Tag: Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes Option Declined by Royals: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

No matter how great the thrill of winning a championship might be, sports are a business. Reserve outfielder Jonny Gomes found that out the hard way on Thursday as the Kansas City Royals announced they have declined their club option on the veteran, making him a free agent. 

According to Spotrac.com, the option was for one year worth $4 million. 

Gomes played just 12 games with the Royals, none during their postseason run to their first World Series title in 30 years. He was traded to Kansas City from the Atlanta Braves at the beginning of September as the Royals became his fourth team in the past two seasons.

While his play was limited during his time in Kansas City, he’ll be best remembered for his speech during the team’s World Series parade, per ESPN:

The Kansas City Star‘s Andy McCullough has an idea for Gomes now that he is a free agent:

At 34 years old, Gomes holds a .242 career batting average with 162 home runs in 13 seasons and also won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. While his numbers have never jumped off of the page, he has been a veteran presence on winning teams over the past few seasons. 

He indeed made his presence felt during this Royals World Series run. Christian Colon, the player who delivered the game-winning hit in Game 5 against the New York Mets, spoke about Gomes’ impact to Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews (h/t Pat Bradley of NESN.com). 

“Jonny Gomes, he was just taking me under his wing, letting me know what I needed to do in certain situations,” Colon said. “That’s why you bring a guy over (in a trade).”

For many teams, that is the kind of player they wouldn’t mind having on their roster. Expect organizations with a plethora of young players, especially in the outfield, to make a move for Gomes and bring him on to help guide them in the big leagues.     


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Braves Outfielder Jonny Gomes Pitches One Eventful Inning of Relief

There are moments rare enough that you try everything in your power to keep them etched in your memory—like when Jonny Gomes pitches an inning of relief for the Atlanta Braves.

Yes, Jonny Gomes, the left fielder.

Down 10 runs to the New York Yankees after burning through five pitchers in the first eight innings of Friday’s eventual 15-4 loss, the Braves called Gomes out of the bullpen for his major league pitching debut.

The right-hander’s reaction to giving up a home run to the first batter he faced, Chris Young, was priceless—tipping his hat as the outfielder rounded the bases.

He surrendered back-to-back doubles, while another run crossed the plate on a sac fly. But he ended his appearance on a high note by striking out pitcher Bryan Mitchell.

He pitched steadily in the mid-to-high 60s, grazing as high as 76 mph on one fastball, and even channeled his inner Luis Tiant during the amusing outing.

Gomes was the first position player to pitch for Atlanta since then-catcher Josh Russell did in 1989.

[MLB, h/t Hardball Talk]

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3 Most Important Moves the Cubs Need to Make Entering the New Year

Though 2015 doesn’t officially begin until January 1, the Chicago Cubs have already kicked off their 2015 by making a huge splash in free agency and a few trades during the 2014-15 offseason.

Most importantly, the Cubs signed starting pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal on December 10. Just days before, the Cubs traded for two-time All-Star Miguel Montero and signed his former coach from Arizona, former Cub Henry Blanco.

Other moves have included signing starting pitcher Jason Hammel and manager Joe Maddon, both of whom are key pieces for the future of the Cubs.

However, the Cubs still have moves to make before they can call themselves a World Series contender. Here are three moves the Cubs should still make during the 2014-15 offseason.

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Jonny Gomes Talks Offseason, Chemistry and 2014 Red Sox Repeat Hopes

When the Boston Red Sox signed Jonny Gomes last winter, he was billed not only as a destroyer of left-handed pitching, but as a guy who would be instrumental in cultivating their clubhouse culture.

Gomes delivered on both fronts in 2013, posting the second-best Isolated Power against lefty pitching on the team and inspiring The Boston Globe to tell the story about how his personality drove the Red Sox during their run to their third World Series championship in the last decade.

The World Series title was also, of course, a first for Gomes himself. In a phone interview, he said it led to a bit of a “whirlwind” of an offseason.

“It’s been a little more media-related, which is expected,” said the outfielder, who turned 33 in November. “It definitely [comes with the territory] of finishing the season with a win, if you will.”

Beyond the extra media attention, Gomes also soon found himself with a new endorsement deal—they have been known to happen with World Series-winning players. Once word got out that he wanted a new look for 2014, Philips Norelco came along and hooked him up, naturally, with a state-of-the-art beard-trimmer and a shaver to boot. It is with these tools that Gomes will be doing away with his famed “Ironsides” sometime before the start of the 2014 season.

Elsewhere, another thing Gomes wanted to do this winter was put his heightened celebrity status to good use.

“I was doing some brainstorming in the offseason about being able to get to a higher level with my voice [after winning] the World Series,” said Gomes. “What a great opportunity to crack while the iron’s hot and help the people who need to be helped and rally around some good foundations.”

Gomes found himself hooked up with the Travis Roy Foundation, which is dedicated to “enhancing the life” of those with spinal cord injuries. He’s raising money to benefit those who were injured in last year’s Boston Marathon tragedy in hopes of getting them back in “an active lifestyle and in an active lifestyle atmosphere.” He got a notable contribution from his new pals at Philips Norelco, who kicked in a $10,000 donation.

But soon Gomes’ whirlwind offseason will be over. He knows it.

“The grass didn’t stop growing at Fenway and 29 other ballparks, so we have to get back to work as soon as possible,” he said.

Though winning the World Series means a shorter offseason with less time to work out, Gomes says he’s where he needs to be physically. And no, it hasn’t really crossed his mind that no team has repeated as champions since the New York Yankees won three in a row between 1998 and 2000.

He did make one concession, though.

“I think what we did last year, just to win one, I think outside of our clubhouse that wasn’t supposed to happen. With that being said, I don’t think we’re really going to sneak up on people this year,” said Gomes.

For Gomes, a big key for the Red Sox in 2014 will be to recreate the chemistry that defined and shaped their success in 2013, which he certainly had a big hand in creating in the first place.

And lest anyone think team chemistry is overrated, Gomes will insist otherwise.

“We saw how important that was for us last year. It was something that 30 teams try and create, 30 teams try to build. And with 162 games in [so many days] and the trials, tribulations, trades, slumps and shines, it is hard to carry that throughout the season. With that being said, we all rallied around it and made it a priority inside our clubhouse, and it carried in between the lines.”

Working in favor of Boston’s 2014 chemistry experiment is the reality that the club’s roster didn’t experience much turnover over the winter. Because there’s not a big new cast of characters to assimilate, Gomes thinks what worked in 2013 should also work in 2014.

“I don’t think we really recreated the wheel last year,” he said, “so I think we have some techniques and tools that we can carry into this year.”

And while the Red Sox may have lost center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the door hasn’t yet been closed on shortstop Stephen Drew. Everyone else who was there in 2013 will be back this year.

As such, Gomes anticipates the Red Sox enjoying the same strengths in 2014 that they enjoyed last year.

“Number one is our pitching,” he said. “As you just saw in the Super Bowl, defense wins Super Bowls. Pitching wins the World Series. Not only do we have all our starters back, but we have all our starters back healthy. We added some depth in our bullpen, and boy did we find a closer towards the end of the year. He’ll start closing in the beginning this year.”

The closer Gomes is referring to, of course, is Koji Uehara, who did this after establishing himself as the Red Sox’s closer midway through 2013:

Regarding Boston’s starting pitching staff, Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront are fine. John Lackey isn’t returning from Tommy John surgery this year. Clay Buchholz did experience shoulder troubles in 2013, but Boston general manager Ben Cherington told The Boston Globe last month that the right-hander has enjoyed a “normal” offseason and that he’ll be good to go this spring.

As for the second strength: “I think our approach at the plate was second to none. You can look at traditional batting average, home runs, stuff like that, but what we did inside the batter’s box to make it extremely difficult and put a real hard workload on the opposing pitcher, I think is really going to help us out again this year.”

For the record, Boston’s plate approach produced these numbers in 2013:

Gomes is one of many returning players who had a hand in creating these numbers in 2013. But in 2014, it’s looking like two young newcomers will have to do their part: center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Gomes noted that everybody has high hopes for these two. Indeed, they have to. With starting roles seemingly on the horizon for both, they’ll need to produce.

“At no point do you want a young guy to be your weak link on the team. That’s why there’s six levels underneath the big leagues to get everything right,” he said. “And we’re the Red Sox. You don’t develop in the big leagues. You have to come up and shine. Those are two young kids with great heads on their shoulders. The talent is there. At the same time, that jump from Triple-A is huge.”

With Bogaerts, Gomes does seem to see something. The Aruba native is universally regarded as one of baseball’s best prospects, and Gomes talked about how he and the rest of the Red Sox got an up-close look at why last October.

“I think it was extremely important, and I don’t know if we could have done it without him throughout the playoffs, that Bogaerts got a piece of pie last year with being 20 years old [playing in] the playoffs and the World Series. Hopefully he’s able to follow that up and get to work this year.”

If Bogaerts realizes his potential at shortstop in place of Drew, the Red Sox will have a long-term answer at the position for the first time in a long time. If both he and Bradley realize their potential, they’ll have a big hand in replacing the production (i.e. a team-leading 5.8 fWAR) the Red Sox lost when Ellsbury traded his Sox for pinstripes.

Oh, and about those Yankees? Gomes isn’t fazed by all the high-profile moves they made this winter.

“I’ll tell you what, I don’t think the players or [anyone] in the clubhouse worry too much about what’s going on outside our clubhouse. I’m just happy with the people we’ve got.”

Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 15. It’s at that point that the people the Red Sox have will begin their quest to repeat as World Series champions. 

Listen to Gomes talk, and you might come away believing that the quest will fare well.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked. Quotes obtained firsthand.


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Jonny Gomes Celebrates World Series Win with Massively Awesome Tattoo

Human beard Jonny Gomes decided a lifetime of memories wasn’t enough to savor his 2013 World Series triumph, so he went out and got a massive tattoo to commemorate the moment. 

HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra spotted a couple of tweets spawned from a recent bro hangout between Gomes and fellow Red Sox champion Mike Napoli. 

The two took time away from whatever champs do (groom their beards?) to show off a tattoo that is big, ornate and wonderful. 

Here are some images, thanks to Napoli

We need to gather our thoughts and enjoy this suddenly relevant clip of Captain Caveman: 

The first thing you will notice is that the tattooed version of Gomes also rocks a fantastic beard. In fact, you could really say this was a nod to his entire team that, as you might recall, was more ZZ Top cover band than baseball club toward the end of the season. 

On one arm, there is a massive tattoo within a tattoo as our bearded victor shows off its “’13,” a permanent ink version of Inception. On the other, we see the iconic World Series trophy. 

If that weren’t enough, an American flag seems to sway beautifully in the background. 

Even the duck boat purchased by Jake Peavy makes a cameo in the art, delivering us just a little worry that Peavy isn’t pictured. Perhaps this bearded tattoo character ran off with the bright-green memento. 

Of course, not everyone is impressed by the new ink, because the dog in the background seems to be over this entire display of shenanigans. 

As for Gomes’ beard, it’s living its last days. 

The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reports Gomes “has a deal with Philips Norelco that will involve shaving his beard.”

Not to worry, because there is plenty of facial hair in that tattoo for a team of baseball players. Well, maybe for a far less scruffy one. 


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Red Sox Trade Rumors: How Top Prospect Wil Myers Would Fit in Fenway Park

If you have a pulse and have read anything baseball related on the Internet over the last few weeks, you probably already know that the Kansas City Royals are in the market for a top-flight starting pitcher.

While recent rumors have suggested that they may take a run at Tampa Bay Rays’ right hander James Shields—which is very possible—I’m more intrigued by the news that the Royals and Red Sox have discussed a potential deal for Jon Lester, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.

In return, it’s presumed that the Royals would be forced to part with top prospect Wil Myers. The outfielder is fresh off a breakout campaign in which he batted .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI in 134 games between Double and Triple-A, and nearly big-league-ready. 


Why the Trade Makes Sense

Headed into the offseason only Jacoby Ellsbury and the recently-acquired Jonny Gomes are locks to see significant playing time in the Red Sox’s outfield in 2013. Beyond that, however, is seemingly endless uncertainty as there’s a host of replacement-level (at best) outfielders who will battle for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

According to MLBDepthCharts.com, the leading candidates are Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Ryan Sweeney, though Jerry Sands could also receive consideration. If the Red Sox plan to be a player in the fiercely-competitive American League East, then none of the aforementioned players can be considered a viable short-term option.

While Nava’s ascent to the major leagues is a great narrative, his career .730 OPS in 148 big-league games speaks for itself. Kalish, 24, has posted a .644 OPS in 89 career games and missed significant time due to various injuries.

The 27-year-old Sweeney has the most experience of them all with 535 career big-league games, but has seemingly been on the disabled for a portion of each season and owns a career .715 OPS. Sands, 24, has played in 70 big-league games over the last two years with the Dodgers and posted a .701 OPS.


Internal Options

To their credit, the Red Sox do have a pair of outfield prospects who are on pace to make their big-league debut in 2013. Bryce Brentz, the Red Sox’s first-round draft pick in 2010, posted an .814 OPS with 17 home runs last season and reached Triple-A Pawtuckett. However, the 23-year-old has holes in his swing (131/46 K/BB) and many question how his game will translate to the major leagues.

The other option, Jackie Bradley, just completed an impressive full season in which he batted .315/.430/.482 with 55 extra-base hits (42 doubles) and 24 stolen bases in 128 games between high-A and double-A. At the same time, the left hander’s lack of power and questionable arm strength make him more projectable and valuable as a centerfielder.


Free Agent Market

As usual, the Red Sox will likely be in the mix for a top free-agent outfielder this winter, and may try to land either Josh Hamilton or Shane Victorino. Both players are on the wrong side of 30 and would almost assuredly have a high price tag. Myers, on the other hand, has just one year of minor-league service time and would be a steal given his relatively high ceiling.

Because the organization began re-stocking its farm system last season, they lack the impact prospects needed to pull off a major trade.


Wil Myers: Background and Potential Impact

Ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the game following the conclusion of the 2012 season, Myers nearly reached the major leagues late last year after raking at two minor-league stops. Coming off an injury-plagued season in 2011 in which he batted .254/.353/.393 with only 32 extra-base hits, the 21-year-old quieted skeptics with a monster offensive campaign in 2012—easily the top among all prospects.

At 6’3”, 205 pounds, the right hander has an explosive swing thanks to plus bat speed and above-average bat-to-ball skills. Exploding from an upright, slightly-open stance, Myers has a leveraged swing that yields plus raw power to all fields. He hits his share of towering home runs, too, a trait that would bode well at Fenway Park.

However, as he demonstrated last season, he’s willing to sacrifice his plate discipline (140/61 K/BB) for loud contact. But that’s something that will likely improve with more experience at advanced levels, including the major leagues.

Drafted as a catcher, the Royals moved him to the outfield prior to the 2011 season with the hope of expediting his arrival in the major leagues. So far it’s proven to be a wise decision. Not only has his bat flourished, but Myers has also developed into an above-average defensive outfielder with good instincts, decent range and an accurate, plus arm. Although he’s seen time at all three outfield positions over the last three years, he profiles best at either corner spot.

If the Red Sox ultimately land Myers, I would assume he’d receive consideration for a spot on the Opening Day roster as the team’s right fielder. If he doesn’t break camp with the team, it shouldn’t take long for him to reach the major leagues. Either way, if the Royals are willing to part with their highly coveted prospect, the Red Sox would be wise to jump at the opportunity.

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Billy Beane Should Be MLB’s Executive of the Year: 10 Reasons Why

When people mention the name of Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, many adjectives follow: Overrated, brilliant, shrewd and ring-less are a few. And while there are those who may never give Beane the credit he deserves for having built a solid small-market playoff contender during the 2000s, the job he has done in 2012 simply cannot be overstated.

Understand, the A’s were simply supposed to be a bad rebuilding team working towards a new stadium in Oakland or elsewhere. It was expected that their nucleus would not be solidified until at least 2014, and this was supposed to be the year when the bottom finally fell out completely to allow the A’s to reload through the MLB Draft like the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays.

Instead, the Oakland A’s sit on top of the American League Wild Card and a mere four games from the top of the AL West standings. Much has been made of this story, but considering that Beane made moves that all seemed to shake in Oakland’s favor, it is high time he is given the credit due for turning this team into a mostly unlikely playoff contender.

The moves Beane made have turned a middling franchise into the talk of baseball. And here are his best of 2012 and why he should be Executive of the Year.

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Jonny Gomes Is Good in Pinch as A’s Win 5th Straight 6-4 over San Diego

Jonny Gomes was hitless in his last 34 pinch-hit appearances. He got over that in a big way, crushing a go ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning as the A’s rallied to win their fifth straight, 6-4 over the San Diego Padres.

Gomes’ home run capped a three-run rally as the A’s recaptured a lead they lost in the top of the inning. Sean Doolittle got his first major league victory in spite of allowing two runs in the seventh inning, and Ryan Cook converted his third save with a perfect ninth inning.

Tyson Ross was brilliant in a spot start for Oakland. With a breaking ball looking as sharp as it has been in 2012, Ross did not allow a hit for 5.2 innings. His only hit of the game was a two-run home run to San Diego’s Carlos Quentin in the sixth inning. Other than that, he was fantastic throughout. 

The A’s offense continued its recent success, notching two runs in the fourth inning to take the lead. Seth Smith opened the scoring with a solo home run off Padres starter Ross Ohlendorf. Then, Collin Cowgill singled in Brandon Moss after he doubled to make it 3-0. The Padres took the lead in the seventh on a two-run double by Will Venable off Doolittle.

But the A’s were able to respond with the three-run at the bottom of the seventh. The tying run was scored on a wild pitch by Luke Gregerson, plating Cliff Pennington. 


Good: Jonny Gomes

Gotta be happy for a guy who, by all accounts, is an awesome teammate and great clubhouse guy. His chances have diminished simply because the A’s don’t face many lefties. But he came up in a big spot and delivered—big time.

His home run looked like it was headed to his hometown of Petaluma. That’s the kind of clutch hitting the A’s will continue to need if they want to push for .500 before the All-Star break.


Bad: Sean Doolittle

Yes, he got the win, but he put himself in a bad situation with bad pitch location and a crucial walk. His stuff is electric, but the consistency is clearly not there yet. Thankfully, it did not cost the A’s today. I have a feeling there will be plenty of good things to say about him before it’s all said and done.


Ugly: N/A

Nothing ugly about a five-game winning streak. Tomorrow’s game is big with the Giants and Dodgers coming to town. You want to be riding a big wave instead of coming down when quality opponents venture in. 


Now 31-35, the A’s look for their second straight sweep as Bartolo Colon takes the bump against San Diego’s Clayton Richard. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. 

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Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects: How Do They Rate

Jonathan Mayo ranks Reds’ 2007 number one draft pick, catcher Devin Mesoraco, their No. 1 prospect.

Joining Mesoraco on the top ten list are, in order of ranking: 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, 2B/SS Billy Hamilton, OF Yorman Rodriguez, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Brad Boxberger, SS Zack Cozart, 3B/OF Todd Frazier, 3B Juan Francisco and LHP Donnie Joseph.

According to the list, starting pitching appears to be a weakness. Mayo list only two pitchers in the top 10, both of whom are relievers. However, there are a few starters, such as Tony Cingrani and Josh Smith who likely could crack the top 10 soon.

Cingrani, a 6′ 4″ LHP out of Rice University, went 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA and 0.80 WHIP while striking out 80 batters in 51 and 1/3 innings with the Billings Mustangs.

Smith, a 6′ 2″ RHP out of Lipscomb University, struck-out 166 batters in 142 and 1/3 innings, while posting a 14-7 record with a 2.97 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with the Dayton Dragons.

Several of the Reds top ten prospects have some major league experience and below is an outlook on their future.


Devin Mesoraco

Mesoraco was called up in September and played in 18 games for the Reds, batting .226 with two homeruns and six RBI in 50 at bats.

The scouting report on Mesoraco is he can hit for power and average. Has a plus arm, allowing him to shut down the running game. He currently is listed third on the depth chart, but rumor has it Ramon Hernandez will not be returning.

Yonder Alonso

After Johny Gomes was dealt in July, Alonso was called up to play left field. This likely will be his position for the next few years as Reds GM Walt Jocketty says he is not planning on moving Joey Votto.

This season with the Reds, Alonso was very productive, batting .330 with a .545 slugging percentage in 88 at bats. He is likely to play some first base next season, but look for most of his playing time to be in the outfield, for now.


Billy Hamilton

Mayo thinks Hamilton might be the fastest guy in the minors. Could be, he stole 103 bases this year in Dayton. Mayo also says he has plate discipline way beyond his years. That might be wishful thinking. I have not seen it and his 133 strikeouts vs. 52 walks indicates he may not be as disciplined as Mayo would like to think.

Hamilton projects to be a good lead-off hitter but must work on his swing and become a better bunter to take full advantage of his speed. The Reds may move him to the outfield. His arm and speed suit him well for the outfield and defensively he is weak in the infield.

The Reds will not be afraid to move him quickly.

“He’s a kid we cannot, and will not, be afraid to push. He has to much ability,” said Reds vice president of scouting, player development and international operations Bill Bavasi.

Yorman Rodriguez

According to Mayo, Rodriguez has all the tools you could ask for, and he’s figuring out how to use them. Mayo believes he can be the prototypical five-tool right fielder.

This season (2011) Rodriguez hit .254 with seven home runs and 40 RBI in 280 at bats at Dayton. He also had 20 stolen bases.

His estimated time of arrival is 2014 and he appears to be on pace.


Yasmani Grandal

The scouting report for Grandal reads as such: A natural leader behind the plate, he’s a slightly better defender than Mesoraco all-around but not as good a hitter. He does have pretty good pop, thought.

Grandal enjoyed a very successful 2011 season and advanced from A-ball to AAA. Most of his time was spent between A & AA, where he batted. 306 with 14 homeruns, 68 RBI and a .500 slugging percentage.

Grandal is estimated to arrive in the big leagues in 2013. Look for him to become the everyday catcher in 2014 or ’15.


Brad Boxberger

Boxberger is the Reds top rated pitching prospect and seems to have adjusted to coming out of the pen. He has a power arm with the arsenal of a starter.

His estimated time of arrival is 2012 and based on his 2011 season, it appears he is ready. He posted 11 saves with a 2.03 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 62 innings of work between AA Carolina and AAA Louisville

Even though he is not listed on the current 40 man roster, look for him to leave camp with the Reds next spring.


Zack Cozart

Reds fans liked what they saw of Cozart in 2011 and the short-stop position appeared to be his until an elbow injury cut his season short. The injury required Tommy John surgery, leaving the door slightly open for Paul Janish.

Look for Cozart to be the Reds regular shortstop by 2013, if not sooner.


Todd Frazier

Even though Todd is listed as the Reds No. 8 prospect, he really isn’t seen as anything more than a utility type player with the Reds. Mayo labels him a super-utility guy.

He has some pop in his bat and runs the bases well. It’s possible he has a brighter future in the AL as a DH.

Juan Francisco

Francisco made the Reds 25-man roster out of spring training but was later sent down to AAA. He is listed as the No. 1 third baseman on the Reds depth chart and looks to be the 2012 everyday third baseman. The Reds like his power and he should bode well at GABP.


Donnie Joseph

Mayo labels Joseph as a future set-up man, but if he does not gain better command (30 BB in 58 and 1/3 innings) he could be a long way from his 2012 estimated arrival.

Don’t look for him to be with the Reds anytime soon.

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Cincinnati Reds: Are They the Best Team in the NL Central ?

After the first month of the season, are the Reds still the team to beat in the NL Central Division? They have most of the same faces from their division-winning 2010 season.

Gone is Orlando Cabrera, but his spot is taken by Janish being promoted to a starter and Edgar Renteria filling in. No huge loss there.

Also gone is Laynce Nix. A reserve outfielder who contributed quite frequently, he will not be missed as Chris Heisey’s fills in more than adquately now as the fourth outfielder. Throw in outfielders Fred Lewis and Jeremy Hermida and it makes you wonder if Nix would play much if he were still here.

After several seasons as the “ace” of the staff, Aaron Harang’s option was not picked up and he was taken by San Diego. He is doing quite well with them, and I am glad for him.

The Reds have talent and plenty of it. Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Jonny Gomes provide a powerful outfield. A starting infield of Scott Rolen at third, Janish at short, Brandon Phillips at second and NL MVP Joey Votto at first is one of the best in the league, certainly in the division.

Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez are a catching tandem that is probably tops in baseball.

The pitching is where the water has become murky. They began the season with only 60% of their starting rotation intact. They have done poorly when looking at the complete body of work. Their ERA is one of the highest in the league. Now that Edinson Volquez has left the first inning scoreless twice in a row, good things are beginning to happen.

Homer Bailey pitched six strong innings Thursday in his first start of the year. Jonny Cueto will start his first game against the Cubs on Sunday.

Their chief rivalry will come from the St. Louis Cardinals who came on strong after a dismal first week or so. Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are among the league leaders in all offensive categories and Albert Pujols is beginning to make some noise.

The Cards pitching rotation has been better than most people thought they would, given the fact that Adam Wainwright was lost for the year before it started. Second-year man Jaime Garcia has been impressive, tossing a two-hit shutout Friday. Their Achilles heel thus far has been the deep part of the bullpen. Blown saves are the only thing that keeps them from being in a virtual cakewalk right now.

Many thought that the Milwaukee Brewers would win the division since they acquired starting pitchers Shawn Marcum and Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. Both were hurt at the start of the season, and they started a little slow.

After being swept in the first season series by the Reds, the Brewers came on strong and were just a half-game off the pace. They have lost six straight and eight out of their last 10 to fall within one game of the cellar.

The Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros are attempting to keep their heads above water. One is as bad as the other at this point, so I do not see them being major factors in the pennant race.

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