Ah, the ups and downs of a 162-game schedule. Just when it looked like the Reds were catching fire, they have been swept in back-to-back series, including the three-game meeting with American League and in-state rival Cleveland this weekend.
If you fancy yourself as a masochist, here are some notes on what is going wrong with the Reds at this time.
* Edinson Volquez is a disaster: I would take Josh Hamilton in the midst of a crack binge over Volquez. And since the trade, guess who has been busted by Major League Baseball for drug use of any kind? That’s right, Volquez.
It was PED use and Volquez was allowed to serve his 50-game “suspension” while rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery. More brilliance from MLB. Even though it worked in the Reds’ favor in that case, it was still ridiculous. You allow a guy busted for PEDs to serve his suspension while he’s unable to pitch? Just genius logic there. Volquez was docked 50 games worth of paychecks, but he should’ve had to actually serve a real suspension for getting caught cheating.
Also, you have to wonder how much of Volquez’s 2008 All-Star season was based on PED use. Only Lance Armstrong thinks Volquez was clean in ’08.
Furthermore, Volquez’s delivery is the opposite of smooth. He’s all over the place. He’s also horrible at holding runners on base, making it easy for them to swipe bags.
The easy thing to say is just take Volquez out of the rotation and replace him with Sam LeCure. But I love LeCure out of the bullpen. As we’ve seen, LeCure is much-more effective coming out of the pen.
It’s too bad Aroldis Chapman isn’t where he needs to be, because he would be the perfect addition to the starting rotation. There is no question Chapman will eventually be a starter in MLB. The only reason the Reds moved him to the bullpen is because of what looked like an abundance of quality starting pitching. Now that that’s turned out to be a myth, it’s time to transition Chapman back to a starter’s role. Once he returns from this “injury” that allowed him to be put on the DL. The Reds are calling it “shoulder inflammation.” (And amazing he’s already well enough to throw bullpen sessions at full speed.) I think he actually came down with a case of Ricky Vaughnitis. Maybe he needs glasses (or contacts, or better yet laser eye surgery) and for “Wild Thing” to be played each time he takes the mound.
* Baker botches lineups: As much as I like him in general, Reds manager Dusty Baker is usually atrocious in terms of constructing lineups. The Reds lost a pair of one-run games the first two nights against the Indians this weekend. You think fielding the team’s best lineup might have helped the cause just a little bit?
And Dusty didn’t just have Jonny Gomes in the lineup, he had him in the two hole each of the first two games. Dusty will also do crazy things like bat the offensively-challenged Paul Janish (more on that later) in the two-hole. Yep, having your worst hitters on the roster bat second is a great idea there, Dust.
* Gomes is completely lost: The front office needs to do something here. Obviously Dusty can’t get past his personal affection for Gomes enough to bench him for long stretches at a time.
So, what can be done? Well, maybe the Reds can “invent” an injury like they did with Chapman and put Gomes on the DL. That would allow them to bring up 2008 first-round pick Yonder Alonso (.331, 5 HRs, 23 RBIs, .936 OPS, 5 stolen bases in 151 at-bats this season at Triple-A Louisville) and try him in left field for a while. Alonso is a first baseman by trade, but has been playing LF in the minors due to the Reds’ glaring need at the position.
Or the Reds could just bench Gomes and use a platoon of Chris Heisey and Fred Lewis in left. That would allow Gomes to still be a pinch-hitter against left-handed pitchers, a role he might actually succeed in. But Gomes can no longer be a starter. Even Dusty can see this, right? OK, probably not, but hopefully GM Walt Jocketty “suggests” to Baker that it would be wise to not play Gomes for a while. Or ever again.
* Paul Janish is a terrible hitter: He fooled some people with his hot start to the season, but is now back on par with his career numbers (both in the Majors and minors). Janish is batting a paltry .230 with no homers in 126 at-bats. And for a light-hitting SS, you would think he would at least draw a good amount of walks. Nope, amazingly, Janish has just five walks on the entire season (with 14 strikeouts). Five walks in 126 ABs for a guy like Janish? Wow. The Reds simply can’t have him as the “everyday” shortstop and expect the plan to work. He puts the Judy in Punch-and-Judy.
Edgar Renteria will continue to play more and more this season … and then hopefully Zack Cozart becomes the shortstop of the future. However, that is no sure thing by any means. Cozart, 25, was the Reds’ second-round draft pick in 2007 and is having a solid year at Louisville (.272, 2 HRs, 12 RBIs, .719 OPS, 4 steals in 169 at-bats). He either bats leadoff or second in the lineup every game and is good defensively. He’s not quite on Janish’s level defensively, but Cozart’s glove will play at the MLB level. If he hits well enough this year with the Bats, he could be given a shot with the big club next season.