CINCINNATI — When things are going right for the starting pitchers, when they are getting into the seventh inning night after night after night the way the Cincinnati Reds starters are doing, it makes a couple members of the team nearly invisible.
Normally, middle relief pitcher are invisible men, as anonymous as authors of threatening letters.
Such is the case for J.J. Hoover and Alfredo Simon. Hoover has made only three appearances in the last 11 days. Simon has made only three appearances in the last three weeks.
THAT’S GOOD. AND that’s bad. It means the starters are making the middle guys obsolete, but it also means the middle guys aren’t getting work. So how do they stay sharp so they are effective when the time comes that the bullpen phone rings for them?
“When are we supposed to use those guys when our pitchers are going seven innings?” asked manager Dusty Baker. “Everybody has a designated job and our starters are going seven innings in all our games.
“Nevertheless, it is very important that Hoover and Simon stay sharp,” said Baker. “It’s a hard thing for the front end of the bullpen to work hard to stay sharp. What you have to determine is how not to overwork and leave it all in the bullpen or when do you underwork and are not sharp in the game.
“Sometimes you realize you might have to work a little harder in the bullpen because sometimes you can decondition by just sitting out there,” Baker added. “And it doesn’t take long. The issue is — what are they supposed to do? How much is too much and how little is too little. So most of them run every day and then do a lot of work after games.”
WHILE IT IS A Catch-22, Baker prefers the extended work of his starters over the short outings when the bullpen wears a path from the outfield to the mound.
“Remember last year when we just kept having our starters going four and five innings?” said Baker. “Every day. Fans were yelling at me, ‘Get him out of there,’ and I’m saying, ‘Get him out of there? I’ve taken guys out of there the last four days. How many pitchers you think I have?’”
MIGUEL CAIRO started at third base Saturday, mainly because Colorado pitcher Jeremy Guthrie hadn’t figure out how to send Cairo back to the bench without first reaching first base.
Cairo was 4 for 5 against Guthrie, with a double. But, of course, manager Dusty Baker had other reasons, too.
“Guthrie throws mostly fastballs,” said Baker. “I have to play Cairo sometimes. I have to get him, Ryan Ludwick and Valdez going so they’ll be strong off the bench to help us. That’s a tough job already, especially if you never play.
“And let’s not forget what a great job Cairo did for us the last two years,” Baker added.
JAY BRUCE WAS back in the lineup Saturday after getting Friday off to reflect on things and forget about his 1 for 31 spell.
Asked what Bruce did on his day off, Baker said, “I don’t know. Whatever he wanted to do. I saw him messing around at shortstop during batting practice. That’s what I wanted. Told him to go have fun. Don’t hit in the cage, don’t hit in batting practice. Just have fun.”
MANAGER DUSTY BAKER was asked if there are any players in the majors today capable of winning the triple crown and he quickly said, “Josh Hamilton. Remember? He won the batting title in 2010 (.359) and batting average is the hardest one to get. He would be the guy who has the best chance to win a Triple Crown.
“But, oh yea, Matt Kemp, too. Big-time Kemp. Joey Votto would have a chance. Albert Pujols in a regular year would have a chance. With guys who hit the ball out of the park, as many walks as they get, the hardest one would be the batting average.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: From Scott Rolen as he watched Joey Votto stroll into the clubhouse early Saturday afternoon: “Look at that, a self-proclaimed superstar and he shows up to work wearing a t-shirt, bathing suit and flip-flops.”Tweet