Notes: Ross' return remains uncertain
Back cramps preclude veteran catcher from spring action
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reds catcher David Ross never expected that he would miss this much time.Spasms have had Ross' lower back in knots, and when he wakes up on Saturday, he'll have already missed all 11 Spring Training games. "It's terrible," said Ross of the longer-than-expected layoff. Ross thought he'd miss a couple of days when he first got hurt. Ross' stay in the trainer's room has been extended because of two attempts to return gone wrong. The most recent try at hitting and throwing was four days ago, and it proved he wasn't ready yet. "I'm going to wait until I'm pain-free," Ross said on Friday. "I've never had back problems. You can't really do anything. I can't throw. I can't hit. I can't catch. I've been on all kinds of medicine. It's not really helping me much." A targeted return date wasn't known, but manager Dusty Baker estimated it could be another week. "He was taking two steps forward and one step back," Baker said. "If you keep doing that, you might as well say it's not day-to-day. They say it's muscular. Nothing in the vertebrae or nerves or anything like that." Ross, who turns 31 on March 19, began working out at a local YMCA pool on Thursday and is running and conditioning in the water. There are three weeks remaining before camp breaks, which means Ross can still catch up. But there's no avoiding the fact that he's behind his teammates. If he's not ready to open the season, the Reds have Javier Valentin and non-roster invitee Paul Bako as catching options. "I'm trying not to look at it, because it'll make me do stuff," Ross said. "I thought it'd be a two-or-three day thing. It's a crucial time because I want to see pitchers, get my at-bats and stuff. I feel like there are enough at-bats here for me if I have to go to the Minor League side. But I can't wait too long because I need to see all our pitchers and build a rapport, which is important at Spring Training."
Gotcha: Outfield prospect Jay Bruce's Friday morning slumber at home was interrupted with a phone call from Adam Dunn, who asked Bruce why he wasn't at the ballpark. Bruce was scheduled to play in the night split-squad game vs. Pittsburgh, but not the day game. Worried, he double-timed it to the Reds clubhouse.Dunn wanted to call him back and tell him it was a joke before. But teammates talked him out of it. After being strung along, Bruce finally realized he'd been had. "We love you so much, we wanted you at the park when we were here," Ken Griffey Jr. told Bruce. Bruce didn't return to his place. Dunn told him to go and offered to buy breakfast. "I'm staying. Maybe I can get a pinch-hit out of it," he said. Rough run: Veteran lefty reliever and Cincinnati native Scott Sauerbeck hasn't had a smooth camp. Sauerbeck struggled again in Friday afternoon's game vs. Pittsburgh and took the loss. In the sixth inning, he gave up four earned runs, one hit and two walks in one-third of an inning. Through two innings in his three outings, Sauerbeck has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) for a 40.50 ERA. Interesting read? An avid reader, Baker's office shelf is filled with leadership and motivational books written by the likes of John Wooden and Bill Walsh. Asked about his collection, Baker pulled out a book about Attila the Hun. "Everybody will think I'm crazy for liking him," Baker said. "Atilla the Hun is one of the best leaders of all time. I don't think I could cut off hands and arms or something like that if you don't do what I tell you. I liked that his people were all nationalities, all different languages, a lot of stuff." Some TV, in high-def: The Reds and FSN Ohio announced that 145 games will be shown in 2008, including 71 in hi-definition. The TV schedule begins with the March 31 season opener vs. the Diamondbacks at 2 p.m. ET. George Grande and Chris Welsh will return for their 16th seasons, making them the longest running TV duo in Reds history. Back for their second season on selected games will be Thom Brennaman and Jeff Brantley. Up next: The Reds will host the Braves on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. in Sarasota. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt will make his third start for Cincinnati against Atlanta right-hander Buddy Carlyle.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.