Francis’ bid to make Reds’ rotation takes hit in 8-1 loss

Published 1:38 am Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Associated Press


GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Kevin Millwood hopes his history with Mariners manager Eric Wedge gives him an edge in the competition for the final spot in their rotation. A good performance might mean even more.

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Millwood pitched five strong innings on Tuesday, leading Seattle to an 8-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds that helped his chances.

The 37-year-old right-hander pitched for the Red Sox, Yankees and Rockies last season, spending some of his time in the minors. He’s competing with Hisashi Iwakuma for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring and allowed only a run on four hits in five innings Tuesday.

“It helps that I pitched well in Cleveland,” said Millwood, who was 9-11 with a 2.86 ERA when Wedge managed the Indians.

There’s another connection: Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis also was with the Indians when Millwood pitched in Cleveland.

“I definitely feel good where I’m at, but there’s a ways to go,” Millwood said. “I feel like I’ve improved every time out. I’ve worked hard. The rest of it, I have no control over it.”

Carlos Peguero homered and singled, driving in four runs. He hit his fourth homer of the spring off Jeff Francis, who is trying to win a spot at the back of Cincinnati’s rotation. Francis gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings. Luis Rodrigues had two singles and a sacrifice fly for Seattle.

Peguero started the season with Seattle but a strained right calf kept him sidelined the rest of the season.

Francis pitched for Kansas City last season after six years with Colorado. He is one of the veterans the Reds signed to add to their pitching depth.

“Peguero hit a changeup down over the middle of the plate,” Francis said. “I came in here to throw the ball the way I know how to throw it. I’ve gotten ahead in the count and stayed away from walking guys. All the stuff that’s out of my control, I leave up to the powers that be.”

Francis gave up a bloop single ahead of Peguero’s homer. He allowed seven hits but didn’t walk a batter.

“He just had that one pitch and it wasn’t a bad pitch,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Peguero went down and got it.”

Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips had two hits and scored on Zack Cozart’s double, his fourth extra-base hit in four games.

“We had a lot of chances to score,” Baker said. “It was a tough day.”

NOTES: Seattle plays the White Sox in Peoria on Wednesday, then flies to Japan on Thursday. The Mariners play two exhibitions before they open the regular season in Japan against the Oakland Athletics. … Iwakuma pitched three scoreless innings, allowing five hits and striking out three. … Johnny Cueto, the Reds’ opening-day starter, pitched against White Sox Triple-A players, going 3 2-3 innings and allowing four runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out three, but allowed a pair of homers. … Chris Valaika had two hits for the Reds.