Saturday, March 10, 2012
PHOENIX, Ariz. — A media horde descended upon Phoenix Municipal Stadium like a locust swarm to see a Cuban defector — and it wasn’t Aroldis Chapman.
They were here to see the debut of 26-year-old Yoenis Cespedes, an outfielder the Oakland Athletics enriched with $36 million.
“I thought the A’s didn’t have any money,” said Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker. To that, a writer said, “Well, people didn’t think you had $30 million to sign Chapman, either.”
While the Cespedes appearance was what a large crowd and the media came to see, what Chapman did for the Reds Friday against the San Francisco Giants was of more importance to the Reds.
He pitched two perfect innings and struck out two and put a large smile on the face of pitching coach Bryan Price.
“It was the best delivery he put together that I’ve seen from him,” said Price. “And he had the best tempo I’ve seen.
“There are times he can be very deliberate between pitches,” Price added. “We always preach to pitchers about keeping the game moving and keeping a good tempo to keep the defense active behind you, keep them excited that you are out there and have them always anticipating action.
“Far and away, no doubt, the best mechanics and he was getting it and throwing it,” said Price. “He was getting ahead of hitters, threw first-pitch strikes to five of six hitters he faced.”
While there is still a chance Chapman coud go to the bullpen if Bill Bray isn’t ready by Opening Day, the Reds continue to groom Chapman as a starter.
When he made his first appearance this spring, Chapman was unhappy that the Reds had him throwing more breaking pitches than the fastball Chapman loves so much, the fastball that screeches plateward in excess of 100 miles an hour.
“Our thing is that last year he pitched out of the bullpen, so he threw so few sliders and no change-ups or splits. And when he did throw a slider it didn’t have much quality,” said Price. “Certainly, he’ll always pitch off the fastball, but we’re still looking at him as a starter and he is going to need the breaking pitch.”
AS FOR CESPEDES (pronounced Cess-pah-dez), A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked before the game what he’d like to see out of his new outfielder.
“I’d like to see three home runs, three stolen bases and see him rob somebody of a home run in center field. Other than that, not a whole lot.”
He didn’t do all that, but facing Johnny Cueto, he walked in the first inning and banged a run-scoring single in the third as the Athletics beat the Reds, 6-3..
“I don’t pay attention to names when I pitch, but he does look like he knows what he is doing in the batter’s box,” said Cueto.
Although he is 26, Cespedes is a raw talent. During one batting practice session this spring, Cespedes was having difficulty hitting breaking pitches and a coach kiddingly asked, “Don’t they throw breaking pitches in Cuba?”
And on defense, he stood flat-footed in center field instead of on the balls of his feet and somebody said, “He is so fast, he could stand flat-footed and still chase down balls in Cuba.”
Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon pitched four innings against the Reds, giving up one run and three hits while striking out four. And Manny Ramirez, trying a comeback after his second positive drug test drove him to retirement, was 0 for 3, reaching base on two errors.
JOHNNY CUETO, scheduled to pitch three innngs, only pitched two Saturday against the A’s because of an inflated pitch count.
He gave up three runs, five hits, one walk, one hit batter and no strikeouts. One of the runs was unearned because third baseman Juan Francisco booted an easy ground.
Frnacisco, who reported to camp 12 pounds overweight and with a sore calf that prevented him from taking the field for nearly two weeks, continues to struggle both afield and at the plate, although he doubled to the left field wall in the fourth inning.
Francisco’s error cost Cueto an unearned run and added pitches.
“That cost Cueto a lot of pitches,” said Baker. “Without that, he is out of the inning without a run and added nine or ten pitches. We were counting on him for three innings, but he couldn’t do it because of those extra pitches.”
Cueto said the source of his problem was an arm that was too lively.
“My arm was too strong today,” said Cueto of his day. “I was throwing too hard, overthrowing, because my arm felt so strong.”
Said Baker, “He was throwing good, man, real hard. He was missing on rthe inside, didn’t have his inside command.”
WANDERED OFF my diet briefly Friday night to partake of a steak at Donovan’s, the best steak in the country — nothing close, except The Saloon in Chicago.
Didn’t eat any bread or potatoes, though, just streak, salad and soup.
Albert Pujols and a group of about 12 were at Donovan’s. If he picked up the tab, with Donovan’s prices (worth it, though), it would put a large dent in his $240 million deal with the Angels.
The Angels are in Goodyear Sunday to play the Reds, but it isn’t known yet if Pujols will accompany the team.
MY FIRST BLACKJACK this spring to a casino, Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, was just black — a black night. My time at the tables was about 37 minutes andmy bankroll evaporated. Fourteen was a good number for Pete Rose, but not for me at the tables.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Somebody asked Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty had talked with retired St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and Jocketty said: “Yes, and I told him he could get a general manager’s job, but he’d have to take a pay cut.”Tweet