The start of the baseball season is always messy. You don't know who's going to switch it on when the games start to count and who's going to go turtle. There's going to be surprises both pleasant and unpleasant.

More importantly, there's going to be parts of every team that don't work. I'm not overly worried if Jeff Conine, for instance, delivers nothing. Teams spend the first two months of the season sorting themselves out a bit. Some guys in the high minors will step forward and teams make small deals to plug their holes. So I don't fret that parts of the club will go wrong. There's always problems to fix, just don't pile up known problems (e.g. Eric Milton).

In April what you're looking for is a few guys to lead the charge while the team sorts out the parts that don't work. Hal Morrises can come along to replace the Todd Benzingers. Change is going to happen. Just stay competitive and kick it into gear around Memorial Day. The latter part is where the Reds constantly run into trouble. The franchise tends to get the early season right, but it hasn't found a higher gear since 1999.

Right now the marching orders should be to put your best players in a position where they can succeed, eliminate known problems and be open to making the necessary changes.

It's almost impossible to start the season with an optimal lineup, a perfectly arranged bullpen or a bulletproof rotation. That applies to all 30 teams. What we're hoping for is for the team to get more right than wrong, to put itself in a position where some sensible adjustments lead to an honest-to-goodness quality ballclub.