The long, hard winter is over. Baseball is back.
This is a fun time of year — for most of us, at least. If you’ve been a loyal reader of Redleg Nation over the years, you probably know that I’m generally pretty optimistic about the state of the Reds. This off-season, I confess to having lost a little patience with the ongoing rebuilding process — gotta keep reminding myself to Trust The Process — but with the opening of spring training, I can’t help but get excited about the season before us.
We’ll make our season predictions and start looking at wins and losses and expectations at some point in the near future, but for today, let’s enjoy the fact that, very soon, a number of actual Cincinnati Reds baseball players will be stepping onto an actual baseball field and going through actual baseball activities.
Spring is here…and it is glorious.
One of the yearly traditions, with fans and writers of every team, is to look at which specific questions need to be answered during this spring camp. To me, there are three big questions for which I’ll be looking for answers. (Hopefully, the Reds get answers, as well.)
1. Can the rotation stay healthy? Last spring, Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani were injured, and Brandon Finnegan joined them on the disabled list soon thereafter. More than anything else, those injuries to the starting rotation led the Reds down the path to another 90-loss season, as the club was forced to use guys like Tim Adleman, Scott Feldman, and Lisalverto Bonilla in the rotation.
This year, the Reds have a bunch of pitchers that are vying for those precious rotation slots. If they can remain relatively healthy, Cincinnati at least has a shot of fielding a decent staff. If the injury bug returns, however…well, let’s not think about that. We’re trying to be optimistic, right?
2. Will Jesse Winker force the Reds’ hand? I’ve gone on the record as saying that Winker needs to get 550 at-bats this season. Reds manager Bryan Price has hinted that he’ll find enough at-bats for his four outfielders — Winker, Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall — to keep them all busy. Okay, maybe he will, and I’m okay with that.
But Winker needs to be number one on the outfield depth chart. Price needs to make sure the 24-year-old Winker gets his at-bats before he concerns himself with any of the other players. His development should be one of Cincinnati’s primary objectives in 2018. And who knows? If Price will let Winker off his leash, the Reds may find that they have another Rookie of the Year.
3. How will Nick Senzel look in his first big league camp, and where will he play? Senzel is ready for the big leagues. Nearly everyone agrees that this is the case. Well, he’s ready as a hitter (assuming last year’s vertigo issues are a thing of the past, and we’ve been assured that they are).
But where’s he going to play? A lot of eyes will be on Senzel as he works with the big club for the first time. His primary position, third base, is capably filled by Eugenio Suarez, so we will be paying attention to see how many reps Senzel gets at second base, or one of the corner outfield spots. The kid will be 23 this year, and decisions that the Reds make about his defensive position this spring could have far-reaching consequences for how the rebuild progresses. It’s worth watching closely.
There are, of course, plenty of other questions that will need answering this spring. Here’s a partial list, but I’m sure you can come up with more:
–Can Jose Peraza handle shortstop? And who will be the backup at shortstop? Who will start if Peraza is injured?
–What will we see out of Devin Mesoraco during the final season of his contract with the Reds?
–Will the Reds actually give Michael Lorenzen a legitimate shot at the starting rotation? If so, how will he perform?
–Will Luis Castillo continue to be dominant?
–Are Cody Reed and Amir Garrett still in the conversation? (The answer to that one is yes, but they need to start producing soon.)
Cincinnati pitchers and catchers will pick up their No. 2 pencils and begin answering these questions today. Welcome back, baseball. Welcome back, Cincinnati Reds.
We’ve missed you.
Blame Chad for creating this mess.
Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.