Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bruce era has begun

Jay Bruce is here.
The Sporting News' minor league player of the year, Jay Bruce, arrived in Cincinnati Tuesday night. The fans, who had been calling for Bruce since Opening Day, weren't disappointed.
Bruce went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in his debut. He also had two walks. On Wednesday, he was 1-for-3 and two more walks.
I saw Bruce play several games for Sarasota last year. He looks the same as I saw him when I was at Clearwater. He even has that same movement of removing his hand off the bat and putting it back on prior to the pitch.
Expect Bruce to hit line drives to all fields. He's a gap hitter, who can hit doubles to every spot in the park. His power will come. Right now, he's about a 20 home run guy at the major league level.
While his more natural position is right field, he can play center, too, as he did at AAA Louisville this year.
The most important thing is that the Reds seem committed to playing him every day. There was no reason to bring him up and play him part time. That would only stunt his development.
With players like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, the Reds finally have a core of young players that other teams envy.
It's about time.
But the best news came Wednesday.
That's when I heard that .200 hitting Corey Patterson was sent to Louisville. His 0-for-8 day on Sunday in the 18-inning marathon probably sealed his fate.
He was only on the roster because manager Dusty Baker wanted him.
It was about time the Reds got rid of him.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reds expose Tribe's weaknesses

The Indians have problems.
That comes as hardly shocking news to anyone who has seen them play this year.
What is surprising is that the once-stumbling Reds received a jolt of confidence by exposing the Indians' flaws with their three-game sweep this past weekend.
Here's what we know about the Tribe after this past weekend:
The Indians' bullpen is shaky at best.
With Rafael Betancourt (7.31 ERA) removed as the closer entering the weekend, Jensen Lewis walked three and gave up the losing run in Friday's 4-3 loss. On Saturday, it was Masa Kobayashi who imploded in the ninth by giving up a single and hitting a batter before Adam Dunn launched a titanic walk-off home run to the top row of the moon deck.
But the bottom line is the Indians can't hit, especially with runners on base. They were 3-for-27 with the runners on base against the Reds.
The Indians are hitting .236 as a team, which is tied with the Padres for 28th out of 30 major league teams. Only the Nationals are worse at .234.
The Indians have struck out the sixth most (306) in all of baseball and rank 21st in runs scored.
Only Victor Martinez (.315) has been respectable.
Even Grady Sizemore is struggling at .267. Asdrubal Cabera (.188), David Dellucci (.244), Jhonny Peralta (.225) and Casey Blake (.226) have been awful.
And if Travis Hafner (.228, four home runs, 20 RBIs), doesn't pick it up in the next month, this team is in deep trouble.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Griffey needs to go

Ken Griffey Jr. is looking ancient these days.
His swing is slow. His body is creaking and his glove has gone from gold to rusted iron.
Everything is geared for the home run.
Standing at 597 home runs, Griffey is looking to take everything out of the park. The result has been no home runs since April 23 against the Astros.
Duane Shaffer, a special assistant to Seattle Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi, was in Cincinnati on Sunday to take a look at Griffey.
Let's hope he liked what he saw.
If the Reds can get a top-five prospect out of Seattle for him, I'd do it in a heartbeat. According to Deric McKamey's Minor League Baseball Analyst, Seattle's top prospects include shortstop Carlos Triunfel, catcher Jeff Clement, left-hander Tony Butler and right-hander Chris Tillman.
The other positive in dealing Griffey is that it would clear the way for last year's Sporting News minor league player of the year Jay Bruce, who is hitting .366 with eight home runs at AAA Louisville. Bruce, a true right fielder, could easily slip into right after Griffey leaves.
And, as far as the 600 home runs, let's face it. Few people even in Cincinnati really care.
The time to deal is now.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Badenhop fires against Reds

It was good to see a former Lima Loco doing well.
Florida right-hander Burke Badenhop, who pitched for the Locos in 2002, put together a solid outing against the Reds Monday.
The 6-foot-5 lanky Badenhop went six innings and gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits. He struck out two and walked two. Badenhop threw 90 pitches, 57 for strikes.
It marked his third straight strong outing in a row after starting out with a couple of so-so starts.
Badenhop was throwing his fastball around 91 mph, but was throwing plenty of off-speed pitches for strikes. With the Locos, Badenhop threw plenty of strikes and got ahead in the count, but mostly threw in the high 80s.
That was just after his freshman year at Bowling Green State.
More than anything else, I remember Badenhop as a fun-loving comedian who loved to keep his fellow Locos loose. But on the mound, he took his summer in Lima pretty seriously.
After making a few relief appearances, he worked his way into the rotation and battled every time he took the mound. He went 3-2 with a 3.00 earned-run average for the Locos. In 39 innings, he gave up 29 hits. He struck out 29 and walked 15.
He was a 19th round draft pick of the Tigers in 2005 and quickly shot through the Tigers' system. He was involved in the offseason trade to Florida that sent Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera.
Badenhop is the 10th Lima Loco to reach the majors.
So on Monday, while I watched Badenhop pitching for the Marlins, I thought of him joking around the Shawnee diamond with the Locos.
And it was nice to see he was doing well.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reds' caravan stresses autographs

If you wanted an autograph, this was your time.
The Reds' winter caravan stopped at the Lima Mall Friday night. A crowd of over 500 came out to greet Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, Hall of Fame announcer Marty Brennaman, Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky and Mr. Perfect Tom Browning.
But with the huge crowd, Brennaman declared that there would only be time for five questions from the fans. Then, the autograph session would consume the remainder of the two-hour program.
I would have liked to seen the usual 20-to-30 minute question period. But, instead, it was sliced to around 10 minutes to handle the autographs.
I guess it all depends on what you go there for. Personally, I like the banter between the fans and the Reds players and representatives. Brennaman is always brutally honest and Krivsky did a good job of fielding tough questions.
However, if you liked autographs and didn't mind waiting in line for over an hour, this was your caravan.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Indians come to Lima

Rafael Betancourt was impressive.
And I'm just not talking about his 1.47 earned-run average last year.
Betancourt was quite frank and honest in his talk to the media on the Indians' caravan Thursday at The Old Barn Out Back.
He admitted he was shocked when as a Boston farm hand he was told he was moving from his dream position of shortstop to pitcher. He had never pitched before.
He was honest in saying he made a mistake and was guilty when he was suspended for doing performance-enhancing drugs.
And Betancourt was honest in saying he was more than concerned and worried when he had surgery on his right elbow and had a titanium plate and six screws inserted in it.
Betancourt is now the best set-up man in baseball, but didn't cry out to be the closer.
He knows his day will come, sooner or later.
He's waited this long and survived a suspension, a change of position and major arm surgery.
Betancourt is truly happy to be Major League pitcher.
In this day and age, that is truly refreshing.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Locos find a new home

So, the Lima Locos are packing up their bats and train whistles.
Good-bye Shawnee. Hello Simmons Field.
I feel much better about this move after talking with Locos general manager Steve Meyer. He told me the city leveled the outfield and re-seeded the infield last fall.
There is plenty more work to be done, but the city is ready to help out. The city will be moving the center-field fence and the light pole behind it back from 350 feet to 380.
The Locos will be painting the dugouts, grandstand and the new fence. There will also be a new scoreboard and a new batter's eye.
Parking could still be an issue. Sure, there is a grassy area near the field, but will that be enough?
I just hope the Locos continue to grill those same dogs and burgers that made Shawnee the top concession stand in the area.
The field may take a while to look like the Locos and the league wants it to.
But, eventually, it will be a nice place to play.
And, they will be selling beer. That should push the nightly gate over the 500 mark.
Right now, I'm not thinking of the last time I covered a high school tournament game (Coldwater vs. LCC) at Simmons. That's when the field had high grass, dandelions and ruts all over the outfield. It looked more like a junkyard than a ballpark.
Instead, I'm thinking of how nice the field looked the first time I saw it.
And how nice it could be again.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Post holiday mix

Well, we're back from the holidays.
Here are a few random thoughts:
The Reds dealt center fielder Josh Hamilton away for the Rangers minor league pitcher of the year, Edinson Volquez. If Volquez steps in and becomes the No. 3 or No. 4 starter this season, it's a good deal.
The Lima Locos are moving from Shawnee to Simmons Field. Simmons will need work, but if that work is done, it could be a good move in the long run. I'll get into this more in future blogs.
Boys basketball is having another sluggish year in our area. There are a few good teams out there like Shawnee, Ada and New Knoxville. I saw the class of the Putnam County League Saturday when Pandora-Gilboa bumped off Ottoville on a buzzer shot by Sam Maag. P-G's Josh Lee, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, has come a long way in the last year. P-G was outplayed for three quarters, but still came out with the win.
Strolling the mall over the holidays, I saw plenty of Ohio State jackets, jerseys, etc. You will see who the true OSU fans are if the Bucks lose to LSU Monday and these people are still wearing their jerseys on Tuesday.
By the way, I'm starting to see some Celtics' jerseys again. I haven't seen those since Larry Bird retired.