Homer holds key to season
It's going to come down to Homer.
For the Reds to have a chance to break through and leave the trail of losing seasons behind, Homer Bailey is going to have to be part of the rotation and pitch well.
That is not what the Reds plan to do. Bailey will almost certainly start the year at Triple-A. And there's no guarantee that he's ready for success in the majors.
But it says here that ultimate success or failure of the 2007 Reds will be tied to Bailey.
If Bailey can do for the Reds in 2007 what Justin Verlander did for the Detroit Tigers in 2006, the Reds can be contenders for the postseason.
Verlander, after spending most of 2005 dominating at Single-A and Double-A, went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA for the Tigers in last season. He won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
It would be a huge leap for Bailey to do that. Verlander was 23 when the '06 season started. He pitched three years of college ball.
Bailey doesn't turn 21 until May 3.
Verlander's numbers in the minors in 2005 were better than Bailey's were in 2006, and Verlander was given two starts in the majors at end of '05.
So it may be a stretch to hope that Bailey can be close to having the success Verlander had.
But if I'm running the Reds, I take a shot on Bailey.
Because when you look at the Reds today - just over a month from the start of spring training - it's hard to fathom them competing for the National League Central title.
In other words, Wednesday's trade for Jeff Keppinger didn't put the Reds over the top.
Nothing against Keppinger - it sounds as if he could be a nice addition coming off the bench - but the trade for him was like a lot of the moves the Reds made this offseason. You could see the merit in it, but it wasn't likely to sell one ticket.
General manager Wayne Krivksy said Friday that he likes the club he's put together.
"I think we're better," he said. "We improved defensively. We've got competition for the (fifth) starting spot. We're looking for more ways to improve. I like the additions we've made."
But for the first time in a long time, you've got to wonder if the Reds can score enough runs to be competitive. The offense struggled mightily in August and September last season, and the one guy who came through consistently late in the year, Rich Aurilia, is now a San Francisco Giant.
Because if the offense figures to be watered down from recent years - remember the Reds led the NL in runs scored two seasons ago - the success of this team is going to depend on pitching and defense.
That brings us back to Bailey. Krivksy mentioned the competition for the fifth spot. Matt Belisle, Elizardo Ramirez, Phil Dumatrait and Bobby Livingston will compete for the spot along with Bailey.
All of the above have potential. But Bailey is the only one in the field who projects as a top-of-the-rotation type of pitcher.
You have to admire the Reds' efforts to be cautious with Bailey.
But if the Reds want to break through this year, the guess here is Bailey is going to have to be pitching at Great American Ball Park on or before his 21st birthday.
JIMMY B: Read in Baseball America that Washington GM Jim Bowden was building the Nationals for the future. A couple of days later, Bowden signs a guy, Brandon Claussen, who turns 28 May 1 and is coming off shoulder surgery.
Bowden talked a lot about building for the future when he was here. The future never came.
EARLY ARRIVAL: Josh Hamilton, the Rule 5 draftee, plans on getting to Sarasota in late January.
"I didn't know he was getting there that early," Krivsky said. "He's views this as a great opportunity. He's been working with Jerry (Narron). Jerry's thrown him some BP."
Hamilton, the No. 1 choice overall in the 1999 draft, is seeking to come back from drug problems and injuries.