That feeling in the air? That is the weekend. Or, you’re still riding on Cloud 9 after watching Johnny Cueto pitch yesterday afternoon.
When the Cincinnati Reds are rolling, they are some kind of fun to watch. Yet when they are going cold, they can make even the most dedicated fan want to run for the hills.
Even if you are as optimistic as Eric Karros was during the Reds broadcast yesterday afternoon about their chances later in the season, waiting can be difficult. As we touched on Thursday morning, the calavry is coming, slowly, but surely.
In the meantime, this weekend would be as good a time as ever to begin hitting good pitching. The elite clubs do not just pick on the scraps other teams throw out, but find ways to beat the Cole Hamels’ and Cliff Lee’s of the world. Thankfully, Kyle Kendrick goes later this evening, and as recently as last year, has been hammered by the Reds.
* * *
Something that has always been fascinating to me is the “King Felix” night that the Seattle Mariners hold on evenings when Felix Hernandez pitches at home at Safeco Field. The attendance figure goes through the ceiling on these nights and the crowd resembles a Seattle Seahawks playoff game or an international World Cup crowd more than a baseball game. Fans are decked out in “K” t-shirts and the whole nine yards.
The question becomes: when is it time to start doing this for Johnny Cueto? Surely, the Reds are not as desperate to push bodies through the turnstiles as the Mariners, but with all due respect to Hernandez, Cueto is entering the realm where he can be considered the best right-handed pitcher in baseball.
* * *
Doug Gray and I have had some intriguing back-and-forth banter on the matter of Brayan Pena catching Cueto, and whether it matters who is putting down the signals when he takes to the hill.
Doug is in the camp of it not mattering who catches Cueto—he will be just as good no matter who is back there.
While I do not doubt that Cueto would be dynamite with even Homer Simpson calling the game behind the dish, I think his chances are exponentially increased with Pena in the game.
Bronson Arroyo used to have Ryan Hanigan as his personal catcher when Ramon Hernandez was the everyday guy, and it served as a way to not only keep Arroyo comfortable, but guarantee that Hanigan would not get lost in the shuffle.
I get that Devin Mesoraco is seeing the ball like a half-moon at the moment, but he is not the modern-day Ted Williams—or in other words, he will not bat above .400 all year long. Pena has shown in his very sporadic playing time that he is a more than capable catcher both with the bat and certainly behind the plate.
Watching Pena catch Cueto strikes up this vibe that together, those two can accomplish anything. More than any pitcher I can ever remember watching, Cueto wills himself to get people out. His brain and Pena’s are one in the same—exactly what you would want out of your battery.
Devin Mesoraco has proven himself to be brilliant and is absolutely the team’s future behind the plate, but it would be insane asylum worthy to pull the plug on the Pena-Cueto duo at this point in time.
* * *
While on the topic of Devin Mesoraco, how about the decision by the Reds’ brass to keep him over Yasmani Grandal?
Their careers still have a ways to go, but for the time being, how smart does that decision look? Many times, front office personnel are crucified for the wrong moves they make, but overlooked for the good ones—and keeping Mesoraco was absolutely the correct one.
In just three years, Grandal has already been suspended under the league’s substance abuse policy and undergone surgery to repair a torn ACL. While Mesoraco has not always had a clean bill of health, there are (as we know of) no foreign substances entering his body and no major surgeries to speak of.
* * *
Not that a team can ever be “happy” to see Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, but I guarantee when taking a peak at the probable pitchers, every member of the Reds lineup did a somersault when they found out they avoid A.J. Burnett in the upcoming trip to Philadelphia. Serving as the Reds kryptonite, they will almost assuredly take their chances with two of the league’s finest left-handed pitchers rather than face Burnett.
* * *
I have been out to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on numerous occasions, with my most glaring memory being a start Homer Bailey made there in 2006 where Ryan Howard cranked a Grand Slam in the first inning, and it was rudimentary from there. I am a big fan of the park—it is incredibly modern, with a great vibe around it. The surrounding city leaves a little bit to be desired (I normally eat at a McDonald’s…) but all together, it is a great place to spend the day.
From my front door to the entrance of the ballpark is about two and a half hours. Chances are, I will find my way up there this weekend. With that said, is there anyone else either making the trek up, or living in the area?
I know a large Toms River, New Jersey, contingency will be in place for the “Toddfather” as he arrives home, so let me know if any of y’all are in the area so I can sign some autographs and kiss some babies.