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U-S-A!  U-S-A!!
U-S-A! U-S-A!!

Marlins outslug Reds, take two of three
It's probably true for most any sports team, but the Reds have been labelled by several critics over the past few seasons as inconsistent performers.  The team seems to have taken the criticisms to heart.  The 14-14 Reds have now alternated a win with a loss for nearly two weeks, since April 20.  During the non-streak, the Reds have scored 48 and allowed 50 runs.   

Yesterday, the Reds allowed five Florida home runs and dropped the rubber game of the series 9-5. Bronson Arroyo was mostly on, but he also allowed three of Florida's long balls. "It was three offspeed pitches that got hit out of the park," Arroyo said. "The one that hurt was obviously the last one by Buck. It was a breaking ball. I didn't get to see exactly where it ended up, but it was outer half. That's where he likes the ball sometimes. The ball is carrying nice right now in this ballpark. It's the way it is."  Nick Masset allowed the other two in the 7th, seemingly putting the game out of reach. The Reds weren't completely done, however. They scored twice in the bottom of the ninth and had the bases juiced for Joey Votto, down by four runs.  But Votto ended a frustrating night with a ground out to Florida closer Leo Nunez.

Fay - Baker tired of having to justify the lineup
The full-time role for Jonny Gomes has led to the teeth-gnashing by some fans.  But according to Fay, it is the marginalized role of "blog and twitter favorite" Chris Heisey that has left fans sore, rather than the lack of a platoon partner for Gomes.  Dusty has some interesting things to say about that.  On the one hand, Baker said that "Jonny deserves an extended period of time on his track record" and that "Heisey’s going to play, but sometimes a player has got to wait his turn."  On the other hand, Baker hints that he may not have an infinite amount of patience for Gomes:  "Here it is April 20-something. If it’s June 20-something, we’ve got a different story."  Since his last HR on April 17, Gomes has hit 105/239/132.  Sounds like he's got a good six weeks to regain his stroke.   

Infirmary: Bailey back next week; no timetable for Cueto, Francisco
The team feels that Homer Bailey is ready to return now.  But because his next scheduled start falls on a Reds off-day, Homer will instead make one start in Dayton before joining Cincy's rotation on May 10.  On Saturday, Bailey threw 6 1/3 crisp innings for Louisville, striking out six, walking two, and allowing one run.   Johnny Cueto started the day before, throwing 4 2/3 innings (99 pitches) with almost the same line as Homer.  The team isn't saying when Johnny's coming back, however.

The situation with Juan Francisco is equally hazy.  Baker: "He's better, but he's not playing shape better.  He hasn't had at-bats. I haven't seen him run yet. They told me he's getting better."  Sheldon reports that END may need a rehab assignment before his activation.

Meanwhile, Scott Rolen is still not swinging a bat
There seems to be very little chance that Rolen comes off the disabled list on Friday, when he becomes eligible.  "We don’t have a timetable, to be honest," Reds trainer Paul Lessard said. "He’s doing real well with what we’re doing, with strengthening exercises, but I want to make sure he’s a little stronger than he is right now before we start swinging. I don’t want to aggravate what we’ve got built up. I’d like him to start swinging soon, but I’m still a little hesitant." 

After Miguel Cairo and Chris Valaika started at the hot corner this weekend, Edgar Renteria will make his first career start at 3B on today against the Astros.  When given the news after Sunday's game, Edgar's lower lip began to quiver and he abruptly fled the clubhouse.  He'll hopefully tee off against Houston's J.A. Happ, who's only faced the Reds twice and fared poorly both times.  The Reds may (or may not) be catching a break with Carlos Lee out after leaving Sunday's game following a collision.

McCoy - Votto developing his game after idol
After an MVP campaign last year, Joey Votto's received his share of publicity and puffy profiles.  That doesn't mean I'm tired of them.  Hal talks to Votto about his hitting idol, Ted Williams, and tells the story of Joey's draft.   Shortly after he signed and reported, Votto was perusing items in a used bookstore when he came across a book entitled, "The Science of Hitting," by Ted Williams. Williams already was an idol and icon to the young Votto. Votto purchased the book and read it — over and over and over — until it was dog-eared and frayed.   

I know it's crazy and unfair to compare the Splendid Splinter with anyone, and sure, it's barely May, but ...Votto now has an OPS/OPS+ of 1.094/200.  At the same age (27), Williams put up 1.164/215.  Which was almost identical to his immediately preceding season, even though Williams served in the armed forces for three years between those two seasons. - Joey Votto, Alex Rodriguez lead April's all-MLB All-Star team 
Votto's blistering start places him in SI's "April's All-Star" team, which lists the best position players for all the majors, not just the NL.  Brandon Phillips joins Votto on the squad.  Their hot starts combined with the team's elevated profile put them in the running for starting this year's All-Star game.  With ballots released this past week, hopefully Reds fans vote early and often.

ESPN E:60 sits down with Jonny Gomes
If you've been around here for a while, you've probably heard about Jonny Gomes' 2002 heart attack.  You know, the one he slept through.  After briefly blacking out and losing the ability to breathe, Jonny finally went to the hospital.  On Tuesday night at 7:00, Jonny sits down with ESPN's Chris Connelly to talk about his career and life.  

Midwest League News - Hamilton harries hurlers
We've heard plenty about Billy Hamilton thanks to nycreds and BK. The young speedster is off to a solid start in Dayton but has had some struggles at the plate.  Here he talks about learning to switch-hit and why he loves it:  A switch-hitter, Hamilton is batting .333 against lefties and .186 vs. righties. "It was a tough transition, becoming a switch-hitter and going from batting right to left," he said. "I started switch-hitting when I got to the Minor Leagues. But the big thing is my speed works for me. You have a lot of options when you have speed. I can get the bunt down, get a few infield singles, and then when the infield comes in, bloop it over their heads. "I had thoughts about not doing switch-hitting. I didn't think I would be that good at it. But now I love switch-hitting. Hitting with the left hand is working out in my favor. To be a switch-hitting leadoff guy with speed is a pretty good thing."

Cincinnati Art Museum to release Reds "Clinch" print by C.F. Payne on May 4
The Reds announced that a limited edition illustration depicting the 2010 Central Division champions will be unveiled on Wednesday at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  Unframed prints start at $50; framed with the illustrator's signature go for $250. - Rash of oblique injuries due to several factors 
Fred Lewis continues to rehab his strained oblique in Louisville, and given his solid performance the injury looks to be behind him.  He's hardly alone in suffering what was once a rare injury.  The sudden frequency of oblique strains has become, if not a hot topic, at least an interesting conversation point among baseball med-heads. According to this article, some of the solutions may be fairly simple - more stretching, and more work in Spring Training. One trainer says that oblique injuries tend to occur early in games and in seasons, when players are still getting used to the rigors of the game. "What other sport do you go from standing there, doing nothing, and then have to give 100 percent?" Rootenberg asks. "That's why oblique injuries usually happen early in a game and early in a season. It's early, it's cold weather. This is the time we will see oblique injuries. If you are not warmed up, or if your body is not used to what you are asking it to do, you are susceptible to oblique injuries. We've got to do a better job in strengthening and stretching abdominal muscles."

Stat Speak - Orlando Cabrera takes winning vibe to Indians
On Saturday, moments after our current Venezuelan shortstop singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th, our former Venezuelan shortstop matched Renteria's dramatics with his own walk-off single, leading the Indians to a 3-2 win over the Tigers in 13. Per, Cabrera has 14 walk-off hits -- tied with Vladimir Guerrero for the fourth most. David Ortiz, with 18, has the most.  I believe they said on Saturday's broadcast that Renteria has 13, which includes his World Series-clinching single in 1997.

Did I mention that Joey Votto's off to a great start?  Even with a bad day at the plate yesterday, he still collected a walk to extend his streak of safely reaching base at least once every game in 2011.  According to this piece, Votto is now six games shy of tying Dave Collins' franchise record (set in 1981) for the longest streak to start a season.  He also leads the NL in bWAR and trails only Jose Bautista in the majors.  In Hal's article linked above, he notes that Williams' longest such streak (overall; not just at the start of a season) was 84 games.

Verducci - Is Jose Bautista the modern George Foster?
Bautista's hot start has at least temporarily quelled talk about 2010 being a fluke. He leads the AL with HRs (9) and all the slash rates, for a sparkling OPS of 1.292. His sudden ascendancy to stardom is particularly unusual for occurring at a relatively older age. Verducci tries to come up with a historical comparison and settles on George Foster, who was finally given a starting role in early 1975 and went on to lead the league in RBIs in the following three years. It's a decent try, but Foster was 26 when Sparky gave him his big break by convincing Pete Rose that he was needed at third. Bautista was three years older in his breakout season and had amassed nearly twice as many PAs prior to it as Foster. There are players like Foster that suddenly put it together at 26.  But there really isn't an easy comp for an older star like Bautista, particularly if we rule out suspected PEDs users.

Pitchers & Poets - The Stadium Experience: Defense
In the HD era, there's a legitimate concern that fans will more and more frequently choose to stay at home instead of actually going to games.  Those come with decided inconveniences like traffic, parking, and quests for cotton candy that stretch over innings.  P&P makes a great argument for live attendance based on watching major leaguers play defense:  On television, you have no concept of space. You are so busy tracking the ball and the batter and listening to the analysis that it’s difficult to grasp the sheer distance an outfielder runs to make a spectacular catch. It’s impossible to comprehend the speed of a grounder as it jumps off the bat and hops off the chest of a waiting third baseman. In person, baseball is defined by space. Most of what we see is space.

SBN - Florida Marlins: MLB's Ultimate Hipster Team
Talented, low-budget, unpopular, and ironically ugly team unis?  Sounds about right. Cy Schourek's saucy Marlins previews seal the deal for me.  And speaking of hipsters ....

Jonah Keri interviews Ben Gibbard
Whether it's travel, a slow day at the office, or just nerding it out at home, I'll find myself checking out baseball-themed podcasts every so often. And there are some good ones. Jonah Keri, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, has done some interesting interviews on his podcast, and his latest is with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibard. Whether you like the band or not, there's a good conversation about making a living in music, social media, and Ben's rooting interest, the Mariners.  Unfortunately for him, this year the M's are once again following their bats into the dark.