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Reds open spring training with hope for solid rotation

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 3:25 PM


            Reds manager Bryan Price goes into spring training with a competitive group of starting pitchers. DAVID JABLONSKI / STAFF
Reds manager Bryan Price goes into spring training with a competitive group of starting pitchers. DAVID JABLONSKI / STAFF

Bryan Price finished his annual spring training physical Tuesday and handicapped the Reds’ starting rotation for the 2018 season.

“The good thing is that it is not open tryouts,” the manager said. “But it’s not a get-your-arm-ready-for-the-season spring training either. This is a competitive group. Lack of preparedness will not bode well for anyone who wants to make the rotation.”

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Price listed the candidates as Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen and Tyler Mahle.

The top four are penciled into the rotation. The rest are competing for the fifth and final spot.

“There are too many pitchers in camp to get regular starts,” Price said. “Amir (Garrett) and Jackson (Stephens) will get some starts. Cody Reed will be competing more for the bullpen but that does not reflect the opinion of the organization that he is just a bullpen pitcher. We still believe he can be a major-league starter.”

Bailey and DeSclafani are coming off multiple injury years.

Bailey hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. He had bone spurs removed Feb. 8 and joined the rotation June 24, making 18 starts. Bailey finished 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA. DeSclafani was limited to 20 starts in 2016, joining the team in June after recovering from a strained left oblique. He missed the entire 2017 season with a stubborn sprained elbow that set him back on several occasions.

Finnegan, the only left-hander of the group, made four starts. He made three starts to open the season before a strained left lat put him on the disabled list until June 26. Finnegan pitched four innings and was placed on the DL again with a strained teres major muscle. He had surgery in July to repair a separated shoulder that was not baseball-related.

The Reds will be cautious with Finnegan.

“We want to see him pitch some bullpens and live batting practice before we slot him,” Price said. “I’m confident he will make the rotation.”

Castillo impressed the Reds with his live fastball and change-up in spring training last year but started the season in Double A.

“We were impressed with him last spring but his breaking pitch was a distant third pitch,” Price said. “He worked hard at it. He came up and was better than the league.”

Castillo was promoted June 23 and made a start against Washington. He had a 3-7 record but a healthy 3.12 ERA, lowest among National League rookies. Castillo also led rookie pitchers with a .202 opponent batting average. From July 8 to the end of the season, Castillo turned in a 2.84 ERA, which ranked eighth behind Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and Robbie Ray for the lowest ERA among pitchers with at least 12 starts.

Velocity and good stuff were just part of what impressed Price and the Reds.

“His velocity sets him apart,” Price said. “You don’t see a lot of guys throw 95-97 for seven innings and the stuff to pitch in the big leagues, but it is rare for a young pitcher to have the presence and the comfortability that he showed last year. He fields his position, and he’s quick to the plate to control the running game. There is a lot to like.

“In his first start against Washington, which is truly one of the best teams in the National League, he got into trouble with command and trying to throw perfect pitches but he managed that environment pretty darn well for a debut and settled in.”

Those top four will be in the rotation barring something unforeseen.

Lorenzen will be trying to move back into the rotation from the bullpen. Romano was 5-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 16 starts. Stephenson was 5-6 with a 4.68 ERA in 11 starts but finished strong after returning from Triple-A Louisville, going 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA in his last eight starts. Mahle made his debut against Pittsburgh on Aug. 27. He made three starts with a 1-2 record and a 2.70 ERA.

Only Rookie Davis starts camp hurt. He had hip surgery but is throwing on the side.

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District softball: Kenton Ridge beats Monroe to reach regionals

Published: Sunday, May 20, 2018 @ 9:27 PM

Highlights: Kenton Ridge beats Monroe in district softball

Kenton Ridge and Monroe dealt with postponements of their Division II district softball final on Friday and Saturday and then watched a storm roll past Brookville High School at 6 p.m. Sunday just when they were supposed to start play. Players waited inside the high school, hoping they would be able to play before it got dark.

"It's stressful," Kenton Ridge pitcher Carly Turner said of the waiting.

Turner overcame stress of a different sort when the game finally did begin at 7 p.m. An umpire called her for several illegal pitch violations. She didn't let it rattle her, however. She struck out nine batters as the Cougars advanced with a 6-2 victory.

"She knows how to correct that," Kenton Ridge coach Sarah Schalnat said. "That's the biggest thing, just slowing it down when that happens and regaining focus. She does a great job."

» PHOTOS: Kenton Ridge vs. Monroe

Turner also drove in the first run of the game in a three-run fourth inning. Paige Williams's single scored the second run. Then a squeeze bunt by Madison Hall scored a third run.

Lexee Trainer made it 4-0 with an RBI single in the fifth. Jordan Rucker drove in two runs with a triple in the sixth.

Turner didn't allow a run until the seventh inning. Monroe senior Faith Hensley, a Ball State recruit, hit a two-run home run in the last at-bat of her high school career.

"I'm really happy for Faith," Monroe coach Tim Kellis said. "Her last at-bat was a dinger. The same thing happened last year. We had a girl (Alexis Arnold), a senior shortstop going down to Georgetown (College), and her last at-bat in the sectional was a two-run home run."

» RELATED: Bradford wins district softball title | Lebanon beats Fairfield

Monroe, which was seeking its first district championship, finished the season 18-3.

"What I'm going to remember about this group is a lot of people aren't aware we lost six four-year starters last year, a team that went 23-3 but got beat in the sectional finals," Kellis said. "Then we started the season and lost two first basemen before we played our second game. We basically started the season with seven kids playing a position they had never played before. We got run-ruled at Brookville at our place in the very first game — and I think most people probably gave them up for dead — and we came back here a week later and beat Brookville and then they go through the rest of the league season and they've gone as far as any team at Monroe as gone."

» EARLIER COVERAGE: Kenton Ridge beats Northwestern in sectional final

The Cougars (23-1), ranked second in the state, will play another Central Buckeye Conference team, Jonathan Alder, at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Mason High School. No. 4 Greenville and No. 7 Clinton Massie will play at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the other semifinal.

Kenton Ridge and Jonathan Alder split two games in the regular season. Both games went to extra innings. Kenton Ridge won 4-3 in Springfield on April 18 and lost 7-6 at Jonathan Alder on April 27.

"It'll be a very good game," Schalnat said. "We've just got to be ready to go. We've got graduation coming up (on Tuesday). We've got to remain focused and have good practices the next couple days."

         

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Miami Valley boys tennis sends singles, doubles team to state

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 11:25 AM

Senior Colton Morehart and junior Niyanth Reddy are usually teammates but the Miami Valley tennis players were opponents Saturday in the D-II district semifinals. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Senior Colton Morehart and junior Niyanth Reddy are usually teammates but the Miami Valley tennis players were opponents Saturday in the D-II district semifinals. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

To say it was a good weekend on the courts for the Rams would be an understatement.

The Miami Valley tennis team qualified four boys – two singles players and a doubles team – to this week’s Division II high school state tennis tournament – a feat the Rams have not accomplished in at least 15 years.

»PHOTO GALLERY: D-I district track and field at Piqua

»RELATED: D-I baseball sectional photo gallery

Rams senior Colton Morehart – who qualified to state as a sophomore – faced off against teammate and first-time state qualifier Niyanth Reddy in the D-II singles semifinals on Saturday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. Morehart and Reddy played first and second singles, respectively, for Miami Valley during the season, amassing identical 24-1 records heading into the district semifinals.

But the Rams couldn’t be more different. Morehart is intense and makes his presence known on the court while Reddy, a junior, quietly and methodically plays his game.

“Colton loves to be vocal, you know he’s there,” Miami Valley coach Brenna Bretscher said. “Niyanth is stoic, very even-keeled.”

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It was the fiery senior who dispensed with his teammate Saturday to advance to the finals. Morehart topped Reddy, 6-0, 6-2. Morehart – who finished the day as district runner-up after losing to Indian Hill senior Andrew Pregel – knows how critical seedings are at the state tournament. The IUPUI-bound player bowed out in the opening round in 2016.

“It was a good match, but I definitely could have played a lot better,” Morehart said of his last state appearance. “I wanted to get as far as I could at the district to give myself the best chance at state.”

»RELATED: Senior basketball standout a one-season track hit

»PHOTO GALLERY: D-I district track at Wayne

Makul Sharma and Reece Quigley of Miami Valley also finished just one win shy of a district championship. Sharma, a first-time state qualifier, and Quigley, who qualified last season, lost a three-set district final to Maanas Pisati and Mack Ellis, of Indian Hill, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“Makul is a senior and he could have played singles this season, but he told me he wanted to do ‘whatever was best for the team,’ ” Bretscher said. “That’s the kind of player he is, the kind of person he is.”

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• Cousins Nathan and Nick Brumbaugh of West Milton earned a D-II state berth in doubles with a third-place finish Saturday. Nick, a junior, and Nathan, a sophomore, lost to Miami Valley’s Sharma and Quigley in the semifinals but edged Ash Annapantula and Herschel Albert of Cincinnati Country Day in the finals to place third.

»OHSAA: No more stacking teams

• Beavercreek sophomore Austin Staiger is also state-bound after a fourth-place finish in D-I singles, as is Fenwick senior Dylan Sagan, who placed fourth in D-II singles.

BOYS STATE TENNIS

When: Friday-Saturday.

Where: Lindner Family Tennis Center, Mason.

D-I area qualifiers: Austin Staiger, Beavercreek.

D-II area qualifiers: Dylan Sagan, Fenwick; Colton Morehart, Miami Valley; Niyanth Reddy, Miami Valley; Makul Sharma and Reece Quigley, Miami Valley; Nathan Brumbaugh and Nick Brumbaugh, Milton-Union.

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Sports gambling: NFL commissioner calls for Congressional action 

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 11:15 AM

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 28:  National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) testifies with others before the House Judiciary Committee about football brain injuries on Capitol Hill October 28, 2009 in Washington, DC. A recent NFL study of retired players suggested that N.F.L. retirees ages 60 to 89 are experiencing moderate to severe dementia at several times the national rate.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 28: National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) testifies with others before the House Judiciary Committee about football brain injuries on Capitol Hill October 28, 2009 in Washington, DC. A recent NFL study of retired players suggested that N.F.L. retirees ages 60 to 89 are experiencing moderate to severe dementia at several times the national rate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A week after the Supreme Court struck down a federal law prohibiting wagering on sports, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued “four core principles” the league would like to see addressed by Congress. 

There must be substantial consumer protections; 

Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it; 

Fans will have access to official, reliable league data;

Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.

Additionally, Goodell says the league has “spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling” and is prepared to address changes “in a thoughtful and comprehensive way.” 

Whether or not lawmakers take these thoughts into advisement remains to be seen, though the first and last seem like common sense suggestions while two and three are more the responsibility of the league. 

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Sports Today: Reds pitching regresses

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 10:25 AM

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 20: Wandy Peralta #53 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts after being taken out of the game against the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park on May 20, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cubs won 6-1. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 20: Wandy Peralta #53 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts after being taken out of the game against the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park on May 20, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cubs won 6-1. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Reds dropped three of four over the weekend to the Chicago Cubs, capping a week in which the team’s pitching took a step back. 

The team ERA over the last seven days was 5.56, higher than the (terrible) season-long mark of 4.92. 

The only starter to post a “good” start over the past seven days was Matt Harvey, who only went four innings as he continues to build up his stamina. 

Harvey is scheduled to start the Reds’ next game, so at least that’s something to look forward to Tuesday night when the Pirates come to town… 

Meanwhile, the Cubs have become as unlikeable as expected since winning the World Series about 1.5 years ago. 

RELATED: The Cubs have the pieces in place to be good for a long time

They are no longer a cute story, just a collection of good players who may or may not live up to expectations season to season. 

Yawn… 

Except when noted hot dog Javy Baez gets some of his own medicine and pukes it back up on himself apparently. 

I like guys like Baez who bring some needed flair to the game, but I also have no sympathy for them when this happens. 

Apparently Garrett was getting some payback for Baez admiring a home run too long last season

Maybe Garrett should have let it go, but I think this is a fairly simple and obvious transaction. To the winner go the spoils. 

The proper reaction here would have been for Baez to realize he lost this one, tip his cap and move on. Of course instead both teams had to clear the dugout and pretend like they were going to fight. 

You’d think his manager might let him know sometimes you gotta take what you dish out, but instead Joe “Smartest Guy in the Room” Maddon made a Disney movie reference, so I guess Baez will have to figure it out on his own. 

Garrett ultimately won the exchange on the field and in the clubhouse. 

“That's just how the game goes. He got me, I got him. We are even," Garrett said. "We are going to have plenty more matchups going forward.” 

Kyle Schwarber also probably got hotter than necessary after taking a called strike three Sunday. 

(He also hit a home run before his day was done.)

The pitch on which he was wrung up was at a bit high according to the zone on the video screen, but in real life it was at the bottom of the letters. Certainly a pitch that can reasonably be called a strike, but maybe he’s just trying to fit in. 

The Middletown Masher would still look great in a Reds uniform… perhaps when Joey Votto is ready to retire?… 

RELATED: Doubtful Cubs win World Series without Middletown’s Schwarber 

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 20: Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after being ejected by umpire John Tumpane for arguing balls and strikes in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 20, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cubs won 6-1. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NBA playoffs resumed over the weekend, and the conference finals participants made sure everyone got plenty of sleep. 

The Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry dispelled rumors of their demise by blowing out the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. 

The defending champs turned in a vintage third quarter run to leave the No. 1 seed in their dust. 

Curry, who was in one of his fairly common postseason slumps heading into the night, ignited the decisive sequence with a slew of big plays and a little dancing... 

The Rockets were kind enough to hang around for a half, which is more than can be said for the Boston Celtics a night before. 

The young Celtics, after winning two games in Boston by double digits,  lived up to their home/road Jekyll/Hyde reputation by going to Cleveland and getting annihilated Saturday night. 

I didn’t think either team was unusually good or bad in the first two games, but the Celtics were pretty awful in Game 3 in front of a raucous Quicken Loans Arena crowd. 

Of course, the front-running Cavs always look good when they are making threes. The rest of the time? Not so much. 

While the only question left in the Western Conference Finals is if the Warriors make it out in full health, it’s fair to expect plenty of drama the rest of the way in the East. 

For better or for worse, that’s the way it always goes with LeBron James. 

Even if Boston comes back strong and wins in Cleveland tonight, we can’t count out James until his team is completely out of time. 

(But just to be safe, don’t look into the 2010 playoffs, though.) 

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