08/26/07 2:16 AM ET
Notes: Reds face lineup uncertainty
Unknown starting pitchers hamstring manager Mackanin
By Mark Schmetzer / Special to MLB.com
His primary concern, of course, was the starting pitcher for Sunday afternoon's series finale. Left-hander Bobby Livingston had been scheduled before suddenly developing a tear in his labrum that sent him to the 15-day disabled list on Friday. Indications at first were that it either would be left-hander Mike Gosling or right-hander Kirk Saarloos, but the final choice would have to wait until Mackanin saw how Saturday's game unfolded.
Saarloos pitched on Saturday, so he was eliminated from contention for the Sunday start. Cincinnati ultimately decided to call up rookie Tom Shearn from Triple-A Louisville to make the start.
Mackanin's other issues revolved around making sure players got days off, especially in the wake of a stretch of days during which the temperature climbed over 100 degrees twice. The Reds also face a doubleheader in Pittsburgh on Tuesday after getting an off-day on Monday.
Left fielder Adam Dunn was back in the lineup on Saturday after getting Friday off. Ken Griffey Jr. also was in Saturday's lineup, and Mackanin said he didn't anticipate resting Griffey on Sunday, which would give the 37-year-old right fielder two full days off and almost three, since Tuesday's doubleheader -- scheduled when the two teams' Aug. 5 game was postponed due to rain -- isn't scheduled to start until 5:05 p.m. ET. That was Mackanin's ploy the last time the Reds had an off-day before opening a road trip on a Tuesday.
Instead, Mackanin plans to start Griffey and Dunn in one game each of the doubleheader. Griffey's first at-bat Saturday was his 51st since his last home run, dating back to Aug. 10. But in his third at-bat, Griffey finally belted No. 591, a two-run homer in the fifth.
"I've thought about giving Griffey one of the games off and Dunn the other," Mackanin said. "I don't want them both out of the lineup at the same time. I don't anticipate giving Griffey off [Sunday]."
Mackanin also was trying to determine when shortstop Alex Gonzalez might be ready to resume his starting job. Gonzalez hadn't played since being reinstated on Wednesday from his third stint on the bereavement list as he continues to tend to his gravely-ill son in Miami.
"I'll have a talk with him," Mackanin said. "I expect him to be ready soon. We'll see where he's at. He's our starting shortstop, there's no two ways about it. That will make it interesting, because everybody's swinging the bat well."
That list includes Jeff Keppinger, who's been starting in Gonzalez's place. Keppinger took a career-high 13-game hitting streak into Saturday's game, hitting .404 (21-for-52) during the streak to raise his overall average to .378.
"I'm thinking [second baseman Brandon] Phillips could use a day off," Mackanin said. "I can move Keppinger around. Of course, as good as he's hitting, he probably could use a day off."
Having fun: The numbers say Phillips' optimism is somewhat misplaced.
Sure, going into Saturday's game, the Reds were a National League-best 27-19 since Mackanin took over as Reds manager on July 3. Sure, they'd moved up two places in the NL Central, from sixth to fourth place. Sure, they'd won four in a row.
But they still had three teams to climb over to reach first place in their division and seven to climb into the lead for the Wild Card spot.
"We can't ever give up, no matter how many games we're out," Phillips said. "Just like last year, anything can happen. We should have made [the playoffs] last year, and right now, I think we can still make it this year. If we can keep worrying about ourselves, anything can happen."
The primary obstacle to maintaining the surge was the Reds starting rotation. Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo were the only pitchers to have maintained season-long residence in the rotation, which took another hit with the loss of Livingston to a torn labrum. That left Mackanin depending on a bullpen that has shown signs recently of being effective. The relief corps had a combined 2.92 ERA during the current homestand.
"The way the starting pitching has -- I don't want to say faltered, but has been in disarray for a number of reasons -- we need everybody in that 'pen to do their part," Mackanin said. "Everybody has at one point or another. It's what I talked about early when we first got here. We've got to rely on everyone in that 'pen. If they're in the Major Leagues, they've got to be considered Major League pitchers, and they're holding their part of the bargain."
"We should have been like that all season, but right now, we are," Phillips said. "We just think about what we can be right now. Honestly, I feel like we are a winning team regardless of what our record is. We're just looking at it different. Pete's got us doing the right thing. Pat Kelly is doing his job as the bench coach as well. We're just out there having fun. That's basically it."
Short visit: Right-hander Todd Coffey spent fewer than 24 hours in Cincinnati before he was optioned back to Louisville on Saturday.
Coffey was recalled on Friday when Livingston was placed on the disabled list. He was optioned on Saturday to make room on the roster for Saturday's starting pitcher, right-hander Matt Belisle, who was recalled from Louisville.
Coming up: The Reds, who will announce their pitcher after Saturday's game, will wind up the series and the homestand on Sunday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. ET with their first look at Florida right-hander Daniel Barone (0-1, 4.40).
Mark Schmetzer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.