Posted on: March 4, 2012 10:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 10:22 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder leaving the National League Central, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty saw an opportunity to take the division. Jocketty traded two of the team's top prospects to San Diego for Mat Latos and fortified the bullpen with the additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall. With Joey Votto under contract for just the next two years, the Reds see these two years as their best chance to win, and the team is going for it.
Major additions: RHP Mat Latos, RHP Ryan Madson, LHP Sean Marshall, OF Ryan Ludwick
Major departures: RHP Francisco Cordero, RHP Edinson Volquez, C Ramon Hernandez, 1B Yonder Alonso
1. Brandon Phillips 2B
2. Zack Cozart SS
3. Joey Votto 1B
4. Scott Rolen 3B
5. Jay Bruce RF
6. Ryan Ludwick LF
7. Drew Stubbs CF
8. Ryan Hanigan C
1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mat Latos
3. Bronson Arroyo
4. Mike Leake
5. Homer Bailey
Closer: Ryan Madson
Set-up: LHP Sean Marshall, RHP Nick Masset, LHP Bill Bray
Important bench players
C Devin Mesoraco, OF Chris Heisey, 3B Juan Francisco
Prospect to watch
The Reds sent Alonso to San Diego in the deal that brought Latos to Cincinnati, making many nervous about the post-Votto era. If Votto doesn't re-sign with the Reds, many saw Alonso as the heir apparent. Now that Alonso's out of the picture, the first baseman of the future is Neftali Soto. The 23-year-old was the team's third-round pick in 2007 and played shortstop, third base and catcher in addition to first base. But the team finally left him at first in 2011. The reason the team kept moving him was that his bat has never been an issue. Last season he hit 30 home runs in just 102 games at Double-A Carolina, missing a month with a broken bone in his left wrist. He doesn't walk much (just 103 walks and 375 strikeouts in five minor-league seasons), but he has plenty of power to all fields, with 10 of his 31 homers (including one in four games at Triple-A) were opposite field shots.
Fantasy sleeper: Homer Bailey
"The Reds have been conservative with Bailey and the team hopes that their caution will pay off this season. If he can stay healthy, Bailey has an excellent chance for a breakout season, as he has made steady improvements in his pitch selection, control and efficiency." -- Al Melchior [Full Reds fantasy preview]
Fantasy bust: Ryan Ludwick
"Some observers have pointed to Ludwick's career line at Great American Ball Park (.276/.321/.600) as a sign of an impending comeback season, and it's true that he has had the misfortune of playing in pitchers' parks for most of his career. However, Ludwick has just 19 plate appearances at GABP over the last two years, a time period during which he has seen an erosion of his power numbers, both at home and on the road." -- Al Melchior [Full Reds fantasy preview]
Not only does Cueto improve upon his breakout 2011, but Latos is even better than he was in the second half of 2011, giving the Reds a dominant and young top of the rotation. Add to that a healthy Arroyo and see Bailey live up to his immense potential -- and the Reds have one of the best rotations in the National League. The offense continues to put up runs and Cincinnati eases into the postseason past the fading Cardinals and Brewers.
Injuries and unfulfilled potential lead to the second straight season of disappointment on the Ohio River. Not only does the starting pitching falter, but Stubbs breaks Mark Reynolds' single-season strikeout record, Bruce isn't able to make adjustments and rookies Mesoraco and Cozart play like rookies at the two most important defensive positions on the diamond. Milwaukee and St. Louis once again are the class of the division, while Pittsburgh improves and not only breaks its 19-year streak of losing seasons, but also leapfrogs the Reds for third in the NL Central. Adding insult to injury, Phillips leaves as a free agent and with the team in flux, Votto is sent away for prospects and another rebuilding job is underway.
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Tags: 2012 spring training, Bill Bray, Brandon Phillips, Brewers, Bronson Arroyo, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Chris Heisey, Devin Mesoraco, Drew Stubbs, Edinson Volquez, Francisco Cordero, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Juan Francisco, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Neftali Soto, Nick Masset, NL Central, Ramon Hernandez, Reds, Ryan Hanigan, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Madson, Scott Rolen, Sean Marshall, spring primer, spring training, Walt Jocketty, Yonder Alonso, Zack Cozart
Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 6:13 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.
The Rangers are in an interesting position in the franchise's history -- no longer a middle-of-the-road team, the Rangers have turned themselves into one of the game's biggest players. The team has reached the last two World Series with a mixture of homegrown players (Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando), savvy trades (sending Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for a haul that included Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, plus the deal with the Reds getting Josh Hamilton) and big-ticket free-agents (Adrian Beltre). It's tough to argue with the results, as the Rangers have positioned themselves into becoming one of the top teams in baseball and don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
1. Ian Kinsler, SS
2. Craig Gentry, CF
3. Mark Teixeira, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 2B
7. Laynce Nix, RF
8. John Mayberry, LF
9. Taylor Teagarden, C
1. C.J. Wilson
2. John Danks
3. Derek Holland
4. Colby Lewis
5. Ryan Dempster
Closer - Joaquin Benoit
Set up - Darren Oliver, Nick Masset, Scott Feldman, Jesse Chavez, Yoshinori Tateyama
Long - Tommy Hunter
Notable Bench Players
Ivan Rodriguez will be in discussion for the Hall of Fame when his career ends, but he's now a backup catcher and could be a good one. You have a pair of first baseen in Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland who aren't going to strike fear into too many pitchers, as well as two outfielders probably better defensively or as pinch runners in Jason Bourgeois and Scott Podsednik.
The rotation is deep -- in addition to the five listed, you could also throw in R.A. Dickey, Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez. And while there's no real shut-down closer, there are some very good bullpen arms, and the list above doesn't include Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Danny Herrera.
Besides Kinsler and Teixeira, the lineup is suspect. And the defense is worse. The outfield is kind of a hodgepodge, while the infield is a disaster with only Carlos Pena playing in his usual position. While Teixeira hasn't played third base since his rookie year in 2003, Kinsler has never played shortstop, nor has Encarnacion ever played second base -- but there just wasn't a whole lot of options. The outfield doesn't have the likes of Hamilton or Nelson Cruz to help out, either.
Comparison to real 2011
Would this team wind up in World Series? Not bloody likely. The pitching is fine and even maybe an slight upgrade to the team that won the American League pennant again in 2011, but that lineup is demonstratively worse. The Rangers were third in baseball in runs and second in OPS, and without Hamilton, Cruz, Mike Napoli, Michael Young and Beltre, this squad isn't going to do anything close to that. Teixeira is a good player -- and Pena could put up big homer numbers in that ballpark -- but those losses from the real squad are just too much to overcome. This team is maybe a .500 squad, at best, and that's only because of the depth in the pitching staff.
Next: St. Louis Cardinals
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Tags: Aaron Harang, Adrian Beltre, AL West, ALexi Ogando, Blake Beavan, C.J. Wilson, Carlos Pena, Colby Lewis, Craig Gentry, Daniel Ray Herrara, Darren Oliver, Derek Holland, Doug Davis, Edinson Volquez, Edwin Encarnacion, Elvis Andrus, Homegrown, Ian Kinsler, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Bourgeois, Jesse Chavez, Joakim Benoit, John Danks, John Mayberry, Josh Hamilton, Josh Leuke, Justin Smoak, Laynce Nix, Mark Teixeira, Mitch Moreland, NEftali Feliz, Nick Masset, R.A. Dickey, Rangers, Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Scott Podsednik, Taylor Teagarden, Tommy Hunter, Travis Hafner, Yoshinori Tateyama
Posted on: April 14, 2011 1:58 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Josh Johnson, Marlins -- It's no surprise when Florida's Josh Johnson flirts with a no-hitter. He's the type of pitcher it seems like he'll throw one one of these days, maybe even in his next start. On opening day he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Wednesday night he took one into the eighth inning before Freddie Freeman doubled with one out in the eighth.
Lance Berkman, Cardinals -- Berkman homered for his third consecutive game and made it count, launching a grand slam in the second inning of the Cardinals' 15-5 victory over the Diamondbacks. He also had an RBI ground-out in the two-run first. Over the last three games he's 6 for 13 with four homers and 10 RBI. He had just six hits in the first eight games of his Cardinals tenure.
Brian Wilson, Giants -- Before Wednesday night's game against the Dodgers, manager Bruce Bochy said closer Brian Wilson was cleared to pitch back-to-back nights. Tuesday he picked up his first save of the season, Wednesday it was his second. After starting the season on the disabled list and then two bad outings, Wilson looks like his old self again, working perfect innings for the save each of the last two nights.
Nick Masset, Reds -- With Ozzie Guillen picking on the White Sox bullpen, we'll avoid doing so. But we'll still point out a former White Sox reliever, Masset, who blew a save for the third straight game on Wednesday. He had some help from an error by catcher Ryan Hanigan and came in with a runner on in the eighth inning, but he then gave up the winning run in the ninth. The Reds rebounded from his blown save on Tuesday to win in extras. Masset now has an ERA of 9.95 in five appearances (his ERA actually went down with Wednesday's performance). Masset had an ERA of 11.32 after April last season before finishing at 3.40 and as one of the Reds' top performers in the bullpen.
Juan Pierre, White Sox -- Pierre's not having a good week. On Monday, Pierre dropped a fly ball, leading to a White Sox loss. On Wednesday, he was 3 for 4 and reached base five times, but was picked off twice and picked up his third error of the season. Pierre had made just one error in each of the last two seasons.
Attendance -- If Johnson had thrown a no-hitter in Atlanta on Wednesday, he would have done it in front of the second-smallest crowd in Turner Field history. Only Tuesday's crowd of 13,865 was less than the 14,351 for Wednesday's game. The Pirates played in front of the seventh-smallest crowd in PNC Park history, 8,755.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 10, 2011 11:53 pm
By Matt Snyder
J.A. Happ, Astros. The 'Stros picked up their second win of the season, and Happ pretty much took care of everything on his own. He tossed 7 2/3 innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run (we'll just ignore those pesky four walks for now) while picking up the dubya. Just in case that wasn't enough, he swung the bat a little bit, too. In fact, he drove home enough runs to support his own victory. He went 2-3 with a double and two RBI.
Wilson Betemit, Royals. Man, what a day. Betemit came to bat five times and wasn't retired. He walked once and went 4-4 with a pair of doubles in a 9-5 victory. Considering Mike Aviles' struggles, Betemit has surely earned himself a few more at-bats in the near future.
Casey McGehee, Brewers. He only had one plate appearance Sunday, but made it count. McGehee dug in against Kerry Wood and the Cubs -- the team that cut him in 2008 -- and hit a go-ahead two-run bomb in the bottom of the eighth. It was his first home run of the young season, and pushed the Brewers to their fifth win in the past six games after starting 0-4. Interesting to note: The Brewers had three two-run home runs, which comprised all their scoring Sunday in a 6-5 win.
Blaine Boyer, Mets (well, formerly at least ... ). Rough day for poor ol' Blaine. He picked up his second loss of the season, which is really tough to do when the team has only lost five games and you're a reliever. This one came after he was touched up for four hits and four earned runs in the 11th inning -- including giving up a three-run shot to Laynce Nix. If that wasn't enough, the Mets rubbed salt in the wound by designating Boyer for assignment after the game. It's a relatively noteworthy move because in a corresponding transaction, the Mets have summoned 38-year-old Jason Isringhausen from the minors to join the bullpen.
Nick Masset, Reds. Last time out, Masset took the loss after letting the Astros get the better of him. Sunday, it happened again, only this time it was the Diamondbacks and it was much uglier. His outing against the Astros was two innings and he only gave up one run. This time he was tagged for four runs, including a big blow from Chris Young in the form of a go-ahead three-run homer. The ERA has hopped up to 11.25. As an aside, that has to be the worst part about being a reliever. One four-run inning ruins your numbers for months. He'll need a good portion of the season to work that thing back down.
Dan Johnson, Rays. With Manny gone and Evan Longoria injured, Johnson is forced to shoulder a pretty large burden in the middle of the Rays' batting order. Thus far, he's not even close to being up to the task. After going 0-4 with a strikeout, Johnson is now hitting .088 with a .147 on-base percentage. He did hit a home run Friday in the Rays' only win of the season, but it is a complete outlier at this point.
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Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:45 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
"I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts," manager Ron Washington told reporters, including ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon on Tuesday. "If that's the case, I'm 100 percent sure they'll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us."
If that's the case, the Rangers will be looking for their seventh different closer in the last seven seasons (defining "closer" as "dude with the most saves."). The last Ranger to lead the team in saves in back-to-back years was Francisco Cordero in 2004-05. Cordero has since been an All-Star for two different teams.
The Rangers' internal candidates appear to be Mark Lowe and Alexi Ogando (right). Or the team could go with a closer-by-committee until the trade deadline, also using veteran lefties Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver along with Lowe and Ogando. Prospect Tanner Scheppers is another (remote) possibility. The Rangers traded Frank Francisco, their closer in 2009, to the Blue Jays in exchange for Mike Napoli in the offseason.
As for trade candidates, the team could go out now, or wait until the trade deadline when more candidates would be available.
Among those available could be the Padres Heath Bell, the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez and the Orioles' Michael Gonzalez. The Blue Jays have several experienced closers on their roster, including Francisco, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch.
If the team waits until the trade deadline, if the Mariners David Aardsma could be available, as well as Cordero, who could be supplanted by Aroldis Chapman (or Nick Masset). Others that could be available include Kevin Gregg, J.J. Putz and Brandon Lyon.
However, Washington did tell reporters in the same sitting that he felt confident enough with the rotation as it is and Feliz in the bullpen. It also appears, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson writes, that Washington would prefer to keep Feliz in the bullpen unless Daniels can get another closer.
Tags: AL West, Alexi Ogando, Arhtur Rhodes, Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Lyon, Darren Oliver, David Aardsma, Francisco Rodriguez, Frank Francisco, J.J. Putz, Jason Frasor, Jon Daniels, Jon Rauch, Kevin Gregg, Mark Lowe, Michael Gonzalez, Mike Napoli, Neftali Feliz, Nick Masset, Octavio Dotel, Rangers, Ron Washington, Tanner Scheppers
Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 9:00 pm
By Evan Brunell
The Rangers have handed GM Jon Daniels a four-year extension, rewarding the 33-year-old for steering the club to its first-ever AL pennant in 2010. For all of Daniels' talents, however, he's made quite a few missteps along the way. Here's a look back at Daniels' three best and worst moves as Rangers GM...
1. The Teix Heist
The reason the Rangers made the World Series is thanks to the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves. Consummated at the trade deadline of 2007, this deal represented the first time Daniels was trading away a major piece of a team and he needed to hit a home run.
He did. By dealing Teix and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay, Daniels hauled in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. The fact Salty stalled in Texas is concerning, but many viewed the backstop at the time as one of the elite young catchers in the game. Andrus would go on to blossom as Texas' starting shortstop while Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 40 saves last season and is currently shifting to the rotation. Harrison is a young lefty who is battling for a rotation spot himself, while Jones is the one non-entity.
This deal will continue to pay dividends over time, as Andrus and Feliz will be in town for years to come while Harrison is valuable depth. Saltalamacchia's career is not yet over as he is slated to start in Boston, and the jury is out on Daniels' return for Salty in three minor leaguers.
2. Game Over
Gagne was impressive in his first season as an ex-Dodger and after missing the bulk of the 2006 season. He wasn't the lockdown closer of old, but looked as if he could be a quality part of the bullpen. Except as Red Sox fans know, he completely imploded and while he walked away with a World Series trade, he will forever be known as Gag-me in Boston. (For some reason, there are over 11,000 views of a video I took recording Gagne's Red Sox debut.) His saving grace in Boston was as a Type-B free agent, and the Red Sox would later trade the player they drafted with the compensatory pick to Cleveland as part of the Victor Martinez deal.
Meanwhile, David Murphy is one of the more valuable fourth outfielders in the game and would be a starter for many other teams. Beltre has his makeup questions but is developing nicely as Texas' center fielder of the future. Gabbard flamed out, but at the time was a possible back-of-the-rotation starter.
3. Draft Bonanza
A major reason why Daniels has stayed viable as GM of the Rangers is his drafting history. Of course, major credit goes to the people working under him that are in charge of the draft, but Daniels deserves credit for putting these people in those roles as well as having a hand in the drafting and development of these players.
His first draft pick, Kasey Kiker, has yet to develop significantly but is just 22 and does hold some promise. However, his following two have had major league time already: power-hitting Chris Davis who has unfortunately failed time and time again to lock down a starting spot in Texas and Danny Herrera, who is a member of the Reds bullpen currently and was used to get Josh Hamilton. Michael Main was used to get Bengie Molina, while Blake Beavan and Justin Smoak were packaged for Cliff Lee.
Tommy Hunter was a viable member of the rotation last season and could have a nice career as a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, while Julio Borbon is prepared to start in center field. Tanner Scheppers ranked No. 77 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects and may have ranked higher if he was clearly going to be a starter. The club also came away with an impressive haul in the 2010 draft.
Honorable Mention: One would expect the deal bringing in Josh Hamilton to be one of Daniels' better deals, but it's hard to justify that as one of his best deals simply by virtue of giving up Edinson Volquez. There's no denying Hamilton's talent -- after all, he won the AL MVP award -- but Volquez has turned out pretty well for himself. There's a similar case to be made for the trade that imported Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz from Milwaukee in exchange for Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero and Juan Cordero, so the honorable mention goes to signing Colby Lewis to a two-year deal prior to the 2010 season. Lewis was an utter failure stateside before heading to Japan and discovering his talent. Daniels didn't hesitate to bring in Lewis, and all he did was become the Rangers' best right-handed starter in the team's run to the AL pennant.
1. The Young and Heartless
In March of 2007, Daniels signed shortstop Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension, a contract that was strange at the time and now has snowballed. Two seasons later, Daniels bumped Young to third base in a contentious move to free up short for Elvis Andrus. Young's bat has continued to be solid, but he remained a defensive liability at third and in a much-publicized spat, is now headed to DH and first base after demanding a trade. However, thanks to Young's contract, it will be difficult to move him.
Daniels certainly shouldn't have signed Young to this deal, but that's not why this ranks as one of his three worst moves as GM. While there's a lot of "he-said, he-said" going on by both sides, the fact remains that Young is not very keen on speaking to Daniels and feels "misled." Whether or not you believe Daniels or Young (or think the true answer is somewhere in-between), Daniels should have done a far better job managing the crisis as this has become a nightmare, both in terms of Young's trade value and in public relations. Heck, it even made a three-year-old kid very upset.
It's hard to fault Jon Daniels for trading away Adrian Gonzalez as he needed pitching and had Mark Teixeira at first. But goodness, couldn't he have done better? In his second significant trade of his GM career -- the first was also pretty bad -- Daniels shipped away someone who would become one of the best first-basemen in the game in short order in Gonzalez to the Padres along with Chris Young, who fashioned a nice run for himself in the rotation for San Diego. Terrmel Sledge was a throw-in to get Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian in return.
Eaton was a disaster, making just 13 starts and moving onto the Phillies where he was even worse, while Otsuka became the Rangers' closer but fell to injury in 2007 at age 35 and has not returned to the majors since. Killian is now in independent baseball.
Hey, every GM has trades they regret. It's part of life. But this is one regrettable trade that makes one really cringe looking back on it.
3. A-Rod to Soriano to Nothing
OK, so Daniels wasn't responsible for the initial trade of Alex Rodriguez, but he certainly was responsible for turning Rodriguez's return in Alfonso Soriano into something. Unfortunately, his first major trade was a flop when he shipped Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga and Terrmel Sledge. Sledge would be shipped in another terrible deal a month later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, while Wilkerson couldn't arrest the decline he began in his final season for the Nats in '06. He did not top 350 at-bats in the two seasons he was a Ranger.
While Galarraga was and still is nothing to write home about, he chewed up almost 500 innings for the Tigers after the Rangers essentially gave him away, predominantly as a starter the last three seasons -- and of course, as the architect of the 28-out perfect game. He is now a Diamondback and expected to serve in the back of the rotation. These types of pitchers are far from sexy and you can't blame Daniels for tossing Galarraga in the deal, but it only serves to make this deal look even worse given he got absolutely nothing of value for Soriano, which in turn meant the team got nothing for A-Rod.
In Daniels' defense, he was handicapped by Soriano entering the final year of his deal, but Daniels should have looked for prospects in any deal, not an outfielder on the decline, a pitcher he would give away a couple years later and a bit piece that would go on to become part of Daniels' worst trade to date.
Dishonorable Mention: Not to pile on Daniels, who has turned into a very fine GM, but just like he has plenty of candidates for honorable mention, he has candidates for this category as well. Signing Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million deal was head-scratching at the time and he stumbled badly on December 23, 2006 when he dealt away John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and David Paisano. Danks and McCarthy were two highly-regarded prospects at the time, but Danks is the one that blossomed, while Masset would go on to bust out himself as an important part of the Reds bullpen.
Tags: Adam Eaton, Adrian Gonzalez, Akinori Otsuka, AL West, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Armando Galarraga, Bengie Molina, Blake Beavan, Brad Wilkerson, Brandon McCarthy, Braves, Brewers, Carlos Lee, Chris Davis, Chris Young, Colby Lewis, Danny Herrera, David Murphy, Edinson Volquez, Elvis Andrus, Engel Beltre, Eric Gagne, Francisco Cordero, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John Danks, Jon Daniels, Josh Hamilton, Justin Smoak, Kasey Kiker, Kason Gabbard, Kevin Mench, Kevin Millwood, Laynce Nix, Mark Teixeira, Matt Harrison, Michael Main, Michael Young, Nationals, Neftali Feliz, Nelson Cruz, Nick Masset, Padres, Rangers, Red Sox, Reds, Tanner Scheppers, Tommy Hunter, White Sox
Posted on: September 28, 2010 11:34 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2010 1:18 am
CINCINNATI -- I've done it, you've done it. Your team is tied in the ninth and a title is on the line -- everyone dreams of the home run.
Jay Bruce didn't. Or at least he said he hadn't. Until he did it.
On the first pitch he saw from left-hander Tim Byrdak in the ninth inning of a tie game on Tuesday, Bruce hit a solo homer, giving the Cincinnati Reds a 3-2 victory, the National League Central title and their first playoff appearance since 1995.
"I've never even dreamt about this, this is unbelievable," Bruce said.
Bruce entered the at-bat 0 for 3 on the game and 1 for 20 against Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez. It was odd to even see Bruce's name in the lineup against Rodriguez, yet he said he and manager Dusty Baker had talked about it. Baker had faith in the young outfielder.
Bruce did have two hits in six career at-bats against Byrdak, including a homer, so it wasn't too much a stretch to leave him in. He's also improved his average to .260 against lefties this season coming into the game, bettering his career mark of .222.
"I've made big strides against left-handers this year, but I'm not done yet," Bruce said. "I've had ups and downs as a player and this isn't going to be what I am as a player. I expect much better out of myself, but this is only the beginning."
Bruce was called up two years ago to great expectations and has shown flashes of fulfilling his promise as the game's top prospect, but struggled with consistency. Even so, at the age of 23, he already has 65 career home runs -- and none bigger than his 65th.
Bruce knew it immediately -- reliever Nick Masset said he knew before that, calling the shot before the top of the ninth started. In the dugout, starter Homer Bailey said everyone knew the team would win Tuesday to clinch the division, it was just a matter of when. Bruce had barely dropped his bat when he raised his right arm -- "I had a pretty good feeling. Who knows what would have happened had it not gone out," Bruce said.
On deck, Ramon Hernandez was not so sure, he knew Bruce hit it hard, but he worried that he hit it to the exact wrong part of the park -- center field. "I was blowing it out," Hernandez said.
He hadn't need to waste the effort, the breath -- the ball bounced off the batter's eye and Bruce raced around the bases.
"I saw all my guys I'd been working so hard with every single day of the year. I wouldn't be here without my guys," Bruce said afterwards on the field after taking a victory lap with his teammates.
Bruce said he wasn't trying to end the game, he just wanted to hit the ball hard -- get on base and let someone knock him in. Instead, he did it all himself.
"It was unbelievable," Bruce said. "This is the perfect description. Unbelievable ."
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
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Posted on: August 15, 2010 12:29 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2010 4:09 pm
The Reds are in a virtual tie for first place in the National League Central thanks to Saturday's victory against Florida that saw closer Francisco Cordero record his 31st save. Cordero's third in the National League in the stat, behind San Diego's Heath Bell and San Francisco's Brian Wilson, but still dealt with boos throughout his appearance that saw him walk two batters, give up a run and rely on a double play to wrap up the victory.
This is where a former Cincinnati closer might give the fans the finger, Cordero isn't complaining about the boos. In fact, he says he understands them completely. Following Saturday's outing, Cordero told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon , he's sympathetic to the boo birds:
"I have to stop walking people," Cordero said. "I've got to do that or it's going to be like that every time. I see how upset the fans are with me. I understand that. Every time I walk someone, that guy comes in to score. It's not like I'm giving up a lot of base hits. It's walks. I really don't know what to say about that. It's not my style. It's not me. I've never been like that my whole career. I have to keep working and try to be better every time out."
"I created that myself, walking people. I've got nobody to blame but myself. Putting me in that situation, putting the team in that situation and putting the fans in that situation, it's why they're upset with me right now. I've been walking too many guys. [The fans] have been great, unbelievable to the team. They're coming out on the road, coming out a lot to the stadium. They want to win. Putting the fans in that situation is not fair.
"In the end, we got to go home happy. I know they got to go home happy." Cordero's been anything but a shut-down closer this season, despite earning $12 million. His 1.548 WHIP is his highest since 2001 and his 34 walks are more than he had all of last season. His 5.8 walks per nine innings is his most since 2001 and his 1.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio is his lowest since that same season, which was before he established himself as a closer.
So far, Reds manager Dusty Baker has stuck by his closer and shown no signs of replacing him. Last weekend, Cordero loaded the bases without giving up a hit in Chicago before being lifted for Nick Masset in a 4-3 Reds victory at Wrigley Field.
Masset would be next in line, but something drastic has to happen for Baker to lose faith in his high-priced closer. Masset, another big right-hander, had a rough start to the season, but since June 29, he has appeared in 22 games, allowing two earned runs (0.83 ERA) and limiting hitters to a .164/.256/.233 line.
That's not likely to be an issue, so it's good to see someone like Cordero understands why he's not the most popular man in the Queen City, but has responded like a real pro.
UPDATE: Cordero picked up his 32nd save of the season in the Reds' 2-0 victory over the Marlins on Sunday, but again it wasn't without drama. He allowed a leadoff double to Mike Stanton and walked Cody Ross with two outs before striking out Donnie Murphy to end the game.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.