Warming Up

060505bob Now THIS is more like it.  The Valley of the Sun… beautiful.. not a cloud in the sky…

Another nice bounce-back win yesterday (Thursday).  Aaron Harang was brilliant under brutal weather conditions.  And the Reds hitters returned to their patient, effective approach at the plate that has worked so well this year.  Edwin Encarnacion and Austin Kearns, in particular in the four-run second inning fell behind 0-2, then worked the count full, before getting hits.  And how about Harang’s two hits.  The Reds still have lost only one series all year. 

But back to the weather. We haven’t seen days like this since Spring Training… so I’m headed to the pool…. enjoy the game tonight (yes, another "Friday Night Fight"). Carpenter, Sheets, Oswalt and now UK alum Brandon Webb, who’s off to a great start. 

From a place where it’s widely celebrated, I wish you a "Happy Cinco de Mayo!!"

One "shout-out" I forgot on Thursday, but congratulations to Dan Hoard and his wife, Peg, on the birth of their son Samuel!!  7 pounds, 2 ounces.  Born Wednesday morning, all are doing well.

Aurilia to 15-day DL

Update: The Reds have placed Rich Aurilia on the 15-day DL with a strained right groin.

Infielder Ray Olmedo will replace Aurilia on the roster. In 17 games for Louisville, Olmedo hit .339 with eight runs scored. Olmedo’s expected to arrive here in Denver in time for tonight’s game.

Rich has been a big part of this team’s early-season success, hitting .295 with five homers and 13 RBIs. He’s also hit in 11 straight starts.

Rich has combined with Scott Hatteberg for a nice platoon at first base, and he’s done well everywhere else he’s played. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Chillin’ in Colorado

060504rockies_1 Forty-eight degrees as I write this.  "Raw in the Rockies."  Reds will try to gain a split tonight after losing 3-0 Wednesday.  They’ve only lost one series all year. 

Another "quality start" Wednesday night, though the Reds didn’t make some plays in the field, and they didn’t hit with men on base.  Despite Brandon Claussen’s inability to field a ball hit back up the middle, he still gave his team 6 2/3 innings and three runs.  If Reds starters do that every night, the Reds will win a lot of games.

Rich Aurilia will be re-examined today.  Tough night, tough weather, tough guy.  Hopefully he won’t be out long.  The "good news" is that the Reds can use their first-base platoon the next several days since Cincinnati is scheduled to face right-handers tonight, then all three games in Arizona, and they have Monday off.  Scott Hatteberg would presumably start those games at first base anyway.

Thinking of Rich reminds me of a moment that stood out to me earlier this season and said something about him and this team.

The Reds had just beaten Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs 8-3 at Wrigley Field.  I was at the entrance to the Reds clubhouse to grab the winning pitcher, Eric Milton, for a radio interview.  As I waited for Eric, I saw all the players give each other the obligatory high fives and handshakes, as they do after every win.  But what struck me was how happy Rich was — on a day he had gone 0-for-4. It spoke volumes to me as to what kind of competitor he is.  As long as the team wins, he’s happy.

This is a great city, great part of the country.  Beautiful, just not today. Oh well…

To answer some questions you’ve asked me over the past week:

I’m not sure where Jacob Cruz is right now.  The ex-Red was given his release.  I’ve been asking around, and no one seems to know where Jacob is.  Searching the Web site for minor league baseball, they had him with Louisville the first couple of weeks of the season but list no current baseball address.  What a super person he is, and a good hitter.  I’m sure he’ll hook on somewhere.

060504coffeyAs to the Griffey question?  I don’t know…

Someone asked about Todd Coffey and whether or not he could be a closer in the big leagues.  Hard to know until he’s actually put into that spot.  It’s amazing how much more difficult those last three outs seem to be than the first 24.  I think he’s got the stuff to do it.  And a couple of other things that work in his favor:  He appears to be fearless on the mound.  And he also seems to have what is a prerequisite for a closer, or any pitcher: a short memory.  I think he probably will get that chance at some point.  Yes, I think he could close at some point in the future.  And the spot he’s in now, setting up in tough situations (with runners often on base) is a great training ground.

Valentin: “We Need the Fans”

Valentin As great as Javier Valentin’s clutch RBI single was to win the game, as well as Jason LaRue’s sacrifice bunt, the pitchers deserve a ton of credit.

Even without Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen in the lineup, Dave Williams deserves credit for his best outing of the year against the team almost everyone has picked to win the division: St. Louis.  His 6 2/3 innings, allowing just two runs, kept the team in the game.  The Reds then got good relief work from Rick White and Todd Coffey.  Credit also goes to Bronson Arroyo, whose complete-game effort the night before meant that Jerry Narron’s bullpen was fresh.

The Reds’ pitching staff is 11th in team ERA in the National League, with the team ERA down to 4.59.  And with the good performances the past few days, the Reds are moving very close to that "middle of the pack" range that should allow them to stay competitive when combined with Cincinnati’s productive offense.

I asked Javier on the radio after the game, ?What’s the difference between last year?s squad and this year?s team??  His answer would have warmed the heart of his manager.

"We do the little things now," he said. "Our offense, our defense — we’ve started pulling everything together.  If one hitter doesn’t do his job, the next batter, he’s ready to go.  Winning teams do that, play with each other.  And we’re confident."

He only made one request. "The only thing we need: we need the fans.  We need the fans to cheer for us because we’re going to be giving the best we can everyday — 120 percent in the field every single day."  Nice to know "giving 110 percent" apparently just isn’t enough for these guys.

The Reds now open a five-game road trip, beginning with two here in Colorado.  The warm weather left town just in time for this series, but then it’ll be in the 90s in Arizona over the weekend.  Cincinnati now plays the next 11 games out of their division.  Impressively, while playing 21 of their first 27 within the NL Central, the Reds went 14-7 against their divisional rivals.

Lights Out Again!

Bronson_2 Bronson Arroyo does it again, now 5-0 after Monday night’s win over the Cardinals. It’s been fun to watch his starts.  It’s funny, I talked with a friend of mine tonight who reminded me he was at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota for Bronson’s first start for the Reds in Spring Training, and that the Twins knocked him around in that start. That was just days after the Reds acquired him.  Then in his next start, in Fort Myers at the Red Sox spring home, he was lights out.

This season he’s been "lights out" in five of his six starts, including Monday, when he threw his second career complete game, and raised his record to 5-0

For a guy who loved the whole Fenway experience and was initially disappointed by the trade,  he’s enjoying his new team.  He told me on the radio after Monday’s game, "I’m having a great time.  Anytime you can come to an organization and make an impact right away, it’s nice.  And to be on a team that wasn’t picked to be in first place, it feels even sweeter."

By the way, this was the fifth time (five big wins) that he’s been my guest as our star of the game.  That’s five envelopes containing Montgomery Inn dinner coupons (as well as coupons for Frontgate outlet stores).  He’s still new in town.  Has he had the chance to try the "world’s greatest ribs?"  Apparently superstition has prevented him from enjoying the dining experience… so far.

"I have not.  I’m scared to use any of these coupons.  At the end of the year hopefully I’ll have $2,000 worth of Montgomery Inn stuff to give away." 

A Good Weekend…

Nobody’s ever happy with a loss, but as we know, "You can’t win ’em all."  Having said that, it was nice to see Elizardo Ramirez hang in there after a 36-pitch first inning. After giving up the two-run homer to Lance Berkman, he kept his team in the game and wound up giving his team a solid six-inning performance (three runs).

Berkman, a great guy by the way, was my guest on the radio after the game.  About Ramirez, he said (after the first inning), "He pretty much shut us down… and he made some good adjustments.  He really didn’t pitch that badly.  We were able to get him with the long ball today."

Regarding the NL Central, he said, "I think it’s an extremely competitive division.  It’s going to come down to how we play against the divisional opponents."  For the record, the Reds are now 12-7 in the Central, St. Louis is 11-7, Houston 6-3, Chicago 9-8, Milwaukee 8-8, Pittsburgh 3-16.  Again, success within the division is critical for a team that wants to stay in contention.  Next up for the Reds: the Cardinals Monday night and Tuesday afternoon.

Gabp By the way, three home runs were hit in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Houston.  Our buddy Mark Wagner, who’s the stat guru/researcher for FSN Ohio, as well as for Thom Brennaman’s FOX network telecasts, gave us an interesting note about Great American Ball Park. 

As you know, we see a lot of home runs at the Reds’ home park, as they have seen in Philadelphia, since the Phillies opened Citizens Bank Park in 2004.  The Phillies took measures this past offseason to make their home a little less homer-friendly.  Mark says the fences are two feet higher around much of the ballpark, and that the fences were moved back five feet or so.  According to Mark, if the Reds made the same changes here in Cincinnati, it would have removed just seven home runs since Great American opened in 2003. The ball just carries so well.

As you can see by this chart, the dimensions themselves are only slightly shorter than the Major League Baseball average.

Great American Ball Park 328 379 404 370 325
Oriole Park at Camden Yards 333 364 410 373 318
Angel Stadium 330 387 400 370 330
Minute Maid Park 315 362 435 373 326
McAfee Coliseum 330 388 401 390 330
Turner Field 335 380 401 390 330
Miller Park 344 370 400 374 345
New Busch Stadium 336 376 400 376 335
Wrigley Field 355 368 400 368 353
Tropicana Field 315 370 404 370 322
Chase Field 328 376 407 376 336
Dodger Stadium 330 385 395 385 330
AT&T Park 339 382 399 421 309
Jacobs Field 325 370 410 375 325
Safeco Field 331 390 405 387 326
Rogers Centre 328 375 400 375 328
Dolphin Stadium 330 385 434 385 345
Shea Stadium 338 378 410 378 338
RFK Stadium 335 385 410 385 335
Petco Park 334 367 396 387 322
Citizens Bank Park 329 374 401 369 330
PNC Park 325 389 399 375 320
Ameriquest Field 332 390 400 381 325
Fenway Park 310 379 420 380 302
Coors Field 347 390 415 375 320
Kauffman Stadium 330 385 410 385 330
Comerica Park 345 398 420 380 330
HHH Metrodome 343 385 408 367 327
US Cellular Field 330 377 400 372 335
Yankee Stadium 318 399 408 385 314
TOTAL (In feet): 9948 11403 12202 11377 9841
All totals are divided by 30:

Average MLB Field

331.6 380.1 406.7 379.2 328
Great American Ball Park 328 379 404 370 325
(Information gathered from the respective teams’ Web sites and media guides.)

Home Gets Sweeter

Pretty impressive couple of days at Great American Ball Park for the Reds, beating Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte.  After the impressive road trip, the next question was: How would this team do against the two teams that have given them the most trouble the past several years? So far, so good. 

I’ve been impressed for the past couple of weeks by how patient the Reds hitters have become.  They drove up Oswalt’s pitch count Friday.  Same story on Saturday (eventually) with Pettitte.   Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns drew walks, Edwin Encarnacion had a good at-bat, fouling off pitches before his big double, and the offense began to flow.  The Reds hitters seem to be going to the plate with a plan, and they’ve been able to execute that plan.  John Fay told us in the second inning Saturday he’ll have a story about Chris Chambliss, the Reds hitting coach, in the Enquirer Sunday.  Chris deserves a lot of credit for all his hard work with the Reds? (mostly young) hitters.

The other thing that jumps out at me, watching this team every day, is the speed factor.  Adding Brandon Phillips to a lineup that already includes Ryan Freel and Felipe Lopez, and suddenly the Reds can score in ways that they couldn’t do as easily in the past.  It’s not just having speed, but having more than one or two guys with that speed that can create havoc on the base paths, as we’ve seen with Brandon the past couple of days. 

Also, the starting pitching is so critical.  The first couple of weeks of the season it was very good, then things got shaky for several days.  Of late it’s been strong.  For the Reds to truly contend, it’ll have to continue to get better. The team era is still around 5; if they can get it down in the mid-4s or so, then with this offense, they’ll have a chance against the top teams.

It’s still so early, but with each win, especially over very good pitching, the confidence continues to build.  Sunday it’s Elizardo Ramirez’s turn again.  He was outstanding last Monday night in his 2006 Major League debut.  Can he do it again?  Or at least keep his team in the game and give them a chance?  If he changes speeds they way he did in Washington, he’ll be fun to watch.  Houston puts young Taylor Buchholz on the hill, and he’s enjoyed success this year too.

Regarding some of the questions and comments some of you have left (and I appreciate them), I found out there’s more than one way I can answer them.  I can post under one of your questions, or I can just answer you in a blog entry like this one.  So I’ll answer a few of them now, and more in the next few days.

Someone suggested the team call up  outfielder Chris Denorfia.  If the Reds had a place for him to play every day, I’d second that motion.  But right now, with things going well here, there really isn’t a place.  But the good news is: He’s playing everyday (and playing very well) at Louisville.  We’ll see him at some point this year, and the way he plays the game, I would think he could be a starter at some point in the future.  But right now he’s playing — and still developing where he is.

Someone asked about Cody Ross, the player the Reds acquired from the Dodgers this past week.  He was hit in the hand Friday night, which might have cost him a start on Saturday.  He’s seen as especially good against left-handed pitching, so with Pettitte starting, the thought was he might be in there. The good news is X-rays were negative.

To the person that asked about Joe Nuxhall and having him around:  I’m glad he’s around.  No one’s treated me any better than he has.  I’m glad he’s still on the air with us.  On occasion I have the chance to broadcast games with him, which I really enjoy.  And I know folks still like to hear Marty and him together, and on those days, I enjoy listening just like you.  And, no, I haven’t tried your aunt’s hangover cure…. (yet).

Home, Sweet Home

The man who facilitated this whole blog "thing" for me, Dann Stupp, tells me I’ve had  some "traffic" and received some questions from some of you.  I’m a neophyte at all this stuff, and not exactly technically savvy, so Dann is going to show me on Friday how to answer those of you who’ve had questions.

Dann, by the way, is the co-author of Tom Browning’s new book, "Tales from the Reds Dugout."  Mr. Perfect himself will be signing copies at Sunday’s game with Houston in the Reds Community Fund booth, with a portion of each sale benefiting the charity.

57347098Well, are you excited about this homestand?  I had two different radio stations (in other cities) interview me today about the Reds’ outstanding start.  I’d hate to think how many calls Marty’s gotten; usually you multiply my requests by at least five and you get his total.  Anyway, it’s fun broadcasting a team enjoying some early success.

I hope a lot of folks come out to see the Reds play the last two National League champions, the Astros and Cardinals, beginning Friday night.  A 6-1 road trip was an impressive feat the past week, but now they get a chance to measure themselves against teams that have really given them trouble in the recent past.  Is it "make-or-break" time?  No way — way too early.  In fact, it’s way too early to draw any conclusion other than that this team has had a good start. By the way, the starting pitching the Reds will face is about as good as it gets: beginning with Roy Oswalt, then Andy Pettitte, and then young Taylor Buchholz, whose ERA is below 2.

But having been to the ballparks in Houston and St. Louis many times, I can tell you that when the Reds go in there, the places are packed, and the fans give their team a great home-field advantage. Hopefully it’ll be a great atmosphere in the Queen City this weekend.  One positive number early in this baseball season: the Reds are 10-6 within the division.  It’s a key stat to watch since roughly half their games are within the NL Central.

And don’t forget that after Friday and Saturday’s games you’re invited to postgame concerts, thanks to the new Taco Bell Late Night Concert Series on the Bud True Music Stage.  Friday it’ll be the Hyde Park Outrage; Saturday it’s Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel.  By the way, if the "Outrage" ever meets the "Steam Shovel," well, I don’t have to tell you, it could get a little messy.  The concerts are free to anyone with a ticket to that day’s game.

Also fans (yes, of all ages) are invited to run the bases after Sunday’s game.   Incidentally, Mark Berry’s got a previous engagement, so you’ll have to "wave" yourself home….enjoy the weekend!!

A Busy Road Trip

060425ramirez I hope I’m not jinxing the rest of this road trip with this blog entry, but it has been enjoyable watching the Reds win four of the first five games.

Monday night’s 4-2 win had to give Jerry Narron and Tom Hume particular joy because of the performance of 23-year-old Elizardo Ramirez.  It’s only one start, but seven strong innings from an unexpected source was great to see.  Talking to him after the game (mostly through his interpretor/catcher, Javier Valentin), Elizardo was quick to thank Mario Soto, now the Louisville pitching coach, for helping him develop a better change-up.  Before I turned the microphone on to talk to Elizardo, Jerry Narron reminded him, "Don’t forget to call Mario Soto!"

It’s always great to see a young pitcher succeed, get his first big league win, get the ball, and in this case, get his first hit too. 

So 13-7 after 20 games, the best start in 12 years, not bad.  Loooooooong way to go, but it sure beats a poor start.  The win guaranteed a winning road trip.  And what a great story Brandon Phillips has been.  Again, it’s early, but another young guy enjoying success (National League Player of the Week), after an unbelievable week, in which he drove in 17 runs.

Off the field, it’s been a busy couple of days for me.  As much as I would have loved to do some sightseeing here, I’ve visited friends in Baltimore Monday and relatives in Virginia today, both visits that were long overdue on my part.  But this is a GREAT city to have as a regular stop in the National League.  From where we’re staying, most of what you’d want to visit in Washington is pretty close.  Now it’s off to RFK for more baseball…

Hello Reds Fans!

Withmartyandjoe_2 In a world in which seemingly everybody has their own talk show, now everybody also has their own blog, including me.  Some nice folks in the Reds front office approached me and asked if I’d like to give this a try.  I said "sure."

As Marty can attest, I’m rarely at a loss for words.  So, what the heck?  

I figure, I’ve got the best job in the world.  I work with a Hall of Fame announcer, a man who keeps me and everybody else laughing every day.  On occasion I get to work with Joe, who has been great to me too.  What Reds fan wouldn’t want to be in my shoes?  So why not take you on this "ride" that is the Reds season?

I know there are a lot of these types of forums available.  Reds’ beat writer Marc Lancaster has done a super job keeping fans updated on things.  What will this blog be about?  Ask me after the season, and I’ll have a better idea.  It will definitely be about the Reds and baseball, but it’ll also be about things away from the field, life on the road, etc.

Someone figured the "Bad Boy Blog" was a catchy title, so that’s what we’ve got.  The number one question I get from fans is, "Where’d you get your nickname?"

Maybe I’ll save that one for the next entry. 

Regarding the Reds, what an unbelievable last couple of days ? Wednesday at home and Thursday in Milwaukee.  We all know the pitching needs to get better, but to comeback from 5-0 and 8-4 down to win?  And from 6-2 down to win?  Entertaining, but I’m sure Jerry Narron would like to win a little less dramatically.  This Milwaukee team is a good measuring stick for the Reds, especially with the problems the Reds have had here in the past!

You can leave comments and questions for me at the end of this post. I encourage your feedback.  Please keep it civil and clean, since my mom will be reading it.

Time for another brat(wurst, that is)…