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Thread: Good Wheeler column 3/31/07

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    Re: Good Wheeler column 3/31/07

    Roster moving toward Krivsky's model

    Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler

    What Wayne Krivsky couldn't do in the offseason was push back the fences at Great American Ball Park. What he couldn't do - out of principle as much as economics (well, almost as much) - was fork over stupid money for one of the grotesquely priced free-agent pitchers.

    So he did what any cash-strapped, defense-adoring general manager would. He signed a shortstop.

    If the 2007 Reds are to discontinue their six-year losing streak, it will have to be by dint of defense and Krivsky's imagination, commodities that share space in the same executive brain. The latter has served the Reds rather well in the year and more that the Duke grad has been here, in spite of the public grumbling over the loss of Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns for a couple of relief pitchers who still haven't done much.

    It is by Krivsky's resourcefulness that Brandon Phillips will play second base and bat third for Cincinnati this season; that Scott Hatteberg will be the starting first baseman and David Ross the catcher; that Josh Hamilton was the story of the spring; that Bronson Arroyo front-loads the rotation and Kyle Lohse fills it out a bit; that the bullpen at least has an idea; and that, at shortstop, Alex Gonzalez will catch whatever the folks in the bleachers don't.

    To believe in pitching is not to believe entirely in pitchers. Ross is a studious, communicating kind of guy whose subtle skills can sharpen up a listening staff, and Krivsky had the same concept in mind when he signed Chad Moeller. Every runner that Gonzalez throws out is one that doesn't score when Eric Milton gets the fastball out over the plate, if you know what I mean.

    It's Krivsky's second year as the Reds' recruiting coordinator, and gradually the roster is beginning to resemble the model in his mind. If Edwin Encarnacion can play third base to his potential, as opposed to his precedents, Cincinnati's infield will match any team's. (And for those who would still prefer Lopez's bat over Gonzalez's glove, bear in mind that the Nationals have already moved the former Red to second base.)

    Meanwhile, the precious pitching itself steals ahead in increments that won't be measurable until mid-season or so. Aaron Harang has firmly established himself and the spring suggested that the rotation's final spot is considerably strengthened, but its middle regions - Lohse and Milton territory - remain a typical Reds-like reach.

    And the bullpen is, shall we say, experienced. What it really needs is for Kearns Majewski and Lopez Bray to make us forget Gary Austin and William Felipe, like they were supposed to.

    Even if they do, however (OK, it's Gary Majewski, the tender-shouldered right-hander, and Bill Bray, the closer-later lefty), there will be disapprovers out there who insist that Great American is a power ballpark - you don't say? - and the Reds' premium ought, then, to be placed on power ballplayers. They would be mistaken.

    Now we're getting into Krivsky's wheelhouse. Credit the GM for not surrendering his baseball judgment to the nightly watchers of ESPN highlights. Acknowledge him for understanding that teams with anomalous, hitter-hugging home fields have a history of not doing well when they tailor their teams to those dimensions (see the Cubs and Red Sox, 20th century).

    So the new management team is taking the Reds old-school. They're going the way of the Koufax-Drysdale Dodgers, albeit without Koufax or Drysdale. But it's a solid approach. One that will look a lot better when Homer Bailey is ready.

    Besides, it flows right along with the philosophical currents of Jerry Narron, who, as manager, is also in his second full season. Between the two of them - and owner Bob Castellini, second year - the local franchise is at last taking on a discernible identity, a dedicated purpose.

    And as for you worshippers of the grandstand fly, don't forget it still has Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., the latter playing the outfield spot that Narron - not Griffey - considers best for the ballclub. That's a show of authority not to be underestimated, a decision quite right (if you will) in not only its rationale, but also its message - the message being that the Reds now have direction, as pointed out by the appropriate people.

    They also, thanks to Krivsky's enterprise, have the Hamilton kid, who, if talent can trump a troubled past, has what it takes to make everybody happy, starting with power and defense. And a generally manageable contract.

    If Hamilton plays at anywhere near the level he did in the spring, Krivsky could, of course, always trade him for a pitcher at some point. Then, after the public response, he could poke around at formergeneralmanagers.com.


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