The start of baseball is always a wonderful sight for any eyes, sore or not. And it was no different Tuesday because it was raining and 46 degrees outside The Man Cave and it was in the high 80’s in Goodyear, Arizona when the Cincinnati Reds began their Cactus League exhibition season.
While I am benched this year in Dayton, no spring training for me for the first time in 43 years, it was fabulous to hear the dulcet tones of Tommy Brennaman and Chris Welsh on FoxSportsOhio.
DURING THE BROADCAST, Walt Jocketty, the architect of what the Reds are trying to do over the next couple of years, said he expects his team to do better, much better, than the prognosticators are projecting.
“One writer picked us to win 61 games and I think we’ll win a lot more than that,” he said. “We’re going to do better than what people are predicting. We still have some core players who are very good.”
While some people believe the Reds will lose 100 games, Las Vegas says the over-under on the Reds this season is 70 wins. Only Colorado, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Philadelphia are projected to win fewer than the Reds.
IF THAT’S TRUE, at least the Reds won’t finish last in the National League Central and will finish ahead of Milwaukee, predicted to win 69.
All that remains to be played out on the field and it began Tuesday with the Reds looking to fill out a pitching rotation, a bullpen, including a closer to replace Aroldis Chapman, and to find a left fielder.
With a plethora of empty seats in the Goodyear Ball Park Tuesday, the Reds beat the Cleveland Indians, 6-5.
Of note, though, was the absence of Zack Cozart, Devin Mesorao and Billy Hamilton from the starting lineup. All three are coming off injuries and surgery and while all three say they are coming along on the rehabilitation trail, until they begin playing games, their full recovery is a question mark. And there is no written-in-cement date for any of them to play in games.
And, of course, starting pitcher Homer Bailey is being eased into play after Tommy John surgery and says his return to the rotation probably won’t happen until between May 5 and May 15.
And the core players?
Joey Votto showed he is game-ready. The guy who drew 143 walks last year drew a walk in his first at-bat. Of course he did. But Votto is a notoriously slow starter, but in his second and third at-bats he slapped singles to left field.
THE APPARENT NEW third baseman to replaced traded Todd Frazier, is Eugenio Suarez after he filled in the second half of last season at shortstop for the injured Cozart. He had two hits, including a two-run double on which he was thrown at trying to extend the double into a triple.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips, the man who keeps turning down trades, singled to right in his first at-bat, driving in the game’s first run. Then he hit into back-to-back double plays.
In the absence of Hamilton, Jake Cave had hits in his first two at-bats and could be a candidate to play left field, along with Adam Duvall and Yorman Rodriguez. Cave is a Rule 5 pickup from the New York Yankees. He must remain on the Reds’ 25-man roster the entire year or be offered back to the Yankees for $50,000. He cost the Reds $25,000 to claim from the Yankees.
JAY BRUCE STARTED in right field, perhaps a lame duck right fielder. The Reds thought they had him trade last year at the trade deadline to the New York Mets, but the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes instead. And Bruce was traded before spring training to the Toronto Blue Jays but the deal was sunk when the player coming to the Reds failed a physical.
So it is a safe bet that Bruce may be traded before Opening Day. Bruce doubled in the fourth inning Tuesday.
One of the other guys who could win left field is 22-year-old Jesse Winker, who tore it up at Class A Dayton a couple of years ago. He was a late-game replacement Tuesday and ripped a hard double to left field.
ON THE PITCHING front, Jon Moscot started and pitched two innings, giving up a run and a couple of hits.
Brandon Finnegan, who wants to be a starter but could land in the bullpen, pitched the third and loaded the bases on a throwing error by shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr., a single and a hit batsman. But he coaxed a double play to end the inning without giving up no runs.
Left hander Tony Cingrani pitched the fourth and showed a workable breaking pitch, something he has worked on for two years, and struck out the first two hitters. He gave up two hits with two outs, then picked a runner off first base.
Of all the young pitchers, Cody Reed is catching attention and he’ll pitch Wednesday when the Reds play the Indians again. Reed was one of three pitchers the Reds acquired last year from Kansas City for Johnny Cueto.
“I’ve caught Reed some this spring and he is really impressive,” said catcher Tucker Barnhart. “The ball comes out of his hand kind of funky, but he is very impressive.”