Saturday, May 05, 2001

Padres 11, Reds 5

Starting pitchers continue to falter

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Elmer Dessens exits in the sixth inning.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        Paging Jose Rijo. The Reds saw yet another starting pitcher pounded Friday night in an 11-5 loss to the San Diego Padres. It's hard to believe Rijo, the former Reds ace who is attempting a comeback after six years, could fare much worse.

        Elmer Dessens (2-2), Friday's starter and loser, was rocked for eight runs and 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings. It marked the 11th straight game a Reds starting pitcher did not make it past the sixth inning.

        And now, the poor starts are starting to catch up with Cincinnati.

        The Reds have managed to hover near first place in the middling NL Central, but have now lost three straight games by a 25-13 aggregate score. They fell two games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs.

        “Mama said there'd be times like this,” Reds manager Bob Boone said. “I'm still comfortable with the guys we have (starting), because they know how to pitch.”

Alex Ochoa makes a catch on the warning track.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        Just not right now.

        Some numbers:

        • In their last seven games, Reds starters have posted a 9.75 ERA (36 innings, 39 earned runs). That includes Friday night, when the Padres hit several rockets off Dessens that included two home runs and four doubles.

        • Reds starters had a 5.13 ERA, 12th in the 16-team league, entering Friday. It's now 5.42.

        • Entering Friday, Reds starters were allowing an NL-worst .292 opponents' batting average. That soared to .348 after Dessens' outing.

        “My slider wasn't good,” Dessens said. “I wasn't throwing it for strikes.”

        Dessens, who relies on control, didn't walk a batter, but did throw some strikes. Many landed safely in the outfield, and two others went over the outfield wall (Ryan Klesko and Bubba Trammell, both in the Padres' four-run first inning).

        “They hit some good pitches, and they hit some they should have hit,” Reds catcher Jason LaRue said. “He missed some spots, but that's gonna happen.”

Michael Tucker slides into third under Phil Nevin.
(AP photo)
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        The recent run of poor starts? LaRue said that's baseball.

        “You just come back tomorrow and keep going after them,” he said. “You're going to have times like this through the course of a year. You can't dwell on it.”

        Dessens said fellow starter Pete Harnisch, who's also struggling, said a few words of encouragement.

        “Pete talked to the guys and said to keep working, that it's a long season,” Dessens said.

        Boone said the Reds are now starting to really miss Scott Williamson. Williamson, who could have logged some multiple-inning relief stints, is out for the year after shoulder surgery.

        “We don't have that long man, so we're a little short in the 'pen,” Boone said. “We've been giving up too many runs by the third inning.”

Nevin slides in with a double as the throw escapes Juan Castro.
(AP photo)
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        It's gotten so bad, the Reds are moving Jim Brower into the long-relief role. It's gotten so extreme, there's even talk of Rijo, 35, getting at least a look at returning to the rotation.

        Rijo last pitched in the majors in 1995, when his career was derailed by elbow problems. He has had several surgeries. But he has been throwing again in the Dominican Republic.

        “We were told he was throwing at 88-90 mph,” Reds general manager Jim Bowden said earlier this week.

        Rijo might work out for the Reds within the next two weeks. While a comeback seems farfetched, stranger things have happened.

Pokey Reese tags out Bubba Trammell in a rundown.
(AP photo)
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        Such as a quality start. The Reds' last one was April 21 by Chris Reitsma at New York (seven innings, no earned runs).

        The relievers didn't help much Friday, as Dennys Reyes and Mark Wohlers each allowed a home run.

        Reds hitters aren't immune, either. They went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position Friday.

        But mostly, the postgame talk concerned the starting pitching. Boone answered all questions patiently, including queries about whether there will be changes in the rotation. For now, it appears Harnisch (6.53 ERA), Dessens (5.82), Osvaldo Fernandez (5.23) and Reitsma (4.11) will remain the main four. Rob Bell returns from Louisville to start today.
        Barry Larkin (right groin tighness) and Deion Sanders (0-for-9 the previous two games) did not start. Sanders pinch-hit and grounded out in the sixth inning.

        Larkin was improved from Thursday and was available to pinch hit Friday. He is day-to-day, and Boone said he might rest Larkin again today.


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