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Reds Ready To Begin The Baker Era

Published: Sunday, March 30, 2008 @ 6:20 PM
Updated: Monday, March 31, 2008 @ 3:28 PM

Come Monday, Reds fans will want to see "the Dusty difference" for themselves.

Playing under new manager Dusty Baker for the past six-plus weeks at Spring Training, the Reds players already have -- even if they can't always put their finger on what it is, exactly.

"I don't know how to describe it," veteran left fielder Adam Dunn said. "It's just a different feeling. There's a different feeling around the clubhouse."

A Red since 2001, and the second-most tenured player on the club, Dunn knows this much, his team has endured seven straight losing seasons. During that time, the Reds have had little direction, fractured clubhouse chemistry and numerous managers.

"We had no structure, nothing," Dunn said. "He's coming in and basically putting his mark on us. I think it's very easy for him to do because he has all of our respect. He got that early."

Baker's efforts began before camp opened, and were evident from the first day. Unfamiliar with many of them, he requested that players not wear pullover jackets the first few weeks so he could see their names and numbers. He would speak fluent Spanish to players that use it as their first language. The 58-year-old took advantage of a rarely-used high perch above the camp's practice fields so he could watch workouts while taking copious notes. He continued to take detailed notes about his players' performances after exhibition games began.

When he once saw players not performing drills and fundamentals with their full effort early on in camp, Baker nipped it in the bud quickly. He held a meeting and addressed his disapproval. Veterans, like Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., were personally asked to offer leadership to younger players and set good examples.

"If he doesn't like it, he's going to tell you," Dunn said. "Before, maybe you'd hear it from a coach or someone else. I like that about him."

As Spring Training neared an end, Baker believed his players have bought into his philosophy.

"I hope so. Six weeks isn't a long period of time," Baker said. "There are some shadows you have to get rid of, definitely, that were there. You know, like losing. It wasn't that difficult. Guys were receptive."

Baker realized there would be plenty more character tests for his players, especially after the regular season starts.

"You see who the men are when things are going poorly," Baker said. "Do they continue to hustle and bust butt? That shows you what kind of ballplayer and person you are. When things are going good, it's easy to do things right -- real easy."

While the Reds have tried to mentally prepare themselves to stop the cycle of losing, it still takes tangible additions to make it happen. That was done before camp with the signing of free agent closer Francisco Cordero to a four-year, $46 million contract. Cordero, who saved 44 games last season for the Brewers, immediately improved a bullpen that constantly disappointed in 2007.

The other weakness, the rotation, has been infused with new blood. A wide-open battle for the back three spots yielded two promising but unlikely winners. While Matt Belisle and top-pitching prospect Homer Bailey were presumed the pre-camp favorites, it was 21-year-old prospect Johnny Cueto who earned a spot with stunning performances that wowed scouts and teammates. Another young Dominican, 24-year-old Edinson Volquez, did likewise. Veteran Josh Fogg, signed during camp's first week, secured the rotation's No. 4 spot.

Reds manager Bryan Price eyes fifth man for starting rotation

Published: Wednesday, December 07, 2016 @ 2:04 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 07, 2016 @ 2:04 PM

Bryan Price pitched in the minor leagues from 1984-89 and was a pitching coach for 10 years with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks before he became the Reds pitching coach in 2009.

Now preparing for his fourth year as the Reds manager, Price certainly has high expectations for his pitching staff in 2017. But he is also aware there are a lot of young pitchers who need to establish themselves at the major-league level.

Price, speaking Wednesday at the MLB winter meetings, said finding a fifth starter remains a key. Price said Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Dan Straily are locked into the top four spots.

“I like our staff,” Price said. “If we stay intact … position players are going to go out there and feel comfortable every time those four take the field and are on the mound.”

Among the candidates for the fifth spot are left-handers Amir Garrett, 24, and Cody Reed, 23, and right-hander Robert Stephenson, 23. Garrett and Stephenson are former Dayton Dragons.

Reed was 0-7 with a 7.36 ERA in 10 starts with the Reds last year while Stephenson was 2-3, 6.08 in eight starts. Garrett was 7-8, 2.55 in 25 games, with 23 starts, split between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville.

“I think Amir Garrett has checked off everything on his list,” said Price, who met the media at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center. “Reed was better than the league at Triple-A (at 6-4, 3.08). However, I would love to see Reed and Stephenson just show up (to spring training) and look like major leaguers … to either start or pitch out of the bullpen. I am looking forward to the competition. I am looking for Amir showing confidence on the mound and getting more of an opportunity than he ever has before.”

Price said there are still questions about the bullpen. Lefty Tony Cingrani, 27, became the regular closer after the Reds traded Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees and Cingrani ended up with 17 saves. Michael Lorenzen was 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 35 games.

Is Garrett a bullpen candidate as well?

“I think there are other guys that fit that role better to pitch out of the bullpen,” Price said. “I think Amir should be in the rotation because he has earned it. That said, I don’t shy away from young prospects pitching out of the major-league bullpen to get their feet wet.”

There could be help on the way.

MLB.com reported Wednesday the Reds have expressed interest in Texas Rangers reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who was traded by Milwaukee to Texas last summer. Published reports this week show the Rangers interested in Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. Jeffress was arrested in August for driving while intoxicated. He had 27 saves with the Brewers last year.

While other teams have shown interest in Reds infielders Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart and Hamilton, Price will have some decisions to make if Cincinnati does not deal any of those veterans.

Jose Peraza, 22, hit .324 in 241 at bats last year for the Reds after hitting .281 in Triple-A. For the Reds, he started 29 games at shortstop, 17 in the outfield and seven at second base.

“Jose is a major leaguer. He is not better served in my opinion playing every day in the minor leagues if I can get him in the lineup four times a week,” Price said. “He has got to play. It will be interesting to see where we are.”

Infielder Dilson Herrera, 22, hit .266 at Triple-A Louisville in 64 at-bats. He was acquired from the New York Mets in the trade for Jay Bruce.

Price does not see Herrera as a utility player.

“I don’t think that will help his progress at all,” said Price, who wants to see if Herrera needs more time at Triple-A.

Price admits the Reds “could be heavy” on middle infielders. “This is a picture that is painting itself,” he said.

Price also said he hopes catcher Devin Mesoraco will be healthy when spring training begins. He was limited to 50 at-bats last year due to injuries. “He will certainly be eased in,” Price said.

Reds GM: No rush to trade Phillips, Cozart

Published: Friday, December 02, 2016 @ 7:02 PM
Updated: Friday, December 02, 2016 @ 7:02 PM

Dick Williams doesn’t see a pressing need to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips or shortstop Zack Cozart, but that doesn’t mean he won’t if the right deal comes along — say, at next week’s winter meetings at National Harbor, Maryland.

The trade waters have been relatively calm since the end of the regular season, and any ripples depend as much on the needs of other teams as on Cincinnati’s interest in trading either of the two veterans to make room for highly touted young prospects such as Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera.

“It’s been fairly quiet on that front,” Williams said Friday, early on the first day of the franchise’s two-day Redsfest at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. “We’re fine with what we’ve got right now, but there’s a chance that you’ll see some movement.”

Phillips, the longest-tenured player on the roster with 11 years on his resume, exercised his right as a player with at least 10 years of overall experience and five with the same team to veto two trades last season. He reportedly now is more open to being dealt, but he didn’t speak with reporters except to shake hands and say “hi” before the introduction of the current and former players on hand.

“We’ve talked with Brandon about the reality of the situation,” Williams said. “He knows we’ve got young guys who need to play.”

Williams is striving to stockpile young players who can play multiple positions. Left fielder Adam Duvall, a Gold Glove finalist, came up as a corner infielder. Peraza has played mostly shortstop and second base but is listed as an outfielder on the roster and played a lot of center field this past September while Billy Hamilton was nursing an early-September quadriceps injury that eventually forced him to miss the rest of the year.

“We’re trying to get away from having eight everyday players and four bench players,” Williams said. “We’re trying to groom a lot of these guys to play multiple positions. We’re looking for versatility and flexibility.”

Williams and manager Bryan Price are confident that, even if Cozart and Phillips still are with Cincinnati in 2017, they will be able to find sufficient playing time for Peraza. Price likes the everyday players he has, especially if Hamilton and catcher Devin Mesoraco return from their injuries. Mesoraco played in 16 games last season before being sidelined with shoulder and hip surgeries.

“I think we’ll be better just by being more intact,” said Price, whose team finished last in the National League Central Division with a 68-94 record in his third season as manager. “Then you add a couple of pieces and there’s even more of a reason to be excited.”

Mesoraco and Hamilton both claimed to be feeling good.

“Everything’s going as planned,” said Mesoraco, a 2014 National League All-Star who’s been limited by injury to a combined 39 games over the last two seasons. “I’ve been lifting. I’ll start throwing and hitting next week. I’ll start catching drills in January, when I would normally start them anyway.”

Hamilton took October off to make sure his oblique was healed. He has spent much of his time in Cincinnati, working out under the supervision of coach Billy Hatcher with trainer Steve Baumann keeping a watchful eye.

“I’m doing everything now — swinging, running,” said the Gold Glove finalist, who hit .260 with 58 stolen bases in 119 games. “I’m full go. I’ve been looking forward to the off-season.”

Hamilton’s name also has been mentioned in multiple media reports as possibly being dangled by the Reds as trade bait.

“If the Reds feel like they’d be better without me than with me, they should go for it,” he said. “It’s not for me to dwell on it. It’s not bothering me.”

Bengals-Eagles notes: Philly tops in the NFL in the red zone

Published: Thursday, December 01, 2016 @ 11:50 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 01, 2016 @ 11:50 AM

Six facts about the Bengals and Eagles, who meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

• The Bengals will be trying to avoid their first five-game winless streak since 2010 and just the third of the Marvin Lewis era (10 straight in 2010, eight in a row in 2008).

• The Eagles are 9-1 against the AFC since 2014, which is the best winning percentage in the league during that stretch.

• Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill is on pace for 937 rushing yards, which would mean the Bengals would go back-to-back seasons without a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2007-08.

• Philadelphia ranks second in the NFL in time of possession (31:47) behind Dallas (32:50), and the Eagles are first in second-half time of possession (16:51).

• The Bengals have recovered just three opponent fumbles this season, putting them on pace to break the mark for the fewest in franchise history (six in 2014, 2009 and the strike year of 1982).

• The Eagles lead the NFL in in opponent red zone scoring efficiency (76.5 percent, 26 of 34) while ranking second in red zone touchdown efficiency (44.1 percent, 13 of 30) behind Pittsburgh (41.7, 15 of 36).

This week in Bengals history: Dec. 4

Published: Thursday, December 01, 2016 @ 11:33 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 01, 2016 @ 11:33 AM

The Cincinnati Bengals have played seven times on Dec. 4, and are 5-2:

Here is a quick glance at those games:

Dec. 4, 2011 – Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Cincinnati Bengals 7 at Heinz Field

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a pair of touchdown passes to Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenall ran for two scores as the Steelers scored 28 points in the second quarter en route to the rout.

Dec. 4, 2005 – Cincinnati Bengals 38, Pittsburgh Steelers 31 at Heinz Field

Carson Palmer threw three touchdown passes and Rudi Johnson for a pair of second-half scores as the Bengals moved to 9-3 and seized control of the AFC North, and the 38 points remain the most Cincinnati has ever scored in Pittsburgh.

Dec. 4, 1997 – Cincinnati Bengals 41, Tennessee Oilers at Cinergy Field

In a nationally televised Thursday night game, Corey Dillon rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns, breaking Jim Brown’s NFL record for rushing yards by a rookie (237) while tying the Bengals record for touchdowns in a game.

Dec. 4, 1994 – Pittsburgh Steelers 38, Cincinnati Bengals 15 at Riverfront Stadium

Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O’Donnell threw two touchdown passes, the last of which went to current Cincinnati tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes, and running back Bam Morris ran for a pair of scores as the Steelers improved to 10-3 while dropping the Bengals to 2-11.

Dec. 4, 1988 – Cincinnati Bengals 27, San Diego Chargers 10 at Riverfront Stadium

Ickey Woods ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns while Boomer Esiason threw scoring strikes to Cris Collinsworth and James Brooks as the Bengals improved to 11-3 on their way to winning the AFC championship.

Dec. 4, 1983 – Cincinnati Bengals 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 10 at Three Rivers Stadium

Pete Johnson ran for a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, and the Bengals defense forced five turnovers while holding the Steelers to 154 total yards for the upset of the eventual AFC Central Division champs.

Dec. 4, 1977 – Cincinnati Bengals 27, Kansas City Chiefs 7 at Arrowhead Stadium

Ken Anderson threw touchdown passes to Billy Brooks and Pat McInally, while the Bengals defense intercepted Chiefs quarterback Mike Livingston twice.