Reds fall 10-9 to Mets, get swept in four-game series

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Jason Bay hadn’t doubled in 51 games before finally getting one when the Mets beat the Reds on Monday.  He hit two more on Thursday, leading the Mets to a 10-9 victory that completed a four-game sweep in Cincinnati.

The Reds fell five games under .500 at 50-55 with the loss.  They have the 19th-best record of the 30 teams in baseball.  They four games worse than a Mets team that has already shed Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.  Yet, because they’re in the NL Central, the Reds can’t see themselves as sellers just yet.

Because while the Reds are in fourth place in the Central, they’re just 6 1/2 games behind a Brewers team that has lost Rickie Weeks.  The Cardinals, in second, just took a downgrade in center field that could prove terribly costly if Lance Berkman gets hurt again.  The Pirates, in third, are the Pirates, in third.

The Reds do need to shake things up a bit, though.  They already made one move this week, shipping Jonny Gomes to Washington and calling up former first-round pick Yonder Alonso.  They could go further by trading Ramon Hernandez and bringing up top prospect Devon Mesoraco.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do about the rotation besides hope for the best.  The Reds entered spring training with perhaps the deepest rotation picture in baseball: Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney.  Who possibly could have guessed that Dontrelle Willis would be one of their five starters come July?  Bailey entered the day as one of the team’s two starters with a sub-4.00 ERA.  Then he went and gave up nine runs to the Mets.

In any other division, the Reds would likely be dead in the water.  In the NL Central, they pretty much have to attempt to stay in the race.  On paper, they’re still right there with the Brewers and Cardinals, and if they prove incapable of hanging with those teams, then Dusty Baker is going to have plenty to answer for at season’s end.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.