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Red Reposter - the Return of the Rotation

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Not since Hakeem Olajuwan's endorsement has L.A. Gear been this relevant.
Not since Hakeem Olajuwan's endorsement has L.A. Gear been this relevant.

Cueto sharp, Reds blank Cubs 2-0
The Reds finished off Chicago yesterday in winning their second series in a row, and added further aggravation to Chicago by standing in between the Cubs and their mothers. Johnny Cueto, in making his season debut, was impressive.  In six-plus innings and with a new tattoo on his left arm honoring his mother Cristina, he struck out four, walked one, and kept his pitches down to induce nine ground outs compared to four in the air. The bullpen took care of the rest, as Cordero atoned for Saturday's blown save.

The downside was the relative quiet of the offense, not just yesterday but in Chicago in general.  Joey Votto went 0-4 with two strikeouts and ended his on-base streak, leaving him just one shy of David Collins' team record of 34 games reaching base safely to start the season.  Votto:  "You go through stretches where you miss. I’ve been missing lately. It will pass."   No doubt, Joey.  No doubt.

A-Rod versus Wood, round 2
Five days after he terrorized the Reds, Aneury Rodriguez once again faces off against Travis Wood, this time in Houston. The Astros will be without Jason Bourgeois, who's fallen victim to the strained oblique epidemic. Super-utility guy and RR friend-of-friend Joe Inglett was called up to take Bourgeois' place. Hopefully Travis Wood builds on a solid outing last time around to return to his ass-kicking ways. Against the Astros last week, Wood tied a season-high with 7 strikeouts and allowed no HRs. But he also walked four against a mediocre lineup. "Hopefully Woody can get back on track," said Dusty Baker. "Confidence and success breed off each other. Hopefully we can get on a pitching roll now, where every hit counts and every hit means something."

THT - What’s up with the Reds’ rotation?
The source of Wood's struggles this year is difficult to pinpoint.  Saberists point to the consistency of his peripherals in making a "bad luck" argument, while Marty has been less generous in his assessment of Wood.  I think the truth lies in between.  Wood's perhiperhals and GB rate are pretty close to last year, leaving his FIP and xFIP a tad lower than in 2010.  A lower strand rate is likely responsible for part of his current problems.  But he's also allowing hard contact more often this year, evidenced by a higher line-drive rate (27% versus 21%) and more doubles (13 already this year, compared to 16 last year).  Explaining why is difficult without a closer look at the Pitch FX data, but one clue could lie in a lower swing rate he's generating on out-of-the-zone pitches this year.  Because hitters are laying off of stuff outside the zone, they might be sitting more on his middling fastball. 

THT takes a look at Wood and several others Reds' starters and finds a similar pattern of decent peripherals but poor results.  Like Wood, Mike Leake has a strand rate "around 60 percent and that number is about as sustainable as Volquez’s HR numbers. Three-fifths of this rotation has been ridiculously unlucky and, as a result, the Reds have scuffled."   I like the optimism.

On the mend
- Paul Janish's ankle is getting better and he should return at some point in this series against Houston.

- Scott Rolen plans to begin hitting today when he rejoins the team in Houston. His return date is still up in the air.

- Juan Francisco will rehab in Louisville, starting as a DH.

- Dave Sappelt landed on the disabled list (again with the strained oblique epidemic!). He was batting .341/.417/.588.

- Jose Arredondo threw a scoreless inning for Louisville on Friday, striking out two.

Dynamic ticket pricing could arrive in Cincinnati as early as next year
The Reds are looking to join the industry trend of pricing tickets according to demand, according to John Fay.  "I don’t think there’s a baseball team that won’t," said Karen Forgus, the club’s senior vice-president of business operations. Dynamic pricing is designed to make prices meet demand. You’ll be able to buy a ticket for a Tuesday in April for significantly less than a Saturday in July. Clubs would even be able to adjust prices on the fly. Say the Milwaukee Brewers and the Reds are fighting it out for the National League Central title, the Reds could bump the price for the Sept. 16-18 series. "It’s almost like airline pricing," Forgus said.

Dusty Baker always 'mama's little boy'
You never stop being your mama's boy, even if you've entered your sixties and have played or coached professional baseball your whole adult life. You always want to please your mom, which is why Baker also tries to stop dipping tobacco. Last season, Baker was nursing a dip when a TV reporter asked for an interview. "Hold on," Baker replied. "I know my mom's going to see this." 

If you missed yesterday's telecasts, players from around the league were outfitted in pink or used pink equipment.  Alfonoso Soriano's shoes hurt my eyes.  Still, good on MLB for raising money and awareness for a great cause.  Elsewhere:  In Kansas City, Stephanie Komen, daughter of the late Susan G. Komen, sat in the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat. Pitcher Kyle Davies, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, was the honorary spokesman. The Royals took the field with each player accompanied by a breast cancer survivor.

RedsMinorLeagues - In depth scouting report on Devin Mesoraco
Our friend Doug discusses a detailed scouting report from Baseball Intellect on the catcher of the future, Devin Mesoraco. Definitely worth reading the whole thing. Seeing how Devin's swing has changed helps explain his transformation into one of the most dangerous hitters in the minor leagues.

Sheldon - LeCure learning ins and outs of new role
Sam LeCure acquitted himself well in a couple of high-leverage situations this weekend.  He has started virtually his entire career in pro baseball, so his sudden but positive transition is great to see.  "It's a little bit different mentality," LeCure said. "You don't have a lot of time to find it -- your location. That's what I get by on. You don't have a lot of time to find it out of the bullpen."

Jaffe - 30 years since terrific Tom Seaver performance
But probably not the one you're thinking of. On May 8, 1981, Seaver pulled off the rare feat of pitching a shutout while also hitting a homerun. The homerun came against Houston's Dave Smith, who pitched for 13 years and never allowed another pitcher to hit a homerun against him.  If you've been missing Caleb's "this day in Reds history" fanposts, check out the rest of the article. Other May 8 events include the birthdate of former Red and HOFer Edd Roush and a 1958 rally against the Cubs to overcome an 8-2 deficit in the ninth inning.

Hardball Talk - TLR to have eye examined at Mayo Clinic
La Russa said before Sunday’s win over the Brewers that the condition, which has caused swelling and redness around his eye, has left him "miserable." "Day games are really rough, with the extra light," he said. La Russa plans to be back managing the club on Tuesday night if doctors allow it. One issue: the stress from his job might be causing the issue to linger longer than it otherwise would.  TLR's on a one-year deal and is older than he looks (he'll turn 67 this year).  Even if Albert Pujols doesn't fly the coop, I wonder if Tony will stick around next year. 

Judging the Royals - Taking one for the team
Linked for the video.  This Royals beat writer decided to take one for his ... newspaper (?) after writing that Wilson Betemit should have been willing to get hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in a tie game.  I made the mistake of telling Jason Kendall what I was thinking. His response? "You wearing an elbow pad?" as he rummaged through his locker. "Uh, yeah, I guess so … what are you doing?" "Getting you an elbow pad — we’re gonna get this done right now." 

NPB Tracker - Wladdy is good at Japanese baseball
If you're wondering how Wladimir Balentien has been doing in Japan, wonder no more: he's hitting .387/.487/.885, with nine home runs 61 at bats, and 13 walks against 12 strikeouts. Maybe next year some team will find out what Wladdy can do with 500 MLB PAs.

ESPN - Arthur Rhodes is old, still kicking in Texas
Jim Caple profiles Rhodes and the other aging southpaw in Texas' bullpen, Darren Oliver. The two refer to themselves as "Grumpy Old Men," though there is some debate over who is grumpier. [CJ] Wilson said he can definitely picture both guys sitting on their front porches and yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off the lawn, but he selects Rhodes as the grumpier of the two. "He's got a little more grumpy swag. He's got tattoos. And he's a year older. I think he's just got a little more grumpy experience."  Beyond the geriatric jokes, Rhodes has been his old self in Texas this year with the noteable exception of giving up a few more HRs, inflating his ERA to 4.50.