CINCINNATI — The Showdown with the Pittsburgh Pirates commences Friday night and the natural question was: “Will Joey Votto play this weekend?”
Manager Dusty Baker raised his head from looking at some statistics on his desk and said, “What? Oh, hell no. Which weekend? Tomorrow? C’mon, man. He still hasn’t run and it juus now starting to play a little first base in batting practice.”
It is clear that Votto is still recuperating on the knee surgery. When he walks up the steps from the dugout to the clubhous he uses a baseball bat as a cane.
“Well, that looks good, looks cool,” said Baker. “If I have to use a cane, it might as well be a bat.”
The other questions is: “Will Brandon Phillips play?” He was given Wednesday and Thursday to stay off his mildly strained left calf. Is it enough?
“We won’t know until he gets here before the game,” said Baker. “He said he felt better today, but we’ll see. If he needs another day, well, it is better to get him better for the last two games than to run him out there before he is ready.”
THE REDS CERTAINLY answered the question of whether they could win without Votto in the lineup, 14-3 since he went on the disabled list.
Can they handle the Pirates this weekend without Votto and Phillips? Phillips couldn’t even pinch-hit Wednesday and just before game time Thursday Baker wasn’t certain about his availability. And it was a no-go.
But even without Votto, without Phillips and on Thursday, without a resting Ryan Ludwick, the Reds cold-cocked the San Diego Padres, 9-4, on 13 hits. They were missing 51 home runs and 283 RBI from the lineup and it mattered not one iota.
Frazier, filling in for Votto, crushed a two-run home run in the second and Miguel Cairo, filling in for Phillips, had two hits, a double and a run scored.
SO WHO HAS stepped up best in Votto’s absence? Ryan Ludwick — 20 RBI and six homers in those 16 games, first in the league in RBI in those 16 games and second in homers.
Ludwick had two homers and eight RBI Tuesday and Wednesday but was not in Thursday’s lineup, replaced by Xavier Paul, who batted leadoff.
“Ludwick has gone hard and is extremely hot,” said Baker. “But he is getting up there in age (34) and he needs time off, especially in this hot weather. We need to keep him strong down the stretch, keep him hot.
“It’s like I told the in spring training — we’re going to need everybody,” Baker added. “So far we’ve been pretty fortunate in having not to call everybody. We’ve used, what, only 31 guys so far (fewest in the majors). We’ve been pretty fortunate.”
SO THE REDS HAVE won 20 of 23 and Baker says he doesn’t care about that number. What he does care about is that the Reds are a season’s best 23 games over .500.
“That’s the one I look at,” he said. “I wanted to get to 20. Now that we’re past that I get greedy. I want 25, then I’ll want 30.”
And by Sunday night he hopes it is at 26 over and the Pirates are six or seven games behind the Reds in the standings.
“It’s going to be a big series, like a playoff series,” said Baker. “They want to get closer and we want to put some distance between us, so it is going to be tooth-and-nail.
“We’re pretty even — the home runs are pretty even, we’re close in batting average, we’re close in pitching, close in stolen bases, close in a lot of departments,” Baker added. “So it is going to be a very good series.”
CATCHER DEVIN MESORACO said his current concussion is his third after suffering one in high school and one in Double-A.
“But this one was a little more serious,” he said. “There some little things that bothered me and things I couldn’t do. When I ran I could feel a headache coming on. When I looked into the lights it took me a while to get focused.”
Mesoraco suffered the concussion Monday in a home plate collision with San Diego’s Cameron Maybin, but he played Tuesday. And that’s when he had his confrontation with umpire Chad Fairchild.
Amazingly, some of the Padres said in their clubhouse after Mesoraco’s meltdown that they thought his collision Monday might have had something to do with the way he reacted Tuesday with Fairchild.
“There might be something to that,” Mesoraco said. “I’m sure they all noticed on Tuesday that something was wrong, that I wasn’t quite right, that I was different.”
Mesoraco cannot serve his three-day suspension while he is on the seven-day concussion disabled list. He will have to serve the suspension after he comes of the disabled list.
CALL VEGAS and get your bets down now because the oddsmakers have made adjustments on their thinking since the trade deadline.
Who’s the favorite to win the World Series? Well, the top three favorites are American League teams — Yankees (19 to 4), Rangers (5 to 1), Angeles 15-2). Then comes two National League teams — Washington at 9-1 and then the Cincinnati Reds at 10 to 1.
The Pirates? Las Vegas doesn’t think much of them, listing them 13th at 25 to 1, behind the Cardinals (10th, 22 to 1).
IT WAS A productive July, and not just for the team because it went 19-7, most wins in July since the 1976 Big Red Machine team won 20 in July.
Aroldis Chapman led the majors with 13 saves while Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey each won four games, tied for the most in the league.
PITCHER TODD REDMOND has been called up twice from Class AAA Louisville in emergency situations to cover a deplted bullpen but has not been used and was sent back to Louisville the next day.
His next call-up should gain him entrance into a game — as the first starter not to be named Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, Bailey or Leake.
The Reds have a doubleheader August 18 to make up a rained out game with the Chicago Cubs and Baker indicated the Redmond might be called up to pitch one of the doubleheader games.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t mind if he gets a hit with two outs and nobody on because I like the young man.” — Manager Dusty Baker, talking about San Diego first baseman and former Reds No. 1 draft pick Yonder Alonso.Tweet