After posting a 6.89 ERA in his nine appearances for the Cincinnati Reds last season, right hander Josh Smith knew something needed to change. Change he did as Smith has established himself this season as a reliable arm that Reds’ manager Bryan Price can call upon.
“I just went back and watched a lot film in the offseason, wrote down a little bit of things to tweak, tried to have a different mindset of challenging guys and it seems to be working for me,” Smith told TheBatsSignal.com in a recent interview.
Smith began the year in Louisville by starting eight games for the Bats. In the eight games, he posted a record of 3-4 and had an earned runs average of 3.86. That performance was enough for Smith to be called back up to show, but this time in a bullpen role. Before the call-up on May 22nd, Smith had started 142 out of the 170 games he appeared in during his seven-year professional career.
“It’s just different, when you come into relief. It’s tough because there’s situations like in Houston (June 18) when I’m in my fourth inning and every inning it’s one run and we lose. But it’s good, you love the competition. That’s the tough part but the good part is you can come in and throw all four pitches anytime. When you’re a starter, you like to get in there and establish a fastball, out of the ‘pen everything is established. It’s just different.”Smith said.
Through 11 games and 17 and one-third innings in relief for the Reds this season, Smith has already shown improvement with a 2.08 ERA and he has thrown at least 2.0 innings in 5 of his last 6 appearances. Not only does his stats page have a nicer look to it, but according to CBSSports.com, Smith’s throwing 2 MPH harder and getting to fewer three-ball counts than he did last season with the Reds.
Smith’s improvements over the past year has not gone unnoticed by his skipper. “He (Smith) is taking advantage of some opportunities and competing well. He is kind of establishing himself as a guy we can rely on in the bullpen.” Price told Cincinnati.com
Paul and Alex are back for Episode 4 of the Podcast. They chat about Cody Reed, Jermaine Curtis, and Jesse Winker. Also, they pick their Bats All-Stars and discuss who should represent the club in Charlotte next month.
Finally, Alex tries to stump Paul with another edition of ‘Over/Under’!
We will share a series of posts that highlight those who don’t make the highlight reel. These individuals put in the work off the field. These are their stories:
A seasoned veteran in the baseball world, Evan Rowe is the man behind the computer. He holds all the top secret information and keeps the records. Well, kind of. Evan operates the Trackman, a radar system that helps track the spin rate of the ball, the velocity of the pitch and several other statistics. The data he collects throughout the game is top secret, but no secret double-agent spy is out for his head. Another MLB executive may text him, which might be equally as scary.
In 2008 and 2009, Rowe got his start in sports as a media relations intern with the University of Louisville in the Sports Information Director office. He dabbled a little in all sports at Louisville, before finishing his season doing video work for the baseball team. This internship took him to the MLB Winter Meetings, where he found himself assisting in the public relations department in the St. Louis Cardinals system in Spring Training. Rowe brought his talents to the Reds organization this spring, when he was fortunate to land his current gig in Louisville.
Even though Rowe is a vet, the Trackman is making its debut, which means he is new on the track. “Learning the pitch type” is what seemed to stump him at first. But after his keen eye read the ball, keeping up with with the game became the challenge. “The hardest part is to mark the single, a fastball, and the pitch.” The sequence must be recorded quickly before the next pitch is thrown.
Evan Rowe has a job that very few are aware of, but a job that most baseball fans should take notice of. The data he collects is vital for the success of a player and the advancement of an organization. His role is pivotal, making his attention to detail and accuracy very important. “I’m having the time of my life” and he is potentially changing the organization.
Steve Delabar is an accomplished major league pitcher, with 190 appearances in six seasons of MLB experience under his belt. He was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays, and struck out MVP Buster Posey in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game. But even an esteemed pitcher like Delabar could use some luck in the sometimes overwhelming world of minor league baseball.
The Kentucky native started 2016 with the Louisville Bats after the Cincinnati Reds signed him to a minor league contract on April 2. He was in Indianapolis for a three-game series against the Indians when a Crock-Pot changed the course of his season.
“I was actually in the clubhouse in Indy, talking to one of the clubhouse guys,” says Delabar. “He makes these ‘Crock-dogs’, like Crock-Pot hot dogs and just cooks them. I don’t know if they’re streamed or what he does.”
Delabar was referring to the Indianapolis Indians’ visiting clubhouse manager, Jeremy Martin.
“I walked in [to the clubhouse] and guys were talking about [the hot dogs] the day before saying ‘hey they’re good luck’ and all this stuff,” says Delabar. “So I went in on the second day, and I’m like ‘Hey, I heard that these Crock-dogs will get you to the show.’”
Jeremy Martin told Delabar that the Crock-dogs were popular among several visiting players, and that the ones who ate them usually ran into some good luck.
“The Crock-dog thing started with the year Mike Hessman was with Louisville,” says Martin, referring to the 2013 season. “Got him a couple Crock-dogs—and he went out and hit a couple homers.”
On the day Delabar was in the clubhouse, he and Martin talked about how current Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart had a couple big hits and was called up to the Majors within a week after eating a few of the lucky Indianapolis Crock-dogs.
“I’ve got to have them. Maybe they’ll turn something around. So I eat two of them,” says Delabar. “And after I finished them up, I went over to [trainer] Steve Gober’s office and I was just sitting in there, then Delino [DeShields] walked in.”
“I’m not even kidding, this was not even ten minutes after, the hot dogs are like mid-chest at this point and Delino goes ‘Hey, you’re going up’,” says Delabar.
He couldn’t believe it. ‘No way!’ ‘No way the Crock-dogs works like that’ thought Delabar. “I couldn’t believe it. As I was packing my stuff up, the other guys were just coming in. I’m like ‘Guys, you better get on those hot dogs right now!’ ‘Y’all better go tear them up!’”
Delabar says he got into Cincinnati that night and that he still can’t believe what the Crock-dogs did for him.
The legend behind the Indianapolis Crock-dogs continues to grow. Martin says Hessman, who effectively started the Crock-dog superstitions, told Toledo’s Casey McGehee to eat a couple before his game at Indianapolis. He listened, and according to Martin, McGehee had a two-hit performance afterward.
Martin says he usually makes one Crock-Pot full of hot dogs for most visiting teams, but when the Louisville Bats come to town, he’s making two or three. When asked if he does anything special in preparing the Crock-dogs, Martin says all he does is throw the hot dogs in the Crock-Pot.
“Baseball players are like that,” says Martin. “It’s all about believing in [the Crock-dogs]. If the players believe they bring luck, then they’ll bring luck.”
Photo: Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports
Hernan Iribarren, a 31-year-old from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, is one of the most versatile players on the Bats roster. Just through the first 46 games of the 2016 season, Iribarren has played six out of the nine field positions. It’s safe to say that Iribarren has a wide range of talents up his sleeve.
On Friday, May 20th, Iribarren started as the center fielder when the Bats took on the Columbus Clippers for the first game of a three-game series. He made several catches and impressive throws that helped slow the Clippers throughout the game. But the most impressive feat of the night came when the new pitcher walked up to the mound in the ninth inning, and it was Iribarren warming up.
Before taking the mound on Friday, Iribarren had pitched for the Bats eight other times during his first two years in Louisville. He pitched in six games in 2014, allowing only one hit and one hit batter and in two games in 2015 allowing three hits, one run, one walk and another hit batter. He earned his first strikeout on September 1st, 2015 against Toledo when he fanned Josh Wilson.
Iribarren took the mound against three Columbus Clippers- Collin Cowgill, Guillermo Quiroz and Ronny Rodriguez. The trio had combined for three runs scored, a home run, and three RBI during Fridays game. To the crowd’s delight, Iribarren pitched a perfect inning, striking out Cowgill in the process.
When asked about his time on the mound, Iribarren said, “I enjoy the experience. I go out there to have fun. I don’t think about our situation, I just focus on doing what I can.”
His teammates find the fun in the matter as well, pointing out that his fastest pitch is coming in the mid-to-high 50s where as the rest of the bullpen is known to pitch steady speeds in the 90s. On that subject, Iribarren was all smiles. “Everyone gets a good laugh. I don’t have the top speeds, but that’s ok.”
Looking back at Iribarren’s stats, he is having a great start to the season. In the homestand finale on Sunday afternoon, Iribarren had five at bats, with three hits, one walk and two runs scored. He was on fire. Entering play tonight (5/27), Iribarren has the highest batting average for the Bats, a solid .384 .
With about 100 games remaining in the season, it will be a treat to see what all Iribarren has left to show the fans.
Paul and Alex are back with Episode 3 of this season’s Podcast and they were joined by Bats’ Media Relations Director Ryan Ritchey.
They chatted about the Bats and their road success, and introduced Ryan to the Over/Under game from last time. Let’s just say Paul wasn’t thrilled with the results.
Also, Alex introduced a new game: “Alex, Paul, or Ryan”, giving Paul and Ryan a question about a Major League stat and the answer is a player with the first name of either Alex, Paul or Ryan.
The press box at Louisville Slugger Field is a busy place after four o’clock for a standard 7:05 p.m. game. There, staff set up the scoreboard, head shots, computer systems, and anything and everything in between. The media arrives and finds their spot, but during the last homestand, there was an extra guest observing the game. Tom Lepperd, who is in his 30th season working for the Officer of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, was there to watch the umpires.
Lepperd’s job is simple- observe every single Triple-A umpire work at least one game as the home plate umpire. The Des Moines, Iowa resident gets to see just about every Pacific Coast League umpire when they come to Des Moines, home of the Iowa Cubs. However, seeing the International League involves some travel, hence the trip to Louisville.
He meets with the umpires after every game and discusses the good and bad that happened during the game that night. “After the game, we will go over that game in detail for each umpire. I keep a set of notes for plate, first, third, or if there are four umpires, second base,” Lepperd said. “They don’t get to see themselves work, so they can’t critique themselves.”
An ejection can be an exciting thing for fans to watch and cheer on. But for an umpire, it’s not as easy as swinging his arm to toss someone and then moving on. After an ejection, there is paperwork and a discussion. When Lepperd sees an ejection, he talks about it with his umpires. “What we do is talk through it, what happened, and in particular is there anything as an umpire you could have done differently to avoid it,” he said. “We always say try to work out of a bad situation, instead of [taking] the easy way out and getting rid of a ball player.” In the end, there’s an opportunity for learning and growth. “But it’s important that they review it in their own mind. ‘Was there something I said that caused it?’, ‘Was there something I could have done differently that would have had a different outcome?’”
One thing that has changed baseball in the last few years is the advent of on field replay. According to Lepperd, it hasn’t changed how umpires work their games. “We instruct the umpires to go out and umpire the same way they always have and not to be concerned about what the replay is going to show,” he commented. “What we’ve found is that some of these plays are so close, that they cannot be seen by the human eye.”
Working for 42 years in the game of baseball, including 12 on the field, Lepperd has seen some interesting things. In one Major League city, something he saw in the stands caught his attention. “When I first went up to the big leagues, an umpire had to sit in the stands and watch for fraternization between players,” he said. “I looked down and there were cob webs in the seats from not having been put down as the attendance was so bad.” He added that the Major League team turned it around and Lepperd was there when the team set a double-header attendance record not too long after the cob web visit.
Lepperd moved on to another city following his three days in Louisville. He gets to see many different ball parks and told The Bats Signal he hopes to get back to Louisville Slugger Field before the end of the season.
The very first Major League Baseball amateur draft was held in 1965. Since then, MLB teams have built their rosters with talent spread all across the board. Just this past year, Ken Griffey Jr. (1st overall in 1987, Seattle) and Mike Piazza (1,390th overall in 1988, Los Angeles) were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Let’s take a look at the best draft picks selected by the Cincinnati Reds in each round of the First-Year Player Draft. The player had to sign with the Reds to qualify for this list. For numbers 14, 18, and 20, we’ll include special tributes to some of the best amateur free agent (AFA) signings made by the Reds before the draft era began (pre-1965).
1st Round: Barry Larkin (4th overall, 1985) Seasons with CIN: 19 (1986-2004)
Larkin was drafted in a first round that included the likes of Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Will Clark, but Larkin was the only one of the four to win the illustrious World Series trophy, bringing Cincinnati their fifth world championship. Larkin was a 12-time All-Star and won 9 Silver Sluggers with 3 Gold Gloves. He joined the 30-30 club in 1996 with a career-high 36 home runs and stole 33 bases. He also won the 1995 NL MVP behind 15 homers, 66 RBI, and a career-high 51 steals.
2nd Round: Johnny Bench (36th overall, 1965) Seasons with CIN: 17 (1967-83)
Bench is widely considered to be the greatest catcher of all-time, and 14 All-Star appearances and 10 Gold Gloves back that up. He was a key part of The Big Red Machine, the Reds teams that won back-to-back championships in 1975-76. He won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1968 and won two MVP awards in 1970 and ‘72. He and Roy Campanella are the only NL catchers to win multiple MVPs and his 389 career home runs are the second-most among catchers in baseball history behind Mike Piazza (427).
3rd Round: Aaron Boone (72nd overall, 1994) Seasons with CIN: 7 (1997-2003)
The third-generation big leaguer is probably most famous for his walk-off home run as a member of the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, but he enjoyed a productive career in a Cincinnati Reds uniform. He made an all-star game in 2003, and reached double-digits in homers in five straight seasons (1999-03), including a career-high 26 in 2002.
4th Round: Paul O’Neill (93rd overall, 1981) Seasons with CIN: 8 (1985-92)
“The Warrior” is another former Red who might be more known as a Yankee, but he started his very productive career in Cincinnati. O’Neill was a key part of the 1990 World Series team, and he also made an all-star game as a member of the Reds in 1991, smashing 36 doubles, 28 home runs, and 91 RBI that season.
5th Round: Jason LaRue (139th overall, 1981) Seasons with CIN: 8 (1999-2006)
LaRue was the primary backstop for the Reds for six years, providing solid defense as well as offensive production. He was one of four catchers (along with Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Javy Lopez) to have double-digit home run seasons every year from 2001-05. He hit 84 of his 96 career homers in a Reds uniform.
6th Round: Ed Taubensee (1986) Seasons with CIN: 7 (1994-2000)
Before there was Jason LaRue, Cincinnati’s main catcher was sixth-rounder Ed Taubensee. He actually bounced around the majors early in his career, including being involved in a trade for Kenny Lofton, before landing with the Reds again in 1994. He had a very underrated seven-year run with Cincy, hitting .286 with 77 home runs.
7th Round: Reggie Sanders (1987) Seasons with CIN: 8 (1991-98)
Sanders enjoyed a spectacular big-league career in 17 seasons, which includes being a member of the exclusive 300-300 home run-stolen base club (only eight members). He hit 125 homers and swiped 158 bags in his Reds career, including two 20-20 campaigns in 1993 and ’95. He went on to win a World Series with the Diamondbacks in 2001.
8th Round: Eric Davis (1980) Seasons with CIN: 9 (1984-91, 96)
Speaking of power and speed, look no further than Eric Davis. He stole 80 bases for the Reds in 1986, hit 37 home runs the next year, and knocked in 100 runs twice. For his Reds career he hit 203 homers and stole 270 bags, which both rank in the franchise’s top ten. He came back to the team in 1996 after a five-year period spent between the Dodgers and Tigers, and got his sixth 20-20 season as a Red at age 34.
9th Round: Tom Browning (1982) Seasons with CIN: 11 (1984-94)
The first pitcher that makes the list is lefty Tom Browning. He was a workhorse during his tenure in Cincinnati, leading the league in games started in four seasons (1986, 88-90). He beat the Oakland A’s in his only World Series start in 1990, and he earned a trip to the All-Star Game in 1991.
10th Round: Ray Knight (1970) Seasons with CIN: 6 (1974, 77-81)
Knight was the Reds’ primary third baseman during the tail end of The Big Red Machine era, playing in 418 of their 438 games from 1979-81. His best season came in ’79 when he finished fifth in the NL MVP voting, with 175 hits, 79 RBI, and a .318 average.
11th Round: Drew Hayes (2010) Seasons with CIN: 1 (2016 – pres.)
The 11th round hasn’t been too kind to the Reds, with only five draft picks from that round ever playing in the MLB, and only two players ever suiting up for the Reds. With right-hander Drew Hayes having a strong minor-league campaign in 2015 for AA Pensacola and AAA Louisville, he seems to have the best chance to change Cincinnati’s 11th round woes. Interestingly enough, the Reds selected the all-time National League saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, in the 11th round of the 1989 First-Year Player draft as an infielder, but he was drafted away from CIN by the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft.
12th Round: Steve Foster (1988) Seasons with CIN: 3 (1991-93)
Foster isn’t one of the bigger names on this list, but he had a nice career as a reliever who complemented “The Nasty Boys” Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, and Norm Charlton in the early ‘90s. The righty went 3-3 in three years with the Reds, pitching to the tune of a 2.41 ERA. He threw in 59 games (58 in relief), striking out 61 in 89.2 innings for Cincinnati.
13th Round: Logan Ondrusek (2005) Seasons with CIN: 5 (2010-14)
The Reds got a nice surprise in Ondrusek, who was a key piece in their bullpen for five seasons. He appeared in at least 60 games on three occasions, including a career-best 2011 season where he pitched in 66 games, with an ERA of 3.23 in 61.1 innings of work. He ended his Reds career 21-11 with a 3.89 ERA before signing with the NPB in Japan.
#14 Pete Rose (Signed as AFA in 1960) Seasons with CIN: 19 (1963-78, 84-86)
The all-time hit king “Charlie Hustle” was born and raised in Cincinnati, where he signed as an amateur free agent when he was a teenager. Rose was the leader of The Big Red Machine in the 1970s, winning the 1973 NL MVP and making 17 all-star games, 13 with the Reds. His 4,256 career hits were accumulated over 24 seasons, and his 3,358 hits with the Reds alone would place him 9th all-time.
15th Round: Gary Redus (1978) Seasons with CIN: 4 (1982-85)
Redus had a nice albeit brief career with the Reds, with his best season coming in 1983. He stole 39 bases, hit 17 home runs, and finished in fourth place in the NL Rookie of the Year vote. His stolen base numbers increased in 1984-85, with 48 in each season.
16th Round: Chris Dickerson (2003) Seasons with CIN: 3 (2008-10)
Dickerson had a short-lived run in Cincinnati, but his highlight-reel plays in the outfield made him a fan favorite. He appeared in 148 total games for the Reds, hitting .274 (110-for-401) with 23 doubles, six triples, eight homers, 30 RBI, 60 runs, and 19 steals.
17th Round: Chris Heisey (2006) Seasons with CIN: 5 (2010-14)
Heisey was a nice value pick for the Reds in ’06: He was one of the best fourth outfielders in the majors from 2010-14, a run which included three playoff appearances. Heisey hit 50 home runs, stole 25 bags, drove in 147 RBI, and scored 184 times in his five seasons with the Reds, including an 18-homer, 50-RBI campaign in 2011.
#18 Ted Kluszewski (Signed as AFA in 1946) Seasons with CIN: 11 (1947-57)
“Big Klu” was one of the most feared power hitters of the 1950s, hitting 40 or more home runs each year from 1953-55. He made four straight all-star appearances for the Reds, including 1954 when he led the MLB in home runs (49) and RBI (141). That season he finished second in the National League MVP race to the Giants’ Willie Mays. The 6’2, 240-pounder was famous for cutting the sleeves off his jersey to show his biceps.
19th Round: Pat Zachry (1970) Seasons with CIN: 2 (1976-77)
Zachry only pitched in Cincinnati for a season and a half before he was traded for future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, but made a huge impact in his short Reds career. He won the 1976 NL Rookie of the Year by going 14-7 in 204 innings with a 2.74 ERA. He also beat New York’s Dock Ellis in game three of the 1976 World Series.
#20 Frank Robinson (Signed as AFA in 1953) Seasons with CIN: 10 (1956-65)
Robinson signed with the Reds after playing at nearby Xavier University in Cincinnati. He went on to become one of the most prolific power hitters of all-time, finishing his career with 586 home runs (4th all-time when he retired). He won the NL R.O.Y. in 1956 with 38 homers, a Reds rookie record, then went on to win the MVP award five years later. To this day, he’s the only player to win an MVP in both the National and American League: (1961, Reds) and (1966, Orioles).
Notable Picks after the 20th Round:
21st Round: Eddie Milner (1976) Seasons with CIN: 8 (1980-86, 88)
Milner was a nice late-round find for the Reds: He was their primary center fielder in the mid-‘80s, registering 135 stolen bases with the team. He flashed some power in 1986, hitting a career-high 15 home runs.
29th Round: Ken Griffey (1970) Seasons with CIN: 12 (1973-81, 88-90)
Senior was a starting outfielder on The Big Red Machine alongside George Foster and Cesar Geronimo. He was a model of consistency in his career, playing 19 seasons and making three all-star teams. He had 1,275 hits, 71 home runs, 156 steals, and a .303 AVG in his Reds career. His son, Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., also played for the Reds, from 2000-08. Since Senior played 46 games for the 1990 Reds, he’s the only Cincinnati Red in the ballclub’s history to play for three World Series-winning teams (’75, ’76, ‘90).
41st Round: Todd Coffey (1998) Seasons with CIN: 4 (2005-08)
The hefty right-hander made 213 relief appearances in his Reds career, including a career-high 81 games in 2006 which led the team. Coffey was known for sprinting to the mound from the bullpen when his number was called.
Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Seth Mejas-Brean. Last night, the Bats third baseman joined the likes of some of the greatest heroes to ever appear on the big screen (except he has never appeared on the big screen). On Star Wars night at Louisville Slugger Field, Mejias-Brean found some force of his own as he sent a two-run home run just over the wall in left field to send the electric crowd home happy in the 11th.
“It’s nice to actually have something go my way”, Seth stated after conquering the enemy and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Entering play with a .163 average, it was about time that the Dark Side cut him some slack. Confidence has been his key and learning from his own mistakes after getting some good swings and just studying his craft, like any good Jedi, he has seen the improvements.
As a hero would be, Seth was ready for the final duel. “It was probably the most relaxed I had been all game.” Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker-esque, it was a battle that had suspense and left everyone on the edge of their seats as it was unclear as to if the game would come to an end. “Right when I got around first, I thought he was going to catch it or it was going to hit the wall so I sped up.” But of course, it was Star Wars night and how else would a Star Wars fan end the night? He was showered with Gatorade (or something special from the Galaxy, I’m not sure) to cap off a night that was out of this world.
On Friday night, in his third rehab appearance with the Louisville Bats, right-hander Jon Moscot put aside the fact that he left the game with nine runs on the wrong side of the scoreboard and rather focused on the positives from his outing.
“Physically, I feel good, the left shoulder feels good. I’m very happy with that and I am just taking the positives out of today.” Moscot said.
Moscot’s season started in the minors as he was recovering from a non-throwing shoulder injury from June 2015. That injury flared up and since going on the disabled list on May 7th, Moscot has traveled back and fourth from Cincinnati to Louisville on the days of his scheduled starts. All three rehab appearances this season with the Bats, waiting for him was the Columbus Clippers.
“The first two times, to be honest, they just hit a lot more ground balls. I think I was up in the zone a little more tonight and they took complete advantage of everything that I threw and hit every mistake I made.” Moscot noted.
But again Moscot threw aside his performance and looked on the bright side, “That’s baseball I guess, you don’t obviously want to have those nights, it’s frustrating, kind of tough to deal with but I guess my left arm is feeling good and in five days I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.” Moscot said. “These days, they happen. You don’t want them to happen a lot but they do happen and I’ll be ok.”
Through the struggles, Moscot’s goal remains not too far from his mind. “I’d really like to be sharp at this point, feeling as if I’m pretty close to coming back to the rotation up there (Cincinnati). But I’ll get there, I have no doubt about that.”