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OnBaseMachine
03-24-2008, 01:26 AM
Vets like Reds' mix of young, old
Mercker, Patterson agree this year's team is going in the right direction so far.

By Kyle Nagel

Staff Writer

Monday, March 24, 2008

SARASOTA, Fla — Around the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse, more than a few players have that twinge in their stomachs. As the fans do, the Reds veterans, and even their newcomers, see promise in the team shaping up with better pitching and a deeper roster.

"There have been years I haven't thought that," said Kent Mercker, the 17-year veteran left-hander fighting for a spot in the bullpen. "You don't say that, but you look around, and a lot of times I'm looking at myself, going, 'Oh geez, we've got me in the bullpen? This could be an interesting year.'

"But honestly, this year you look around and you say to yourself, 'This is a good team.' "

That's what Reds fans are hoping just one week from Opening Day, as they cautiously entertain dreams of success. Now the Reds have a real closer, a notable manager, impressive young starting pitching. Heck, they even have the general manager who led the St. Louis Cardinals to so much success, even though he isn't the general manager.

Several players noted that optimism comes from common-sense moves made by owner Bob Castellini.

"It starts from up top, I like everybody up top," said Corey Patterson, who is expected to be the Opening Day center fielder after signing with the Reds on March 3. "It works its way down. The coaching staff is great, the players all get along. On the field, offensively, we won't have any problems. The pitching is improved, and I think people are still wondering how it's going to pan out. But, from what we've seen in spring training, I think we're going to do great this year."

When asked by a visiting reporter last week how he liked the way his new team is shaping up, manager Dusty Baker quickly answered.

"I'm likin' it," he said with a grin.

But even he, like the fans, is careful with his predictions.

"Now we need them to accept winning like it's no big deal," Baker said. "I can see the progress in the young men."

As the regular season approaches, some are wondering whether they should give the Reds another chance to break their hearts, like going back to the girlfriend who has dumped you three times before.

Many of the players think it's safe.

"There's a really good blend of young and old," Mercker said. "When the older veterans are still contributing and they're not just there playing out a contract, but they're there because they're a vital part of the team. The young guys kind of give life to the old guys, and the old guys give knowledge to the young guys.

"It seems like it's all working out."

http://www.daytondailynews.com/s/content/oh/story/sports/pro/reds/2008/03/23/ddn032408redshope.html?cxntlid=inform_artr

OnBaseMachine
03-24-2008, 01:27 AM
Winning manager, mentality give Reds hope

By Kyle Nagel

Staff Writer

Monday, March 24, 2008

SARASOTA, Fla. — With one week remaining until Opening Day and Cincinnati Reds fans wondering how much they can hope after seven straight losing seasons, here are five reasons to be optimistic about the Reds this season:

1 A real, honest-to-goodness closer. Francisco Cordero will fill that role after David Weathers served as its steward. Weathers did have some success, but everyone knew he was not the long-term answer. Granted, eighth-inning meltdowns decreased some Weathers chances, but everyone likes an All-Star, as Cordero was last season with the Brewers.

2 A manager who knows winning. True, Dusty Baker doesn't have a World Series ring as a manager, but his résumé is much more impressive than those of Bob Boone, Dave Miley and Jerry Narron combined. Many argue about the impact of a manager, but it's easier to produce when you trust your boss knows what he's doing.

3 Non-retread starting pitching. The top of the rotation was already set with Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, but now you'll be hopeful through the fourth starter after Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez have opened eyes this spring. The fifth starter is a question mark, but really, when in recent Reds history have you only complained about one of the starting five?

4 The regulars are producing. Ken Griffey Jr. is hitting .353 this spring with 11 RBIs in 16 games. Scott Hatteberg has a .415 average. Corey Patterson, the new center fielder, is at .407. Second baseman Brandon Phillips has 15 RBIs. OK, so Adam Dunn has a .184 average, but he has struck out only nine times.

5 The NL Central is weak. The weakened St. Louis Cardinals have opened the door to the division title. Cross your fingers.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/s/content/oh/story/sports/pro/reds/2008/03/23/ddn032408redshopeb1.html

OnBaseMachine
03-24-2008, 01:29 AM
Baker, Reds still putting pieces together
Cincinnati manager says he has a 'semi-set' lineup for Opening Day.

By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Sunday, March 23, 2008

SARASOTA, Fla. — Dusty Baker calls them, "Shadows." They also are black clouds, electrified fences and deep trenches.

It's called losing — seven straight years of it for the Cincinnati Reds and it is what Baker is here to eradicate.

Before a Sunday, March 23, 10-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Baker was asked if his philosophy and his baseball ways of the world are sinking in.

"I hope so, but six weeks isn't a very long period of time," he said about spring training. "There are some shadows to definitely get rid of that are there. You know, like losing."

With a week remaining before Opening Day, there are 37 candidates still dressing in the major-league clubhouse. Twelve must go.

"It is a little more difficult to get it together when you don't have your team set yet," he said. "There are guys who still know they might not be part of the team. So it is difficult to say, 'Let's do it for the team,' when they don't know who the team is yet."

Baker said that happens when the room remains overstuffed, something he never encountered in his years with the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs.

"We've tried our damndest to get everybody innings and at-bats," he said. "A lot of extra guys and young guys got a lot of at-bats. In my previous stops I never had this many players in camp (the Reds started with 62, then added three)."

Baker wants to begin filtering an everyday winning attitude, but added, "We still have to figure out the everyday lineup and get everybody familiar with each other on the field. It is easy when you come in with a set lineup. We have a semi-set lineup, but not totally set.

"That's what makes it fun, putting pieces together," he added. "That's what it is all about. We have a present puzzle and a future puzzle that you eventually want to intertwine."

The semi-set portion of his lineup is Brandon Phillips at second base, Edwin Encarnacion at third base, Adam Dunn in left field and Ken Griffey Jr. in right field.

Corey Patterson most likely is ahead of Norris Hopper and Ryan Freel in center. Jeff Keppinger probably is at shortstop, although Juan Castro is right there, until knee-plagued Alex Gonzalez returns. First base is a mystery: young Joey Votto or veteran Scott Hatteberg. Catching remains a dilemma with David Ross just recovering from back spasms. Does Baker start Javier Valentin or Paul Bako?

The Easter lineup Sunday appeared to be close to Opening Day lineup with Votto at first base, Valentin catching and Juan Castro at shortstop.

"It's tough, real tough," Baker said. "But that's what we're here for. To pick the best team (to go) north."

They made one cut after Sunday's game — catcher Ryan Hanigan was optioned to Class AAA Louisville.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/s/content/oh/story/sports/pro/reds/2008/03/23/ddn032408redsweb.html

fearofpopvol1
03-24-2008, 12:24 PM
Of course Mercker and Patterson think the team looks good. It's because they've likely made the team!

redsfan30
03-24-2008, 12:33 PM
Of course Mercker and Patterson think the team looks good. It's because they've likely made the team!

Patterson, yes. But I'll be surprised is Mercker makes the final cut and comes north a week from today.

fearofpopvol1
03-24-2008, 01:58 PM
I think it's more likely than not that Mercker makes the team. I hope you're right, though.

KronoRed
03-24-2008, 04:09 PM
Of course Mercker and Patterson think the team looks good. It's because they've likely made the team!

I'd like to hear what the guys who don't make the team have to say about the roster ;)

Mario-Rijo
03-24-2008, 04:32 PM
Here's what I see coming down the pipeline. The team as it looks like it could be come OD.

15 Day DL/EST:
David Ross

Starters (8)
C - Valentin
1B - Votto (He will likely have a very short leash)
2B - BP
SS - Gonzo
3B - EEE
LF - Dunn
CF - Patterson
RF - Jr

Bench (6)
Bako
Keppinger
Hopper
Freel
Hatteberg
Castro

Rotation (5)
Harang
Arroyo
Cueto
Affeldt (Will still end up in the pen around early June)
Volquez

Pen (6)
Cordero
Weathers
Stanton
Burton
Coffey
Bray

Early June I see Bailey or Belisle (whichever is more deserving)coming back up and taking either Volquez or Affeldt's spot (will the wheels fall off for either by then?) in the rotation. Volquez will go to AAA if it's him and Affeldt to the pen if it's him. By then Bako hopefully will be in AAA and Ross will be back up and Castro will likely be the guy leaving for one of these arms.

Is this the way everyone else sees it? Am I missing anything? Either way I hope we don't have Castro and Bako on the bench. And Freel and/or Hattberg is going to have to go at some point to make room for Bruce perhaps.

redsmetz
03-24-2008, 04:39 PM
Here's what I see coming down the pipeline. The team as it looks like it could be come OD.

15 Day DL/EST:
David Ross

Starters (8)
C - Valentin
1B - Votto (He will likely have a very short leash)
2B - BP
SS - Gonzo
3B - EEE
LF - Dunn
CF - Patterson
RF - Jr

Bench (6)
Bako
Keppinger
Hopper
Freel
Hatteberg
Castro

Rotation (5)
Harang
Arroyo
Cueto
Affeldt (Will still end up in the pen around early June)
Volquez

Pen (6)
Cordero
Weathers
Stanton
Burton
Coffey
Bray

Early June I see Bailey or Belisle (whichever is more deserving)coming back up and taking either Volquez or Affeldt's spot (will the wheels fall off for either by then?) in the rotation. Volquez will go to AAA if it's him and Affeldt to the pen if it's him. By then Bako hopefully will be in AAA and Ross will be back up and Castro will likely be the guy leaving for one of these arms.

Is this the way everyone else sees it? Am I missing anything? Either way I hope we don't have Castro and Bako on the bench. And Freel and/or Hattberg is going to have to go at some point to make room for Bruce perhaps.

But Dusty has already dispatched Affeldt to the pen, Mario. Where do you see Fogg and who falls off your staff under that scenario?

TRF
03-24-2008, 04:43 PM
Here's what I see coming down the pipeline. The team as it looks like it could be come OD.

15 Day DL/EST:
David Ross

Starters (8)
C - Valentin
1B - Votto (He will likely have a very short leash)
2B - BP
SS - Gonzo
3B - EEE
LF - Dunn
CF - Patterson
RF - Jr

Bench (6)
Bako
Keppinger
Hopper
Freel
Hatteberg
Castro

Rotation (5)
Harang
Arroyo
Cueto
Affeldt (Will still end up in the pen around early June)
Volquez

Pen (6)
Cordero
Weathers
Stanton
Burton
Coffey
Bray

Early June I see Bailey or Belisle (whichever is more deserving)coming back up and taking either Volquez or Affeldt's spot (will the wheels fall off for either by then?) in the rotation. Volquez will go to AAA if it's him and Affeldt to the pen if it's him. By then Bako hopefully will be in AAA and Ross will be back up and Castro will likely be the guy leaving for one of these arms.

Is this the way everyone else sees it? Am I missing anything? Either way I hope we don't have Castro and Bako on the bench. And Freel and/or Hattberg is going to have to go at some point to make room for Bruce perhaps.

Well, AGon will likely miss at least the first week of the season. Affeldt is out of the rotation hunt, and is likely a fixture in the pen due to his contract.

IMO you are still missing a pitcher. I see the Reds with a 12 man staff. And I am hoping someone in this organization realizes Castro's value as a coach for Chattanooga.

paulrichjr
03-24-2008, 11:23 PM
Peter Gammons
http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=gammons_peter

Youth gives Reds hope in '08
posted: Monday, March 24, 2008 | Print Entry
filed under: MLB

Think about where the Reds were two years ago in terms of pitching, and now they have Aaron Harang and his 32 wins and 434 strikeouts the last two years, as well as Bronson Arroyo. But one of the best storylines in western Florida has been the springs of Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez.

"We're at the point where we could have two of the better young power arms in baseball in Cueto and Volquez," says Dusty Baker. "Cueto is special -- three or four pitches, a real presence, great stuff. Volquez [acquired for Josh Hamilton] is really good, too. And in his last couple of outings, Homer Bailey has started throwing a lot better. By going out and getting [Francisco] Cordero, we've got the makings of a pretty good staff. With our offense, we can be dangerous."

Cincinnati has been the consensus sleeper in the NL Central behind favorites Chicago and Milwaukee. The Cubs are still trying to address center field and Brian Roberts issues. After losing Chris Capuano to Tommy John surgery, the Brewers' depth isn't what it appeared to be, and scouts say Eric Gagne has yet to throw as well as he did last season.

"At least now we have some depth in our rotation," says Reds GM Wayne Krivsky.

There are still decisions to be made. The first is between Joey Votto and Scott Hatteberg at first base. The second is in center field, between Corey Patterson, Norris Hopper and Ryan Freel.

Baker has already struggled managing Patterson and his career .298 on-base percentage, but wants his defense between Junior Griffey and Adam Dunn. But Dusty sees Patterson maturing as a player.

"Corey seems to be better taking some pitches, trying to get on base, and he's starting to bunt and go the other way," says Baker. Hot prospect Jay Bruce isn't coming through that door for awhile, so maybe they got Patterson at the right time.

Krivsky was hired as GM right before spring training two years ago, but has done an outstanding, underappreciated job with scouting and development. If Cueto, Volquez and even Bailey -- who had fallen in the eyes of many baseball people -- all come on this season, the Reds will be in the best position they've enjoyed in years.

*****

One of the nice stories of the spring has been the bonding of Hunter Pence with Darin Erstad. "They're just alike," says Astros manager Cecil Cooper. "The difference," says Erstad, "is that he has a lot more talent." Maybe now, at this juncture in their careers, but they both play with reckless abandon, fearlessly.

The 24-year old Pence, who batted .322 with 17 homers in 112 games last year, plays as if all his highlights should be in grainy black-and-white film. He is gawky, yet he's in perfect hitting position when he swings. He is in great shape (2-3 percent body fat), and this is his attitude -- at the end of last season, he told Matt Galante, the Astros' special assistant to the GM, that he had to work extra hard this past winter just to make the team.

Erstad should be a major contributor to the Astros, playing four positions and being such an important support system for Pence. Both players offer their bodies in human sacrifice on every ball hit their way, and injuries have cost Erstad a lot in his career. "I don't regret anything," says Erstad. "I'd never take back anytime I dove for a ball or ran into a wall. That's the way to play. I know it takes its toll, and I hope it won't hurt Hunter, or Grady Sizemore, who plays the same way."

Cooper wanted quality veteran character on his bench, and has it with Erstad, Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, Geoff Blum and Tomas Perez. "I think over the course of the season, those guys will be really important," says Cooper.

*****

Observations from scouts and general managers:

• "What we haven't seen from Andrew Miller (Florida) is the consistent power. He can be 88 to 91 [mph], then dial it up to 94-95, but he clearly doesn't have confidence in his command." Hey, we knew it would take time. That said, both Chris Volstad and Brett Sinkbeil have opened a lot of eyes.

• "Don't get too excited about the pitching around baseball when Odalis Perez, Livan Hernandez and Mark Hendrickson are all Opening Day starters."

• "Miguel Tejada looks better than he has in a couple of years. His life is back, he's in great shape, and his bat speed is much better than it was last year." Just ask Tejada, and he'll explain how much he wanted out of that Baltimore situation. "It was discouraging," he says, "to play the Yankees and Red Sox and have almost the entire stadium cheering for New York or Boston. Baltimore is a great city and the fans are great, but it's been a lot of years of losing."

• "What disappointed me most in Texas is Jarrod Saltalamacchia's receiving. He struggled behind the plate, and I loved him last year. Hopefully, it's a confidence thing because he was rough back there." For what it's worth, Bobby Cox liked his catching above his bat.

• "The best-looking player in Arizona has been Josh Hamilton. His power has been nothing short of spectacular."

• "The Red Sox have Allard Baird watching the Cubs, which has other scouts out here in Arizona speculating about a Coco Crisp-Sean Gallagher deal." Boston has tried to get back Matt Murton as well. Of course, no one can figure out why the Rangers didn't do the Marlon Byrd-Murton deal. And the Red Sox are very wary of trading Crisp because of the leg problems that can hit speed guys like Jacoby Ellsbury.

• "Next to Henry Rodriguez (Oakland), the best arm I've seen this spring is Kerry Wood. He was 96 to 98 the other day with a real good curveball. If he stays healthy, he can be dominating."

• "Hopefully, it's just because it's spring training, but Joe Crede really looks as if his back is bothering him." Too bad, because Crede has been a very good player and really good guy.

• "Carlos Gomez is worth sending out there for 500 plate appearances. He can fly, he's got a great arm, and the power is there. It's worth allowing to develop, because his tools are spectacular."

• "With Detroit's offense, don't be surprised if Justin Verlander wins 25 games."

• "How can Hanley Ramirez not be ranked right near the top of National League players? His bat is getting to be incredible. If he played on a contender, he'd be right in the MVP discussions."

*****

• With Kaz Matsui down, the Astros say they will not trade Mark Loretta to the Dodgers without getting some significant pitching back. They have been looking to deal a catcher, and have asked the Red Sox if they're interested in acquiring Brad Ausmus for pitching.

• Lance Berkman was discussing why he believes spring training games mean nothing. So he asked someone to look up the Tigers' record in 1984, when they opened the regular season 35-5. The answer? Detroit went 11-19. "I rest my case," said Berkman.

• Everyone knows that Terry Pendleton is on the A list of future managers. Fellow Braves coach Eddie Perez may be right there, as well. Perez is expected to manage the Dominican team next spring in the World Baseball Classic.

• Michael Bourn does have a .400 on-base percentage this spring, which is very encouraging to the Astros.

• John Smoltz says the biggest problem with the weakness in his left shoulder "is that it's cost me 40 yards on my drives. I used to be able to drive with Tiger (Woods, as if you have to be told), but I'm now 40 yards shy."

• Yunel Escobar has grown, his energy is greater than ever, and he has all the earmarks of stardom. The Braves know they upgraded defensively by trading Edgar Renteria for Jair Jurrjens, but Escobar is ready for his breakout season, Jurrjens has been solidly in the 92-94 range and Chuck James has come back to where Bobby Cox says "if Smoltz needs to be held back, James can take his spot in the rotation next week." Incidently, Mike Hampton was outstanding Saturday.

• Cox says Mark Kotsay "is the most accurate-throwing center fielder in the game. He's really had a good spring. We'll monitor him closely." Kotsay has to go through a long stretching process to free his back to play, but Cox says "he won't tell us there's ever anything wrong." Remember, the Braves think outfield prospect Jordan Schafer is close to being ready, and Cox adds, "I think he's going to hit for power."

• The Red Sox seem very confident in the condition of Josh Beckett's back.

• Akinori Iwamura has to have the biggest thighs of any second baseman in modern days, but he has looked like a very adequate defender at the position.