01/16/2006 12:00 PM ET
Mailbag: Where does Aurilia fit in best?
Veteran might start season at third, but move around infield
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

With the re-signing of Rich Aurilia, where do you foresee the Reds using him most, second or third base? It seems like with the need to get speed in the lineup (i.e. Tony Womack and Ryan Freel), it seems to me that third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is the odd man out. What do you think?
-- Russ F., Greenup, Ky.


Encarnacion has no guarantees and will have to earn a starting job by consistently outplaying Aurilia at third base. The organization believes Encarnacion must improve his throwing accuracy and get more hitting experience. If he can't show he's ready, expect Aurilia to open 2006 at third base, but also move around. It sounds like second base will have a revolving set of guys -- namely Aurilia, Freel and Womack -- without one guy owning the job outright.

What is the story on Ryan Wagner? He had a solid rookie campaign, but he struggled last season. What is his current status in the Reds organization, and what do they see in his future? I think he has a world of talent, seeing that he broke the NCAA record for strikeouts per nine innings.
-- Max K., Westport, Conn.


Wagner, the Reds' first-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, missed the entire second half of last season with right shoulder inflammation. I've heard he is expected to be ready for Spring Training next month. He remains very much in future plans. In the short term, the 23-year-old will be in the mix for a middle or situational relief spot in the bullpen. Down the road, his stuff could make him a suitable closer.

Has the new ownership for the Reds been finalized? When will we start to see the effects of Robert Castellini's new regime?
-- John K., Boston, Mass.


It appears that formal approval of Castellini's ownership group from Major League Baseball could happen as early as this Friday during the owners meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. As for how long it takes for the new owner to leave his imprint on his new team, we won't really know until we hear from him. Castellini is not permitted to discuss his plans for the team until his ownership is approved. On the field, I'm not sure how much tweaking can be done immediately. Most teams have made their significant offseason moves already and the free agent crop is pretty well picked over by now. However, I rule nothing out -- anything can happen.

Why aren't the Reds looking at Jeff Weaver? The guy has been decently successful in the past, with most of his work in the AL. Am I overlooking something that doesn't make this a good fit?
-- Billy B., Middletown, Ohio


Personally, I just don't believe Weaver would improve the Reds' rotation much for what it would cost. Although he's got a reputation for staying healthy and working a lot of innings each year, his overall stats just aren't that impressive. Last season, he posted his career-best walks/hits per innings pitched at 1.17, but was tied for second in the Majors with 35 home runs allowed (Eric Milton led with 40 homers allowed). He has a lifetime 4.44 ERA and just one season (2005) with a winning record in seven years. His ERA had dipped below 4.00 only once as well (2002).

Some very gaudy contracts were handed out to other starters this winter like A.J. Burnett, Kevin Millwood and Jarrod Washburn. Weaver earned $9.3 million in 2005 and is represented by Scott Boras, so I imagine he would be a budget bloating addition that wouldn't give close to enough bang for the buck.

Hey Mark, nice to have you aboard. Who will fill the invaluable shoes that Sean Casey wore in the clubhouse? When it came to leadership, Sean just seemed to be in his own world. I'd like to see Jason LaRue step forward, but to the general fan, Jason seems a little subdued for that type of role. What's your take on leadership in the Reds' clubhouse this season? Thanks, and go Red Legs!
-- C Jay, Sarasota, Fla.


I'll be really honest -- I haven't stepped inside the Reds' clubhouse yet so I couldn't say for sure. But after speaking to LaRue on the day he re-signed last month, he seemed ready and willing to embrace the leadership role. I've heard a lot about David Weathers' and Kent Mercker's veteran leadership and I have a feeling Chris Hammond will provide more of the same. Generally, as younger players develop, gain more experience and become more comfortable in the clubhouse, leaders have a way of emerging.

What do you think the starting pitching rotation will look like come Opening Day?
-- Otto, Cincinnati


It should be Aaron Harang, Eric Milton, Paul Wilson, Dave Williams and Brandon Claussen. Because he's coming off June shoulder surgery, Wilson is considered an X-factor for now. He's scheduled to begin throwing soon down in Sarasota.

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