Tag:Jonny Gomes
Posted on: July 1, 2010 3:28 am
 

Phillips finds his spot at top of Reds' lineup

Brandon Phillips CINCINNATI -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is already thinking about spending time with his family when the All-Stars gather in Anaheim later this month.

It's not that he thinks he doesn't deserve to be an All-Star, he's thought he's deserved it the last couple of years and hasn't gotten the call, so he's not expecting it on Sunday, when the teams are announced.

"I feel like I should have been an All-Star years ago, so I'm not looking forward to it. I don't really care," Phillips said. "I'd like to have my four days off and be in Georgia and go do some things with my sister. That's it."

With Chase Utley on the disabled list, Phillips, 29, certainly deserves a spot on the squad, alongside Atlanta's Martin Prado. Still, with Dan Uggla also fighting for a spot, it wouldn't be a shock if Phillips were left off.

With a 30/30 season under his belt, Phillips is actually enjoying his best season in the big leagues. Phillips is hitting .313/.371/.481 with nine home runs, 25 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

He's also finally found his spot in the lineup. He'd been used as a cleanup hitter the last couple of years, a role he was miscast in, but still managed to rack up at least 75 RBI in each of the four seasons and 94 or more in two of the last three.

That's where he started this season, as well, but Dusty Baker moved him up in the order in May and let Scott Rolen bat cleanup.

"He's fit in in every spot we've put him in," Baker said. "He fit in at second, he did well in the cleanup spot, even though he was much-maligned, he still had 97 RBI. Now he's taken to this leadoff spot, he's taking pitches, he's a smart player. He's not hitting .313 because he can't play."

Still, Phillips said he's changed his approach dramatically since he's been moved up in the lineup, cutting down his swing and laying off pitches outside the strike zone.

"I'm not the same hitter I was when i hit fourth, the way I hit right now, I can't hit fourth doing it," Phillips said. "Hitting fourth, it's all about RBI, I proved to everybody I can hit fourth. I didn't hit for a high average, but I had the power numbers and I had the RBIs. I had 90-plus RBIs every year, but that's not me. I'm the type of guy who has gotten the team going. I'm trying to show everyone that I can do many things."

Too often, perhaps, he was trying to show others who he was instead of listening to himself.

"He hits the ball to the opposite field very well, I don't want to put words into his mouth, but I think with a man on first base he feels like he can hit that hole instead of swinging for a double or a home run," Rolen said. "For me, I'm not going to hit that hole, I'm not going to shoot a ball into the hole or bunt. I'm going to try to hit the ball in the middle of the field and hit the gaps. If I hit second, that's what I try to do. He's got a nice compact, right-field swing, but he can also hit the ball out of the ballpark. He sprays singles around and that's healthy."

Rolen has been something of a mentor to Phillips. It's not overt or like Rolen has put his arm around Phillips' shoulders and telling him the secrets of the game. That's not Rolen's style, but Phillips has been sure to keep an eye on the veteran and listen to everything he says.

"Scott Rolen told me, 'Brandon you don't know what type of player you are until you start winning.' I'm starting to see what he meant by that," Phillips said. "Scotty said he's seen so much potential in me and I have yet to see it. I'm starting to see it now. Coming from Scott Rolen, someone who has been at it a long time, to get a comment like that… I'm just going to run with it and do what I'm do."

What he's been able to do so far is spark the Reds offense at the top of the lineup. He has a career-high .371 on-base percentage. Last season he got on base at a .329 clip and has just a .318 career OBP.

"I like hitting leadoff, I jut have to change my role. Ever since they've moved me to first or second, my job is to get on base," Phillips said. "I'm not trying to hit for power or do what I was doing when I was hitting fourth. Right now, my main objective is to get on base for Joey Votto, Rolen and (Jonny) Gomes."

It's a sound strategy -- Phillips leads the National League with 60 runs, in part because he's on base for Votto, Rolen and Gomes, all three in the top 11 in RBI in the National League.

Phillips has just seven games in the leadoff spot, but the numbers aren't that much different than what he's been doing over the last month. As a leadoff guy, he's hitting .417/.447/.556 and in the last 30 games, .395/.424/.543, including a 2-for-5 performance against Roy Halladay in Wednesday's Reds victory.

The Reds have been searching for a leadoff man for the last couple of years, using the likes of Jerry Hairston Jr., Ryan Freel, Drew Stubbs, Cabrera, Willy Taveras and Corey Patterson. In the end, maybe the player they were searching for was right there under their nose, even if he wasn't ready for it. But, now, Phillips says, it's his time.

"I've got to be the Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins for this team. I'm just trying to get things started," Phillips said. "It's fun. Winning is really just turned me into a different player, it's made me stay on top of my game and made me stay focused."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Posted on: June 24, 2010 5:59 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2010 6:52 pm
 

Reds sign Matthews to minor-league deal

Gary Matthews Jr. In a move that has been rumored since spring training, the Reds signed outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. to a minor-league contract, the team announced on Thursday.

Matthews played 36 games for the Mets this season and hit an abysmal .190/.266/.241. While Matthews was being mentioned as a trade candidate for the Reds this spring, some inside the organization scoffed at the thought of Matthews making the big league squad.

Center fielder Drew Stubbs has struggled so far this season -- .231/.306/.382 -- but that's still better than Matthews, and Stubbs' defense is monumentally better at this point than the former Gold Glove-winning Matthews. The Reds also have another better option in Chris Heisey (.280/.368/.600 in 57 plate appearances), who is more natural at a corner outfield spot, but both of those are taken in Cincinnati with Jay Bruce and Jonny Gomes. Laynce Nix is the fifth outfielder.

Matthews fits only where he'll be -- at Triple-A Louisville. The Bats haven true center fielder. Michael Griffen and utility man Chris Burke have been manning the outfield for Rick Sweet. The team has little other outfield depth, using two other part-time infielders, Todd Frazier and Yonder Alonso, in the outfield, along with one-time prospect Wladimir Balentien.

Sure, the usual suspects will cry Dusty Baker and bring up Corey Patterson and Willy Taveras, and that could be an issue if Patterson were to make the roster, but that's not happening. There's no place for Matthews in Cincinnati and baring and injury, don't expect to see him there anytime soon.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.


Posted on: June 13, 2010 4:54 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2010 5:06 pm
 

Adjustment pays off for Greinke



CINCINNATI -- At least one scout was in Cincinnati Sunday to see just what was wrong with the Royals' Zack Greinke. Whatever it was, that scout didn't see it, nor did the Reds.

The Royals scored their first run for Greinke in 22 innings in the first and added six more for a 7-3 victory. Greinke allowed five hits and struck out 12 in the complete-game performance.

The difference between Greinke's four-game slide (0-4, 7.97 ERA in his last four outings) and Sunday's victory over the National League's top offensive club may have been as small as a tenth of a second, manager Ned Yost noted.

Following last Tuesday's six-run outing in Minnesota, Greinke spent Wednesday in the Target Field video room with Royals pitching coach Bob McClure studying video.

"What they found was he was a tenth of a second to a tenth-and-a-half of a second, whatever that computes to be, quicker in the windup," Yost said. "What that does, it doesn't give him enough time to get back and fully loaded and in turn, his arm starts to drag. They increased his load, got his hands in a better position and the results were obvious today."

In his last outing, Greinke noticed two Twins, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, took good swings on his curveball -- "and it doesn't seem like they ever take good swings on curveballs" -- so he went back to look at the video of what he was doing on those pitches. Greinke and McClure watched where his hands were for those pitches and his glove hand was down low sometimes and up high sometimes, no matter the pitch.

"We noticed my glove was moving differently on certain pitches," Greinke said. "It would be random, but the guys were seeing how the glove was different. [McClure] looked at last year; I was always up last year and this year I've been down and up."

Sunday, he kept his glove up and sent the Reds down. Greinke allowed two runs in the first -- including a solo homer to Joey Votto, but then retired the next 11 batters he faced and didn't allow another run until Votto's solo homer in the ninth.

The first homer, Greinke noted, wasn't as much a physical mistake as a mental one: "I didn't want to throw Votto changeups going in, I threw him one and he hit it well, it was being stupid," Greinke said. Even then, the homer was one that would likely be an out in most parks around the majors.

Greinke's 12 strikeouts were a season-high and he struck out National League RBI leader Jonny Gomes three times.

It also helped that the Royals scored, touching Reds rookie Sam LeCure for four runs in 6.2 innings and adding three more to the Reds' brutal bullpen. The Royals hadn't scored a single run with Greinke on the mound since May 18.

"He pitched great today, he had a lot more break on his slider today and he was locating the ball today," said Billy Butler, who had four hits and four RBI, including his sixth home run of the season. "He had that confidence that he had last year today and hopefully he can build on that and hopefully we keep putting up seven runs for him."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.


 
 
 
 
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