The Reds play the LA Dodgers today at 4:05 p.m. ET at Camelback Ranch, a beautiful facility the Dodgers share with the Chicago White Sox. The game will be televised nationally on the MLB Network, you can watch the online stream on MLB.tv and the Reds radio broadcast is WLW-700. The Reds lineup will face 27-year-old pitcher Kenta Maeda, who the Dodgers signed out of Japan this off-season. Maeda is expected to be in the middle of the Dodgers rotation when the regular season begins.

  1. Jose Peraza 2B
  2. Jake Cave CF
  3. Joey Votto 1B
  4. Adam Duvall 3B
  5. Jay Bruce RF
  6. Scott Schebler LF
  7. Ivan De Jesus SS
  8. Tucker Barnhart C

Lineup Thoughts

A few regulars – Votto and Bruce – dot the lineup, plus we get another look at Jose Peraza at 2B. Adam Duvall, who was shaky in left field yesterday (and homered!), plays third base today. Jake Cave (Rule 5 player from Yankees), Duvall (Leake trade) and Scott Schebler (Frazier trade) who are competing for time in the outfield also all get starts. Ivan De Jesus starts at short. Peraza and Schebler are facing their former club.

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Camelback Ranch press box and suite area

News and Reading

Look for our previews of the NL Central competition this week. We’re devoting an entire day to each team: Brewers (Monday), Pirates (Tuesday), Cardinals (Wednesday) and Cubs (Thursday). Do I need to mention that Opening Day is a week from tomorrow! My season tickets arrived a few days ago.

Doug Gray, who is now camped out in Arizona, compared Robert Stephenson to Homer Bailey in an article yesterday.

Robert Stephenson was drafted with a fastball, curveball and splitter. The Reds however had him drop the splitter and focus on a more traditional change up, as the splitter has been known to cause arm issues with overuse. The team took a cautious approach in his development with the pitch and wanted to keep his arm healthy. After a few years of developing the change up, though it did make some progress, the pitch was eventually scrapped in favor of a splitter. The pitch, much like the slider for Bailey, made a huge difference almost immediately. His new pitch has been labeled as a plus pitch, which gives him three of them at this point in time. Stephenson, much like Bailey, would go through stretches where his control was on point, but would also struggle at times.

C. Trent Rosecrans reports that Stephenson will start Monday night’s game against the Brewers.

Stephenson.KE

The Reds signed veteran reliever Ross Ohlendorf to a major league contract yesterday. Ohlendorf pitched for the Texas Rangers last season and was released by the Kansas City Royals last week. Ohlendorf is a smart guy (Jerry Crasnick, ESPN) who could stick around and help with the draft this summer.

After the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, Ohlendorf returned to Princeton and obtained his degree in Operations Research and Financial Engineering. He wrote his senior thesis on the MLB first-year player draft and its financial impact on the game from 1989-1993. The paper ran about 140 pages — “if you include the graphs,” he says.

Signing a veteran reliever wasn’t a surprise. With injuries and lack of depth to begin, the Reds bullpen situation has become as reliable as the ice bridge in Argentina. After J.J. Hoover, Tony Cingrani, Keyvius Sampson, and Jumbo Diaz it wasn’t clear where the Reds could go. Caleb Cotham (Chapman deal) probably makes it. Then you’re looking at retreads Pedro Villarreal or Ryan Mattheus, or unproven arms like Chris O’Grady and Layne Somsen. Blake Wood has been terrible.

So the Ohlendorf signing takes one more spot off the table. He’s pitched pretty well for the Royals this spring, no flashing red lights. Ohlendorf’s 21 appearances with the Rangers last year were decent – good K/9 (8.84) and his fastball velocity (93.7 mph) was up. If/when the Reds get the starting pitching staff healthy (Bailey, John Lamb, Michael Lorenzen), the benefits should trickle down to the bullpen. Ohlendorf appears a reasonable, inexpensive stopgap.

Hoover

Not sure if he’s broadcasting today, but legendary Dodgers voice Vin Scully starts his 67th (!) and final season announcing their games. We’ll do a longer piece on Scully later in the year, but thought it was worth mentioning now, too.

For Scully, that means doing the same thing he did last year — nothing more — and maybe a little less. He is planning to broadcast 87 games this season: all 81 at home, Opening Day in San Diego on April 4, two games in Anaheim in May, and three in San Francisco to end the season.

Harry Truman was President in 1950, when Scully started calling games for the Brooklyn Dodgers – 24 years before Marty Brennaman broadcast his first Reds game.

The Reds revealed new food items available at Great American Ball Park on Thursday. Items include: red velvet waffle topped with a rich creme and sprinkles sold by Taste of Belgium; Montgomery Inn chopped brisket sandwich sold at Mr. Red’s Smoke House; seared pork belly Banh-Mi sandwich with wonton strips sold at the Teppanyaki Grill; and a number of healthier options throughout the park.

Taste of Belgium red velvet waffle / Photo: Brian Mains, WCPO

Taste of Belgium red velvet waffle / Photo: Brian Mains, WCPO

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 25 Comments

  1. Living in SoCal, I suspect I’ll get blacked out of TV coverage because of the divide created by the Dodgers signing an exclusive contract with Time Warner. Those who don’t have Time Warner as their TV service provider but live in the Dodgers’ home area simply don’t see Dodgers games.

    It surprises me that this has gone on as long as it has, and looks bad for the Dodgers that people are resigned to it.

    Maybe that won’t be in effect since it’s a spring training game and not actually in SoCal, but I’m not holding my breath.

  2. Regarding the Reds, I think Jumbo is fortunate that most others in the pen are getting litting up as badly or worse than he is, or else he wouldn’t be so secure of a place on the 25-man.

  3. OK, that was funny. Van Slyke leads off the second inning with a single, and on a hit and run, the next batter hits a high infield pop. Van Slyke keeps running well around second, and is still near second base when he is doubled off first. … Then, thinking that the inning must be over, he takes his helmet/gloves off as if somebody is going to bring him his fielding glove. … He must have been preoccupied thinking about what else he could tell his father about Puig.

  4. Weird stat of the day: The Dodgers broadcasters were talking about Billy Hamilton’s inability to get on base, saying he hits too many fly balls and strikes out too much. Regarding the fly balls, they said he hit more fly balls last year than Nelson Cruz or Albert Pujols.

    • Every other team seems to know that Billy isn’t a major leaguer. Not the Reds. On great teams his offense would be overlooked as long as his defense is great. Unfortunately this team isn’t great. Especially when your left fielder is unproven and your right fielder gets list for 3 months at a time.

      • Billy Hamilton is a major leaguer. He is something like a 2.5-3.0 WAR player over 162 games so far. That is including being a terrible hitter. There is more to baseball than hitting.

        Yes, everyone agrees he can’t hit and probably never will. That means he’s an “average” overall player instead of a star.

        • I agree although B-Ham may be an interesting case study on how MLB teams value defense. There are few players whose value is so one-sided. Andrelton Simmons and Kevin Kiermaier being two that spring to mind, but neither have been as awful with the bat as Billy.

    • I noticed that Chris Denorfia might be available… I wouldn’t mind having Hamilton work on his swing in the minors and bring back an old Red.

  5. Schebler lefty on lefty with an opposite field 3 run double

    • Schebler maintained a .799 OPS over his last 3 years against lefties (all levels combined). Really, not too shabby.

  6. Schebler with a bases-loaded double, drives in three runs against his former team, Reds lead 4-1 in the top of the sixth.

  7. Chris O’Grady is more non-relief from the bullpen, and a throwing error besides. 6-1 lead is down to 6-4.

  8. Barnhart 3-3 with a walk today

  9. I like the Ohlendorf signing. It will help the bullpen very much.

    • Think you mentioned him as soon as he became available. That is if I recall correctly?

  10. Every arm out of the pen gets scored on, but the Reds hold on for a 7-6 win.

  11. Thank you for adding the info on Scully. My major dislike for the Dodgers goes back to when they were in the west with the Reds but I always love hearing Scully call a game. Like sitting next to him in the booth but him being poetic about what we were seeing.

  12. Regarding Billy Hamilton, there is one main reason why I’m not quite ready to give up on him offensively just yet:

    Contact%. Billy puts the bat on the ball. And it’s not a product of him being a free-swinger (although more on that in a minute…). Billy Hamilton, in the 3 seasons he’s been up, swings at 44.5% of all pitches he sees. For comparison, Joey Votto in his career has swing at 42.9%, and he is known for being extremely selective.

    So what’s going on here? Why isn’t Billy more of an offensive force? The answer is fairly well known, and comes in three parts: (1) He has no command of the strike zone (2) he hits too many popups, and (3) he makes too much weak contact.

    Of the three issues, (3) seems to have a very obvious solution: Billy is still young, and looks like he weighs about 150 when soaking wet. If he spends a few years in the weight room, he should gain some strength which will help him with making harder contact more consistently…..

    …..IF……

    He can fix his swing, which tails into (2). Billy Hamilton is making contact with pitches, but he’s getting under them way too much. For someone like him, he needs to be hitting linedrives and ground balls, not popups. This seems like it would be a mechanical issue with his swing; he may be trying to uppercut the ball to make up for what is his perceived shortcomings in raw power. A hitting coach needs to sit down with him and say “Look, Billy, you don’t need to impress anyone with trying to hit the ball far. Just GET ON BASE. Take the swing you have now, and mentally adjust it to be about 1/2 and inch higher than where you think it should be.” As they say, baseball is a game of inches. The difference between a popup and a linedrive or a ground ball is literally something less than 3 inches, which is the diameter of baseball. Making a mental adjustment to shift the swing half an inch higher would make all the difference in the world, and it’s something the hitting coaches need to work with him on.

    (1) is probably the biggest issue. Billy needs to learn which pitches he should be swinging at. The good news is, he HAS been reducing the swings he takes at pitches outside the zone. It was 32.4% his first season, and it was down to 28% last season, a 4% drop which shows he’s at least making progress. Interestingly, his swings at pitches IN the zone also declined by almost exactly the same rate (67.5% to 63.5%), which may indicate he’s actually trying to be patient, but he’s just not identifying the pitches. This again seems like something he could work with the hitting coach on, or maybe even ask Mr. Votto’s advice on how to approach at-bats.

    A final point: There is the notion that Billy won’t see as many balls as other hitters since pitchers don’t fear him and therefore will challenge him, and the stats bear this out. For example, Joey Votto, the most feared hitter on the team, has seen 46% of his pitches in the zone, and 55.4% of the first pitches he sees in an AB are strikes. Compared to Billy Hamilton: a full 51% of the pitches he sees are in the zone, and 65.9%(!) of the first pitches he sees are strikes. This says pitchers are going after him early, which would seem to suggest Billy should be swinging early as well.

    Billy Hamilton has issues on offense, but there are indications he’s not that far off from making “The Leap”. He’s showing a tendency to try to be more patient (which, as the final point indicated, may actually be counter-productive if he’s getting into a hole early in the count). Contact is not his issue. He is going to get stronger, meaning he’s going to start making harder contact with the ball which should lead to more hits. What he needs to do is tweak his swing to make contact higher up on the ball, and work on identifying which pitches he can handle and which pitches he should lay off on. These seem to be things a coach should be able to help him to fix.

    The bottom line is this: Billy Hamilton is going to be better just by getting stronger, that is a given as long as his contact rate doesn’t decline. If he tweaks his swing and starts getting more line drives and ground balls, he could become an important piece on offense. If he makes the final step and actually shows an ability to understand the strike zone, well….. We may have something here after all.

    • Great comment. I’d publish it as a stand-alone thread, but would need your actual name to do that. If interested email: redlegnation2014 (at) gmail.

    • I agree that this is a fine comment, but I do have a question, not just for you but for everyone who prescribes strength-training for Billy: do we know that he doesn’t do it now? I find it highly improbable that he does no lifting.

    • Nice post, CBJ.

      The main thing I question is more organizational. It’s pretty obvious that Billy needs some help at the plate. This may come from many directions, such as reworking his swing/stance, making him stop switch hitting, etc. The organization (from what we can tell as fans) has not moved towards any of these directions.

      Billy can’t be successful as a hitter unless his club helps him be successful, in my opinion. He’s going to keep doing whatever they want him to do because they sign the paycheck.

      • I’m thinking the organization, although not necessarily the most analytically inclined (putting it mildly), do have a ton of general baseball and coaching knowledge. This is a MLB organization after all. I have to think they are already working with Hamilton in doing some of these things and that they have some reason they still feel that Hamilton should remain switch-hitting. They play a lot of things close to the vest and it makes it hard for us as fans to know what they are doing. I’m sure part of it is just trying to keep some of those specifics from other teams so that those teams don’t adjust to the revised coaching/plan.

        Thoughts?

    • Nice analysis. The plate discipline aspect I’m not sure can be taught/coached but I think your other points are all solid and well thought out. Working on his swing could be as simple as having him start with his hands higher. The only thing is that I’m sure that he’s already being coached in the areas that you mention. Will it sink in? We’ll just have to find out.

    • I don’t understand why you are so certain that Billy Hamilton will get stronger. I would have liked to have seen him put on some bodyweight, but perhaps he and the Reds are concerned about the impact on speed. He hasn’t shown any increase in strength yet, which is concerning. A shoulder injury is often the perfect time to put on lower body strength too, and he still looks like the same skinny toothpick he was before.

Comments are closed.

About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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2016 Spring Training

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