Phipps on Tear at Gwinnett

Before the season Cincinnati had no way of knowing that a couple of injuries would necessitate the need for so much depth in the outfield. The trio of reserves used thus far have done well and the Reds have a couple of other minor league veterans in Louisville making a case in the event they have to make another call to the farm.

Louisville made up for Sunday's rainout with a doubleheader at Gwinnett and split the twinbill 8-5/2-5. In the first game Neftali Soto quickly made his presence known after returning from a cup of coffee with the Reds by hitting a two-run home run in the first. The Bats lost the lead in the bottom of the inning and regained it in the second when Denis Phipps led off with a single and crossed on a squeeze play which was followed by an RBI-single by Billy Hamilton. Louisville scored in the first five innings of the seven-frame DH game. Phipps doubled in a run in the third and hit a solo home run in the fifth. In between those Henry Rodriguez popped a two-run homer in the fourth. Phipps finished with three hits, Hamilton had two hits and a walk, and Soto added two hits to the attack. Pedro Villarreal labored for four-plus innings and held the Braves to four runs on eight hits and a couple of walks. Curtis Partch entered in the fourth and completed two-plus innings allowing one run for the win.

In the second game the Bats took another first inning lead when Hamilton led off with an infield single and scored on a throw when Gwinnett cut down Soto trying to stretch a single for an extra base. That would be the last time they crossed the plate before Felix Perez doubled in a run in the final inning. Hamilton, Soto, and Rodriguez had two hits apiece for Louisville while Perez and Nevin Ashley both reached twice via a hit and a walk. Daniel Corcino took the loss with another rough outing, allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits and six walks in less than five innings pitched. Kevin Whelan threw a scoreless seventh inning to bring his ERA down to 2.60.

Phipps has enjoyed Gwinnett pitching thus far, going 7-11 in the first three games of the series. He's also on a 15-39 (.385) tear over his last ten games to raise his season average up to .269/.355 OB%. The outfielder has also hit a few homers to raise his slugging percentage over .400 and stolen nine bases in ten attempts. He's coming off a disappointing season where he hit only .231 while dealing with a shoulder injury. In 2011 he shot up the lists of top Reds prospects by .346 while moving from AA Carolina to Louisville.

He still made his MLB debut after roster expansion last season and went 3-11 with a homer and a walk at the top level. Now 27 years old, he's missed out on opportunities to return this season when Ryan Ludwick went down with a shoulder injury in the first game. Instead he saw newcomer Derrick Robinson get the call. Later when Chris Heisey went on the DL they reached all the way down to AA to bring up Donald Lutz. Lutz's spot on the 40-man roster was probably considered more of a Rule 5 protection by many but he's since acquitted himself well, going 9-31 in a reserve role.

Meanwhile Phipps works to improve his case to get another call. There's one spot open in the 40-man now that Corky Miller has returned to Louisville and one would figure that Phipps or Bat teammate Perez (hitting .316/.384 OB%) would get some consideration should the need arise. Both can play all three outfield positions. Phipps is a right-handed hitter while Perez swings from the left side.

Both outfielders are at an age where they may be considered more as suspects instead of prospects, but if they're getting the job done against top development level pitching that should weigh heavily in the decision making if the Reds need another outfielder. For right now, the first two calls have been successful. In addition to Lutz, Robinson has gone 9-27 with the Reds and former fifth outfielder Xavier Paul has been getting on base at a .400 clip as he's moved to a more prominent role. Meanwhile Chris Heisey's return has suffered a setback after he aggravated his injured hamstring in a rehab start at Dayton.

Perhaps the Reds are fortunate. The outfield depth was not an expected need before the season. Robinson came to the organization after failing to make an MLB debut during seven seasons in the Kansas City system after the Royals invested a fourth round pick on him in 06. Before the season Lutz had played in only 40 games above the single A level. Even Paul bounced around with three other clubs before arriving with the Reds late last season. Cincinnati should be satisfied with the performance of the reserve trio thus far and would prefer to have it continue over a need to make another call to the farm. Phipps and Perez appear to be ready if additional needs develop.

Other Organizational News:

The Reds opened their series at New York with a 4-3 win over the Mets. Brandon Phillips got their scoring started with a two-run single in the first inning and scored on a double by Jay Bruce. Bruce struck again with a solo home run in the sixth inning to break a tie. He and Joey Votto had two hits apiece with Votto also reaching with a walk. Shin-soo Choo walked twice and scored a run. Johnny Cueto allowed three runs in five innings in his first start off the DL which was good enough for the win. He gave up only three hits, but ran up his pitch count with four walks and eight strikeouts. Aroldis Chapman returned to form in the ninth and retired the side in order while striking out two in the ninth for the save.

Pensacola fell behind by four in a 4-2 home loss to Mobile. Bryson Smith had a couple of hits and scored a run. Joe Mather finished with a hit, walk, and RBI. Josh Smith had a quality start, but was victimized by an error and allowed four runs (two earned) off of five hits over seven innings for the loss. Brian Pearl retired all six batters faced including three strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief.

Bakersfield scored four runs in the fifth and held on to for a 5-3 home win over High Desert. Ryan Wright had three extra base hits including a three-run homer during the fifth inning rally. He also scored after leading off the first inning with a double. Carlos Contreras picked up the win by allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits while tossing five innings. Pat Doyle and Jimmy Moran combined for three scoreless innings of relief. El'Hajj Muhammad allowed a run in the ninth, but still qualified for the save.

Dayton was tagged for four runs in the second inning and went on to lose 9-1 at South Bend. Ismael Guillon continued to struggle and took the loss by allowing six runs (four earned) on six hits and five walks before he was lifted in the fifth. Junior Arias had three hits and knocked in the only Dayton run with a triple in the second. Jeff Gelalich had a couple of hits and scored the run.

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