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Josh Smith makes a solid statement

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while trying to watch the Cincinnati Reds-Chicago White Sox game on MLB-TV and mostly seeing a black screen or a potpourri of pale colors that look like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle.

Fortunately, it cleared up by the fifth inning and, clear enough to see the Reds win their sixth straight exhibition game, 6-3.

AND SPEAKING OF jigsaw puzzles, the Reds roster is just that — a whole bunch of pieces that haven’t yet been fit together.

When Wednesday broke the Reds still had 41 players in camp. They made six moves, but the roster is still at 35. With five days until Opening Day they still have to make 10 cuts.

The pitching, both the rotation and the bullpen, remains as cloudy as a winter’s day in Chicago.

THE REDS MADE TWO curious roster removals. They sent relief pitchers Drew Hayes, Pedro Villarreal and Ryan Mattheus to minor-league camp. It appeared both Hayes and Villarreal, especially Hayes, pitched well enough this spring to make the bullpen. The Mattheus demotion was not a surprise.

So now it shall be exceptionally interesting to see the makeup of the bullpen.

And the rotation? Still a work in progress with slow construction.

It is so messed up with all the injuries that before Wednesday’s game the Reds listed their starting pitcher as TBD, to be determined.

THEY FINALLY DETERMINED that it would be 28-year-old righthander Josh Smith. And wouldn’t you know it, he pitched the best game by a starter this spring.

He retired the first 10, gave up a home run, and that was it. Over five innings he gave up one run, one hit, walked one and struck out six.

Josh Smith? This was a guy to whom the Reds gave a chance last mid-season. He was called up on June 23 and went 0-and-4 with a 6.89 earned run average over seven starts and disappeared. Until Wednesday.

He certainly hasn’t impressed the folks at Fangraph. Their analysis of Smith: “Josh Smith is a Triple-A pitcher who got a chance to start a few 2015 MLB starts. For the sake of the Reds fans, let’s hope he doesn’t again.”

Maybe the Reds’ No. 21 draft pick in 2010, a six-year minor-leaguer for the most part, changed Fangraph’s mind.

IF THE OFFENSE continues to click the way it has this spring, scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem for the Reds.

Joey Votto had hits in four at-bats to push his average to .440. Brandon Phillips, who was hitting .150 after eight games, is now showing the Reds why he should continue to be the regular second baseman. He had three hits, including a two-run home run, and has his average up to .380.

Votto and Phillips, batting third and fourth, had seven hits in eight at-bats. Votto singled in the third and Phillips homered for a 2-0 lead. With two outs and nobody on in the fourth, Billy Hamilton tripled, Jose Peeraza tripled to make it 3-0 and Votto singled to make it 4-0.

HAMILTON, A switch-hitter batting .200, hit his triple batting right handed. That is his natural side, but early in his professional career the Reds turned him into a switch-hitter. Maybe they should have let him continue batting righthanded and maybe they should have him bat righthanded all the time. He needs something to click in.

Smith turned a 5-1 lead over to closer J.J. Hoover in the sixth and he didn’t even make it out of the inning. He gave up two runs and three hits and left after recording only two outs. He left runners on second and third.

Brennan Bernadino replaced Hoover and didn’t have to get anybody out. Catcher Tucker Barnhart displayed his radar arm by picking Tyler Saladino off second base.

That cut the Reds’ lead to 4-3, but Votto’s fourth hit plated a run to make it 5-3.


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