The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Jay Bruce came to Goodyear in February with rumors swirling that the Baltimore Orioles may want to trade for him, and before he could unpack his bags he was nearly traded to the Toronto Blue Jays before the deal reportedly fell through. Combine that with the dismal end to his 2015 campaign, and it would be easy to understand if he struggled a bit in Cactus League play with his future so up in the air.
That's not been the case at all so far, however.
Bruce entered Sunday's game the owner of both a .961 OPS and a .310 batting average, and he continued to play well against the Arizona Diamondbacks, too. Bruce went 1 for 3 with a ribbie, a run scored, and a stole base, all while hitting in his customary 5 spot in the batting order. Assuming Bruce sticks with the Reds for at least the first half of the season, a lot is riding on him returning to the form he displayed in the first half of 2015, and so far it looks like the talent that got him that far hasn't completely eroded.
On a day when the rest of the Reds offense (and pitching) was mostly lackluster, it's high time we gave Jay some spring dap. Have another JNMHSotG for your trophy case, Jay.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Ryan Mattheus, who tossed 2.2 scoreless innings in a fireman role, striking out a pair while walking none; Devin Mesoraco, who doubled and drove in two; and Joey Votto, who walked (drink).
- The Top of the 1st took awhile. Got a minute? K, good. Jean Segura led off with a single, and he scored immediately when Phil Gosselin launched a 2-run dinger. Brandon Finnegan then walked two guys, the first of whom came around to score when Yasmany Tomas doubled to the corner in LF. Finnegan then threw one to the backstop to allow David Peralta - the second walkee - to score, because walks (as they are wont to do) will haunt. Joaquin Arias then grounded out to 3B for the game's initial out, but Tuffy Gosewich then launched a double to CF to score Tomas. A groundout by pitcher Shelby Miller came next, but then former Red Jason Bourgeois singled to RF to score Gosewich. Bourgeois then stole 2B before Segura - who led off the inning - grounded out to Zack Cozart at SS (who made a nifty play in the hole) to end things. Fortunately, the Reds blocked the extra point, and only trailed 6-0.
- The Cincinnati Reds commenced operation chip-away in the Bottom of the 1st, thanks in part to Billy Hamilton's legs. He ended up on 2B when Miller threw the ball away trying to nail the Reds' leadoff hitter at 1B, and after both Eugenio Suarez and Votto walked to load the bases, Hamilton scored two batters later on a productive ground-out off the bat of Jay Bruce. That left runners on the corners for Mesoraco, and he responded by doinking a laser of a double to the LF corner to clear the bases. Reds trailed, 6-3.
- Arizona scored another in the Top of the 4th off A.J. Morris, aided in part by an error by Cozart on a Bourgeois grounder that came after Miller had led off with a single. Segura followed with a single to load the bases, and Gosselin then lifted a sac-fly to CF to score Miller. Mattheus took over for Morris shortly after, however, and managed to escape without further damage. Reds trailed, 7-3.
- The DBacks scored on another sac-fly in the Top of the 8th after back to back singles from Zach Borenstein and Bourgeois off Drew Hayes left runners on the corners for Domingo Leyba. Dayan Diaz was tasked with taking on the Top of the 9th, and he, too, was touched up for a run after Peter O'Brian doubled off the wall in RF and Kyle Jensen singled to drive him in. Operation chip-away was firmly asleep and a terribly named Operation at that point, however, and that was all she wrote. Reds lost, 9-3.
- Today's Reds lineup and batting order was probably the one Bryan Price has in mind to run out everyday, LF platoon obviously excluded. At least, it seemed to be a pretty accurate representation of Price's tendencies over the last two years paired with what few quotes we've seen from him about things so far this spring. It went: Hamilton CF, Suarez 3B, Votto 1B, Phillips 2B, Bruce RF, Mesoraco C, Cozart SS, Schebler LF, Finnegan SP.
- Yes, that's 35 year old Brandon Phillips hitting cleanup.
- Yes, Brandon Phillips has slugged a combined .389 in 1788 PAs (420 games) since the end of the 2012 season, good for a 94 OPS+.
- No, you probably shouldn't ask him about that, Trent. At least not without your hands over your ears.
- It was obviously not Brandon Finnegan's finest day. The starting rotation candidate lasted just a single inning, in which he allowed 5 hits, 6 earned runs, 2 walks, a wild pitch, and a dinger - all without a single strikeout. It brutalized his Cactus League ERA, which now sits at Greggian 8.18. As Mark Sheldon noted, though, he hiked back out to the bullpen to continue his work after a 44 pitch 1st inning, ultimately throwing 80 total pitches in his effort to get stretched out.
- The Reds will travel to Peoria tomorrow to face the San Diego Padres. Cody Reed making yet another start with the big league club means it's obviously a big game, therefore he'll be squaring off with James Shields. The good news: it's on TV, so you can see Reed do his work with your own two eyes. The bad news: first pitch isn't until 10:10 PM ET, which is a bummer for all you easter coasters.