didn't see this posted yet. . .Comes from the Sporting News.
Also this Preview from TSN:
didn't see this posted yet. . .Comes from the Sporting News.
Also this Preview from TSN:
Last edited by RedRoser; 03-13-2009 at 08:07 PM. Reason: added another link
Reds could surprise with stronger pitching
By Gerry Fraley - SportingNews 13 hours, 2 minutes ago
SARASOTA, Fla.—The first and the last spots in Cincinnati’s rotation provide insight as to why the Reds could be at least the surprise team in the N.L. Central this season.
The alpha and omega spots of the rotation—manned by righthander Aaron Harang and a cast of thousands—went a combined 10-38 last season. The Reds overcame that handicap to win 74 games in Dusty Baker’s first season as their manager.
There have been signs this spring that the Reds can expect improvement from each rotation slot. Harang is physically sound again, and there is a healthy competition for the fifth-starter position, rather than a desperate search for a warm body to use there.
The leap from 74 wins to a winning record is manageable. And once a club gets back to the plus side of .500, anything is possible.
“I’m happy with what we have,” Baker said. “I’m excited about what we’re building, and the key word is building. That’s what we’re doing. Building.”
It starts with Harang, the durable No. 1 starter. He won 16 games and pitched more than 230 innings in both 2006 and ’07, but dropped off the face of the earth last season. Harang went 6-17 with a 4.78 ERA, more than one run higher than his ERA in the previous two seasons. Harang’s downfall can be traced to one game, when he put his team-first belief into action.
On May 25, the Reds went deep into extra innings against San Diego. Harang, fiercely competitive, volunteered to work in relief. Just three days after his most recent start, Harang pitched four scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Four days later, Harang returned to the rotation. In the span of one week, he made three appearances totaling 13 1/3 innings with 239 pitches thrown. That took a toll.
In his subsequent starts, Harang had difficulty getting his legs to work in his delivery. He made adjustments to compensate, and he believes that led to a strained right forearm that put him on the disabled list in the second half. In 18 starts after that relief appearance, Harang went 4-11 with a 5.88 ERA. Harang would do it again, but would be a bit wiser about it.
“I like to compete,” Harang said. “But if I do it again, I’d probably wait a few more days before starting.”
As bad as Harang was, the fifth-starter spot was exponentially worse. The Reds used six different pitchers in the role, and they went 4-21 with a 7.47 ERA.
“We didn’t get much production out of that spot last year,” Baker said. “Whoever it is this year, we need to get some victories out of that spot. We’ve got three guys really fighting for that spot.”
The competition has centered on righthanders Homer Bailey, Nick Masset and Micah Owings.
Bailey, the former can’t-miss prospect, finally has shown signs of developing complementary pitches in addition to fastball command, but Owings is likely to get the first shot at the position by virtue of being more experienced and his spring performance.
In his first 10 2/3 Grapefruit League innings, Owings allowed only six hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts. After tinkering with his two-seam fastball, Owings has found a way to get movement out of a pitch that too often had been deadly straight.
“Micah is looking really sharp,” Baker said.
Righthanders Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto will hold the middle-of-the-rotation spots.
Arroyo had a remarkable recovery act last season. After suffering the ignominy of allowing 10 runs in one inning against Toronto on June 24, Arroyo righted himself and was 11-4 with a 3.42 ERA over his final 17 starts.
Volquez and Cueto are still in the formative stage of their careers, with big upsides. Baker said Volquez can improve by not wasting so many pitches early. Cueto needs to stop daring hitters by working the middle of the plate.
“I like what we have,” Baker said. “Two veterans, young and younger. Both of those young ones are going to be real good.”
The Reds must pitch well to win.
Their home, Great American Ball Park, favors power hitters, but their offense now is based more on speed than power. The lineup lacks big bats in the middle—a void created by last year’s trades of outfielders Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn.
The Reds will not put up 10-plus run many times this season. More important to their future, they will not allow 10-plus runs many times either. They’ll take that trade.
I miss Adam Dunn.
Last edited by kaldaniels; 03-14-2009 at 12:48 PM.
Baker's boys: Reds clubhouse is young and restless
By Paul White, USA TODAY
SARASOTA, Fla. — Chris Dickerson reaches up to the top shelf of his locker and grabs the action figure that looks more weathered than a 20-year major league veteran.
Dickerson, the Cincinnati Reds rookie outfielder, holds the reproduction of Ken Griffey Jr.— a very young model, in a Seattle Mariners uniform — and laughs.
"It's fitting to have him back in Seattle and I happen to be in the equipment locker," says Dickerson, part of a promising generation of young Reds, the first group since 1999 to hold spring training without Griffey in the outfield or at the prime-real-estate corner locker.
The annex — or equipment locker, as Dickerson calls it — is the second locker that's often a perk for veteran players. No more in a clubhouse without perks or castes. The lockers are strictly in order of uniform numbers.
"I don't want a segregated clubhouse," says manager Dusty Baker, referring to age and experience as much as race and ethnicity. "I got that from (playing with) the Dodgers," where Baker spent eight of his 19 seasons as a player.
It's a clubhouse almost without veterans, too — and Baker's equally OK with that.
"This is what I want to do," he says. "I'd like to win a couple of pennants in a short period of time and maybe contemplate retirement. I'd like to leave the organization in better shape, like Tom Kelly did in Minnesota. Then, I'd go and coach high school and American Legion."
Now, those would really be young teams. Baker, 59, bristles at the suggestion he has a reputation for preferring veterans at the expense of young players.
"I get tired of defending myself," he says. "It's the biggest crock of (bull) I've ever heard. I never had one (young team) except my last year (2006) in Chicago. In San Francisco, they had a big mortgage on the building. We had to win now."
If youth is indeed his preference, this is a made-to-order team for Baker.
There are veterans in the bullpen and rotation and at catcher and shortstop, where Ramon Hernandez and Alex Gonzalez are both 32. Baker would like to see the youngsters around them produce a winning record.
"That's where it starts. Then you start smelling hope," he says. "I want intelligent, energy-type players. Competition from within without envy and jealousy."
He has plenty of legitimate competitors:
•Pitchers Edinson Volquez, 25, and Johnny Cueto, 23, are ready to challenge Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo as the top two starters.
•Rookie Homer Bailey, highly touted and just 22, has rediscovered the ability to consistently throw strikes this spring.
•First baseman Joey Votto, 25, was second in 2008 National League Rookie of the Year voting after becoming the first Reds player to hit 20 homers and 30 doubles in his first season.
•Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, 26, hit a career-high 26 homers but his averaged dropped 38 points to .251. "It happens at that point of your career," Baker says. "I call it homer-itis. You start liking the trot."
•Jay Bruce, 21, hit 21 homers in his 108-game major league debut and takes over in right field.
•Dickerson, 25, possibly the most imposing of the group physically (6-3, 225), has a shot at the left field job. "Who can outrun him?" Baker says. "Who can throw like him? You look at him and say, 'Damn, what took you so long?' A lot of kids have tools. Sometimes they don't get it right away."
Dickerson got it at the end of last season, debuting in August and hitting .304 with six homers and five stolen bases.
"The timing was perfect," Dickerson says. "I was basically on fire (when called up). I wasn't intimidated."
The timing could be perfect for many young Reds. It's becoming their team, not one sprinkled with their heroes.
Dickerson has carried the Griffey action figure in his baseball bag since he was 11.
"I always wanted to ask him to sign it," Dickerson says. "I always found an excuse not to. I got nervous around him … just because it's Junior."
Now, the torch has been passed. The question is who will take it.
"Leadership is not appointed," Baker says. "It's anointed by your teammates."
Many Reds are still in awe of the former Reds who come to camp more regularly since owner Bob Castellini made recognizing team history a priority, like Eric Davis working with hitters around the batting cage, Joe Morgan with the infielders, Cesar Geronimo with the outfielders.
Former pitcher Mario Soto, now a minor league coach, can be found at a table with Volquez, Cueto and most of the other Latin American players.
Closer Francisco Cordero can be found in the hallway, showing the younger guys who's who in photos from the Big Red Machine era of the 1970s.
Those are the dynamics Baker loves.
"I'm liking the energy and enthusiasm," he says. "I know there's going to be some frustration. Veterans give us knowledge, kids give us energy … and we've got more (young players) coming."
For now, whether or not Hernandez and Gonzalez qualify as veterans, they're crucial to why Baker believes this year's Reds will be much improved over last year's 74-88 fifth-place team.
"The biggest guy in the equation is Gonzo," Baker says. "Hernandez, too. Then our up-the-middle (defense) will be outstanding. That's what the Big Red Machine was, up the middle."
Baker isn't quite ready to match Hernandez, Gonzalez, Gold Glove-winning second baseman Brandon Phillips and new center fielder Willy Taveras with the '70s group of catcher Johnny Bench, second baseman Morgan, shortstop Dave Concepcion and center fielder Geronimo, but, he says, "With great defense, you don't beat yourself."
Whether they can even come close to challenging the defending NL Central champion Cubs, will be all about how quickly they grow up.
"Growth, that's exactly what I want," Baker says. "Baseball intellect, the ability to learn and retain what they learn. Some guys get it right away. Other guys you've got to keep reminding. Ain't been frustrated yet. It's mostly exciting."
I miss Adam Dunn.
Not trying to be a downer here, because I am one who usually carries an optimistic attitude. And I know that anything is possible.
But I just don't see this pitching, as improved as it may be, overcoming or offsetting this team's lack in putting runs on the board. But we'll see.
We are pinning a lot of HOPE on...
Harang returning to form (good to see him come to ST leaner).
Arroyo pitching like he did in the second half, and not the first. What happens if he reverses that trend this year?
Volquez not getting hit with a sophomore jinx.
And who will fill that #5 spot. I will say we seem to have better candidates to fill that spot this year then previously.
"panic" only comes from having real expectations
Everything has to go perfect for this team to contend. Harang has to return to form, Arroyo has to pitch as well as he did in the first half of 2007 and the last half of 2008 for the whole season. Volquez and Cueto can't slump and the 5th starter has to be league average. Gonzalez has to play well on a regular basis, EE needs to improve offensively, Corey Tavaras has to find first base at a 35% clip, Votto has to have an MVP season and Bruce has to play well. Brandon needs to hit better as well. All that falls together and the Reds have a chance. If something goes wrong, it's wait till next year.
The Rally Onion wants 150 fans before Opening Day.
I think the pitching is going to be pretty good, and I think the possibility exists that it could be very good. When you've got that, anything is possible in this game.
23 Years and Counting...
"Okay you guys, pair up in threes!" --Yogi Berra
“In the same way that a baseball season never really begins, it never really ends either.” - Lonnie Wheeler, "Bleachers, A Summer in Wrigley Field"
The Baseball Emporium - Books & Things, that's Rallyonion.com
The Baseball Bookstore
What do we think the chances are of finishing above .500?
There have been many teams that have won division and wild card berths with much less talent than this club possesses offensively. It is a team that depends on smart managing to capitolize on the scoring opportunities for a young, agressive pool of hitters. That is probably the part of the game that scares me and most Reds fans the most. I believe that it is hard to ask for an economically challenged franchise with sparse attendance to expect a better group of pitchers than we have right now. Guys will be cut from the staff before opening day that would have been expected to fill important roles in years past. I was born in 1968, and it is hard for me to remember another season where that is even close to being true. For instance, Micah Owings might have started on Opening Day within the most expedient reaches of my memory.
I think it is well within the reaches of this team to post a run differential that competes for a wild card berth. The offense just continues to improve quickly moving forward. I am much more excited about this team now than I was a month ago.
Last edited by Phhhl; 03-15-2009 at 10:47 PM.