Bats manager excited about 2010 season
By Michael Grant firstname.lastname@example.org February 9, 2010
Louisville Bats manager Rick Sweet can't wait for baseball season to start.
Opening day is about two months away, but Sweet already likes his potential team. The Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds should be as stocked as it has ever been. In a news conference at Louisville Slugger Field on Tuesday, Sweet joked about the possibility of winning 90 games. The Bats have either tied or led the International League in victories each of the past two seasons.
It's going to be fun, said Sweet, who guided the team to 84 victories last year and 88 in 2008. In the six years I've been here this will probably be the youngest club but it also will be the most talented. Scouts around baseball all they care about is how fast they can run, how hard they can throw. We're going to have a scout's dream this year. We're going to have tremendous players.
One of those talented players could eventually be Aroldis Chapman, the $30-million man. Shockingly, Cincinnati won a bidding war for the services of the hard-throwing, left-handed Cuban. Even Sweet said he was stunned. He expects Chapman to start in Double-A Carolina, but the 21-year-old could move through the system quickly. That would mean a stop in Louisville this summer.
Reds pitchers and catchers report Feb.18 to Goodyear, Ariz.
We don't know where he's going to start, Sweet said. We'll get him into spring training and see where he's at. He could start anywhere from A ball to Triple A. He could come into camp and start blowing them away and start in the big leagues. It will all be determined by how many strikes he throws.
The Bats should have a strong lineup with top prospects like Yonder Alonso, Juan Francisco, Chris Heisey, Todd Frazier and Chris Valaika. Two players to watch could be Alonso and Francisco, who both joined the team late last year. Alonso played only in the first round of the playoffs; Francisco played in 22 games.
Francisco had five home runs and 22 RBIs with 55 total bases in those games. Injuries limited Alonso to 84 games while playing for Single-A Sarasota (.303 batting average with seven home runs and 38 RBIs in 49 games) and Carolina (.287, two home runs and 14 RBIs in 29 games). He also played six rehabilitation games in the Gulf Coast League because of a broken bone in his right hand. Much is expected from the 2008 first-round draft choice.
There could be some position changes. Sweet said Frazier and Francisco might move to the outfield and Valaika could switch from shortstop to second base. Sweet said these changes are necessary in order to give the prospects the best opportunity to play in the majors.
I'm very excited to get going, he said.