Tag:Dusty Baker
Posted on: April 11, 2011 9:07 pm
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Reds' Stubbs sits as Dusty explains spring


The Reds lead the NL Central, but they're going to look different tonight than they did in their first nine games.

That's because struggling leadoff man Drew Stubbs will be given the night off and, for the first time in 2011, Chris Heisey will bat leadoff and play center field.

Stubbs has struggled out of the gate this year with a .237 batting average and a .310 on-base percentage.

"It's spring time," Reds manager and part-time weatherman Dusty Baker said before Monday's series opener. "To me, spring means you're a little confused whether it's winter or summer.

"This is what happens in the spring. If everyone stayed hot in the spring, it would be summertime. He's getting today off. He's missing pitches. He's staying [in the] air too much."

Stubbs already has 11 strikeouts in 42 plate appearances after establishing himself in the Reds' lineup in 2010. Last year, Stubbs became only the ninth player in Cincinnati franchise history to collect 20 or more homers and 30 or more steals in a season. He finished 2010 hitting .255 with 22 homers, 77 RBIs and 30 steals.

Baker said that Stubbs was being given a day off to "observe and simplify things. When you're a smart person like him, sometimes you think too much."

As Baker noted, sometimes in this game it's better not to think at all.

"Then nobody can think along with you," Baker said. "That make sense?

"He's a smart young man. He's always trying to figure something out. He'll be fine."

Posted on: September 26, 2010 10:01 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2010 10:01 pm
 

Reds on verge of clinching -- REALLY at home

So what's a team to do when it clinches a division title when it's not even at the ballpark?

Such a scenario could happen to Cincinnati on Monday: With a magic number reduced to one, the Reds have the day off and St. Louis hosts Pittsburgh.

If the Pirates win, the Reds win their first NL Central title since 1995 ... without even playing.

Will manager Dusty Baker call the troops in to Great American Ballpark for a celebration?

Nope.

"Guys have stuff to do," Baker says. "Family stuff ... you need some personal time, some family time. Guys are preparing to move out of their places. Some of their leases are up Oct. 1. That's a lot to do."

Baker also mentioned unpacking from the club's 10-day, three-city trip, resting, watching the Cardinals on television and watching Monday Night Football.

"That's what I'm going to do," Baker said, referring to everything mentioned in the previous sentence.

Undoubtedly, some in Cincinnati will be pulling for St. Louis to beat the Pirates so that the Reds can win the division title on the field Tuesday against Houston. That way, local fans could watch and perhaps participate in the celebration.

"It would be funny," infielder Brandon Phillips says of the idea of clinching Monday night while the Reds are scattered. "Some guys would be at clubs, some would be at Jeff Ruby's [a local steakhouse], some would be at the bowling alley, some would be home in their own houses celebrating by themselves."

One thing Phillips knows is, as a non-drinker, he's told his teammates that he will have his first glass of champagne when the NL Central title belongs to the Reds.

Likes: The seven-game sprint the end for San Diego. And six games for San Francisco and Atlanta. ... How good is Reds first baseman Joey Votto? When he cracked a homer against Clayton Richard on Sunday, it was the first homer the Padres' lefty surrendered to a lefty hitter since Aug. 1, 2009. Lefties had gone homerless over 241 at-bats against Richard since. Not Votto. ... How funny is it that the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys are both 1-2? ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central rolled over New Boston Huron 47-3 on Friday night. Excellent. The Falcons machine is up and going. ... Love John Mellencamp's new disc No Better Than This. Great stuff.

Dislikes: Watching Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka nibble, er, pitch.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Wanna go where the summer never ends
"With my guitar on the beach there with all my friends
"The sun's so hot and the waves in motion
"And everything smells like suntan lotion
"The ocean, and the girls so sweet
"So kick off your shoes and relax your feet
"They say that miracles are never seizing
"And every single soul needs a little releasing
"The stereo bumping till the sun goes down
"And I only wanna hear that sound"

-- Michael Franti & Spearhead, Sound of Sunshine

Posted on: September 5, 2010 12:32 pm
 

Reds hoping to get Bruce back soon

ST. LOUIS -- Accelerator down and looking to extend their eight-game NL Central lead even more, the Reds were happy on Sunday to find that outfielder Jay Bruce is feeling better.

He still wasn't in manager Dusty Baker's lineup Sunday, the fifth consecutive game that Bruce will sit with a sore right side, and he'll likely miss Monday's series opener in Colorado as well. But the Reds are hopeful that Bruce, hitting .274 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs, will return this week.

The Reds aren't penciling in an exact day, however.

"I don't want him until he doesn't feel it anymore," Baker said Sunday morning. "Running, throwing, hitting ... when he comes back, I want him to stay back."

Bruce went down at the worst possible time, not simply because it's September, but because he was red hot when he hurt his side. From the time the Cardinals swept the Reds in Cincinnati in early August until he was hurt on Aug. 30, Bruce was batting .396 with eight homers and 15 RBI over 16 games.

In his absence, the Reds have played with an outfield of Jonny Gomes in left, Drew Stubbs in center and Chris Heisey in right. With Jim Edmonds and Laynce Nix banged up, those three are pretty much locked in. The Reds have been hitting fly balls to infielder Miguel Cairo and view him as an option in an emergency.

"But hopefully, we don't need him," Baker said.

Especially in Colorado's Coors Field, where the outfield is one of the league's biggest.

"You need Willie Mays, Curt Flood and Paul Blair out there in Colorado," Baker quipped.

Likes: The Cubs dedicating a statue of Hall of Famer Billy Williams on Tuesday. Great outfielder, great guy. ... The Cardinals planning to move back to 50,000-watt KMOX next season, which was their radio home for 51 years through 2006. Hope Detroit follows suit and re-connects with WJR sometime soon. Part of the reason for the huge fan bases of some of the Midwestern teams is that even people who couldn't get to games could pull in the radio signal from thousands of miles away. I know things are different now with television and satellite radio, but I still think the move to smaller radio stations for more lucrative contracts was short-sighted. ... Glad to see Notre Dame win under new coach Brian Kelly. College football is better when the Irish are good. ... What a great ending to the LSU-North Carolina football game Saturday night. ... The baby back ribs at Joe Buck's joint in downtown St. Louis. ... The weather this weekend. Sunshine, 70s, no humidity, just a gorgeous weekend with a hint of fall in the air. Perfect baseball weather, great for the opening of football. "These are the prettiest days I think I've ever seen in St. Louis," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday morning. "I'm serious." ... Ah, memories. My dad had a Plymouth Valiant, too, but it was green (see rock 'n' roll lyrics below). First car I drove.

Dislikes: The combination of the Cubs' awful season and St. Louis' fade has the Cardinals offering tickets to the Cubs' series at Busch Stadium later this month at 50 percent off. How about that?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I was sitting with Mary
"In my dad’s blue Valiant
"Rain was coming down
"And the radio was playing
"Mary was talking
"A million miles a minute
"I could not hear one word she was saying"

-- Marc Cohn, Listening to Levon

Posted on: September 4, 2010 4:17 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2010 4:42 pm
 

Cincy's Phillips still sore

ST. LOUIS -- He's hitting .288 with 16 home runs and 50 RBI, but the Brandon Phillips leading off for the Reds here this weekend is not the All-Star we've seen for much of the season.

And it's got nothing to do with the St. Louis fans riding him like a Schwinn in the aftermath of the brawl two weeks ago.

No, having missed six games after being hit in the right hand with a pitch in San Francisco last week, Phillips returned to the lineup here Friday after missing six games and went 0 for 4 with one strikeout. Though his hand is much better than it was, some swelling remains.

"To tell you the truth, it's still bothering me," Phillips says. "But I've played hurt before. I feel like my timing is off. I've just got try to throw the head of the bat at the ball."

Manager Dusty Baker said he didn't see anything wrong with Phillips' swing in the series opener Friday, a 3-2 loss to St. Louis, but acknowledges that the second baseman's timing will be off after sitting for a week.

"I told him today to use his eyes," Baker said.

Use his eyes?
 
Baker explained that when he was playing and missed several games, he would go through periods upon returning in which "I didn't trust my timing or my hand speed."

Sometimes, Baker said, "you've got to trick yourself. I told him today to use his eyes more."

Baker compared it to breathing, how "sometimes when you find yourself in a tight situation, you find yourself hyperventilating and not getting proper ventilation to your heart. That's how you relax. Breathe."

And maybe with a sore hand, that's how Phillips will maintain. See.

Likes: Beautiful day Saturday in St. Louis. Sunny, 70-something, no humidity, an autumn feel in the air. Could not be nicer for baseball -- or for simply being outside. ... Couple of great runs through the downtown streets of St. Louis and circling through the Jefferson Memorial Park by the Arch. Love the families walking around checking out the Arch and posing for pictures as the kids hold onto the last gasps of summer. ... Charlie Gitto's Italian joint downtown, a must-stop in St. Louis. Toasted ravioli and chicken parmesan, excellent. ... Throwback Mountain Dew and Throwback Pepsi. Hope they keep offering them forever. Not that it's health food, but the pure cane sugar sure beats the corn syrup they use in the modern versions. Cripser, with no filmy aftertaste. ... College football's return. ... Verry cool seeing all the Missouri-clad fans in downtown St. Louis on Saturday morning eating bagels and tailgating before the Missouri-Illinois opener. ... And on the high school fields Friday, Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central administering a 31-0 whipping of rival Monroe Jefferson. Excellent first win of the season over the hated Bears.

Dislikes: Screaming -- and I mean screaming -- kids behind me and in front of me on the flight here Thursday. My ears are still ringing.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"We learned more from a three-minute record, baby
"Than we ever learned in school"

-- Bruce Springsteen, No Surrender

Posted on: August 24, 2010 2:03 am
Edited on: August 24, 2010 10:35 am
 

Reds lose Nix, Edmonds in 11-2 loss to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- More than just the Reds' pride took a beating in their series-opening 11-2 drubbing at the hands of the Giants here Monday night.

First place Cincinnati lost outfielder Laynce Nix to a sprained left ankle in the third inning and outfielder Jim Edmonds to a strained right oblique muscle in the sixth.

That, combined with manager Dusty Baker having to blow through three relievers when starter Edinson Volquez was chased in the first inning, left Baker and general manager Walt Jocketty discussing roster options with two more games remaining on this nine-game West Coast trip.

Will Cincinnati have to send out for bullpen help before Tuesday night's game?

"We're discussing that now," Baker said.

As for the outfield situation, the Edmonds injury appeared the worst of the two. Oblique strains can knock a player out for several weeks and, at 40, Edmonds, acquired from Milwaukee in a move for depth earlier this month, already was in rough physical shape.

"Right oblique and right foot," Edmonds said. "They kind of go hand-in-hand."

Translation: He's been nursing a sore right Achilles for two months, and he thinks the oblique injury occurred because he was compensating for the foot.

"I don't know what's going to happen now," said Edmonds, who already intended to retire following this season. "I'll see what the doctor says and go from there. ... I was sore the last couple of weeks, but the last couple of days, not playing much, I thought it would get better. False sense of security, I guess. That's the way it goes when you try to play through stuff and be stubborn."

As for Nix, he jammed his foot beating out an infield single in the third when he put on the brakes to avoid Giants pitcher Matt Cain, who was covering first base.

"I jammed my leg, but I didn't roll it," Nix said. "It shouldn't keep me out of action. I think I should be fine to pinch hit."

The Reds are plenty deep in the outfield. They're currently carrying six true outfielders in Nix, Edmonds, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Chris Heisey and Jonny Gomes, and infielder Miguel Cairo can play some in the outfield.

"[Edmonds] doesn't look good at all," Baker said. "We have six outfielders. We usually don't carry that many, and usually things in this manner take care of themselves. You just don't like it to be this way."

Posted on: August 22, 2010 1:10 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2010 8:50 pm
 

Piniella was one of a kind, and so are the Cubs

Lou Piniella always did take to losses as he would third-degree burns. Never one blessed with patience as one of his baseball "tools", Piniella was a magnet for television cameras and a delight for fans when things weren't going well.

He would frown in the dugout, then fret, the slow-burn often reaching full-scale eruption sometime before game's end with an unfortunate umpire bearing the brunt of his wrath. Or in its immediate aftermath, with some unwitting reporter asking the wrong question -- or, even the right question using the wrong words. Bases would fly, caps would be launched, choice words would whistle through the air like missiles.

When I spent 30 minutes sitting with him in the Wrigley Field dugout on a sweltering Friday afternoon before a game in June, things definitely were not going well. The Cubs, nowhere near as brutal as they would become, were losing. Piniella was waist deep in his public spat with White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone.

Wrigleyville was not a happy place.

Yet Piniella that day vowed that the rabble that eventually always devours Cubs managers would not get him.

"They're not going to suck the life out of me," Piniella said that afternoon for what became this column. "I'm not going to get the life sucked out of me. That won't happen.

"I'm a little too competitive for that."

But managing the Cubs always is a one-way ticket to the Land of Dashed Dreams, whether your name is Jim Frey, Lee Elia, Whitey Lockman or, yes, in the end, Lou Piniella.

What started out a dazzling honeymoon filled with warm afternoons and vivid dreams ends for Piniella like it usually does when you're sitting in the Cubs' manager's chair, with the walls closing in and the wolves baying in the distance.

From the high of 97 wins in 2008 -- one of the three most memorable Cubs seasons, along with 2003 and 1984, in the past four decades -- to the pieces of another wreckage in an empty field, the blasted billy goats wandering freely throughout.

Though Piniella several weeks ago announced that he would retire at season's end, he pushed that up to Sunday because of family concerns. His ailing mother Margaret, 90, is not doing well and Piniella has taken two leaves of absences this season to tend to her.

Rare is the person who gets to write his or her own ending, and this isn't exactly the way Piniella envisioned leaving. But it surely fits well within the Cubs parameters: No Cubs manager has lasted five seasons since Leo Durocher, from 1966-1972 (this was Piniella's fourth season).

The worst thing about it is that 2010 has become such a crash-and-burn season for the Cubs that people may have a hard time putting Piniella's run on Chicago's North Side into the context in which it should be viewed. Which is, far more good than bad.

Though last season was disappointing as an encore to the 97 wins the year before, Piniella became the first manager to guide the Cubs to three consecutive winning seasons in more than three decades. Not since Durocher's North Siders finished on the north side of .500 from 1967-1972 have the Cubs had such a sustained run of success.

And granted, we're living in the age of the expanded playoffs ... but Piniella in '07 and '08 became the first Cubs manager to lead the team to the post-season in more than 100 years.

Piniella was 316-292 with the Cubs when he announced his retirement Sunday morning, his 316 wins ranking eighth among all-time Cubs' managers and his .520 winning percentage checking in as the best for a Cubs' skipper since the .547 turned in by Charlie Grimm (1932-1938, 1944).

Piniella's 1,835 wins managing in New York (Yankees), Cincinnati, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Chicago rank 14th on the all-time managerial list, which will make him a candidate for the Hall of Fame.

Never boring, Piniella should settle into retirement content with the mark he left on the game. But for a man as competitive as him, it surely will take a long time to wash away the bitter taste of 2010, his closing act.

As for the Cubs, who last won a World Series in 1908, the long, hard slog continues. As it will for whomever manages them next -- Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Valentine, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa ... take your pick.

As Dusty Baker, another ex-Cubs' skipper, told me earlier this summer, when you take the Cubs job, people "don't see that you've been there three years, four years, five years. They see the 100 years. Which wasn't part of your account."

But you sign on to manage that account.

And given more than a century's worth of baggage, it's become the most difficult, thankless job in the game.

 

Posted on: June 16, 2010 11:37 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2010 11:58 pm
 

Reds look to get back on track Thursday

CINCINNATI -- Hoo boy, tough night for the Reds on Wednesday as the Dodgers rolled 6-2 to snatch first place from San Diego in the NL West.

Not only was it their third consecutive loss and their fourth in five games as they battle St. Louis in the NL Central, but. ...

Cincinnati rookie Mike Leake (five earned runs and nine hits in six innings) was tagged with the first loss of his major-league career. He made history by becoming the first Reds rookie pitcher to ever go undefeated through his first 12 starts, then the Dodgers' Andre Ethier made history by blasting a hanging curveball for a three-run homer in the sixth to mortally wound Leake.

Then, in the bottom of the sixth with Los Angeles leading 5-0, two on and none out, Scott Rolen and manager Dusty Baker were both ejected by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt when Rolen lost it after being called out on strikes.

It was only the third ejection of Rolen's 14-year career and, as he explained, "I thought it was a big at-bat, a game-changing at-bat, possibly."

Rolen joked that, after Tuesday's marathon game that featured a 2 1/2-hour rain delay and didn't wrap up until 1 a.m., he and Wendelstedt were asking each other whether they got enough sleep and then the umpire said, "Why don't you go up and sit in the cold tub and get ready for Thursday's game."

"That was it," Rolen said with a wry smile. "I'm not sure what it looked like."

The ejections were one sure signal that summer is heating up. The surprising Reds are keeping a close eye on the Cardinals, but they've also hit a rough patch that is testing them.

"We knew we'd go through periods like this," Baker said afterward. "We've got to keep fighting. It's a long season, and it's not going to be up all the time. There's a long way to go, and there are going to be good times, and there are going to be great times."

There also will be rough times and, as Baker said, "That's why you want to be as many games over .500 as you can, so when you hit one of these streaks ... you want a cushion."

The Reds have one more game against the Dodgers on Thursday afternoon before heading west to play Seattle and Oakland.

And it is not lost on them that these same Dodgers swept the Cardinals just one week ago in Los Angeles.

Likes: Love that Great American Ballpark sits right on the Ohio River. Very cool to look out beyond the right-field bleachers and see the river flowing. ... Nice billboard featuring Hall of Fame writer Hal McCoy and his "The Real McCoy" blog for his old newspaper, the Dayton Daily News, while driving into town the other day. Even better to see my old friend in person these last two nights. ... Had a chance to catch the Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before leaving Cleveland earlier this week. Great display, including a phenomenal amount of hand-written lyrics and some iconic clothes, including the threads that Bruce wore on the cover of both Born in the USA and The River. The red cap from his back pocket on Born in the USA is almost comically plain, and worn. ... Johnny Cash's tour bus, also on display at the Rock Hall.

Dislikes: Nobody's thrilled with rain delays, and Tuesday night's was a doozy. The Reds and Dodgers waited two-and-a-half hours before resuming play midway through the game after 11 p.m. The game didn't end until 1 a.m. But you know what? The thunderstorm was worth it. Man did it pour. And the lightening show was spectacular.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Got kind of tired packing and unpacking
"Town to town, and up and down the dial
"Maybe you and me were never meant to be
"But baby think of me once in awhile
"I'm at WKRP in Cincinnati"

-- Hugh Wilson, Theme to 'WKRP in Cincinnati'

Posted on: June 15, 2010 5:53 pm
 

Red legs? Phillips' hammy better but rain on way

CINCINNATI -- The first, and most important, bit of news as the first-place Reds prepare to open a three-game set with the Dodgers tonight is that second baseman Brandon Phillips is in the lineup, batting second.

Phillips was a late scratch Sunday because of a lingering hamstring issue, an issue being described by the Reds as feeling like a "cramp." An MRI exam on Monday's off day showed nothing worse than a mild strain -- not a pull -- so Phillips, hitting .311 with eight homers and 23 RBI, is going to give it a go.

He's just under orders from manager Dusty Baker to play smart, and to "not do anything crazy."

Shot back Phillips to his manager: "I'm always crazy."

"That's what he told me," Baker said, chuckling. "One thing about Brandon is, you know he's honest."

Of course, all of this is if tonight's game is played. As the Reds finished hitting and the Dodgers took the field at 5:40 the sun was shining, but it is 86 degrees and off-the-charts humid.

They're expecting severe weather here to the point that the Dodgers' pre-game notes contains this entertaining bit: "The National Weather Center is now predicting a strong chance of severe weather (with the potential for tornadic activity) late this afternoon and early evening. If the nasty weather becomes a reality, all credentialed press will be sheltered in the left-field level media interview room as the press box and broadcast booths will need to be evacuated."

In 20-some years of doing this, I can't ever recall a similar note in the pre-game handouts.

But I love the phrase "tornadic activity."

Likes: Great day Sunday watching Nationals' phenom -- and this week's Sports Illustrated coverboy -- Stephen Strasburg. ... Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera's enthusiasm. ... Nice drive from Cleveland to Cincinnati on Monday. About four hours, though it was a touch longer because I veered off the freeway in Columbus for a quick drive by Ohio State's football stadium, which I'd never seen before. ... I still love the pastoral Midwestern scenery. Farms, pastures, little shops like Grandpa's Cheesebarn and Just Pies. I couldn't pass up Grandpa's Cheesebarn ("Meats, cheeses, gifts"), and the hand-scooped ice cream cone was worth it. ... The ribs at Montgomery Inn, outstanding as ever. ... Yes, Monday being a travel day with no game, it doubled as a food day. ... Fantastic thunderstorm late Monday night, lighting up the Cincinnati skyline and the Ohio River and serenading those of us in hotels until the televisions went out. Love those mid-summer thunderstorms. One of the biggest things I miss since moving from the Midwest to the West Coast.

Dislikes: As I was saying the other day, come on Tom Izzo, stay put at Michigan State. You don't belong in the NBA. You're too good for the NBA. I mean it. Really.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"That's great, it starts with an earthquake
"Birds and snakes, an airplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid
"Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
"World serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs
"Feed it off an aux speak, grunt, no, strength
"The Ladder start to clatter with fear, fight down height
"Wire in a fire, representing seven games
"And a government for hire at a combat site"

-- REM, The End of the World (As We Know It)

 
 
 
 
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