Sunday, July 02, 2000

REDS NOTEBOOK


Aybar denies he was retaliating

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PHOENIX — Manny Aybar insisted he meant no harm when he plunked Tony Womack with a fifth-inning pitch in Saturday's 9-6 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

        “I wasn't trying to hit anybody,” the Reds reliever said. “I had trouble with my control.”

        Anybody who has watched Aybar pitch might accept his explanation. He has walked 22 batters in 52 innings while throwing seven wild pitches.

        But most observers believed that Aybar was retaliating for the events in the top of the fifth inning. After teammate Pokey Reese was hit in the left hand by an Armando Reynoso pitch, Reynoso nearly struck Aybar as he was trying to bunt.

        Aybar never received a warning from home-plate umpire Paul Emmel. Emmel simply waved Aybar off the field immediately once Womack was hit.

        “I thought the same things the umpires did. I mean, it was pretty obvious,” Arizona manager Buck Showalter said. “Anybody who thinks we're trying to hit Pokey Reese, or trying to hit a pitcher, then that's pretty frightening if that's the way somebody thinks.”

        INJURY REPORT: X-rays taken of Reese's hand were negative, which was good news for the Reds.

        Reds manager Jack McKeon also said that center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who twisted his right knee while pursuing Jay Bell's fourth-inning triple, was “not bad,” indicating that he could play today.

        JUNE-IOR: Griffey finished June with 12 homers, matching Baltimore's Albert Belle and Los Angeles' Gary Sheffield for the majors' highest total. Griffey also batted .304 with 24 RBI.

        Other Reds who compiled nice offensive statistics in June included Dante Bichette (.375, seven homers, 22 RBI), Sean Casey (.307, two homers, 11 RBI), Barry Larkin (.303, four homers, 10 RBI) and Michael Tucker (.309, two homers, seven RBI).

        Danny Graves (2-1, 1.17 ERA, four saves) was the only pitcher who truly excelled.

        TUCKER'S TIME: Concerned about keeping his extra players sharp, McKeon started Tucker in left field, where Dmitri Young had played the last five games.

        McKeon mentioned that with left-handed pitchers Omar Daal and Brian Anderson starting for Arizona today and Monday, he'd try to wedge a couple of his right-handed-hitting reserves, outfielder Alex Ochoa and utilityman Chris Stynes, into the lineup. Both ended up playing Saturday because of injuries — Ochoa replaced Griffey and Stynes replaced Reese.

        INCOMPLETE: The starting pitchers' inability to record a complete game could be approaching historic proportions.

        The Reds went as many as 81 games without a complete game only once — in 1997. Dave Burba broke the streak that year in Game 81. Cincinnati plays its 81st game (including the Opening Day tie) today.

        Entering Saturday, the Reds and San Diego Padres were the only staffs in the majors without a complete game.

        A VOTE FOR GRAVES: Though the managers' recommendations for All-Star selections aren't binding, Graves received a boost from Arizona's Buck Showalter, who said that he included the Cincinnati relief ace on the list of 10 pitchers he submitted to Atlanta's Bobby Cox, the NL skipper.

        “He has late life, he throws it over the plate and he has no fear,” Showalter said of Graves. “Anybody who can miss the sweet part of the bat with a fastball has a chance.”

        FRIENDLY CONFINES: Bichette began the Reds' afternoon in promising fashion with a two-run, first-inning homer. In 14 games at Bank One Ballpark, Bichette is hitting .400 (22-for-55) with five homers and 14 RBI. His overall batting average is at a season-high .293.

        UP NEXT: Neagle (6-2) will make his first appearance at Bank One Ballpark since capturing a 1-0 decision on Sept. 17, 1998 for Atlanta in which he lasted six innings. He'll oppose Omar Daal (2-8), who has lost his last three decisions.

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