Ballpark. 22-year-old righty Kyle Lotzkar-the Reds’ supplemental-first rounder in 2007 out of British Columbia who’s fought numerous injuries- made his High-A debut a great one (W, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 HR). The Blaze backed him with a pile of runs as well in their 10-4 victory- Vidal was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI, while Lutz was 3-for-5 with two doubles of his own as well as three runs scored. CF Bryson Smith added two hits and two RBI and C Tucker Barnhart also chipped in the same. Hamilton notched steal #3 (also error #3) while going 1-for-4 with a double, walk, and two runs scored. Billy is 3-for-18 to start the year, but has three walks, five runs scored, and two doubles to go with his opening-night homer.
4/10: Well, we’re in the high-scoring Cal League here, so it happens a few times every season. Ideally not in the first week, but what can you do? Bakersfield piled up a 7-0 lead through five innings with a little of everything- a RBI double by RF Yorman Rodriguez, a Lutz groundout, a RBI hit from DH Kurtis Muller, and plenty of Billyball. Hamilton knocked in three of those seven with a single and double, and following the single he proceeded to steal second and third (#4 and #5) and score on Rodriguez’ fielder’s choice/E-2. But Stockton fired back on starter Dan Renken after drawing zero through five- he was chased with one out in the sixth, two on, and two in. On came Jamie Walczak in relief- and the righty immediately served up a three-run homer to the first man he faced to make it 7-5. Renken finished with four earned runs against despite pitching well for most of the start (5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K). The Ports then put up three more in the seventh to take the lead off Walczak and Dan Wolford, he of the 1.46 ERA last year in Dayton. The Blaze weren’t done, though, tying it in the eighth when Travis Mattair led off with homer #2. 2B Devin Lohman then reached on an error, moved to third on Barnhart’s single and scored on a wild pitch to put Bakersfield up 9-8! Righty Brian Pearl came on for the ninth… and allowed the first four batters he faced to reach. A sacrifice fly drove home the go-ahead run (L, 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER). Lutz managed to reach on yet another Stockton error with two outs in the home ninth, but Vidal struck out to end the game.
4/11: Rained out.
Transactions: 4/10: INF James Ewing up from Dayton to replace 3B Jason Christian, who was placed on the 7-day DL. Christian, like Ewing, was an offseason free agent signee. The fifth-round pick of the Athletics back in 2008 out of Michigan is a Cincinnati native.
Low-A Dayton Dragons
This week: 2-4.
Overall: 2-4, tied for third, 4 games back of Lansing (TOR).
Red Reporter’s preview
Preview from Milb.com (use your Search-Fu to locate all eight parts; this is part eight).
4/5: Delino DeShields and Co. hosted West Michigan (DET) to start 2012, notching a 3-0 shutout win on the backs of six innings from starter Justice French (W, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K), three hits from DH Steven Selsky, and two triples from 2B Juan Perez. Righty Ryan Kemp threw two scoreless to get the save after six-foot-eight University of Cincinnati product Dan Jensen handled the seventh.
4/6: Back-to-back wins! After Jim Moran served up a solo home run in the top of the ninth to give WM a 2-1 lead, the Dragons rallied to win 3-2 in the home ninth on RBI hits by Perez and C Nick O’Shea. LF Steve Selsky, 1B Sean Buckley, and 2B Ryan Wright were each 2-for-4. Starter Radhames Quezada lasted four (3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K). James Allen threw three innings of one-hit shutout relief, whiffing four Whitecaps.
4/7: West Michigan got an unearned run off Jensen in the top of the eleventh to take this one, 5-4. The Whitecaps had rallied for three runs between the seventh and eighth to tie off Erik Miller and Carlos Contreras. Starter Tanner Robles saw his excellent effort go for naught (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K). Buckley was 2-for-5 with a solo homer and two RBI. SS James Ewing, an offseason signee out of the Mets system, was 3-for-5.
4/9: Lansing (TOR) rolled into Fifth Third Field, mashing the Dragons in game one 8-0. Dayton got just three hits and starter Stalin Gerson (L, 4.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR) was hit hard. Dayton’s record evened out at 2-2.
4/10: It seems common in the Midwest League that the bats start a little slower than the arms. That’s happening to the Dragons here (at least in reference to scoring runs against Lansing), as the Lugnuts won again 6-2. Starter Carlos Gonzalez threw four scoreless before getting bombed in the fifth (L 4.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR). Dayton again got only three hits.
4/11: Mr. French back to the hill to deliver some more Justice and stop this losing streak. The Dragons got him an early run when Sean Buckley knocked in Steve Selsky, who’d singled and stolen second, with a single. Lansing tied it up in the third, though, then mustarded French for four runs in the fourth (L 1-1, 4 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K). Erik Miller came on to throw three scoreless innings, and Dayton did close the gap to two with a Ryan Wright RBI groundout in the fifth and C Yovan Gonzalez’ solo homer in the seventh. But Lansing got to Carlos Contreras for two in the eighth, putting things out of reach. RF Kyle Waldrop singled in Selsky, who’d doubled, in the eighth for the final Dragons run in a 7-4 loss. Gonzalez finished 3-for-4, Selsky was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, and DH Danny Vicioso was 2-for-2 before Waldrop pinch-hit for him. CF Theo Bowe was 0-for-4 with a walk, but managed to notch three stolen bases- passing Billy Hamilton for the organizational lead with six.
Transactions: 4/10: INF James Ewing was promoted to Bakersfield, with INF Brandon Dailey activated from extended spring training. Ewing, 25, appeared in his first pro game since July of 2009 on the 7th, going 3-for-5. Dailey hit .298 in 43 AZL games last year, earning a merit cup o’ joe with Dayton at the end of the season.