Youth, veterans and hope
Jocketty, Baker look to mold solid 25-man team in Arizona
By John Fay • firstname.lastname@example.org • February 13, 2010
A replay of the 2006 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox was playing.
“I watched some of it,” he said. “Aaron Miles played well in that series.”
Miles, of course, is one of the two players the Reds added in the same day two weeks ago. The other, Orlando Cabrera, also has postseason experience. That’s not a coincidence.
Nor is it coincidence that the player the Reds added at the trade deadline, Scott Rolen, also has postseason success on his résumé.
The Reds will open spring training Thursday at Goodyear with a mostly young roster. But that hasn’t stopped them from adding veterans to help show the youngsters how to win.
The Reds were able to add a starting shortstop (Cabrera) and probably their top bench player (Miles) without adding significant payroll because Willy Taveras’ $4 million salary was moved in the deal that brought Miles from Oakland.
“I think it was a chance to add two guys with postseason experience,” Jocketty said. “Miles had an off year last year. But he’s a good player. He’s a winning player. So is Cabrera. They’ve been through it.”
The Reds were buoyed by the success after Rolen came to club last year, via trade from Toronto. Rolen was injured in his second game with the Reds. But after he recovered and returned from the disabled list, the team went 27-13.
By adding Cabrera the Reds answered the question at shortstop. Before Cabrera signed the Reds were relying on Paul Janish, who hit .211 last year, without a real backup plan.
Miles, who can play infield and outfield, adds depth. That’s key because injuries derailed the Reds last season.
The Reds go into spring with things pretty set. Seven of eight everyday spots are spoken for: Joey Votto at first base, Brandon Phillips at second, Cabrera at shortstop, Rolen at third, Jay Bruce in right field and Drew Stubbs in center.
Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto will make four-fifths of the rotation.
The bullpen is all but set with closer Francisco Cordero, setup men Nick Masset, Arthur Rhodes and Jared Burton. Daniel Ray Herrera established him last year. Mike Lincoln, provided he’s healthy after disc surgery, and Micah Owings will likely round out the relief corps.
There are still questions going into spring. Chiefly, who plays left field and who will be in the fifth spot.
“(Those positions) are wide open,” Jocketty said. “We hope that competition brings out the best in guys.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker, entering the third and final year on his contract, goes into spring with an open mind as far as left field and the fifth spot.
“Not many teams have their 25-man roster set,” Baker said. “If you did, spring training would be very interesting.”
Left field and the fifth spot are similar in that the list of candidates is long without a clear favorite.
Chris Dickerson is the favorite to win the left field job. He played well for the most part in his first extended time in the big leagues last year. His .370 on-base percentage was impressive.
Three of Reds’ top prospects – Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey and Juan Francisco – will be competing for the left field job as well.
Heisey is the only one with extensive outfield experience. Frazier and Heisey are right-handed hitters, so they conceivably could be platooned with the left-handed hitting Dickerson.
Laynce Nix, who hit 15 home runs in 307 at-bats last year, and Wladimir Balentien, a one-time top prospect, are in the mix as well.
Right-hander Justin Lehr and left-hander Matt Maloney are probably co-favorites for the fifth starter spot, based on their success with the Reds late last season.
Aroldis Chapman, the 22-year-old Cuban the Reds signed for $30.25 million, and last year’s minor league pitcher of the year, Travis Wood, are in the mix for the fifth spot as well. Both are left-handed.
Last year’s top pick, Mike Leake, will be in camp as well.
Owings and Lincoln are scheduled to begin camp in the rotation.
“”I’ve got to talk to Dusty and (pitching coach) Bryan Price,” Jocketty said. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got enough innings for all these guys.”
Despite adding the veterans, the Reds’ success or lack thereof will hinge on the young players.
There’s a chance that no one in the outfield will have more than one year’s big league experience.
“We’re still a very young club,” Jocketty said. “It helps to have some veteran experience to lead the way.”