Pensacola Loses Low-Scoring Game
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Pensacola Loses Low-Scoring Game

A couple of injuries to the Reds outfield this year have left manager Dusty Baker scrambling to fill in a lineup. Ryan Ludwick is on the 60 day DL and, pending the return of Chris Heisey, Cincinnati may have to reach even deeper if someone else goes down. Veteran Joe Mather was signed to a free agent contract this past week to provide additional depth if the need arises.

Pensacola tied their game in the eighth only to allow two in the bottom of the inning to lose 3-1 at Jacksonville. Joe Mather and Travis Mattair each had two of the Wahoos' nine hits with Mather doubling across their only run. Ryan Dennick put in a solid start, allowing one run on five hits without a walk in six innings. Shaun Ellis three the final two frames and allowed the go-ahead runs for the loss.

The Reds have been hit hard with injuries already this season and currently have two outfielders on the DL. That has forced them to dip down into AA for a replacement in Donald Lutz. Though Lutz is a highly-regarded prospect, a .211 average in AA is typically not a ticket to the major leagues. His spot on the 40-man roster was probably more of a Rule 5 protection with an anticipated MLB debut later in his career.

This past weekend the Reds signed veteran outfielder Mather to a minor league contract and assigned him to Pensacola. The 30 year-old had previously been playing for the Lancaster Barnstormers in an independent league after Philadelphia released him before the start of the season. Lifetime he's hit .219 in 229 MLB games since debuting with St. Louis in 2008.

During his rookie season the Cardinals probably had some notions their 01 third round selection would be a handy guy on the roster. They recalled him in July of that year and he finished hitting .245/.292 OB over the remainder of the season. That alone might not be cause to get excited but seven home runs gave him a .520 slugging percentage over those two months while playing all three outfield positions that season with some action at both corner infield spots. During the time he was not with the Cardinals that year he hit cracked the .300 AVG/.400 OB levels at Memphis while hitting seventeen homers in 59 games. The previous year he popped 31 dingers while splitting his season between AA/AAA.

He's been unable to sustain that success since and the Braves picked him up off waivers in 2010. That started a series of bouncing around in a few more organizations, never playing more the 36 MLB games in a year until he spent the entire season with the Cubs last year. He started off with a solid first month and was hitting .346 in early May as a reserve but that gradually drifted down to .209 in 243 plate appearances by the end of the season. The Cubs also used him in five different defensive positions and he even took the mound and pitched in a blowout against Milwaukee.

Now he's taking another shot at getting back to the big leagues with the Reds. Mather joins a long list of former Cardinals that have made their way into the Cincinnati organization. That is no coincidence since current Reds GM Walt Jocketty previously held a similar position with St. Louis for thirteen years. During his career Jocketty has shown that he will bring on board people from previous employers. Prior the working for the Cardinals he was Director of Baseball Administration in Oakland where he worked with Tony LaRussa. Other former A's that ended up in St. Louis are Mark McGwire and Dennis Eckersley. That doesn't sound like a bad policy for Jocketty. The A's fielded some talented teams with three consecutive World Series appearances and a championship in 1989. St. Louis was the class of the NL Central, including a 06 WS win, during his tenure there and now the Reds have won their division in two of the last three years.

Though often not direct, the road from St. Louis to Cincinnati is being traveled frequently with Mather being the latest. There have been some successes like Scott Rolen who was an all-star in 2010 while he contributed to the team's first postseason appearance in fifteen years and Ryan Ludwick who eventually took over the clean spot and had a strong postseason in their 97-win campaign last year. On the other hand Jason Isringhausen never saw a Reds uniform while in the organization in 2010. Still, all that was invested was a minor league contract.

Prior to Lutz's call-up the Reds gave a MLB debut to 26 year-old Derrick Robinson who they picked up after he left the Kansas City organization. He's done a good job thus far in his brief MLB career, hitting .282/.423 in nineteen games, but the switch-hitter has recently been hampered by a hand injury that affects his swing from the right side and prompted manager Dusty Baker to send Mike Leake to bat in the seventh inning last night instead of pinch hitting against lefty Mike Minor. Ryan Ludwick is on the 60-day DL and not expected to return until late in the season so it will be a while before the Reds outfield takes the same form as it had on their opening day roster. While Chris Heisey is on the DL Xavier Paul has inherited regular action and he's hitting .255 with a nice OB of .367.

Other outfielder candidates at Louisville are Denis Phipps, Felix Perez, and Kristopher Negron. The modern day MLB roster frequently utilizes all of their reserve position players, even the fifth outfielder, so if Robinson's injury gets worse before Heisey returns someone else will get the call. The only outfielder remaining on the 40-man roster is Yorman Rodriguez and he's still in single A. More multi-hit games by Mather could gain him some consideration if that situation arises.

Other Organizational News:

Former Red Juan Francisco hit a grand slam during a five-run Atlanta eighth inning as the Braves beat the Reds 7-2 at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati took a brief lead from a solo home run by Zach Cozart in the third inning after missing out on a no-out/bases loaded opportunity the previous frame when Brandon Phillips was thrown out at the plate attempting to score on a sacrifice fly. After the Atlanta rally Jay Bruce tacked on another run with solo homer in the ninth. Cozart had two hits in the game while Bruce and Todd Frazier both reached via a hit and walk. Leake got the start and yielded only two runs off a pair of Dan Uggla homers through the first seven innings. He ran into trouble and was lifted in the eighth and was eventually charged with four runs for the loss.

Louisville scored four in the first inning and held on for a 6-3 win at Lehigh Valley. Greg Reynolds got the win another nice outing, allowing two runs on five hits without a walk over seven innings while striking out eight. He got the win and is now 3-0 with a sub-three ERA. The Bats' lineup provided a balanced attack with five players each stroking two of their thirteen hits: Henry Rodriguez, Neftali Soto, Felix Perez, Ryan Hanigan, and Emmanuel Burriss. Hanigan is now 3-6 in two rehab starts. The first inning rally came from four hits and Perez added on in the seventh with a two-run single.

Bakersfield only crossed the plate once in a 6-1 home loss to San Jose. Juan Perez and Kyle Waldrop both had two of the eight Blaze hits while Marquez Smith reached with a single and walk. James Allen took the loss after allowing two on four hits and four walks in five innings. Mike Dennhardt finished with two-plus scoreless frames.

Dayton struck for three in the first and five more in the next inning as they cruised to an 11-4 home win over Lansing. Robert Stephenson took the win with his best outing of the season, allowing only three hits without a walk and nine strikeouts while tossing six shutout innings. Nick O'Shea got the Dragon scoring started with a three-run home run in the first and he's now homered in three of the last four games. They blew the game open the next frame with four hits, a hit bitter, and two Lansing errors. The Lansing manager was ejected during that frame. Tanner Rahier capped off the scoring with a two-run homer in the seventh. Junior Arias had three hits including a triple. Jesse Winker added two hits and an RBI-walk. Jeff Gelalich reached safely four times with two hits and a couple of walks. O'Shea had two hits with four RBI and Robert Ramirez reached with a double and a walk.