Vets like Reds' mix of young, old
Mercker, Patterson agree this year's team is going in the right direction so far.
By Kyle Nagel
Monday, March 24, 2008
SARASOTA, Fla — Around the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse, more than a few players have that twinge in their stomachs. As the fans do, the Reds veterans, and even their newcomers, see promise in the team shaping up with better pitching and a deeper roster.
"There have been years I haven't thought that," said Kent Mercker, the 17-year veteran left-hander fighting for a spot in the bullpen. "You don't say that, but you look around, and a lot of times I'm looking at myself, going, 'Oh geez, we've got me in the bullpen? This could be an interesting year.'
"But honestly, this year you look around and you say to yourself, 'This is a good team.' "
That's what Reds fans are hoping just one week from Opening Day, as they cautiously entertain dreams of success. Now the Reds have a real closer, a notable manager, impressive young starting pitching. Heck, they even have the general manager who led the St. Louis Cardinals to so much success, even though he isn't the general manager.
Several players noted that optimism comes from common-sense moves made by owner Bob Castellini.
"It starts from up top, I like everybody up top," said Corey Patterson, who is expected to be the Opening Day center fielder after signing with the Reds on March 3. "It works its way down. The coaching staff is great, the players all get along. On the field, offensively, we won't have any problems. The pitching is improved, and I think people are still wondering how it's going to pan out. But, from what we've seen in spring training, I think we're going to do great this year."
When asked by a visiting reporter last week how he liked the way his new team is shaping up, manager Dusty Baker quickly answered.
"I'm likin' it," he said with a grin.
But even he, like the fans, is careful with his predictions.
"Now we need them to accept winning like it's no big deal," Baker said. "I can see the progress in the young men."
As the regular season approaches, some are wondering whether they should give the Reds another chance to break their hearts, like going back to the girlfriend who has dumped you three times before.
Many of the players think it's safe.
"There's a really good blend of young and old," Mercker said. "When the older veterans are still contributing and they're not just there playing out a contract, but they're there because they're a vital part of the team. The young guys kind of give life to the old guys, and the old guys give knowledge to the young guys.
"It seems like it's all working out."