Sunday, February 26, 2006
Roster tough to predict this year
BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
SARASOTA, Fla. - The last couple years, it was possible to pick 23 or 24 roster spots for the Reds at this point in spring training.
All you had to do was look at who had options and who had a major-league contract, and you could come up with 10 or 11 pitchers and 12 or 13 position players with a good degree of certainty.
It's not so easy this year.
Part of it is that general manager Wayne Krivsky's signees - Scott Hatteberg, Tuffy Rhodes, Michael Gosling and Quinton McCracken - were added to an already full spring training roster.
Hatteberg and Gosling are on the 40-man. McCracken spent all of last year in the big leagues. And Rhodes hit 360 home runs over the past 10 years in Japan. These aren't guys brought in to play at Triple-A.
"You always want competition," Krivsky said. "We've got a lot of options in the bullpen, the rotation, the infield and the bench."
The options could lead to some very difficult choices in late March.
The Reds will start to sort things out this week when the games begin. They have an exhibition game with the Kia Tigers of Korea Tuesday and an intrasquad game Wednesday. They start the exhibition schedule Thursday against Detroit in Lakeland.
The roster is a little bloated mainly because Krivsky was hired so late. You have a combination of Krivsky's guys and former GM Dan O'Brien's guys. Interim GM Brad Kullman even got into the act, signing relief pitcher Rick White to a big-league contract.
Not everyone is going to get a fair shot.
"If you're on the bubble, every day you go out there could be big for you," Reds manager Jerry Narron said.
But players on the fringe of the roster will have to earn jobs.
"We're not going to have guys make the team by default," Narron said. "I'm all for guys earning their way on."
It wasn't like that under O'Brien or the GM who preceded him, Jim Bowden. Bowden kept Wily Mo Peņa on the roster in 2003 even though he was far from ready for the big leagues. Peņa ended up hitting .218 in 165 at-bats that year - severely hurting his development as a player.
O'Brien put Anderson Machado on the roster last July after he hit .139 on a rehab assignment. Both decisions were made because the players were out of options.
Krivsky put Luke Hudson and Jung Keun Bong on waivers to get players he wanted on the roster. He didn't lose either player, but he showed no reluctance to take the risk.
So beginning today, a lot of players are going to take a long ride on the bubble.
Just look at the bullpen: White, Mike Burns and Chris Hammond were added to the 40-man roster. Add them to holdovers Matt Belisle, Todd Coffey, Kent Mercker, Brian Shackelford, Allan Simpson, Jason Standridge, Ryan Wagner and David Weathers. You also have three non-roster pitchers - Hudson, Jimmy Journell and Tommy Phelps - who got significant big-league time last season.
That's 14 guys vying for seven spots.
The bullpen isn't the only place were there will be tough calls.
The depth chart at second base is about six deep.
Whom are you going to pick for a left-handed bat off the bench? Rhodes with his 360 homers in Japan? Or Jacob Cruz, who led the National League in pinch-hits?
It could make for a very interesting spring.
"I hope so," Narron said.