Krivsky has Reds headed in right direction
By TOM USHER
Iíd love to have Wayne Krivskyís crystal ball. He obviously can see things that few people can. How else do you begin to explain what the new Reds general manager has done this season?
Letís start with catcher David Ross, a career .233 hitter. ďWho the heck is he?Ē I asked back in March when Krivsky acquired him from the Padres. Not even ESPNís all-knowing Stephen A. Smith could see Ross hitting .354 with seven home runs.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips? Obviously, the Indiansí front office had no clue he would hit .305 with seven home runs and be one of the Redsí few defensive bright spots.
Scott Hatteberg? This guy has a great on-base percentage (.401), but who thought heíd hit .290?
Bronson Arroyo? OK, I expected him to be good, but so far heís been nearly unhittable with his baffling breaking ball that he throws 60 percent of the time. At 8-2, with a 2.31 ERA, he could start the All-Star Game.
Right now, the Reds are a team that can contend for a playoff spot. They might not reach the postseason, but they have the starting pitching to stay around and be a pest the rest of the way. And who is the biggest reason for this turnaround from 73-89 last year? Itís Krivsky, who was brought in by rookie owner Bob Castellini. Krivsky has done more than collect talent like Phillips, Arroyo, Hatteberg and Ross.
Heís also taken out some of the trash he inherited. Aging Tony Womack didnít fit his plans, so out he went. There was also soft-tossing left-hander Dave Williams. Gone. Williams wasnít his idea of a quality starter. Krivsky was stuck with Williams when he was picked up in a Dan OíBrien deal with the Pirates for Sean Casey. And when Williams continually was hammered, he first was designated for assignment, then dealt to the Mets.
Months ago, Limaís Jim Martz, a regional Major League Baseball scout for over 30 years, predicted big things for his friend, Krivsky. Martz said Krivsky is a supreme evaluator of talent, a hard worker and knows his baseball. Krivsky is a baseball guy, not a bean counter.
This team still has plenty of work ahead. The Reds (36-27) arenít as good as their recent eight-game winning streak. Sorry, they just arenít. They arenít as bad as this three-game losing streak to the fuzzy and banged up Cubs, either.
But there are some problems. The teamís 56 errors are the second most in the National League. The left side of the diamond, with third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who is now on the disabled list, shortstop Felipe Lopez and left fielder Adam Dunn have more holes than a mall parking lot. Offensive spark Encarnacion (.270, six home runs, 36 RBIs) has committed 14 errors, Lopez has 11 and Dunn has eight.
The bullpen, with the likes of Rick White, David Weathers, Esteban Yan (fittingly pronounced yawn), Chris Hammond and Kent Mercker, is shaky on its best day. The only reliable reliever is closer Todd Coffey (1.85, four saves). The relievers rank 14th in the league with a 4.69 ERA.
On the plus side, the Redsí starters rank third in the league (4.13 ERA) and have helped the staff post a 4.31 ERA. Thatís way down from last yearís league-worst mark of 5.15. Arroyo and Aaron Harang (7-4, 3.72) form one of the best 1-2 combinations in the league. Imagine that.
A key will be if lefty Eric Milton (4-3, 4.10) continues to spot his fastball like he has the last four starts. Elizardo Ramirez (2-5, 4.02) has pitched well all year. Left-hander Brandon Claussen (3-7, 5.28) has been inconsistent and disappointing. Saturday was only his fourth quality start all year. Joe Mays waits in the wings.
Thereís also been the resurgence of right fielder Austin Kearns. Heís healthy and proving he is truly the player the team thought he was a few years ago.
If the Reds continue in the race, and they should, look for Castellini to solidify the bullpen. He may even add one more starter.
It should be a fun summer in the Queen City. Thank Krivskyís crystal ball for that.