What Went Wrong: Cincinnati Reds

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The following is the second in a series profiling some of 2009’s biggest disappointments.



Last Week: Cleveland Indians



This Week: Cincinnati Reds



Record: 63-78 (5th in NL Central)



How It Happened:



With one of the most exciting young cores in the game, there were
more than a few baseball
experts who pegged the Reds as a darkhorse team in the NL Central race.
And with good reason. We’ll never know what could have been. While the
Mets have grabbed all the headlines on the injury front this season,
the Reds have been equally as snake bit, with top stars like Jay Bruce,
Joey Votto,
Scott Rolen, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Aaron
Harang all finding their way to the disabled list.




Believe it or not, the Reds were a .500 baseball team as late as
July 7. This in spite of Bronson Arroyo putting up an ugly 5.85 ERA
over his first 17 starts and Votto (chronic depression) and Volquez
(Tommy John surgery) both hitting the disabled list by the start of
June. But they came back to the pack in a big way between July 7
and August 22, going a pathetic 10-30, and losing Bruce (wrist), Cueto
(shoulder inflammation), Ramon Hernandez (knee), and finally Harang
(appendectomy) along the way.




While the Indians decided to sell off valuable parts around the
deadline, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty resisted trading Arthur
Rhodes, Aaron Harang, Francisco Cordero or Arroyo. Instead, he acquired
the injury-prone and expensive Scott Rolen while giving up on Edwin
Encarnacion, who, by the way, missed significant time with a
broken wrist. Coincidentally, Rolen suffered a concussion in his second
game with the Reds, and went on the disabled list shortly thereafter.
On the bright side, the Reds are 12-7 since Rolen’s return and managed
a season-high seven-game winning streak until running into the buzzsaw
that is the Colorado Rockies this week. They have lost five in a row coming into Saturday’s action.




The injuries remain an easy scapegoat, but the Reds have managed a
major-league worst .242 batting average (tied with the Padres) while
scoring a major-league worst 551 runs in one of baseball’s most
hitter-friendly parks. They’ve also struggled at the gate, averaging
just 22,928 fans through 68 games at Great American Ballpark.




Silver Linings:



When the Reds lost Bruce to a broken
right wrist on July 11, the lineup was aching for a power source. Jonny
Gomes has stepped up in his absence, launching 14 home runs. The
28-year-old outfielder is batting .279/.349/.563 with 19 home runs, 48
RBI and a .912 OPS in 240 at-bats this season.




The Reds expected Ramon Hernandez to be a productive force in their
lineup, but the veteran backstop batted just .249/.330/.355 with five
homers and 36 RBI in 77 games before undergoing surgery on his left
knee in July.
While Hernandez disappointed, 29-year-old Ryan Hanigan has emerged as an option for next season, batting
.271/.364/.328 in 227 at-bats while throwing out 42% of would-be
basestealers. Look for the Reds to buy out Hernandez’s option for 2010.




Though he had the 5.85 ERA through July 7 as referenced above,
Arroyo has been nothing short of brilliant since, compiling a 2.17 ERA
over his last 12 starts. Too bad he has gone just 4-4 over that time.




Granted, his season might ultimately be dogged by odd comments
about an injury to his left wrist, but Brandon Phillips has put together a
bounce-back season by all accounts, batting .275/.330/.453 with 19
homers, 86 RBI and 24 stolen bases. He is showing a noticeable maturity
at the plate, walking at a career-best rate of 7.4% while cutting down on his strikeouts (12.2%).




Looking Ahead:



Manager Dusty Baker has another year on his
contract that will pay him approximately $4 million, so it unlikely
that Bob Castellini will buy him out. And considering the hand
Baker was dealt this season, he doesn’t deserve the hook, anyway.





There’s no question that the Reds should tender Gomes a contract for
2010
(arbitration-eligible). One possibility may be to sign him and then
ship him off to another team. It may be a creative way to strengthen
their roster without spending a significant amount of money.




Paul Janish isn’t the answer at shortstop. Sure, his glove is great
(+8.0 UZR), but it’s not enough to make up for his weak bat
(.207/.294/.287). Could J.J. Hardy be a good fit?




Will
2010 finally be the year that Homer Bailey turns the corner? The Reds
will need him to step up with Edinson Volquez expected to miss all or
most of the season after Tommy John surgery. Bailey has pitched better of late, going 3-0 with a
1.67 ERA over his last four starts, but his spotty control remains a
serious concern (4.50 BB/9).




Who will patrol center field? Former No. 1 pick Drew Stubbs is
getting a chance right now, batting .250/.306/.440 with with five
homers and eight RBI. But with a 31/8 K/BB ratio in 97 at-bats, his
plate discipline leaves something to be desired. Willy Taveras (who is
owed $4 million in 2010), Chris Dickerson or Chris Heisey, who batted
.314/.379/.521 with 22 homers and 77 RBI between Double-A Carolina and
Triple-A Louisville this season, are also options.




The Reds already have $65 million in contract commitments for 2010,
including $12.5 million for Harang, $12.25 million for Arroyo, $12.125
for Francisco Cordero and $11 million for Rolen, so unless Jocketty
trades one of his veteran starters, there won’t be much payroll
flexibility. They’ll have to hang their hats on continued progression from their young stars.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.