CINCINNATI -- New managerial regimes, six in fact, have come and gone for the Reds during this decade. But none of them matched the buzz and anticipation for the arrival of skipper No. 7.
That would be Dusty Baker. Hired in October, Baker has been charged with the heavy responsibility of getting the Reds back to winning. There hasn't been a winning baseball season in Cincinnati since 2000.
The quest to contend formally begins on Saturday with the arrival of pitchers and catchers to Spring Training at Sarasota, Fla.
"You have to prepare yourself mentally in order to get ready physically because it's a long, long race," Baker said recently. "There are some ups and downs."
A total of 34 pitchers and seven catchers will hold their first workout Sunday afternoon upon the completion of physicals. Position players are slated to report on Tuesday, which will bring the overall headcount to 62. The first full-squad workout is slated for Wednesday.
Several Reds didn't wait for Saturday to get started. Several are already in camp, including top prospects Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, outfielder Ryan Freel and pitchers Todd Coffey, Jeremy Affeldt, Bill Bray and Jared Burton.
For Baker, this will be his first real look at his new players since his hiring. For Reds fans that attend the workouts, this will be their first look at the man they hope can bring stability after years of losing.
The 58-year-old Baker, a three-time National League Manager of the Year, is familiar with winning. He has 14 seasons of managerial experience with the Giants (1993-2002) and Cubs (2003-06), with his teams finishing first or second nine times and enjoying five 90-win seasons.
The opening of camp will also open a few subplots over the makeup of the final 25-man roster.
The rotation has Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and a lot of unanswered questions. The final three spots are up for grabs among six young pitchers -- Matt Belisle, Affeldt, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Matt Maloney.
It's possible the Reds aren't done trying to tweak the rotation with reinforcements. The club is persistently rumored to be seeking a trade for A's right-hander Joe Blanton. Several other veteran starters remain on the free-agent market without a team as well.
General manager Wayne Krivsky hasn't been afraid to deal during camp. Two springs ago, he acquired Arroyo from the Red Sox for outfielder Wily Mo Pena when the rotation needed help.
Bruce, baseball's best Minor League prospect, will be in big league camp for the first time and is sure to attract a lot of attention. The 20-year-old will be seeking to become Cincinnati's regular center fielder but will have to compete for the spot with Freel and Norris Hopper.
The first workout will mark the debut of new closer Francisco Cordero in a Reds uniform. In November, Cordero was signed to a four-year, $46 million contract with a $12 million club option for a fifth year. The right-hander, who saved 44 of 51 games for the Brewers last season, is expected to help stabilize the National League's worst bullpen of 2007.
While David Weathers and Burton are expected to assume the eighth inning setup duties, several relievers will be vying for the other spots in the middle and late innings.
Camp Dusty is open for business, let the roster battles begin.