By Danny Mehigan
I’d assume it’s a bad thing that the Reds waited until the final day of spring training to settle on their last five roster spots. I guess it could be a good thing: young prospects fighting for a job and management agonizing over final decisions because everyone is deserving of a major league spot. But unfortunately in the Reds’ case, it seems like more of 22 deserving players and then some other guys that wouldn’t make many Opening Day rosters beating out others that REALLY wouldn’t make anyone else’s team. Then again, a few guys sent down to AAA Louisville played quite well but lost out in the end. Mass confusion and hysteria everywhere.
THE STARTERS: GREAT NAMES, STILL WAITING ON GREAT RESULTS
The starting rotation definitely passes the eye test. Aaron Harang gets the ball on Day One, and even though he was one of baseball’s worst pitchers in 2008, he’s damn good when he’s on. After going 6-17 with 153 strikeouts last year, he should return to the form that saw him win 16 games and strike out over 200 in both 2006 and 2007. Bronson Arroyo is the other veteran in the group, and he’s been bumped to the back end of the rotation as he recovers from carpal tunnel. He throws a slow fastball, a slower fastball and a wicked looping curveball. Considering he’s throwing at high school speeds, it’s fascinating to watch him lock down major league hitters. But while I think I can hit him from the couch, I’m sure that curve would buckle my knees faster than Marisa Miller asking me to dinner. Well, not really, but you get the idea.
The Reds are banking on big years from the young guns in the rotation to really compete. That group is led by Edinson Volquez, who came over in the Josh Hamilton trade. Last year, his first full season in the bigs, was outstanding. 17 wins, a 3.21 ERA and over 200 strikeouts, so he’ll want to go ahead and do that again. Johnny Cueto pitched in the majors for the first time in 2008 and started out hot. He cooled down as the year went on and his stat line isn’t that impressive, but for a rookie, he was quite good. He was a two-time Minor League Pitcher of the Year and made the Dominican Republic’s WBC squad earlier this year. Not too bad for a 23-year-old. Rounding out the rotation is Micah Owings, who beat out Homer Bailey in a hotly contested spring tryout (but moreso because I demanded he make the rotation, and my word is law). He piled up a 1.52 ERA over six starts in Sarasota, which is the only possible way to make Bailey’s 2.61 ERA look bad. To Homer’s fans out there, take it easy, for all the higher-ups still love Bailey, and insist he’ll be back in Cincinnati sooner rather than later.
THE BULLPEN: CAN YOU SAY “TEAM WEAKNESS” THREE TIMES FAST? OH, YOU CAN. WELL, FUCK YOU THEN MR. SUPERSTAR.
The bullpen is a different story, as it has the chance to be the unit that breaks the 2009 Reds. Then again, a strong performance from the ‘pen will likely mean the Reds will surprise. Jared Burton has put together a fine, if entirely non-descript, start to his career. The third-year man was very iffy in spring training, but can be looked to for consistent, quality work. Mike Lincoln came back from a four-year hiatus in 2008 to post a 4.48 ERA in 70 innings with Cincinnati. He doesn’t have a particular role on the club – just filler for whatever goes on around him. Every team has a guy or two like this, and we salute him for being that guy. Nick Masset was one of those last day roster decisions, and he’ll be the long reliever whenever the Reds’ starters can’t do anything worthwhile. Unfortunately, he “won” the job by going 0-3 with a 5.56 ERA in spring, so I’m a little miffed that gets him into the majors while I keep working part-times without being generally shitty at my job. At that rate, I would be a CEO by July. Daniel Ray Herrera will be the lefty every bullpen needs. He made his debut in 2008, but only made seven appearances and struggled. He made amends by making 10 scoreless appearances down in Sarasota and only gave up three hits. More importantly, he went to Permian High School (of “Friday Night Lights” fame) in Odessa, Tex., so whenever he pitches, I demand the denizens of Reds’ fans start MOJO chants.
As for the rest, it’s some old dudes. David Weathers is back for his 19th MLB season and it will be his fifth in the Natty – the longest he’s been with one team. That’s a little promiscuous if you ask me, but he had his lowest ERA since 2003 last year, so I’ll allow it. Arthur Rhodes, young only by comparison to Weathers, is in his 18th year at the highest level. He’s a situational lefty and is new to the Reds after splitting 2008 with the Marlins and Mariners. He turns 40 later this year, but I’ve heard 40 is the new 30, which is definitely the new 20, so he’s definitely a young arm. Lastly, we have reached Francisco “Coco” Cordero. The lights-out closer went 34-of-40 in save opportunities in 2008 and has averaged over a strikeout per inning every year since 2002. He throws cheese, a nasty hard slider, and is as reliable as they come. Here’s to hoping the Reds have enough leads this year to make him work.