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05/21/08 10:10 PM ET
Reds pleased with Belisle's progress
Right-hander pitched into seventh inning in Tuesday's loss
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- If pitcher Matt Belisle keeps having starts like he did on Tuesday, concerns about his status in the Reds rotation are likely to diminish. The prevailing question is, can he keep it up? During Belisle's six-plus-inning effort during a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers, he gave up three runs and seven singles without a walk and three strikeouts. It was the first time he worked into the seventh inning this season. The right-hander also worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation with two runs scoring. "A hungry man is a working man. You know what I mean?" Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Wednesday. "I was very proud and pleased. He wants that job and he wants to keep that job." Did Tuesday go a long way towards Belisle keeping his job? Before the outing, he was already scheduled to start on Sunday at San Diego. Baker didn't commit beyond that. "After Sunday, I hope I'm still around. I hope I'm still alive," Baker said. "Sunday is a long way." Reds general manager Walt Jocketty joined the seven-game road trip on Wednesday and will get to evaluate the team for himself the rest of the week. Jocketty missed the beginning of a trip because he had to attend two funerals. Two of the more impressive parts about Belisle's night were that he retired 13 in a row after giving up a second-inning RBI single to pitcher Chad Billingsley. And of his 85 pitches overall, 67 were strikes. After the Billingsley hit, pitching coach Dick Pole paid a mound visit and laid it on the line for Belisle, who got the message and responded well. "He was more aggressive after that with his approach," Pole said. "That's the kind of approach you have to have. Throw strikes over and make hitters hit on your terms instead of their terms." The Reds hoped Belisle would start the season strong as the No. 3 starter. But he struggled during Spring Training and started the season on the disabled list with a forearm injury. Since his return, Belisle is 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts. He's allowed 19 earned runs and 39 hits over 25 1/3 innings. Before Tuesday, none of his starts reached six innings. At Triple-A Louisville, Homer Bailey is 4-4 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts, and is the first name the public usually clamors for to be called up. But Bailey, who makes his next start on Thursday, is coming off back-to-back poor starts. He allowed six walks in his previous outing and 10 runs and 15 hits over 9 1/3 innings in his last two games. Another Louisville starting pitcher, Justin Lehr, is 4-2 with a 2.41 ERA in eight starts with nine walks and 41 strikeouts. Like Baker, Pole was also non-committal about Belisle's long-term status. "His performance, like anybody else, is going to dictate that," Pole said. "He understands that. He's been around long enough to know that, if you don't get the job done. If he approaches it like he did yesterday, he's going to be fine."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.