CINCINNATI — Farmers and horticulturalists aren’t the only people who appreciate a heavy downpour once in a while.
Sometimes a baseball manager and his team smiles when Mother Nature interferes with a scheduled game — like Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds.
His team’s Monday game against the Houston Astros in Great American Ball Park was postponed when Dopler said an all-night rain would soggy up the baseballs.
And that was OK with Baker — for two reasons.
First of all, his bullpen is beat up from heavy use over the last week and a day of rest for them all was a welcome respite.
Second of all, it enabled Baker to pitch Homer Bailey in a big-league game instead of in a minor-league game on rehab.
The rained-out game was re-scheduled for Thursday afternoon, a day off for both teams. Bailey is ready to return from the disabled list after three Triple-A starts on rehab.
But he last pitched on Saturday and his turn fell on Thursday. So with the Reds off Thursday, they scheduled him for one more rehab start — at Class A Dayton.
Now, with the postponement, he can make Thursday his 2011 debut after spending the first month on the DL with shoulder inflammation.
The move didn’t sit well with the Astros and one Houston official said, “They just did this so they could get their pitching in order.”
Bailey was 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA with four walks and 14 strikeouts in his 16 2/3 innings for the Louisville Bats.
The fact that Bailey will pitch Thursday first leaked to the media from the Houston clubhouse and a writer said to Baker, “Word from the Houston clubhouse is that Bailey is pitching Thursday.”
Said Baker, “I guess so, if you got it from the Astros side. Hey, we told ‘em. We ain’t hiding nothing.
“He was scheduled to throw Thursday and if we had a game scheduled that day he would have pitched,” said Baker. “So, with the rain, it worked out. He didn’t real feel, or necessarily want another rehab assignment. But it would have been better for our rotation.”
Mike Leake was scheduled to pitch Monday and was pushed back to Tuesday. Travis Wood is scheduled for Wednesday and Sam LeCure is being skipped and will work out of the bullpen.
Wood, 1-3 with a 6.82 ERA over six starts, has struggled mightily and his Wednesday start is crucial to his immediate future. When Bailey returns, somebody must go. If Wood is ineffective again, he could find himself in Louisville by Thursday. If he splices together a strong start, LeCure is probably the guy who will pack his bags.
“Bailey pitched well in Louisville and that’s what we were hoping for and what we’re basing all this on,” said Baker. “We were patient and he was patient and worked very hard and it’s time for him to go.”
Johnny Cueto is another starter who has resided on the DL since the season began and has been on rehab assignment with Bailey. But he is behind and Baker said Cueto will make another rehab start, probably Friday for Class A Dayton. He pitched Sunday in Louisville and was scheduled for seven innings and 100 pitches. But he used up 99 pitches after 4 2/3 innings and was removed.
“He has good velocity, but his pitch-count climbed early,” said Baker. “He was spinning off from the target, but (pitching coach) Bryan Price said that is easily repaired.”
Cueto off-and-on has had that problem, falling off to the side on his delivery instead of driving toward home plate.
“We’ll have him work a bullpen in the next couple of days so Bryan can work with him before that start in Dayton,” Baker added.
About his bullpen, Baker acknowledged that the rainout will help immensely.
“That’s true,” he said. “Those guys have been going to the mound a lot. I looked at my card and they’ve all been going four out of six days, three out of six days, some of them more than one inning, including (closer) Coco Cordero, who went two on Saturday. And those guys have been big-time pulling their weight.”
With a day game Wednesday and a day game Thursday, then three straight day games in Chicago, the Reds will play five straight afternoon games.
“That’s better than day, night, day, night,” said Baker. “This way you can get acclimated, sleep-wise, eating-wise. You’d rather do it like that than a bunch of different times. That’s what messes you up. This will feel like spring training.”
Before Sunday’s game against the Florida Marlins, shortstop Edgar Renteria took ground balls at third base during batting practice, a position he has never played.
With third baseman Scott Rolen on the DL with shoulder miseries and no sign of an imminent return, and the team’s other third baseman, Juan Francisco, also on the DL, the Reds are third-base challenged.
Baker wanted to get Renteria’s bat in the lineup and keep slick-fielding Paul Janish at shortstop. Janish also is hitting .299.
Before Sunday’s game, Baker said Renteria would play third base Monday against Houston. But when the lineup was posted (before the rainout), Renteria was at shortstop.
“Changed my mind,” said Baker. “Renteria is not really comfortable at third base yet.”