Reds Preview/Review: Week 14



Results: 11-7 win over Twins; 8-5 loss to Twins; 2-1 win over Twins; 12-1 loss to Brewers; 7-3 loss to Brewers; 6-1 loss to Brewers.

Record // Run differential // Place in NL Central: 36-44 // minus-35 // fourth, 16.5 games back of the first-place Cardinals.

Notable performances/trends: The Reds and Twins combined for eight stolen bases, nine walks, 18 runs, and 26 hits last Monday night. Starting pitchers Mike Leake (Reds) and Mike Pelfrey (Twins) combined to cede 15 earned runs on 18 hits in six innings. … Also on Monday, Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart—who has quietly become the team’s No. 1 backstop—notched his first career four-hit game. Though the sample size is still fairly small, giving up switch-hitting may be a prudent move for Barnhart. The 24-year-old is slashing .265/.320/.393 in 130 career plate appearances batting left-handed, while from the right side, Barnhart is slashing .111/.143/.111. … It’s fair to say Josh Smith is overwhelmed as a major-league starter at this point in his career. Smith’s third start for the Reds came Saturday, and in 4.1 innings he allowed five (earned) runs on five hits, three walks, and four (!) hit batsmen. The four HBP tied a team record and made Smith just the second pitcher in the last 50 years to hit four batters in 4.1 or fewer innings pitched. Smith’s ERA in 12.1 innings is 7.30. … The fifth inning of Saturday’s game was quite wonky (and lengthy): six runs, five hits (all singles), three walks, two stolen bases, a run-scoring balk, a hit batsman, a video review, an ejection of the typically-affable Brayan Pena, and a throwing error. … In Smith’s defense, the entire club stunk up the joint over the weekend, with the pitching especially stinky: in 27 innings pitched, Reds’ arms surrendered 17 walks, 25 runs, and 40 hits. (You said it, Mr. Brando!)

Roster notes: Jonathon Crawford, acquired from the Tigers over the winter in the Alfredo Simon trade, made his 2015 debut Monday for the Arizona League Reds. … Brandon Phillips was back in the lineup Tuesday after missing a pair of starts. … Starter Robert Stephenson, the Reds top prospect, was promoted from Double-A Pensacola to Triple-A Louisville and made his first start (five innings, four hits, two (earned) runs, three walks, six strikeouts) for the Bats on Friday. The 22-year-old Stephenson owned a 4.19 FIP in 78.1 innings at Pensacola, but had been dominant over his last six AA starts, striking out 43 batters and walking only 14 over 39 frames. Unlike the young starters currently in the Reds’ rotation—Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, and Michael Lorenzen—Stephenson profiles as a top-of-the-rotation starter. … Reds assistant hitting coach Lee Tinsley was arrested on suspicion of OVI Thursday morning. … The Reds reportedly inked Dominican teenager Cristian Olivo to a $1-million signing bonus. … Reds manager Bryan Price has not ruled out the possibility of Tony Cingrani returning to the starting rotation. (I doubt this is a long-term move. Instead—as C. Trent Rosecrans noted—I think it’s a function of the aforementioned impending innings limits for the young starters, as well as the high probability that free-agent-to-be starters Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake are traded.)

Notable quote, Part I: “Their pitchers were very, very quick to the plate. But Billy was still able to run. I was really happy with the results. (Hamilton’s) been working really hard with (hitting coach Don Long) on hitting the ball on the ground, getting his bunts down. It’s the thing we need from him to be successful.” Price to reporters after last Monday’s game, which saw Hamilton—in the leadoff spot because of Phillips’ absence—reach base four times in six plate appearances and steal four bases in four attempts. However, Hamilton (.224/.275/.291) still has a long way to go at the plate, especially with the speed demon hitting fly balls 38 percent of the time he’s at the dish.

Notable quote, Part II: “It was brought to my attention; I didn’t anticipate he left. If that were the case, that would have created a real issue. I didn’t anticipate I’d sit down with Brandon and he’d tell me, ‘I went out and had doughnuts.’ But, it was out there and I had to follow up on it. I know he’s not telling me an untruth. He was here. … I’m sure it looks suspicious, but he was absolutely on site and didn’t leave during that rain delay.” — Price before Tuesday’s game, explaining to reporters that Phillips did not make a doughnut run during the rain delay, which is exactly what tweets from Phillips’ account implied before and right around game time. What a world.

Reason for OPTIMISM/pessimism: Even Debbie Downer herself would have had to smile while viewing the antics of the Brewers’ bullpen Saturday evening. I was sitting adjacent to the Milwaukee ‘pen during the game, and witnessed the following: a reliever miming along to Katy Perry’s “Firework” during a pitching change; a bullpener dancing to Silento’s “Watch Me” as Hamilton walked to the plate; and two relievers air-guitaring to Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” while another pitching swap took place. Thanks for making an otherwise drab game memorable, fellas.

Rant of the week, Part I: There’s been a lot of speculation about when and where free-agent-to-be Johnny Cueto will be traded, and rightfully so. After all, Johnny Beisbol is the best starter the Reds have raised internally in decades. But, there needs to be more chatter about Leake and where he might end up. The 27-year-old Leake has been just about a league average pitcher since he broke into the bigs in 2010. The right-hander is also a free agent at season’s end, and the rumor is Leake, a San Diego native, would prefer to return to the West Coast. And with DeSclafani, Iglesias, and Lorenzen profiling as middle-of-the-rotation starters—basically, three Leakes—it would be silly for Cincinnati to pay up to bring Leake back long-term. (Right-handed starting pitching is also the strength of the Reds’ farm system.) So, Reds fans, let’s practice equal opportunity trade speculation when it comes to spitballing about where Cueto and Leake may end up, OK? We wouldn’t want Leake to feel left out.

Rant of the week, Part II: DeSclafani threw 122 pitches Tuesday night, which was not ideal because a) Disco sat through a two-hour rain delay and threw from the stretch in every inning, so the righty pitched in plenty of “high-stress” situations, and b) Disco is a 25-year-old in his first full season as a major-league starter. I realize the bullpen was a bit strained, but you know what? Burn through Nate Adcock, Burke Badenhop, Carlos Contreras, and Pedro Villarreal—no offense, gents—before taxing a guy who could be pitching in the rotation for the rest of the decade.

Baseball nerd observation of the week: When Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly plated Phillips during Wednesday’s tilt, Todd Frazier properly fulfilled his on-deck batter responsibilities by signaling to Phillips the correct side of the base in which to slide over.

Trade denial of the week: Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is now on record saying Frazier will not be traded. Jocketty said the Reds are not “engaged” in any serious talks with other teams, which is unsurprising given the impending All-Star Game.

Who’s next?: The Reds are on the road in the final week before the All-Star Game and all of its related events descend upon the Queen City. From tonight through Wednesday, Cincinnati will be in Washington D.C. for three contests vs. the NL East-leading Nationals before jetting south to Miami for four games against the Marlins. A quick reminder of the main ASG happenings at Great American Ball Park: the Futures Game and the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game will be played Sunday; the Home Run Derby is next Monday night; and the All-Star Game takes place next Tuesday evening.

My National League All-Star ballot: The All-Star Game starters were announced Sunday, but since this is my column, I’ll offer my own stab at what NL starting nine’s should’ve looked like (the fans mostly got the NL starters right): Giants’ catcher Buster Posey; Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt; Marlins’ second baseman Dee Gordon; Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford; Reds’ third baseman Todd Frazier (way to rock the vote, Reds fans); outfielders Bryce Harper (Nationals), Joc Pederson (Dodgers), and Andrew McCutchen (Pirates). My starting pitcher would be the Nationals’ Max Scherzer.

Relevant Reds video clip: In Week 12 of the Review/Preview, I expressed my joy over Eugenio Suarez successfully executing a suicide squeeze. Well, the Reds shortstop did it again Monday night—and as an added benefit, Suarez reached base on the play. I gave Suarez a hard time last week because of his scuffling defense, but it looks more and more like the 23-year-old—who isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2018—deserves regular playing time in Cincinnati.

Notes from around the National League Central: Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright wants to return this season despite tearing his Achilles in late April. … Of course, Cubs manager Joe Maddon brought in a magician to perform for his team prior to Tuesday’s game. … An untimely timeout by the Phillies helped the Brewers win Tuesday. … Two years after being traded from the Orioles to the Cubs, Jake Arrieta has emerged as one of the NL’s top starters. … Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa was fired for his role in the Astros’ data breach. … After being plunked once again on his upper body, Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez has threatened possible retribution for the next guilty party. … The Brewers’ offense has come alive during the club’s eight-game win streak, averaging 7.3 runs and 13.4 hits per game during the stretch. … Entering what should be a spirited three-game series with the Cardinals, the Cubs have won five of six. … The Pirates (47-34) own the NL’s second-best record behind St. Louis (53-28).

Notes from around Major League Baseball: American League home run leader Albert Pujols is open to competing in the Home Run Derby one last time. … Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, and all-Cincinnati-everything/98 Degrees member Nick Lachey are among the participants in the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game. … Angels GM Jerry DiPoto resigned Tuesday, leaving behind a clubhouse culture that is reportedly a no-fun zone patrolled by stat-averse manager Mike Scioscia. … After fanning 12 Cardinals in his last outing, White Sox starter Chris Sale became just the second pitcher in baseball history with 10 or more punchouts in eight straight starts. … Marlins ace Jose Fernandez mashed a home run in his 2015 debut Thursday. … In a blow to the surprising AL West-leading Astros, outfielder George Springer is out indefinitely with a broken wrist. … Unsurprisingly, the try-to-sneak-the-center-fielder-into-the-infield-for-a-pickoff play failed to materialize for the Giants. … Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (calf strain) hit the disabled list for the first time in his 13-year career last week, joining Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton (wrist) as another star who will miss the All-Star Game. … Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg (oblique) has been placed on the disabled list once again. … Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson broke the single-season All-Star Game voting record with more than 14 million votes.

Grant Freking is a Nuxhall Way and Cincinnati Magazine contributor, and also writes for Redleg Nation and The Ohioan. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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