Nix Makes Statement as Reds Reclaim NL Central Lead

The Cincinnati Reds faced two things Saturday night. Overcoming each would make a statement to all of baseball.

One was a pitcher that at one time had been a thorn in the side, Astros ace Roy Oswalt. The other was the chances of climbing back into first place in the NL Central since the St. Louis Cardinals had dropped a 6-5 decision to the Chicago Cubs earlier in the day.

The Reds pounded Oswalt and jumped back into first place with a 7-0 drubbing of the Houston Astros. Johnny Cueto pitched 8 masterful innings, allowing only four hits and a walk while striking out 6. Cueto pushed his record to 10-2. Cueto also becomes the second Reds hurler to reach double digit wins (Bronson Arroyo is 10-5). And Cueto was a bit under the weather.

But the biggest statement of the night came from outfielder Laynce Nix.

Nix was getting the starting nod over Jonny Gomes in left, inserted into Gomes new, but temporary home of cleanup and reached base in all four plate appearances (3-3, BB, 2 RBI, 1 run scored). The message Nix delivered was the old “don’t forget about me”. With Chris Dickerson, another lefty bat, on rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville tearing up the scene (8-20, HR, 2 RBI, 3 SB, 4 BB, 8K), Nix has placed the Reds in a precarious position…for now.

The Reds could go a few directions here.

1. Keep the status quo. Why rock the boat? With Dickerson’s injury history, there’s no reason to make a decision based on only 7 games. Yes, Dickerson has practically every tool to be a major league player, but what’s the rush? He can be brought up on Sept. 1 when the rosters expand. That way Dickerson’s health is monitored for an extended period of time and no knee-jerk decisions are made.

2. Bring Dickerson up, send Chris Heisey down. It was Heisey that was called up when Dickerson went on the DL, but I hate that I even thought of this move. Heisey is the righty pop off the bench and he leads the league in pinch-hit homers (4). That would leave Miguel Cairo (great option, but less pop), Paul Janish (a defensive replacement) and Ramon Hernandez/Ryan Hanigan (depending on who starts at catcher for any given game) as you other right-handed pinch-hitting options. You probably wouldn’t use the non-starter between Hernandez and Hanigan in case of injury unless you’re pulling a double-switch.

3. Bring up Dickerson and release Nix. NOOOOO! I hate this option even more…but it is a slight possibility. Dickerson has a bit of pop, has more speed and is younger. The part that I severely dislike about this possible move is if there’s another contending team that’s looking for a lefty bat off their bench with some power, Nix would receive serious consideration. He most likely wouldn’t clear waivers before someone snatched him up. Usually at this time of year, every contending team looks for just that, a lefty that can change a game with one swing. I believe that Nix has that ability even though he’s not viewed in the same class as Eric Hinske and Matt Stairs.

4. Trade. It is that time of year. It’s always an option.