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Tag:Dusty Baker
Posted on: March 8, 2012 8:25 pm
 

Injury roundup: Price, Manny, Harper and more

By C. Trent Rosecrans

David Robertson may not even have the oddest injury of the spring for any pitcher named David in the American League East.

Rays left-hander David Price Thursday's game after two innings with what the team called a "minor neck spasm." How does one suffer a minor neck spasm? Well, apparently by toweling off the beck of his head just a bit too hard.

Really.

Don't believe me? Ask Price.



If you didn't click on the video, Price said it's happened to him before and he shouldn't miss any time. [Tampa Bay Times]

PROJECTED LINEUPS AND ROTATIONS

• Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter may not make his scheduled start on Monday because of neck stiffness that has halted his training.

Carpenter canceled his throwing session on Wednesday and said Thursday he's been bothered by the neck stiffness. He was scheduled to throw Friday, but that may not happen, either. He said there's no timetable for his return. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

• Manny Ramirez may return from a sore back on Saturday against the Reds. Ramirez has played two games this spring and was scratched on Wednesday. [MLB.com]

• Nationals prospect Bryce Harper was a late scratch from Thursday's exhibition game because of a tightness in his left calf. He's listed as day-to-day, but expects to play either Friday or Saturday.

Harper said he didn't feel the tightness when hitting, but did feel it when he was in the outfield. [Washington Times]

• Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche played in a minor-league intrasquad game on Thursday, but he's still limited on his injured foot. He hit a home run during the game, but he wasn't able to get a real feel how his foot felt. He said he may be able to play in a big-league exhibition by Saturday. [MASNSports.com]

• Two days after his first start of the year, Mets left-hander Johan Santana said he felt good and is looking forward to his next start, Sunday against the Marlins. [New York Daily News]

• Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis will make his spring debut on March 14. Markakis had abdominal surgery in the offseason. He'll DH at first. [Baltimore Sun]

• Reds left-hander Bill Bray had been shut down for two weeks with a groin injury and then stopped his scheduled bullpen session short on Wednesday. Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters that could lead to Aroldis Chapman moving back to the bullpen.

The Reds have tried stretching Chapman out and using him as a starter this spring, but he could be back in the bullpen with Bray's injury. Chapman is starting Friday in a split-squad game against the Giants. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

• The Rangers' Brad Hawpe was scratched from a B game against the White Sox because of a setback with his right hamstring. Hawpe was supposed to lead off every inning in his first action of the spring, but instead "overdid it" getting ready on Wednesday.

Hawpe said he expects to be ready by Friday. [MLB.com]

• Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez hasn't thrown in a spring training game yet, and there's no telling when he will return from the tightness in his throwing shoulder. He's expected to throw for the team in Jupiter on Friday. [Miami Herald]

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Posted on: March 4, 2012 8:29 pm
 

Injury roundup: Howard, Nix, Madson and more

Ryan HowardBy C. Trent Rosecrans

There is no timetable for Ryan Howard's return to the field after he suffered an infection near the site of his Achilles injury, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters on Sunday.

Howard is currently in a walking boot and fighting the infection with antibiotics. Howard will keep the boot on his left leg for the next week to 10 days.

"Once we're comfortable with where the infection is at, we can be more aggressive with his rehab," Amaro said (DelawareOnline.com).

In other injury news from around baseball on Sunday:

• Phillies outfielder Laynce Nix is limited to pinch-hitting and DH roles while he deals with tightness in his hamstring. Nix is expected to be in competition for the Phillies' job in left field, but Philadelphia is being cautious with him. The left-handed Nix is also expected to play some first base in Howard's absence. [DelawareOnline.com]

• New Reds closer Ryan Madson has a "minor" elbow injury and hasn't appeared in either of the Reds' first two spring games.

"He has a little irritation in his arm," manager Dusty Baker said (MLB.com). "The doctor looked at him today. Hopefully he will be all right in the next couple of days."

• David Wright will sit out at least the first two games of the exhibition season with pain in his left ribcage. Wright is still working out with the team, but the team is being cautious.

"We're going to hold him out until he's asymptomatic," general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters. [New York Times]

• Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez will rest his shoulder two more days before determining when he can return to the mound.

"I want to make sure everything is fine," Sanchez said (Palm Beach Post). "We're early in spring training, no reason to rush. I want to make sure nothing is bothering me."

He felt soreness in his should after a bullpen on Friday.

• Plenty of injury news from Rays camp -- left-hander Matt Moore threw off the mound for the first time in more than a week on Saturday, and on Sunday said he felt "normal." The left-hander had suffered from a lower abdominal strain and expects to throw again Monday and batting practice on Thursday. He could appear in an exhibition game as early as next weekend. Third baseman Evan Longoria said his bruised right hand should be good enough for him to play Tuesday, if not Monday. First baseman Carlos Pena and DH Luke Scott will take BP on Monday and expect to play as soon as Tuesday, but at least sometime in the coming week. [Tampa Bay Times]

• Giants reliever Dan Runzler will meet with Dr. James Andrews on Monday to get a second opinion on how to treat his strained lat muscle. Runzler's initial diagnosis has him out three-to-four weeks. [San Francisco Chronicle]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Posted on: December 3, 2011 8:39 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 9:39 pm
 

Saturday rumors: Kuroda, A's and more

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Saturday's the last day at home for a couple of days for most in baseball, as the winter meetings kick off Monday in Dallas -- and that goes for reporters, as well. That meant a rather light day in rumors, but expect things to pick up on Sunday and then go fast and furious on Monday. Last year news of Jayson Werth's deal with the Nationals came on the day before the start of the meetings, so that goes to show things don't just go down in the hotel lobby.

Hiroki KurodaThe news of Chris Capuano's signing with the Dodgers seemed to signal the end of Hiroki Kuroda's time in Los Angeles, and maybe even his time in the United States. However, the Rockies are pursuing Kuroda (Denver Post). Kuroda's also been mentioned as a possibility for the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Angels, Rangers and others. Kuroda blocked deals to the Tigers and Red Sox last season. WEEI.com reports Kuroda is open to pitching in Boston. His former team in Japan, the Hiroshima Carp, have also offered him a contract.

The A's could be popular in Dallas, as the team has pitching for sale. "I wouldn't rule anybody out," assistant GM David Forst told the San Francisco Chronicle. The A's are looking for an outfielder in return. Closer Andrew Bailey is among the most popular trade targets on the team, already drawing attention from the Rangers, Blue Jays, Reds, Padres, Mets and Mariners. (Chicago Tribune)

Someone put in a bid for Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu Lions are expected to accept the bid, regardless of the amount. (Kyodo News)

Matt Garza's agent told the Cubs' right-hander to prepare for "an active winter meetings." Garza told him he'd be in Italy. Garza was dealt from the Rays to the Cubs last offseason and is under team control through 2013. The Cubs have let it be known that they're open to trading just about anyone. (MLB.com)

The Rockies are interested in Japanese second baseman Kensuke Tanaka. The left-handed hitter played in just 49 games this past season for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters because of an ankle injury, but is said to be healthy now. (FoxSports.com)

The Red Sox will meet with Bob Garber, the agent for C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt, during the winter meetings. (Boston Herald)

Not many have thought that Rays general manager Andrew Friedman would consider taking the Astros' GM job, but free agent outfielder Johnny Damon seems to think it's a possibility. "He's not going to sign me and then leave," Damon told the Boston Globe of Friedman. "If he goes to Houston, his hometown, he's going to try and bring me along with him. That's where my waiting game is." Damon also said he told David Ortiz to play in New York and take advantage of the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.

Casey Blake is drawing interest from nine teams, including the Indians. He can play both corner outfield spots and both corner infield spots. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

The White Sox are looking to trade for a starter and an outfielder and are dangling John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton. Among the teams that could be a match are the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Nationals, Reds and Braves. (Chicago Tribune)

Tim WakefieldKnuckleballer Tim Wakefield said he has a "strong desire" to pitch for the Red Sox next season. The 45-year-old needs seven wins to surpass Roger Clemens and Cy Young as the franchise's all-time leader. (Boston Herald)

The Reds held their annual RedsFest in Cincinnati this weekend, so there's plenty of news from the banks of the Ohio thanks to the media availability of GM Walt Jocketty, manager Dusty Baker and most of the team's roster and top prospects. Jocketty said the team is looking for a "top of the rotation" starter and have targeted six different players, but didn't name any of them. Jocketty also said the team had looked at Detroit infielder Ramon Santiago as a backup shortstop, and would ideally like to sign a left-handed hitter or switch hitter to back up Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Enquirer). Baker said the team is looking both internally and externally for a closer, but will not have a closer by committee to replace Francisco Cordero (MLB.com). 

Follow all the moves with the CBSSports.com free agent tracker.

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:22 pm
 

The 2011 Anti-Managers of the Year



By Matt Snyder


Some of the best managers in baseball for 2011 were listed on ballots that were revealed Wednesday. Joe Maddon and Kirk Gibson came out on top in a completely unsurprising movement. But what about the other end of the spectrum? Who were the worst managers? We'll exclude guys who were fired during the season because they've already suffered enough. But what about the managers who kept their jobs well into September despite failing to meet preseason expectations? Let's check them out.

AL Anti-Manager of the Year candidates

Terry Francona, Red Sox. No, he wasn't fired during the season. He walked away after the season, so he's "eligible" in this fun little exercise. And with the fallout of the historic collapse we've already heard far too much about, you have to question everyone in the Red Sox organization. Francona built up a ton of credibility throughout his years at the helm in Boston and rightfully so, but in looking at just 2011, the awful September is a real black eye on his resume.

Ozzie Guillen, White Sox. He wasn't fired either. He walked away to take a new job after having a colossal disappointment of a season. The White Sox were picked by many to win the AL Central with what looked like a stacked offense and very good starting pitching. Instead, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios were albatrosses, Gordon Beckham took a step backward in his development and the back-end of the bullpen was a mess for the first several weeks of the season. There were some positives, but the negatives far outweighed those on a high-priced roster that failed to meet expectations.

Ron Gardenhire, Twins. It's hard to completely blame Gardenhire for the disaster that was the Twins' 2011 season, considering all the injuries, but, frankly, I needed a third name here. And with the Twins getting 31 games worse in one season, Gardenhire has to shoulder at least some of the load.

The pick: It's gotta be Francona with that monumental collapse. And the funny thing is, I'd hire him in a heartbeat if I was running a team with a managerial opening. He just had a bad month, along with many of his players.

NL Anti-Manager of the Year candidates

Fredi Gonzalez, Braves. His ballclub lost a double-digit lead in the NL wild card in one month. That's not always on the manager, as the offense was sputtering just as it had most of the season, but I'm placing a lot of blame on Gonzalez because the back-end of his bullpen started to falter down the stretch. All season, people had been pointing out the overuse of Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters. And all season, Gonzalez just ignored it, and continued running the duo out there, even with three-run leads. Just because the save rule says a three-run lead means a save opportunity doesn't mean you have to use your guys. What was wrong with using Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill with a three-run lead in the middle of July, for example? Plus, there were times Gonzalez used either Venters or Kimbrel with a lead bigger than three. That's just unexcusable.

Dusty Baker, Reds. The Reds got 12 games worse in a mediocre division (yes, there were two good teams, but three pretty bad ones) with very similar personnel to their division-winning team in 2010. In four seasons, Baker has only had a winning record once.

Mike Quade, Cubs. Flawed roster? Yes. Injuries? Sure. But Quade was still pretty overmatched and appeared to lose control of his locker room by July. This was coming from a guy many players endorsed prior to the season.

Jim Tracy, Rockies. The Jorge De La Rosa injury hurt, just as some underperformance from a few players, but the Rockies entered the season with far too much talent to end up a whopping 16 games under .500. Manager of the Year voting seems to always use performance versus expectations, so it's only fair the Anti-Manager does the same. Thus, Tracy's inclusion here.

The pick: Gonzalez, and I'd actually think about firing him due to the aforementioned overuse of Kimbrel and Venters. It cost his team the season. Hopefully the wear and tear doesn't alter the career paths of the young fireballers.

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Posted on: November 2, 2011 9:21 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 9:12 pm
 

Tony La Russa could manage in 2012 All-Star Game



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Tony La Russa may not have managed his last game -- the retired manager could return to the dugout for the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City, commissioner Bud Selig told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"I'd like to see him do that," Selig told Hummel. "We've got to see what happens."

As we noted on Monday, the gig is there if La Russa wants it. The World Series managers usually manage the All-Star teams the next season, meaning La Russa would be in line to manage the National League and Ron Washington to manage the American League.

La Russa wouldn't be the first retired manager to come back to manage the All-Star team. Danny Murtaugh of the Pirates retired after winning the 1971 World Series and then managed the 1972 All-Star Game.

There have been other managers to retire or switch teams after appearing in the World Series -- the ones that switched teams have managed representing their new team (i.e. Dusty Baker in 2003, Dick Williams in 1974), while other times managers who have been fired or resigned were replaced by the manager of the team with the next-best record. After the 1964 season, both the Cardinals' Johnny Keane and Yankees' Yogi Berra were no longer with their teams, so Gene Mauch of the Phillies and Al Lopez of the White Sox managed the 1965 Game.

None of those All-Star Games "counted" though -- but really, would  even a retired La Russa be a hindrance to the National League? It would be a fitting tribute to one of baseball's greatest managers, and also a nice touch that it would come in the state of Missouri.

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Posted on: October 29, 2011 12:03 am
Edited on: October 29, 2011 12:26 am
 

2011 World Series best in a decade

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cardinals are the World Series champions, but for one of the few times in recent memory, baseball fans were rewarded with an exciting, entertaining World Series. Looking over the last 10 World Series, there have been some stinkers -- good storylines, but often better storylines than games. Here's looking at the last 10 World Series and ranking them by what happened on the field and on the field only, with 2011, of course, leading the way in a landslide.

1. 2011: Cardinals over Rangers in 7

MVP: David Freese
What it's remembered for: Well, we'll see -- it could be Chris Carpenter's gutty Game 7 effort, Albert Pujols' historic Game 3 performance, David Freese's Game 6 heroics, Tony La Russa's Game 5 blunders, the Cardinals' rally from being down to their last strike twice in Game 6 or even Mike Napoli's amazing series. It's probably too early to tell -- just like it's to early to tell where this one will fall in the list of all-time great series, but we do know for sure right now that it's the best we've seen in a while.



2. 2002: Angels over Giants in 7
MVP: Troy Glaus
What it's remembered for: With the Giants just eight outs from the title, manager Dusty Baker pulled Russ Ortiz with one out in the seventh after back-to-back singles. Baker handed Ortiz the game ball before sending him back to the dugout before Scott Spiezio hit a three-run homer off of Felix Rodriguez. The Angeles rallied for three more runs in the eighth inning to win 6-5 and went on to win Game 7 behind John Lackey.



3. 2003:
Marlins over Yankees in 6
MVP: Josh Beckett
What it's remembered for: Beckett started Game 6 on three days' rest and shutout the Yankees on five hits to clinch the title at Yankee Stadium.


4. 2009:
Yankees over Phillies in 6
MVP: Hideki Matsui
What it's remembered for: Long-time Yankee nemesis Pedro Martinez started Game 6 for the Phillies, but was taken out of the game after giving up four runs in the first four innings and took the loss, while Andy Pettitte recorded his record 18th career postseason victory. It was the last game Martinez would pitch in the majors.



5. 2010: Giants over Rangers in 5
MVP: Edgar Renteria
What its' remembered for: After missing most of the season with several injuries, Edgar Renteria hit a three-run home run off of Cliff Lee in the seventh inning of Game 5 that was enough for a 3-1 victory, clinching the Giants title. Renteria joined Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig to have two series-winning hits.



6. 2005: White Sox over Astros in 4
MVP: Jermaine Dye
What it's remembered for: Like the other Sox, the White version had a long drought of its own broken, but White Sox fans never really whined as much as Red Sox fans so it was less celebrated. Although the White Sox swept the series, no game was decided by more than two runs, with Scott Podsednik hitting a walk-off homer in Game 2 off of Brad Lidge after the Astros rallied to tied the game with two runs in the ninth. Podsednik hadn't hit a home run in the entire 2005 regular season, but it was his second of the postseason.



7: 2008: Phillies over Rays in 5
MVP: Cole Hamels
What it's remembered for: Rain. Game 3 was delayed for an hour and a half, while Game 5 was started on Oct. 27 and suspended in the top of the sixth inning with the score tied at 2. The game was completed two days later with the Phillies winning 4-3. It was the first suspended game in World Series history.


8. 2004:
Red Sox over Cardinals in 4
MVP: Manny Ramirez
What it's remembered for: Because the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino, the series itself is remembered more fondly than the play on the field merited. Despite Boston's complete domination of the series and an early 3-0 lead in Game 4 (to go along with the 3-0 series lead at the time), for many Red Sox fans, it wasn't until Keith Foulke flipped the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out did they believe the Red Sox would actually win the series. (There's also the whole Curt Schilling bloody sock episode that would be in this spot if it weren't for that whole curse thing).


9. 2007:
Red Sox over Rockies in 4
MVP: Mike Lowell
What it's remembered for: Dustin Pedroia led off Game 1 in Boston with a home run and the series kind of followed suit from there. Boston trailed only once in the entire series -- falling behind 1-0 in the first of Game 2, only to win that game 2-1.



10. 2006:  Cardinals over Tigers in 5
MVP: David Eckstein
What it's remembered for: How bad was this series on the field? Well, there were 12 errors committed in the five games and three of the five games featured errors by both teams. There was a game pushed back by rain and the most memorable moment was probably a guy washing his hands. In Game 2, the drama (aided by Tim McCarver's yapping) was the mystery of a mixture of dirt and rosin on Kenny Rogers' hand in the first inning. He went on to pitch eight shutout innings and allowed just two hits in the Tigers' only victory of the series.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:28 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Cincinnati Reds

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Cincinnati Reds
Record: 79-83, 3rd place, 17 games back
Manager: Dusty Baker
Best hitter: Joey Votto -- .309/.416/.531 with 29 HR, 103 RBI
Best pitcher:Johnny Cueto -- 9-5, 24 GS, 156 IP, 2.31 ERA, 104 K, 47 BB

Coming off the 2010 National League Central title with pretty much the same team intact, the Reds were expected to challenge for the title again. However, the team could never quite get consistent starting pitching and were on the outside looking in by the All-Star break, close enough not to become sellers at the deadline and ultimately irrelevant for the last two months of the season.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Cueto took a step forward in his development and Votto showed he was anything but a one-hit wonder, while Brandon Phillips played at an All-Star level. Other than that, most every other Cincinnati Red took a step back from their 2010 performance. Bronson Arroyo and Drew Stubbs set dubious marks -- Arroyo allowing 46 homers and Stubbs striking out 205 times. Opening-day starter Edinson Volquez was twice demoted to the minors and third baseman Scott Rolen was limited to just 65 games. Lefty Travis Wood struggled in his second year and right-hander Homer Bailey has yet to find consistency. The team's gaping holes at shortstop and left field were magnified and its rotation wasn't as deep as promised in the spring. In all, disappointment was all around in 2011 as Cincinnati was unable to defend its crown.

2012 AUDIT

The Reds need to follow the lead of the Brewers, who decided to go for it in 2011 instead of worrying what would happen when Prince Fielder left. The Reds still have two more years of Votto, they need to take advantage of that and try to win before Votto goes to greener pastures, not fret about what's going to happen in two years. The Reds still need some help at the top of their rotation, a right-handed power bat for the middle of the lineup and to make a decision about left field and shortstop.

FREE AGENTS

CL Francisco Cordero (team holds a $12 million option for 2012)
2B Brandon Phillips (team holds a $12 million option for 2012)
C Ramon Hernandez
SS Edgar Renteria
LHP Dontrelle Willis

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Sell high on first baseman Yonder Alonso. In his first extensive big-league action, the 2008 first-rounder was impressive, hitting .330/.398/.545, displaying a keen understanding of the strike zone. That said, the Reds struggled to find places to play him, considering he's a first baseman and the guy they have there is one of the game's best players. Alonso played 16 games in left field, and aside from a rough weekend in Wrigley Field, didn't embarrass himself. He also played a game at third base without a single ball coming his way. In the end, he's a first baseman. That's where he'll thrive and that's where some team could certainly use him -- just not the Reds. See what you can get for Alonso in a package or straight up. At 24, he's young for a major leaguer, but old for a prospect. His highest value is this offseason.
  • Make a play for a true ace. Yes, Cueto has the potential to be an ace and he looked at times to be an ace this season. However, the Brewers could have said the same thing about Yovani Gallardo after last season. Be bold and bolster the top of the rotation. The Reds were second in the National League in runs scored and fifth in OPS -- there's enough offense to win if the pitching is sound. Sure up the rotation and by default you sure up the bullpen. The Brewers thought bold and they didn't have half the farm system the Reds have. You can send some combination Alonso, Billy Hamilton and one of the two catchers -- Devin Mesoraco or Yasmani Grandal -- away in a deal or two for true front-of-the-rotation help.
  • Pick up Phillips' option, but don't sign him to the long-term deal he's seeking. Phillips will win his third Gold Glove this year and is as good as anyone defensively. He also hit .300/.353/.457. However, he'll be looking for a Dan Uggla-like deal (five years, $62 million), and that's just not something the Reds can afford, especially at non-premium position like second base. He adjusted well to the leadoff role late in the season, hitting .350/.417/.573 in 39 games (38 starts) at the top of the order, but he's still a career .322 OBP guy and his .353 on-base percentage this season was a career-best by .021, aided by a career-best .322 BABIP. Bottom line is he's the best second baseman in the National League, but that comes at a price -- and a price the Reds won't be able to afford past this season.
  • Speaking of not overpaying a specific position, the team vastly overpaid for closer Cordero after the 2007 season, giving him a four-year, $46 million deal plus a $12 million club option for 2012. There's no reason to pick that option up, even though the team has reportedly been talking about an extension with Cordero. Any extension would likely be two years for more than the $12 million he'd make by just picking up the option for next year, but would include a yearly pay cut. Again, that's a move big market teams can afford, but the Reds cannot. Even with likely deferred payments (much like last season's Arroyo extension), Cordero is too costly. He's done his job well in his time in Cincinnati, solidifying a bullpen that had been in tatters before his arrival, but it's too much to pay for a closer. Follow the lead of the Rays and Diamondbacks who were able to rebuild bullpens for less than $12 million based on scrap parts. It's risky, but no more risky (and less expensive) than paying inflated prices for relievers.
  • The team held on to Hernandez even when other teams were desperate for catching. That means either nobody was that desperate for catching, or Hernandez and his agents already told the team he would not accept arbitration -- or both. If the Reds can offer Hernandez arbitration without danger of him accepting it, they'd likely receive two draft picks if Hernandez qualifies as a Type A free agent. With Ryan Hanigan signed through 2013 at a team-friendly rate and Mesoraco left with nothing left to prove in the minors, it's time to move on from Hernandez, who has been productive in his time in Cincinnati. They also have Grandal waiting in the wings, plus Tucker Barnhart, who won the Minor League Gold Glove at catcher.
  • If the Reds are going to go young at shortstop with Zack Cozart and in left field with Chris Heisey, they need to commit to it -- no messing around with another veteran shortstop that will just take up playing time, like Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera. In left, Heisey needs to play and play more, even against left-hander, even though he struggled against them. Juan Francisco has improved at third base and should be the first choice if Rolen isn't healthy.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 6:51 pm
 

Reds' Alonso left in positional limbo

Yonder AlonsoBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The moment Yonder Alonso was drafted by the Reds in the first round of the 2008 draft, the questions about where he'd play began. Alonso played first base at Miami and looked like he'd be limited to first base.

That's fine and good, except for when you have the reigning MVP at first base already and that player's just 27. 

Last spring the Reds started trying Alonso in left field and he played 30 games there in 2010 between Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville, but still played the bulk of his time at first base, logging 96 games there. This season with his bat ready for the big leagues, he was given more time in the left field, where he played 62 games in left compared to 21 at first base.

Since the left-handed hitting prospect was called up to the big leagues when Jonny Gomes was traded, he's started three games in left and none at first. The first part is going to change, the second may not.

Alonso's latest position may be third base after he struggled in two games in left at Wrigley Field this past weekend, playing one ball into an inside-the-park home run for Cubs rookie Tony Campana and then misplaying another ball for a crucial error in Saturday's loss.

When asked on Monday when Alonso would play left again, Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters, "not in the near future," according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Alonso took ground balls at third base -- his main position growing up, he's said -- but Baker said he doesn't expect Alonso there anytime soon.

"You don't want to do it in the big leagues," Baker said, according to Fay. "But that's the position he started at. It's a mirror image of first base, really. You get more plays. Most first baseman are at first because they're left-handed or they don't have the arm to play third.

"We'll see. We're trying to find the best place to get his bat in the lineup."

Yonder AlonsoWhile Alonso's looked shaky in the field, he's been locked in at the plate, where he's started the season 8 for 16 with two doubles and a homer. The Reds called up another prospect, Dave Sappelt, on Sunday when Chris Heisey went on the disabled list and Sappelt will likely get a chance to play quite a bit in left and center. Sappelt had a hit leading off in his major-league debut on Sunday. Fred Lewis is starting in left on Monday.

Finding a spot for Alonso is tricky. The Reds thought he was the best hitter available when they took him with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft and he's shown it in the minors, where he's combined to hit .293/.370/.466. He was hitting .296/.374/.486 with 12 homers when he was called up. Although he's 4 for 7 as a pinch-hitter so far this season, going forward he's going to be too valuable for filling just that role.

The Reds and Blue Jays reportedly talked about a blockbuster sending Joey Votto to his native Toronto in exchange for Jose Bautista, opening a spot for Alonso. Although that deal didn't go down, it does show how much the team values Alonso and feels he can be an impact player in the big leagues.

Votto is under contract through 2013, so he's in the team's immediate future but could be too expensive when he reaches free agency. Alonso would be a lower-cost alternative.

Alonso could also finish the season strong and be a more valuable trade piece in the offseason because of his early success in the big leagues. 

Physically, Alonso looks more like a first baseman -- or DH -- than third baseman, but he says he feels comfortable there. He didn't play third at Miami because current Twin Danny Valencia was at third base when he got there. The Reds have a need at third base. With Scott Rolen on the disabled list (and at 36), the Reds are using a combination of rookie Todd Frazier and veteran Miguel Cairo to man the position. Rolen is under contract through next season and the team's top prospect at the position, Juan Francisco, has been hurt this season and unproductive in a couple of big-league stints.

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