Well, the Reds wander away from St. Louis at .500 dazed and once again, with a depleted bullpen.
Tonight’s bullpen order makes more sense if Dusty already knew Dontrelle Willis meets the team in Milwaukie tomorrow. Travis Wood went 7 solid innings for Louisville tonight, and probably then is not an option for the July 10 start, Edinson Volquez’s next turn, on 3 days rest. So if Willis comes up for Volquez, then he may serve as needed over the next three days, and if unused, start on the 10th. Other options include Sam LeCure or yesterday’s AAA starter, Chad Reineke.
If the plan remains for Volquez to start Sunday, then tonight makes less sense. Tomorrow’s game will find a short bullpen with LeCure, Chapman, and Arredondo having worked two straight days. Four relievers should be enough, but none of them can give you any more than two innings (Bray probably a single inning max), and Bailey can’t be left out there given his recent history.
Certainly, the All-Star break lends opportunity for rest and a reset of the rotation, but if Volquez goes down tomorrow, it seems poor planning or simply that the Reds are willing to potentially give away the last start heading into the break. If he sticks around and Willis is thought needed, then who in the bullpen has options left for a quick trip to Louisville?
The choice seems to be risking the staff tomorrow, or reducing your chance at success the day before a three-day break.
If Bailey can go six or seven solid, then this is all moot. If not, tomorrow might be added to any number of games over the last several years – from the 2009 Harang game to this year’s Carlos Fisher extra inning run – where the team simply leaves itself unprepared.
The 25-man roster reflects the best and worst of the organization right now. The Reds’ ability to mix-and-match pitchers, due to injury and the odd 19-inning affair, is a testament to the depth found and developed in the system. It isn’t as if the Reds can call up any number of future shutdown closers or top of the rotation starters, but the Jose Arredondos and Matt Maloneys are one step up from what many or most teams can call upon. (The Yankees threw Luis Ayala out there last night. May as well have been Bobby Ayala.)
The recent crunch, though, leaves the team with one left-hander in the pen and one lefty on the bench, in Bill Bray and Fred Lewis. But does it make a difference?
When Lewis gets the odd start, the Reds are left without that portside bat for matchups late in the game. When Lewis is on the bench, maybe he waits while Renteria, Cairo, or Heisey – with his reverse split – gets the first opportunity earlier in a game. Statistically, the difference may not be on the Reds’ hitters side, but the opposing pitcher, one who may not fare well versus lefties and gets to stay in as the Reds may only be able to put up a parade of righties.
In the bullpen, Bray ends up becoming more of the lefty specialist, although he has shown the ability to pitch full innings, regardless of handedness. With Ardolis Chapman’s return, Baker can mix-and-match accordingly, again knowing he does have that other left-hander as needed.
More interestingly, the defensive issues arise. Carrying 11 pitchers should leave enormous flexibility on the bench, but if Renteria truly can’t play third, a 37-year old Miguel Cairo simply can’t handle the middle infield, Rolen needs more rest than he’s getting, no infielder on the 25-man can effectively play the outfield, and there’s a three-headed left fielder – well, they just aren’t getting the benefit. The injury carousel has deferred the choice and moved the focus, but it comes to whether Jonny Gomes will play, whether Cairo is “untouchable”, or whether Renteria is the only other shortstop. Answering “no”, “I guess so”, and “yes” comes back to Gomes being the odd man out when the time comes for a 12-man summer staff or that other left-handed bat comes calling in Juan Francisco or Yonder Alonso.
Theory here: the Reds are trying to carry Gomes as long as possible, to make the gap between demotion or DL and September 1 as narrow as possible, in the hope he’ll stick around.
Carlos Fisher, called up from Louisville twice this year. Reds – 2 wins, 0 losses on those dates. It is knowing and repeating these little things, if done continually, that win pennants, yes?
Jonny Gomes is a person. He’s overcome tragedy, serious health scares, previous prolonged slumps, being discarded by other organizations, and being left out of the Reds organization in two successive offseasons until it seemed no other options might come available. His time as “The” left fielder, or even being part of a regular platoon, though, must come to an end.
In his best times, Gomes provides a lot of what the Reds need right now. Mashing left handers, some thought of power behind Votto and Rolen – especially when Votto isn’t quite the MVP for a few days and when Rolen’s energy and health levels drop to red, and a dugout / clubhouse presence somewhere between manic and goofy. He’s been good for the Reds and has provided just enough production at just about the right times for two seasons. But after the last week and really the last month, with Dusty Baker seemingly emptying the managerial bag of tricks to get him started, we’ve reached the last stop. The last two passengers on the bandwagon are Baker and Jocketty.
Now Gomes may well have some big games and hits left in him, but as a regular member of the playing rotation, it is time to move on. With Gomes as the designated lefty masher, Chris Heisey has only 8 plate appearances against lefties. While Heisey has an odd reverse split in the majors, it wasn’t pronounced in the minors, and frankly, at around .200, he’s above Gomes’ level at this point. If not Heisey, where do the Reds go? Full-time play of Yonder Alonso won’t be worse in the outfield grass, and with Alonso’s major league contract starting to come due within the year, it is close to time to learn if he’ll play in left and hit at the highest level, regardless of handedness. If not Alonso (or Fred Lewis), then we’ve thrown out the names of Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Beltran.
June 1 could be too late with the rest of a tough road trip looming. The wheels are now off the wagon.
Over many years now, Dusty Baker has felt the same jabs from fans, analysts, and armchair bloggers. He favors veterans to the extreme – leaving prospects to twist in the wind, never to find their feet or development time. He works his starting pitchers to the bone, literally in some cases. He lets his players battle the media without significant input or interference from the manager. Looking back, each of these issues seems most generated by Baker’s time with the Cubs, and the carryover commentary has followed him to Cincinnati, without a generous helping of reality.
With the start of his tenure in Cincinnati in 2008, Baker clearly did not hold back any true prospects. Jay Bruce came to the majors near Memorial Day as a 21-year old and played consistently through the end of the season, despite his well-chronicled late-season struggles. Bruce continued as a starter in 2009. Also in 2008, Scott Hatteberg was set aside and finally away to start 24-year old Joey Votto. That has worked out pretty well.
The centerfielder of choice in 2008 was 28-year old Corey Patterson, who kept 32-year old Ryan Freel on the bench and had 15 percent fewer plate appearances than Bruce. Maybe not a great choice, but with Adam Dunn headed to Arizona, Norris Hopper on the bench, and Drew Stubbs having started the year in high-A Sarasota, well, the Reds weren’t winning a pennant in 2008 regardless.
2009 found Willy Taveras in center, but he was displaced by Stubbs on August 19 that year and has not looked back. Edwin Encarnacion was traded away for Scott Rolen. They’d probably do that again, too. In short, this hasn’t been an issue in Baker’s Reds tenure, and frankly, it could just be all Chicago media-driven. Looking back to his time in Chicago, he was derided for favortism of Neifi Perez, Todd Walker, and Todd Hollandsworth, among others – in disfavor of Ronny Cedeno, Matt Murton, Angel Pagan, Jason Dubois, and Ryan Theriot?
Not an issue in Cincinnati.
Wasn’t really one in Chicago. Or San Francisco. Where they didn’t have prospects to even write about … Armando Rios?
A 5-for-9 return from the disabled list shows a lot of Scott Rolen – ability to rise to moment, ability to maintain focus through down time, and just flat-out ability. Certainly, this Cardinal series is a big time relative to this point in the season, too. But the recent injury and his history of late-season fatigue makes Rolen’s inclusion in Sunday’s lineup troubling. He’s gamer – no doubt, and he understands the meaning of a potential sweep.
Assuming, though, that Cairo and/or Renteria can go today, then the powers that be should have sat down to sit Rolen down for what it means to now and beyond in 2011.
I’m still all over the third base closer idea: http://halfwayeverywhere.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/reds-sunday-51-scott-rolen-third-base-closer/
Each time the Reds have signed Ramon Hernandez, there has been some head-shaking at his trending (down) numbers, health, and age. The team has gotten just about what they’ve invested in terms of dollars thus far, but what we don’t really get is an assessment of is the value of what Dusty and Walt speak of at the news conference. Veteran leadership. Manager on the field. Clubhouse presence.
Aroldis Chapman faces a very tough next few days. While baseball brings many people from many places together, Chapman is a young man just two years into a new country where, for the last 15 months he has been The Next Great Thing. Maybe Baker or Price can help today. Maybe Hanigan has built that relationship. But I’d look at pregame and hope to see the tall lefty with Hernandez – in the pen, walking the field, playing RBI on Nintendo 64 in the clubhouse, with Ramon showing him that wicked frisbee slider Ken Dayley had.
Fixing Aroldis Chapman is not in the job description of Ramon Hernandez. But it can be a side benefit today.
Ramon Hernandez. Catcher with benefits.