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March 13, 2013

Reds cut 12; roster at 44

The Cincinnati Reds made their first cut of spring training yesterday, removing 12 players from their roster.

Left-hander Tony Cingrani and right-hander Daniel Corcino were optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Right-handers Kyle Lotzkar and Josh Ravin were optioned to Double-A Pensacola. Right-hander Carlos Contreras and outfielder Yorman Rodriguez were optioned to Single-A Bakersfield. Left-hander Ismael Guillon was optioned to Single-A Dayton.

Right-handers Chad Rogers and Nick Christiani, catcher Nevin Ashley, infielder Kristopher Negron and outfielder Ryan LaMarre were re-assigned to the minor league camp.

None of these cuts are a surprise, as none of them had a chance to make the major league roster. However, I am a little surprised that Cingrani was was at this time. He and Corcino are likely to see time in the majors this year should the rotation not repeat last year’s iron man challenge of every starter remaining healthy.

The roster stands at 44, with 19 more players to be cut by opening day.

March 11, 2013

Ken Griffey Jr, World Baseball Classic ambassador

Ken Griffey Jr on his camouflage jersey giveaway day

Ken Griffey Jr on his camouflage jersey giveaway day

The New York Times interviewed Ken Griffey, Jr over the weekend, talking to him about his family and his role as an ambassador for the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Here in the U.S., we need to do a better job of supporting our team. The support isn’t as much as it should be. For me, I want a team where I have to turn guys away. I want to be the guy to say, “We’re already full.” You look at the enthusiasm from the other countries and how guys want to play for their team. I think it’s a little different here. But it can change, and it should change.

The WBC is definitely more popular in other countries than in the US. And it’s the same with me. I know I don’t go out of my way to watch any WBC games. In some ways, I think US interest in the tournament is depressed by the existence of MLB. With the exception of Canada, none of the other countries see major-league talent every day during the summer. This is their chance to see and compare their country’s athletes against the best.

For me, it feels like watching an all star version of spring training, with less of the meaningfulness of the actual All Star game. Of course, I’m not the target audience. I already like baseball; I don’t need to be sold.

I understand the desire to make it more popular in the US, and support from Griffey and the inclusion of bigger stars will help. But right now, I still feel the ending of the 2012 MLB season. And only the Cincinnati Reds playing real baseball can assuage that. The WBC is a pale substitute.

March 8, 2013

Shut up, Lutz

Lutz jogging in from the outfieldDuring last year’s spring training, I remember hearing about a prospect in the Cincinnati Reds’ system who grew up in Germany and didn’t play baseball until he was 16. He was raw, but he’s still in the system and has improved.

Reds manager Dusty Baker has raved about Donald Lutz this spring. Lutz, or “Big Lutz,” as Baker calls him, has a lot of pop in his bat.

How much pop?

“He hit a ball as hard the other day … it reminded me of Willie Stargell and those guys. When I was a kid and I was playing center field, I was nervous. (I thought) Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey might hit a ball that I’d misjudge and it would hit me in the chest and go through me.”

Lutz, unlike his 30 Rock namesake, is tall and muscular, standing at 6 feet, 3 inches and weighing 250 pounds. So far this Spring, he’s got a .353 average, an on base percentage of .389, and a slugging percentage of .588. This is all in sizes so small it’s hardly a sample, but he does also have a home run and 5 RBI.

He could be a special player in the next year or two. This year, though, he’s likely to start in Pensacola on the AA team. There he’ll continue to work on the move from first base to the outfield. Because even though he’s 2 or 3 years away from the majors, the Reds have a first baseman for quite some time who isn’t moving for anyone.

March 6, 2013

Spring training game 13: Reds 4, Angels 6

Reds (2-11)0101000114100
Angels (2-8)00010050-6120
W: Mills (1-0) L: Ravin (0-3) S: Brasier (1)


Leake winds up against the AngelsThe Cincinnati Reds dropped their seventh game in a row yesterday, losing 6-4 to the Angels. However, just like the points in Who’s Line is it Anyway?, the losses don’t matter.

What can matter is the results of the players. Since the Reds have pretty much no competition for any of their starting roster spots, the players can actually take the time to focus on practicing and getting ready for the season. It makes for a different kind of spring training as a Reds fan.

So what were the results? Mike Leake started the game and had three strong innings, allowing no runs, four hits, and striking out 2. Aroldis Chapman followed him, and gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. That was the only run he allowed in his two innings of work.

The reason the Reds lost was due to the usage of young prospect Josh Ravin, who allowed five runs in his 1/3 inning of work. Again, another example that the Reds can treat spring training differently than in the 2000s. Here they’re letting a prospect pitch against some talent at a higher level than him, ostensibly in the hopes it can spur Ravin to realize how much harder he needs to work to compete in the majors.

As for the offense, the bats finally woke up, thanks to Jay Bruce. He hit two home runs, both solo shots, which had the Reds leading until Ravin’s appearance in the 7th. The offense tried to come back, but the two runs in the 8th and 9th just weren’t enough.

Today the Reds will play Team Canada. Mat Latos will start for the Reds, while the Canadians send out Mark Hardy. Game time is 9:05pm.

March 5, 2013

Spring Training game 12: Reds 2, Diamondbacks 7

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Diamondbacks (5-5)10002040-790
W: Spruill (1-0) L: Parra (0-1)


Cozart's first-inning home run

Zack Cozart got the Reds a very short-lived lead in the first.

The Cincinnati Reds continued their losing ways yesterday, dropping their 10th Spring Training game to the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-2.

Johnny Cueto started and pitched well. Over three innings, he allowed one run on one hit and struck out four.

Overall, the pitching wasn’t as bad as the 7-spot makes it look. The defense committed 3 errors, contributing to 4 unearned runs. Manny Parra and Clay Hensley took the brunt of that in their relief appearances, combining to give up 6 runs, only 2 of which were earned.

As for the scoring, the Reds took an early lead, thanks to a Zack Cozart solo home run in the first. The offense was largely silent until the seventh, when Henry Rodriguez knocked in a run.

The real excitement, though, came before the game began. Dusty Baker and Kirk Gibson, the Diamondbacks manager, had a disagreement about the usage of the designated hitter.

“He wanted his pitcher to hit and I wanted Choo to DH,” Baker said following a 7-2 Reds loss. “They sent over word that’s what they wanted to do. It would have been fine with me to do both. It’s up to the home team of what they want to do. Usually here we let teams DH early.”

Apparently, Gibson wasn’t having any of that. It was National League rules all the way.

At the exchange of lineup cards, there were some words between the two managers. Gibson offered to shake hands, but Baker refused.

“We didn’t have a very pleasant encounter at home plate,” Baker said. “That’s how it goes. It’s over.”

The result? Choo didn’t start and Cesar Izturis was moved to the leaf-off position. Cueto batted in the third inning, but struck out looking because he was forbidden to swing the bat.

Such drama for a Spring Training game.

Today, the Reds will play the Angels at 3:05pm EST.