Reds lead the way in stupid Opening Day lineups

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dusty baker hillman.jpgIt’s usually about putting your best foot forward when it comes to setting a lineup on Opening Day. Dusty Baker, though, decided to lead with his head up his ass.
The Reds played both their fourth and fifth outfielders Monday, with Chris Dickerson leading off and Laynce Nix in the seventh spot.
The choice to bench Drew Stubbs was especially baffling. Not to knock Dickerson’s glove, but Stubbs is clearly superior defensively. Plus, he hit .300/.354/.700 with five homers in 60 at-bats this spring. To top it all off, he was essentially named the starter going into the exhibition season. Dickerson got off to a hot start last month, but he finished at a modest .288/.327/.462, while Stubbs entered the day about as hot as any NL hitter.
One could justify playing Dickerson, but in left, not in center. He does, after all, offer a lot more defensively than Jonny Gomes, something that’s pretty important with Aaron Harang on the mound. But Gomes wasn’t the starter either, even though all he did was hit .267/.338/.541 for the Reds last season and slug five homers in 55 at-bats this spring. Instead, Nix, who was lucky to make the team over Wladimir Balentien, got the call. Nix hit .239/.291/.476 for the Reds last year, boosting his career line to .236/.277/.421. Baker knows that he’ll never have to worry about him clogging up the bases.
For what it’s worth, the Reds ended up losing 11-6. Dickerson went 1-for-5 in the leadoff spot. Nix was 1-for-2 before Stubbs replaced him and went 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Some other odd choices:
*Dodgers manager Joe Torre must have been too preoccupied to notice that the Pirates were starting a lefty in Zach Duke today. Matt Kemp, who merely torched southpaws for a .362/.429/.616 line last year, hit fifth ahead of James Loney. If there was ever a situation that called for pitching around a guy, that’s it. Kemp was originally slated to bat second this year, but Russell Martin was in that spot today.
Also, the Dodgers this winter signed three bench players who essentially remain in the league because of their performance against left-handers: Reed Johnson, Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll. Not one started today, though. That’s not necessarily the wrong strategy. But if the Dodgers didn’t want to platoon anywhere, then they chose the wrong batch of reserves.
*The Mets had Alex Cora lead off and Mike Jacobs bat cleanup. I think this one has been better covered elsewhere, but someday soon, they’re going to lose a game with Jacobs at the plate in the ninth and Jason Bay waiting on deck for a chance that never comes.
*With Alberto Callaspo still nursing a minor oblique injury, the Royals had Willie Bloomquist starting at third base and batting sixth. The sad thing is that you can almost justify batting him sixth, when the spots below him were occupied by Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall and Chris Getz. But why not go to Mike Aviles instead?

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.