Outfielders Adam Dunn and Jermaine Dye are prominent among the bats who appear available to contenders looking to spruce up an offense, and even bigbopper Dunn — subject of trade rumors for the last several seasons, both in-season and out — seems to believe he is gone.
“Unofficially? I think it will happen,” said Dunn.
Officially, too, Cincinnati seems to be preparing to move on without Dunn, who has 214 home runs in seven major league seasons, including 40 in each of the last three, but has less flattering second-half numbers and is probably bestsuited as a DH.
Reds top prospect Joey Votto, a first baseman while moving up in the organization, is learning left field at Triple-A Louisville and is hitting .312 with seven homers, 36 RBIs and seven stolen bases.
Reds general manager Wayne Krisky is not talking, saying “I don’t comment on rumors,” yet did not make a flat denial, either.
The Reds have a $13 million option on Dunn for 2008, but that option disappears if Dunn is traded.
A new team would have to negotiate a long-term contract with Dunn — major league rules permit a 48-hour window — or be content to rent him for the rest of the year. Scouts from Atlanta, Houston, the Dodgers, White Sox, Detroit and others watched Dunn earlier this week.
Dye’s contract expires at the end of this season, and while he has a balky knee and is not having a great offensive year, he brings a strong power resumè and does have 11 home runs this year.
The Diamondbacks were very interested in Dye when he was a free agent before the 2005 season and offered him a package worth more than the White Sox’s two-year, $10.5 million deal with a $7 million option.
But Dye already was taking his physical exam with the White Sox when the D-Backs entered the process , and Dye felt an obligation to the Sox. The D-Backs do not appear to have the same level of interest now.
Koyie Hill has become the catcher of choice with the Cubs after Lou Piniella decided upon less playing time for Michael Barrett, who had an animated discussion with left-hander Rich Hill in the dugout after Seattle’s Jarrod Washburn singled in a run Tuesday.
That was two weeks after Carlos Zambrano punched Barrett in their charged dugout dispute that carried into the clubhouse and ended with Barrett in a Chicago hospital, where he received six stitches in his lip.
Washburn hit a slider, even though Hill’s best two pitches are a fastball and a curve, and the dispute centered around pitch selection and became so heated that pitching coach Larry Rothschild had to step in.
“You’re playing a baseball game. You’re not playing tiddlywinks. There is competition, for God’s sakes,” Piniella said, downplaying the matter.
Hill, meanwhile, will get more playing time until reserve Henry Blanco (neck) returns from the disabled list, at least two weeks away.
Cubs starting pitchers are 4-1 with a 1.49 ERA when caught by Koyie Hill, a former D-Back promoted from Triple-A Iowa on June 1. Zambrano is 2-1 pitching to Hill, including Saturday’s co m p l e t e game in which he carried a nohitter into the eighth.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks” for Barrett, Piniella said. “I have confidence in him. I’m going to rest him a little more.”
RISING TO THE OCCASION
Washington is 6-1 when it has faced John Smoltz (three times), Jake Peavy (twice), Cole Hamels and Johan Santana, a quartet of likely all-star pitchers, losing only to Smoltz.
The Nationals were 23-37 against everyone else.
Ron Kulpa worked home plate in Oakland when Curt Schilling took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before Shannon Stewart’s two-out single broke it up on June 7.
“I told my crewmates and my dad that I didn’t know if I’d ever come that close again to working a no-hitter,” he said.
His next appearance behind the plate? Tuesday, in Detroit, when Jeremy Bonderman no-hit Milwaukee.
“You have to keep your perspective,” Kulpa said about being behind the plate in the late innings of a no-hit attempt.
“You concentrate like he has given up five or six hits. You tell yourself ‘Don’t give the pitcher anything. Make sure you call strikes the same as always. Stay focused.’”
CLIMBING WITH BANNISTER
Brian Bannister is making his acquisition for reliever Ambiorix Burgos look better every day.
Scottsdale’s Bannister has allowed one earned run in 22 innings while winning his last three starts for the Royals and will enter his start against Florida today with a 2.91 ERA. “He’s always in control,” Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said, “and he has good stuff.”
“I’m just getting more comfortable at the major league level,” Bannister said. “Every time I go out, I try to change something about my game. Obviously, everybody knows what every pitcher throws out there. You just don’t want to get in a pattern. I’ve made small adjustments in my pitching pattern every single start.”
The D-Backs had a trade in place to obtain Bannister before 2006 that involved sending several veterans to the Mets, a deal that also would have cleared room on the 40-man roster for Dan Uggla. When the deal fell through, Uggla had to be exposed in the Rule 5 draft and was claimed by Florida.
The last word
“When you are used to giving up two hits an inning, you notice something like that pretty soon.”
ADAM WAINWRIGHT, ST. LOUIS RIGHT-HANDER, WHO HAD A NO-HITTER FOR 5 2/3 INNINGS WEDNESDAY AND SAID HE BEGAN THINKING ABOUT IT IN "ABOUT THE THIRD INNING."
Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez and Philadelphia’s Chase Utley are threatening doubles records. Earl Webb set the major league record with 67 doubles in 1931, but Ordonez is on a pace that would give him 78. Utley is on pace for 67 doubles, which would break Joe Medwick’s NL record of 64.
Back on track
The Phillies recovered from being swept by the Diamondbacks on May 28-30 to gain six games in the NL East race in a nine-day span as the Mets scuffled. The Phillies became the last team in the majors to win a game in which they scored three or fewer runs in a 3-0 victory over the White Sox on Monday. They had been 0-17.
Tell your statistics to shut up
Texas did not have a starting pitcher go more than seven innings until Kameron Loe threw eight scoreless at Pittsburgh on Thursday. Every other team in the AL has at least five starts of more than seven innings. The Rangers trailed by at least five runs in 27 of their first 67 games.
The Mets continue their run of six straight series against 2006 playoff teams with home series against Minnesota and Oakland.