What's working, what needs work with the Reds
By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Friday, March 20, 2009

SARASOTA, Fla. — What's right and what's wrong with the Cincinnati Reds as they enter the last two weeks of exhibition baseball — other than the fact they are vacating this paradise to join Lawrence of Arabia in the Arizona desert.

• Right: Micah Owings and Homer Bailey are pitching more like they are battling for the No. 1 spot than the No. 5 spot and, frankly, as of now both deserve to be in the rotation.

• Wrong: Aaron Harang (1-2, 7.24 ERA) still looks more like the 17-game loser he was last year than the 16-game winner he was the previous two years and Bronson Arroyo seems more comfortable on his boat, The Nasty Hook, than throwing hooks on the pitching mound — 0-2, 15 innings, 10 runs, 12 hits, five home runs, seven walks.

• Right: Chris Dickerson looks as if he is the left field answer (what was the question?) with his .375 average, his speed, his defense and his Save the Planet Web site.

• Wrong: Willy Taveras, the ignition switch leadoff hitter, needs a new flint to flame up a .222 batting average and a .300 on-base average that just won't do for an offense based on manufacturing runs.

• Right: The best find of the winter was outfielder Jonny Gomes, who has made the team ("Tell them a little bird told you," said the source, but the source really is a big bird). He deserves it — leading the team in home runs, RBIs and positive vibes.

• Wrong: Manager Dusty Baker will show that he plays no favorites when Jacque Jones, who played for Baker in Chicago, doesn't make the team — not with a batting average of .100 halfway through the spring.

• Right: Joey Votto is doing what he did at the end of last season, hitting for average and for power and driving in runs and singing the Canadian national anthem on key.

• Wrong: Edwin Encarnacion, who they probably should have traded (if they could) over the winter hasn't changed — .211 the first half of spring training with 12 strikeouts in his first 19 at-bats and a team-leading three errors. And Jay Bruce is scruffing along at .212 with 11 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.

• Right: Ryan Hanigan, supposedly the back-up catcher, is playing most of the time and is hitting .435 and handling the pitchers like a lion tamer.

• Wrong: Ramon Hernandez, the regular catcher, remains with the Venezuela team in the World Baseball Classic, missing out on catching Reds pitchers who are new to him and missing out fitting himself into the team's lineup.

• Right: Bullpenners Mike Lincoln (2.70 ERA in six appearances and jockey-sized lefty Daniel Ray Herrera (0.00 in five appearances) are air-tight and Herrera could replace Bill Bray as a left-hander.

• Wrong: Closer Francisco Cordero couldn't close a perfectly working automatic sliding door. Right now — six games, six innings, 12 runs, 17 hits, two walks, an 18.00 ERA and a whopping number of furrows on pitching coach Dick Pole's forehead.