Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Observations for 3.15

By now you already know that the Reds scored 10 runs in the first inning yesterday before Oakland starting pitcher Ben Sheets recorded an out. They won the game 13-5. I'll post separate items on Chris Dickerson and Mike Leake later today.

Some additional things about yesterday's game that you might not know if you weren't in Goodyear:

Joey Votto is making this look easy

In the first inning, with the score still 0-0, Votto lined a single to left-centerfield as easily as if it were batting practice. Two of his hits yesterday were also to the opposite field. He's obviously seeing it really well and his swing is simple and relaxed.

On top of his hitting exploits, for the second day in a row, he made the best defensive play of the game for the Reds. In the fifth inning he snared a line drive that was over his head and destined for the rightfield corner. He also made a nice play on a ground ball in the hole, tossing it strongly to covering pitcher Mike Lincoln -- a play Votto practices dozens of times every day.

It's a thrill to go to the park just to watch JV play. I don't think an MVP-type season is out of the question.

The Reds broadcasters were in the house

Even though it was an off day for live radio and TV coverage, at least three members of the Reds broadcast team were seated in my section yesterday, taking in the Reds pounding of the A's. Chris Welch was sitting with Jeff Brantley. The Hall of Famer was there, too.

I'd slow down the Juan Francisco fanfare

Yes, he's hit some blasts this spring. I can see what the excitement is all about. But I'd still keep it classified under the heading of "potential" until Francisco can demonstrate more patience at the plate. I saw his laser-shot in the "B" game on Sunday morning against the Indians. It rocketed over the right field fence before you knew what had happened.

BUT, in general, he is still a liability when at bat. He swings at everything, including a pitch yesterday that was at-or-above eye level. The major league pitchers won't give him anything to hit. He joined the hit parade against Ben Sheets yesterday with a single to left, but otherwise struck out twice, badly.

Travis Wood looked more than fine

I guess it was a little unrealistic to expect Travis Wood to go the entire season without giving up a run. After retiring three batters in the 5th inning on 6 pitches, Wood lost his focus for a while in the 6th inning, giving up two walks, a single to Adam Rosales, and his first run of the spring.

Wood returned for a dominant 7th inning, and struck out four A's over the course of his three innings. There is a lot to be encouraged about with Travis Wood.

CoCo Cordero, same old, same old (in the good way)

Cordero came in to pitch the fourth inning, giving up a couple of hits before getting down to business and retiring the A's without giving up a run.

Remember the past two years how Cordero seems to be less effective when a save is not on the line? Well, imagine how he must have felt entering the game in the fourth inning with the score Reds 10, Oakland 0. It was comforting to see his unusual "look-in" to the pitcher yesterday. The bullpen should be another strength for the Reds again this year.

Adam Rosales doesn't look right in green and gold

Part of the collateral damage that was the Reds disastrous signing of Willy Taveras in 2009 was that we had to ship out Adam Rosales in a trade to get rid of Taveras. (Not to mention having to take on Aaron Miles, look at the next item ... )

Rosales apparently has a shot at the regular SS job with the A's, which he wouldn't have had with the Reds. In fact, the Reds' signing of Orlando Cabrera, made Rosales somewhat expendable. Yesterday, Rosales was 3-3 for the A's and knocked in and scored a run. No surprise that he ran the bases hard.

I'm afraid we have Miles and miles to go

Aaron Miles continues to struggle at the plate, going hitless again yesterday. The 10-run first inning would have been cut somewhat short had not Mark Ellis dropped Miles' weak ground ball right at the second base bag. That was a sure-fire double play. His other two AB produced similar dribbling ground outs. Further, Miles is just average in the field. Yesterday, he fielded a pop-up way over his head, clearly Chris Dickerson's ball in CF. I suppose you do things like that in order to make the team.

Dusty Baker is sure giving Miles every opportunity, but there is just no good reason to keep him on the roster. The Reds have other options. Paul Janish is much better in the field. Drew Sutton is better in the field and at the plate. Throw in Miguel Cairo and Chris Burke, who also could fill the utility IF role. Todd Frazier is the Reds top minor league hitting prospect and he plays the infield and outfield.

But unfortunately, that doesn't mean Miles won't make the trip back to Cincinnati in April. He has a $2+ million contract the Reds would have to eat, and he played 2B on Walt Jocketty's 2006 St. Louis Cardinals world championship team. If Miles does make the team, I suspect it won't be Baker's call. He doesn't seem all that pleased watching Miles.

What the Mariners saw in Wladimir Balentien

Wladimir Balentien was signed out of Curacao at the age of 15 by the Seattle Mariners. He excelled at every level of their minor league organization, but struggled with their major league club. He was traded to the Reds for Robert Manual in 2009. In 110 AB with the Reds last year he had a solid OBP of .352 to go along with 3 homers, seven doubles and a triple.

But it's obvious that he's getting squeezed out of the Reds crowded OF this year. Johnny Gomes seems destined to play the role of RH slugger. Dusty Baker is making limited opportunities for Balentien to earn his keep.

Yesterday, however, Balentien came up in the 6th inning with Miguel Cairo on base and knocked the first pitch he saw over the right field fence. I guess if he plays well enough the rest of spring the Reds might be able to trade him.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post Steve!

    Let me ask you a question about Francisco - were his bad AB's against lefties or righties? Also do you know if his HR came against RHP or LHP? RLN has a post up talking about the possibility of a Gomes/Francisco platoon, so maybe that would limit the damage done by tough lefties.

    Or do you think that his plate discipline is so bad in general that he would still be a liability in a platoon?