CINCINNATI — After five days on the Mayan Rivera at the all-inclusive Dreams resort for the destination wedding of my stepson, Chad, to his beautiful fiancée, Rion, I’m back on U.S. soil, just a little worse for wear.
Four of the five days were glorious. Only Sunday was a bummer because I once again contracted food poisoning and was bed-ridden for nearly 30 hours. But it rained that day after four perfect days, so I picked the correct day to have the toilet bowl as my constant companion.
Well, it wasn’t as bad as my previous trip to Cancun two years ago when I contracted food poisoning AND a dose malaria that took me nearly a year to get out of my system.
AND I DID see one baseball game on Mexican TV — Saturday’s game between the Cincinnati Rojos and the Los Angeles Doe-yers. Even though it was in Spanish I clearly saw what happened — a 7-2 lead that became an 11-8 disaster in 10 innings.
Watching that game reminded me of a story about former Cincinnati outfielder Jeff Stone. He played winter ball in the Caribbean and purchased a TV. When he came home he left the TV and when asked why he didn’t bring it back, he said, “Ah, it only speaks Spanish.”
AFTER WATCHING Brandon Phillips make several eye-popping barehanded plays this season, it is clear to me that he won’t win a Gold Glove this year. He is going to win a Gold Hand.
RIGHT NOW, the Reds are getting a dose of what they need most — The Chicago Cubs, the one team they have dominated. Nothing much else has changed over the past week. The pitching is a mess and the team has a Pitchers Shuttle on daily trips between Cincinnati, Louisville and Carolina.
While many fans continue to moan about the left field and shortstop situation, that isn’t this team’s problem. It all starts and ends with pitching.
The Reds have faced some of the best pitching in the league over the past three weeks and usually scored enough runs to win. But the other team scores more.
“We’re second or third in the league in most offensive categories,” said manager Dusty Baker. “So left field and shortstop are not the problem.”
Indeed, left fielder Jonny Gomes has started to come around and had a three-run homer and four RBIs Monday. Shortstop Paul Janish had three hits Sunday. Gomes is hitting .389 with a homer, two doubles and five RBIs over his last five starts. Over his last seven games Janish is hitting .333 with two two-hit games and the three-hit game.
THE TEMPERATURE was 91 degrees at 3 p.m., but all the Reds pitchers were on the field doing PFP, pitchers fielding practice, most of which involved covering first base on grounds balls and fielding ground balls.
Was it because a couple of Reds pitchers didn’t cover first base in the Dodgers series, including a costly one by Carlos Fisher in the extra-inning debacle against LA?
“We do it once a month,” said Baker. “It just so happens that it follows some recent miscues. No, we do it once a month to keep it familiar, make it second nature so they don’t even have to think about it.”
READ NOTHING special into the fact that Aroldis Chapman is doing his rehab assignment at Class AA Carolina rather than Class AAA Louisville.
It is a matter of location — Louisville is on the road in Syracuse and Carolina is on the road in Tennessee, much closer to Cincinnati.
“It doesn’t really matter much as far as competition as it does just getting on the mound,” said Baker. “Right now his competition is himself, not who he is pitching against. He’s been working hard and this time we anticipate he’ll be back on track. He is a big part of our bullpen.”
Baker said the plans are for Chapman to make at least two appearances on rehab.
SPEAKING OF PITCHERS, Louisville’s Dontrelle Willis came off the DL and pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings Monday against Columbus (three hits, three walks, seven strikeouts) in a 5-0 win.
Willis threw 83 pitches, 48 for strikes, but was unhappy with umpire Jon Byrne’s strike zone. Willis was already out of the game, but was ejected by Byrne for yelling at him from the dugout as Jerry Gil finished the fifth inning.
“For Dontrelle’s first time out, that was great,” said Baker. He didn’t know of Willis’s ejection and said, “Really? I guess he’s into it. Or out of it, one of the two.”
THERE WAS A life-sized stuffed gorilla sitting on a chair in the Reds clubhouse, which automatically evoked jokes.
“When did we get Kevin Mitchell back,” said one player. Said another, “I thought Juan Francisco was back and nobody told us.”
I thought it might have been the gorilla somebody pried off Gomes’s back.
Actually, outfielder Chris Heisey was at Kings Island and won the gorilla and several other prizes shooting basketballs. Maybe the Dallas Mavericks could use him.
SCOTT ROLEN was out of the lineup again with strep throat, something he picked up from his kindergarten son.
“It takes more than a couple of days to get rid of that stuff,” said Baker. “This weather doesn’t help, either — in and out of a/c. And he wants to be here, doesn’t want to be home.”
EDGAR RENTERIA showed up Tuesday with his bad back better than the last couple of days, which was good for him because the club was on the verge of placing him on the DL.
“He’s better,” said Baker. “If he continues at this pace he should be ready for a couple of those games this week in San Francisco. If he wasn’t, we were thinking about DLing him. If we don’t have to, we won’t.”
Baker’s comment on the insidious heat that had Cincinnati under a heat advisory Tuesday: “It feels like a Third World out there.”
OK, IT’S time for YOU got get back to work. I had to use one week’s worth of Ask Hal question for two weeks in the paper due to my trip to Mexico. So the e-mail box in nearly empty of questions. Need ‘em and need ‘em now for this coming Sunday’s DDN. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do it now. Puh-leez.Tweet