Baseball can be a fickle game. Just one day off a sweep of the division rival Cardinals and riding a six game winning streak the Cincinnati Reds announced that slugger Joey Votto will undergo surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee. The surgery is expected to be an arthroscopic procedure lasting less than 30 minutes and should sideline him three to four weeks. After the announcement the Reds went out and dug themselves into a 4-0 first inning hole before losing 5-3 to the visiting Diamondbacks.
Bronson Arroyo allowed hits to the first five batters faced when the Snakes put across four before the first Reds hitter reached the plate. Oddly enough, hardest hit ball of the inning was a lineout double play by Lyle Overbay that provided the Reds defense with their first two outs of the game. The lead was cut to one on a two out, two run single by Drew Stubbs in the second before Arizona plated the final run of the game in the next inning on a solo homer by Miguel Montero. Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, and Chris Heisey had two hits each for the Reds. Heisey is now 5-8 over the past two games.
Arroyo took the loss when he allowed all five runs before he was lifted before the start of the fourth inning. The Reds bullpen combined for an outstanding effort and shut the Diamondbacks out for six innings. Alfredo Simon threw three of those and lowered his ERA to 1.53. Bill Bray, Jose Arredondo, and Logan Ondrusek added one inning each. Bray ended a threat in the seventh on one of the more bizarre plays in recent history. He threw what would have been a wild pitch during an intentional walk. Instead it was played off the backstop by Ryan Hanigan. Bray was not sharp covering the plate, but reacted to the toss from Hanigan and tagged the advancing Montero just in time to make the final out.
Perhaps no lineup in baseball depends on a single hitter like the Reds have relied on Votto this season. The All-Star first baseman is among the leaders in nearly every important offensive stat, leading the league in doubles, walks, and on-base percentage. According to an interview with GM Walt Jocketty the injury was sustained when he slid into third base during a game in San Francisco. He was removed early from the game on July 30th after there was a visible problem that inhibited his ability to run out a ground ball. Since that time he’s gone 9-32 (.281) in nine July games. He also started at first base for the NL during the All Star break.
Jocketty explained that the pain in Votto’s knee subsided after a couple of days. He was hopeful to play through it, but pain returned recently which prompted him to request an MRI on Monday. The decision to perform the surgery was made minutes before game time. Votto released a statement: “"It is in my best interest and in the best interest of the team to do it now, so that I can be healthy during the last two months of the pennant race."
The Reds plan to announce on Tuesday his replacement on the active roster. Unfortunately there are not a lot of options in AAA. Promotions and trades removed much of the offense from last year’s Louisville roster. There has been some speculation that they would prefer to add another left-handed bat. Switch hitting infielder Henry Rodriguez was hitting well at Pensacola before going on the DL. He was promoted to Louisville after he returned and is batting .351 in nine games with the Bats. The Reds have one spot open on their 40-man roster and could use it to consider switch-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro (.339 for the Bats) or recently signed OF Xavier Paul (.322 for two International League teams).
The Reds plugged infielder Todd Frazier in at first for last night’s game. There had previously been discussion over how much action he would continue to get at third base where he’d played well while Scott Rolen was on the DL. Frazier played 72 minor league games at first and is likely to see a lot of action there the next few weeks. They will also need more contribution from Miguel Cairo. The 38 year-old has been a valuable utility man for the Reds since his arrival in 2010 and did a good job backing up Rolen last year. This season he’s been on the DL with a hamstring injury and is hitting only .145.
Cincinnati is in first place in the NL Central Division with a one game lead over Pittsburgh. They’ve been successful by scoring a league average 4.2 runs/game while their pitching rotation has the third best ERA. They’ve also gotten a boost from their defense which has committed the fewest errors of any NL team. Any way one looks at it, they will need to lean on everyone to pick up the slack from Votto’s absence. There has also been some rumors that they’ve been seeking a trade to improve productivity at the top of the lineup. Perhaps Votto’s injury will increase the urgency to get a deal done. MLB’s 162 game schedule guarantees challenges for every team as they go through an entire season. Winning without Votto will be the toughest test yet for the 2012 Reds.
News from the Farm:
Louisville opened up a road trip with an 8-2 loss at Columbus. Dennis Phipps had two of the Bats four hits and was on base when Didi Gregorius homered to provide both of their runs. Ryan Feierabend allowed seven runs (five earned) in 4+ innings for his fourth loss.
Pensacola lost at home to Jacksonville by a score of 2-1. Beau Mills had two hits and provided the only Wahoo run on a solo homer. J.C. Sulburan allowed only one run in 4+ innings and took the loss.
Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:
Hamilton arrived at first on a bunt single in the eighth inning, but never had an open base in front of him. It was his second consecutive game without a steal and he still has 109 SB in 88 games.
Bakersfield cruised to an 8-1 win over Rancho Cucamonga at Sam Lynn Field. The Blaze scoring was started by a solo home run by Steve Selsky who had two hits on the evening. Juan Duran had two hits and drove in three. Niko Vasquez also had two hits and drove in the go-ahead run with a triple. Tim Crabbe had an outstanding start in his first game for Bakersfield after coming over from Pensacola. He allowed only one run on three hits over eight innings and struck out six for the win.
Dayton lost 4-1 at Burllngton. The Dragons were held to only three hits. Radhames Quezada allowed only one unearned run in five innings. Lucas O’Rear allowed two runs (one earned) in one inning and was charged with the loss.
The Billings game against visiting Grand Junction was rained out and the two teams will make it up with a doubleheader on Tuesday.
The AZL Reds allowed four in the fourth inning and lost 6-3 to the visiting AZL Indians. Humberto Valor had two of the Reds’ five hits. Amir Garrett took the loss by allowing four runs (all unearned) in two innings.
The DSL Reds lost 6-4 while hosting the DSL Padres. Kevin Garcia and Oviel Florentino had two hits each for the Reds. Eury Cantalizo allowed one run in 2+ innings of relief and took the loss.