Everything you need to know about Toledo

Mud Hens 580x254 Everything you need to know about Toledo

Louisville Bats baseball is finally here.

The Bats open the 2014 season today up north in the Buckeye State when they face off against a familiar foe in the Toledo Mud Hens. Last season, the Mud Ducks were in Louisville for opening night and Tony Cingrani’s stellar outing led to a 4-3 Bats victory.

This season on The Bats Signal, we will bring you previews of upcoming road series that feature the opponent, their ballpark and their city. It’s great to know the players on the diamond opposite the Bats, and we’ll be sure to dive in to that end. With that said, you never know when you’ll need to know the fun facts, which we’ll try to include as well.

So, without further ado, here’s the first “Everything you need to know” of the season, featuring the Toledo Mud Hens and Toledo, Ohio.

The Veterans

Toledo has a host of familiar faces that fans in the International League may recognize. The first is Mike Hessman, who was a Louisville Bat in 2013. The Bats will certainly miss his power (25 home runs last season) and veteran leadership in the clubhouse, but Hessman returns to Toledo after spending five seasons there earlier in his career. We can’t speak for Toledo, but he seems to be their version of Louisville’s Corky Miller.

Jordan Lennerton  returns to the Hens for a second season after being a Futures Game selection and an IL mid-season All-Star in 2013. He hit .278 with 17 homers for Toledo last season, sporting an on-base percentage of .382.

On the mound, Major League veteran reliever Nate Robertson joins the Mud Hens’ bullpen. He hasn’t seen big league action since 2010 when he pitched for the Florida Marlins. Last season, he went 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA with Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas Rangers organization.

The Prospects

LHP Robbie Ray headlines the list of prospects that will play for Toledo this season. Listed as the No. 2 prospect in the Detroit organization, Ray came over to the Tigers in the deal that sent Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals in December. He was 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA with Double-A Harrisburg last season, and 2014 will be the first Triple-A season of his career.

Likely to be behind the plate to handle the catching duties will be catcher James McCann, the No. 9 prospect on the Tigers’ list. Like many catchers, his better-than-average defense is what makes him a top prospect, but he hasn’t been bad at the plate either. McCann hit .277 with Double-A Erie last season, and scouts say that his bat could be close to average by the time he’s ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues.

Second baseman Hernan Perez comes in at No. 10 in the Detroit organization, but already made his Major League debut in 2012 as a 21-year-old. Last season, he appeared in 34 games for the Tigers and hit for a .197 average. In the minors, however, he hit a combined .301 in 103 games with Erie and Toledo and stole 28 bases.

The Ballpark

Name: Fifth Third Field

Opened: 2002

Capacity: 8,943

Dimensions: LF – 320′ CF – 412′ RF – 315′

Ballpark fact: The “Fifth Third Field Fanatic Freeze Sundae” was named ‘Best Concession Item’ by MiLB.com in 2013

The City

Toledo is the origin of multiple large glass companies in the United States like Owens Corning and Libbey Glass. It’s no surprise, then, that the city’s nickname is the Glass City. The University of Toledo Rockets football team even plays in the Glass Bowl. The city is also home to Tony Packo’s Cafe, a restaurant that was made famous by Toledo native Jamie Farr on the hit television show M*A*S*H. Other notable natives of Toledo are actress Katie Holmes and platinum-selling R&B artist Lyfe Jennings.

First pitch in Toledo is scheduled for 4 p.m. as LHP Jeff Francis takes the mound for the Bats against Mud Hens LHP Kyle Lobstein. You can find full game information by clicking on the “game notes” tab at the top of the blog. We’ll be back with information on the Bats’ next road stop, Columbus, Ohio, on Monday.

OBSERVATIONS | Bats hold two preseason workouts

BCW 8252 OBSERVATIONS | Bats hold two preseason workouts

The Louisville Bats held their first team workout of 2014 on Tuesday evening. The event was open to season ticket holders. (C. Michael Stewart)

The Louisville Bats returned home and held their first preseason workout of the season on Tuesday evening followed by another team workout on Wednesday afternoon — the first being open to season tickets holders and the second being open to the media.

Thus far, this club seems like a relaxed, easy-going group — a lot of smiling faces and a lot of joking, particularly with infielders Mike Costanzo and Kristopher Negron.

I spoke with a number of players prior to and during Tuesday’s workout and the consensus seems to be this team has gotten along very well dating back to Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz.

Here are a few specific things that have stood out to me after two team workouts:

- Mike Wilson’s bat will likely serve a big role in replacing that of the departed Mike Hessman. Wilson looks like he should be playing linebacker in the NFL and can hit the ball…FAR. After two days of batting practice, he has hit about six balls that have reached the concourse beyond the left-field seats or the grass lawn over the left-center field fence. He puts on quite the show.

- Felix Rerez, though, has been arguably the most consistent hitter through two days of batting practice. It’s line drive after line drive for the fourth-year outfielder. Not to mention, he’s put his fair share of dents on top of the right-field patio roof. His smooth swing from the left side of the plate is fun to watch.

- Outfielders Jason Bourgeois and Ryan LaMarre seem to be your do-it-all players at the plate. Both exhibit a little bit of pop, both do a nice job of hitting the ball to the opposite field, both seem to be fundamentally sound. Unfortunately, both have been taking the majority of their reps at center field. Will we see them in the lineup at the same time?

- Pitchers Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Reineke, Josh Smith and Chad Rogers have all thrown a couple of rounds of live batting practice with the hitters going through game-like scenarios. Tim Crabbe, Jeff Francis, Jose Diaz, Pedro Villarreal among others throwing bullpens on the side.

- I haven’t seen too much defensively other than some basic infield/outfield drills, but Max Ramirez, who is listed as a catcher, has been taking the reps at first base with Neftali Soto beginning the season in Cincinnati. Everyone else has been staying in their respective positions for the most part. The lone exceptions: Kristopher Negron and Bourgeois have been roaming around both the infield and outfield.

- Overall, the roster seems to be a good blend of both young and veteran players with 14 guys under the age of 30 and the remaining 11 players 30 years or older. Additionally, 16 players on the current 25-man roster have some kind of Major League experience.

The Bats leave town this afternoon and will travel to Toledo, Ohio for their opening game matchup against the Mud Hens at 4 p.m. ET on Friday. Jeff Francis will take the mound for the Bats and face Toledo’s Kyle Lobstein. The team will return to Louisville on Thursday, April 10 for the home opener against the Columbus Clippers at 6:35 p.m. ET.

For a 2014 Louisville Bats roster, click here.

For a sneak peek into what the season may hold for the Bats, click here.

And for a look at some swings from Wednesday’s batting practice, click here.

MLB.com names Reds top 20 prospects

stephenson MLB.com names Reds top 20 prospects

Robert Stephenson is the Cincinnati Reds new top prospect, according to MLB.com. (Paul Sancy/AP)

MLB.com has been naming each organizations’ top prospects heading into the 2014 season for the past month or so. On Wednesday, the Cincinnati Reds became the latest and last organization to have its top 20 prospects announced.

The list is dominated by 14 pitchers but also includes five outfielders and one catcher.

1. Robert Stephenson – RHP
2. Billy Hamilton – OF
3. Phil Ervin – OF
4. Jesse Winker – OF
5. Michael Lorenzen – RHP
6. Carlos Contreras – RHP
7. David Holmberg – LHP
8. Nicholas Travieso – RHP
9. Yorman Rodriguez – OF
10. Ismael Guillon – LHP
11. Daniel Corcino – RHP
12. Tucker Barnhart – C
13. Ben Lively – RHP
14. Jeremy Kivel – RHP
15. Sal Romano – RHP
16. Jackson Stephens – RHP
17. Chad Rogers – RHP
18. Junior Arias – OF
19. Jacob Constante – LHP
20. Amir Garrett – LHP

Click here in order to navigate to the 2014 prospect watch and see the complete list of top prospects as well as a short biography and scouting report on each player. You never know, with the way some of the big league players have been going down as of late, you may see some of these young stars playing at Louisville Slugger Field and/or  Great American Ball Park before you know it.

Reds vs. Bats lineups 3/29

Cincinnati Reds (and planned substitutions)

Billy Hamilton CF (Chris Heisey)
Brandon Phillips 2B (Kristopher Negron)
Joey Votto 1B (Neftali Soto)
Jay Bruce RF (Roger Bernadina)
Ryan Ludwick LF (Jason Bourgeois)
Todd Frazier 3B (Chris Nelson)
Zack Cozart SS (Ramon Santiago)
Brayan Pena C (Tucker Barnhart)
Homer Bailey RHP (TBA)

Louisville Bats

Ryan LaMarre CF
Ruben Gotay 2B
Felix Perez RF
Max Ramirez 1B
Mike Costanzo 3B
Tucker Barnhart C
Mike Wilson LF
Argenis Diaz SS
Mike Leake P

Bats’ roster for exhibition vs. Reds

Reds Bats 580x326 Bats roster for exhibition vs. Reds

The Reds are in Louisville today to play the Bats at 4:00 p.m. in front of a sold out crowd at Louisville Slugger Field. Cincinnati starter Mike Leake will pitch for Louisville today, while Homer Bailey will go for the Reds. Leake was scheduled to pitch last night in Pensacola, but the exhibition game with the Blue Wahoos was rained out.

Click the link below to find out who is on the Bats’ roster today, and stay tuned for starting lineups later this afternoon.

2014 Louisville Bats Roster 3-29

#TweetsOfTheWeek for March 22-28

Finally, baseball is upon us. The Cincinnati Reds will be in town for an exhibition against the Bats tomorrow afternoon and rosters are finally starting to shake out. We’ll know more about who will be in Louisville to start the regular season next week, but the excitement of baseball at Louisville Slugger Field is more than enough for now.

The Reds are in Pensacola tonight for an exhibition game against the Blue Wahoos, but let’s catch up with how the players are feeling about their last week in Arizona for Spring Training and the beginning of a new season. Of course, they were talking about other things, too.

Here are your tweets of the week:

Tony Cingrani gets us started. He joins the rest of the world in being someone who wants that dog.

Brayan Pena visited fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman in the hospital. Salvador Perez, who hit the ball that hit Chapman, was there as well. You may notice a familiar face (it’s Felix Perez) on the left side of the picture. Felix is also a native of Cuba.

Donald Lutz is a champion. Fogo de Chau is a Brazilian steakhouse. You already knew at least one of these things. You knew the first one.

Deion Sanders is mentioned in this post every week because he is a former Louisville Bat, but he also did this other thing during his career as a professional athlete.

Minor league catcher Chris Berset is a proud alum. If his Maize and Blue win tonight, they’ll play the winner of the game everyone in the Commonwealth is talking about on Sunday.

Reds pitching prospect Nick Travieso started the countdown.

Billy Hamilton is putting a pretty serious amount of faith in the Reds faithful.

March Madness commenced in a big way during the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend, and it drew mixed reactions from the guys in Reds camp.

Corky Miller makes the improbable probable.

Shark eating seafood. Makes sense.

It’s hard to disagree with Tucker on this one.

(Calls In n’ Out Burger to inquire about franchise opportunities)

J.J. Hoover has a couple of friends waiting for him when he gets home from Spring Training.

Finally, Spring Training has come to a close, the Reds are ready to go in Pensacola tonight before flying up to Louisville for their final tune up tomorrow afternoon.

See you tomorrow at Louisville Slugger Field.

Reds wrap up spring with split squad wins

Run Billy 580x326 Reds wrap up spring with split squad wins

Billy Hamilton finished spring with a 3-for-4 performance against the Diamondbacks on Thursday. (AP)

The Cincinnati Reds wrapped up their Spring Training with two split-squad victories against the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon.

One team, highlighted by Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips, stayed in Goodyear and played host to the D-backs, ultimately defeating them 9-1.

Hamilton completed his impressive spring season with a 3-for-4 performance that included two triples and a RBI.

Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani, who was told he is the club’s No. 2 starter on Thursday morning, pitched seven solid innings and allowed one run on five hits to go along with two walks and six strikeouts.

Pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Lee Hyde each pitched an inning of scoreless baseball.

The club racked up 16 hits and potential Bats players Ray Chang and Mike Wilson each recorded two hits and two RBI on the afternoon.

The D-backs lone run came on first baseman Nick Evan’s fourth-inning home run, his first of the spring.

The second split-squad team traveled across town to Phoenix to play the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park and came away with an 8-2 win.

Milwaukee got on the board in the first inning on a Ryan Braun RBI double off Reds pitcher J.J. Hoover. However, they were then held scoreless for six innings with their second and final run of the game coming on former Auburn Tiger Hunter Morris’ eighth inning home run – sorry, I had to.

The Reds lit up the scoreboard with 14 hits and were led by Jason Bourgeois’ 2-for-3 performance including a home run and RBI. Prospects Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Silverio also recorded two hits apiece and Juan Duran added a two-run home run, his first of the spring.

Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen pitched four innings of scoreless baseball and earned the win.

Opposite Lorenzen, Brewers pitcher Kyle Loshe allowed two runs on five hits in five innings and got the loss.

Cincinnati completed its Cactus League season with a 14-17 record after getting off to a 4-12 start. The club complete the spring with a .269 batting average and 4.82 ERA, good for fifth and 10th respectively among National League teams.

The players traveled east following yesterday’s games for an exhibition game against the Double-A Blue Wahoos on Friday evening. Mike Leake will make the start. After tonight’s game, they will board another plane and travel north to Louisville for Saturday’s exhibition game against the Triple-A Bats scheduled for 4 p.m. at Louisville Slugger Field. Homer Bailey will take the mound for the Reds.

The Reds will then have an off day on Sunday before opening the 2014 regular season in a 4:10 p.m. game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on Monday. Johnny Cueto will get his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Reds.

Pitching dooms Reds in loss to Oakland

 Pitching dooms Reds in loss to Oakland

Photo: Mark Duncan/AP

Neither starting pitcher put on a performance for the ages on Tuesday, but the Oakland Athletics’ bats were able to heat up enough to beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-4 in Phoenix. The A’s scored early and often in the matinee thanks to production from the bottom half of their lineup to cruise to their 13th win in the Cactus League this spring.

Brandon Phillips got the Reds out to the first lead of the game with one swing of the bat in the top of the first inning when he teed off on his fifth home run of the spring. Unfortunately, Cincinnati starter Jeff Francis couldn’t hold the lead, as Oakland put up a crooked number in their half of the second inning.

Like Phillips in the first, Brandon Moss swung the lead back to the Athletics with a three-run home run to center. Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier responded in the top of the third, as each drove in a run to knot the game at three.

Oakland would score a run in the third, fourth and fifth innings to extend their lead to 6-3 after five, an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish. Francis surrendered five runs on six hits and three walks in four innings of work before being relieved by Trevor Bell.

The Athletics’ bullpen only allowed one hit in four shutout innings to close the game. On the Reds’ side, Manny Parra and Logan Ondrusek each logged scoreless innings in relief while Sam LeCure allowed two in the seventh inning.

Bats Update: Aside from Francis, a few other players who could make their way onto the Louisville roster next week saw time in a Reds jersey on Tuesday. Trevor Bell threw an inning in relief and allowed a run on a hit. Corky Miller, Kristopher Negron and Neftali Soto combined to go 0-for-6 at the plate, while outfielder Jason Bourgeois went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a walk.

The Reds will be on the road again Wednesday afternoon against the Chicago White Sox, with first pitch at Camelback Ranch in Glendale scheduled for 4:05 ET. Brett Marshall (3-0, 2.08) will pitch first for Cincinnati against Chicago’s Scott Downs (1-0, 12.46).

Here’s Wednesday’s Reds starting lineup:

1. Jason Bourgeois – LF
2. Chris Nelson – 3B
3. Joey Votto – 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick – DH
5. Jay Bruce – RF
6. Brayan Pena – C
7. Roger Bernadina – CF
8. Ramon Santiago – SS
9. Kristopher Negron – 2B

 

Starters find their groove in Reds’ loss to Tribe

Bruce Spring 580x362 Starters find their groove in Reds loss to Tribe

Photo: USATSI

There are six days until the Reds kick off their regular season. On Monday in Goodyear, the key bats of the Cincinnati lineup looked ready to go. Despite falling to the Cleveland Indians 8-3, mainstays in the starting nine gave Reds fans plenty of comfort about the season ahead.

Starting pitcher Alfredo Simon was roughed up by Cleveland in his five innings of work, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk. He struck out three.

Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall hit a solo homer to right center field in the top of the second to give the Tribe an early lead. The long ball was Cleveland’s friend on the day, as Ryan Raburn hit a two run shot in the third and Jason Kipnis padded the Indians’ lead with a three-run home run in the sixth.

Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick tallied two hits apiece in the loss, with Votto and Bruce going on to score all three Cincinnati runs. Bruce and Ludwick each drove in a run. Starting shortstop Zack Cozart accounted for the third RBI with his double in the sixth inning.

Bats update: Neftali Soto is still in contention for a roster spot with the big club, and went 1-for-1 after replacing Ludwick in the lineup. Soto is now hitting .381 for the spring. Lee Hyde threw 1.2 innings and allowed one run on two hits with a strikeout in only his second outing this spring in which he’s allowed a run.

The Reds will visit the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday afternoon at 4:05 ET. Jeff Francis (0-2, 4.85) will take the mound for Cincinnati against Oakland’s Tommy Milone (1-1, 3.86).

Here’s Tuesday’s starting nine and a pair of backups for the Redlegs:

1. Billy Hamilton – CF
2. Chris Heisey – DH
3. Brandon Phillips – 2B
4. Todd Frazier – 3B
5. Neftali Soto/Chris Nelson – 1B
6. Roger Bernadina/Kristopher Negron – RF
7. Zack Cozart – SS
8. Jason Bourgeois – LF
9. Corky Miller – C

 

Chapman returns to Goodyear, speaks to media

Chappy and Vera 580x326 Chapman returns to Goodyear, speaks to media

(Photo credit: MLB.com)

Reds closer Aroldis Chapman suffered a scary injury when he was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez’s bat last Wednesday.

He was carted off the field on a stretcher and taken to Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City, Ariz., where initial tests indicated a fracture above his left eye and nose and a minor concussion.

The Cuban native underwent surgery on Thursday afternoon and had a metal plate inserted to provide stability above his left eye.

Chapman returned to the Reds Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., on Sunday and spoke to the media for the first time since the incident.

His interpreter, Tomas Vera, translated what Chapman said.

How are you feeling?
To be honest with you, I feel really good. I feel a lot better than I thought I was going to be. I feel good.

What were your thoughts out there and when did you feel relieved?
At that exact moment you don’t have a chance to think about anything when it actually happened. All I was thinking about is nothing wrong was happening with me. I didn’t have any bad thought in my mind when I was down and feeling what I was going through. The worst part was when they told me that it was going to be a while before I throw. That’s the part that actually bothered me. That’s what I was thinking about. That’s what made me mad was the time I was going to be away from the field.

How scary was the moment?
To be honest with you, I wasn’t thinking about (anything). It’s so quick, something you don’t have a chance to think about. But as the time was coming I was conscious the whole time. I never lost my consciousness. I knew what was going on. But I started worrying about what happened. My face just started getting bigger and I started thinking about what were the consequences going to be from this. But I was able to recognize and know what was going on with my surroundings.

Have you ever experienced anything close to that?
Never anything like that, personally. To me, this is the first time in my whole life that I have something like that happen to me. I never experienced something like that before in my whole life.

Do you worry about the mental aspect of getting back on the mound and how do you get over that?
Personally, I haven’t had a chance to think about that. I haven’t thought about what’s going to happen with this. I think it could happen to anybody else and it’s just something that could happen in my job. I know this is something that is going to happen and I just have to get over it. Personally, what I’m thinking right now is I’m going to have to throw more balls in now and I can’t leave balls in the air so I’m going to have to throw inside more.

Where are things going to go from here?
In the next few days I’ve been told I’m going to be able to start working with my cardio, walking on the treadmill and I’m slowly going to be able to start with more activities. And also start picking up a ball and keeping my arm in shape and then progresses as pitching goes in the next few weeks. Whatever they told me I’m allowed to do I will do it.

What did it mean to have the teammates support you?
I feel proud. I feel really happy to know I have this many people who came to me. All of my teammates came to see me and it will make you feel good when you see all the people. Not just from my team, all the Cuban players here in this area came to see me. Not only the physical part, but also through social media. The amount of people who have prayed for me and the good things they are doing for me make me feel proud and happy of so may people who contacted me.

Was that your father that came out to the mound?
Yes, that’s my father. I didn’t really see it when he came in, but after I saw the video and the replay of that I saw him there. He was with me the whole time.

Are you surprised at how good you look considering?
I feel surprised like you. I can’t believe it, but after I watched the video and every time I see it I feel really happy because this could be something worse. The way I feel right now, I have no pain, how I have been progressing through this has been great.

What about the picture you posted to social media?
Basically, when you have so many people trying to contact you and asking you how things are going you don’t have time to reply to everybody. I wanted to show them how I feel so I decided to put that picture on Facebook and Instagram to show them I’m doing good.