Dusty Baker juggles slumping Reds lineup

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Here’s a look at Dusty Baker’s new idea to break the Reds out of their offensive swoon (they’ve scored fewer runs than every team in baseball besides the Pirates):

SS Zack Cozart
CF Drew Stubbs
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Scott Rolen
LF Chris Heisey
C Devin Mesoraco

I actually really like this one, expect for the odd choice to put Stubbs behind Cozart. Cozart was batting second behind Brandon Phillips and doing an outstanding job, hitting .341/.400/.561 in the early going. He’s also got that whole prototypical NL No. 2 hitter thing going on: middle infielder, makes contact, modest power, decent runner but not exactly speedy.

Stubbs is none of those things. He’s hitting .175 this season and has struck out 13 times in 40 at-bats. Stubbs, though, is an experienced leadoff hitter, and for all the grief he takes over his strikeouts, he’s scored 123 runs in 171 games there. That’s an average of .72 runs per game. To put it in perspective, Jose Reyes has averaged .71 runs per game hitting leadoff in his career. It seems to me that if you’re going to have both Cozart and Stubbs hitting at the top of the order, it’d make a lot more sense to have them the other way around.

That’s not really so important, though. That Heisey and Mesoraco are playing are better signs, and getting Rolen out of the cleanup spot should help. It’s the best lineup the Reds have used this season.

Report: Mariners sign Juan Nicasio to two-year deal

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Mariners have signed pitcher Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract, pending a physical.

Nicasio, 31, spent last season with the Pirates, Phillies, and Cardinals, putting up an aggregate 2.61 ERA with a 72/20 K/BB ratio in 72 1/3 innings. He appeared in 76 games, leading the National League.

Nicasio will help bolster the Mariners’ bullpen behind closer Edwin Diaz. It’s not known exactly what role he’ll have but it seems reasonable to assume he’ll handle mostly the seventh inning while Nick Vincent will set up for Diaz. Nicasio does have plenty of starting experience so he could also spot start in a pinch.