CINCINNATI — The clock is ticking, if you wind it, and time marches on as it always does. And the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline creeps ever closer, just nine days away.
There are at least seven guys in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse who are twisting in the wind, waiting for the tap on the shoulder with the message, “The skipper wants to see you.”
SO FAR, THOUGH, nothing. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty says he is fielding phone calls. But no team has blown him away or even blown him over and he is insistent that he won’t give his players away.
It is probably good from Jocketty’s perspective that no big deals have been consummated by other teams, but to the first go the best.
Teams looking for starting pitching are looking at Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, but there are other possibilities on other teams out there for teams to take — Cole Hamels, maybe David Price, Dan Haren, Mat Latos or Jeff Samardzjia.
If teams looking for pitching grab one of the non-Reds then the market shrinks and the prospect pool is diminished.
Jocketty says he has permission from owner Bob Castellini to make some trades. Now is the time, Walt, now is the time.
MIKK LEAKE CERTAINLY increased his value over his last three starts, all wins, including Wednesday’s 9-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the first game of a doubleheader. Over eight innings he held the Cubs to one run and four hits and retired the last 16 he faced.
Was he cognizant of the fact he might have made his last start in a Reds uniform? He certainly was.
“It would be ironic if the first start of my career for the Reds was against the Cubs and the last one was against the Cubs,” he said.
HIS FIRST MAJOR league start was creepily similar to Wednesday’s — one run and four hits on April 11, 2010, just a few months away from his last pitch for Arizona State University.
He certainly hasn’t shown any nervousness or jitters over his last three starts about his future. When asked if it was because he wasn’t thinking about it or if he is auditioning, he said, “I guess it’s a combo. I’m trying to show myself that I can be better than what I’ve been. That’s my goal. Get better every day and be one of those top pitchers.”
Of his future, he said, “Each start here from now on could be my last here. If it happen, I just want to go to a contender. It is what it is and it is out of my control. If I’m traded, I’m traded. If I’m not, I’m not.”
FROM HIS VIEW at first base, Joey Votto likes Leake’s latest approach to pitching.
“He recognizes that he is not the type of pitcher who should be walking people,” he said. When June began, Leake was 2-and-3, but he is 6-and-2 in June and over 45 innings he has walked only seven.
“He doesn’t have big strikeout stuff, so if you walk guys you run the risk of letting them put the ball in play and have a chance of having runs add up. I see a guy who is attacking hitters with quality pitches and he looks like a real good version of himself.”
AND VOTTO LIKES his own recent view from the batter’s box. He had three hits in Game One Wednesday, including his 17th home run, and is on an offensive excursion. Through the first six games of the homestand he is 12 for 25 (.480).
“I’ve been working with (hitting coach) Don Long to make some adjustments,” said Votto. “I had a flawed swing and I’m still working through it and I’m headed in the right direction. There are still some subtle adjustments to make.”
Votto was asked if there is a perceived flaw in his swing, does he recognize it or does somebody like Long point it out?
“The ball speaks for you, the way the ball comes off the bat,” he said. “Timing and the way you feel at the plate does plenty for you. And then you go to the video or have discussions with the right people and go from there.
“You want to be comfortable and natural in the box,” he added. “At the same time, we play over six months and we all have aches and pains and changes in our body and suddenly something creeps in and a month later you realize it has become something you never want it to be.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Joey Votto, who cherishes his privacy and avoids attention, was asked by a media member if he’d like to talk and he said, “I neve like to talk, but I will if you want me to talk.”
And he talked and was incisive and accommodating as one could be.