Reds Looking for Results in 2009
- Updated: April 17, 2009
After spending the last few years rebuilding their minor league system, the Cincinnati Reds are ready to reap some of the rewards for their efforts in 2009.
Though Cincinnati has not posted a winning record since the 2000 season, there is a renewed sense of optimism in 2009 that the decade of disappointment may finally be over.
While early season performance is rarely an accurate measurement for how a team will perform over a 162-game season, the 4-3 start posted by the Reds does at least illustrate that the team has the potential to be a contender in 2009.
Recognizing that most competitive teams need a mix of talented youngsters and seasoned veterans, the Reds have created a roster that has an excellent balance between youth and experience.
Leading the way is talented first baseman Joey Votto. After hitting .297 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in his first full major league season a year ago, Votto has started 2009 on fire with a .393 average and 10 RBIs in the first seven games of the season.
Though he has not exploded out of the box in 2009 at the same level as Votto, second year starting rightfielder Jay Bruce has the talent to serve as an excellent compliment to Votto. Bruce hit .254 with 21 home runs last season and could be an anchor in the outfield for the Reds for many years to come.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips (.261 BA, 21 HR, 78 RBI in 2008) and third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (.251 BA, 26 HR) combine with Votto to give the Reds a young and talented infield. Veterans Alex Gonzalez and Jerry Hairston Jr. provide the Reds with depth and experience in the infield.
After hitting .304 during his first major league action late last season, Chris Dickerson will look to earn regular playing time in 2009. Willy Tavares (.251 BA, 64 runs for Colorado in 2008), Darnell McDonald and Laynce Nix will also see action in the outfield.
Veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez (.257 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI for Baltimore) provides leadership and experience behind the plate. Backup Ryan Hanigan (.271 BA) was solid after being given a chance to play extensively during the final month of 2008 and gives the Reds much needed depth behind the plate.
The Reds pitching staff also includes a mixture of veterans and young hurlers.
Leading the starting rotation is a quartet of hurlers capable of lasting late into games. Edinson Volquez (17-6, 3.21 ERA) was a key addition a year ago and has the ability to be a staff ace.
The 6-17 record posted by Aaron Harang a year ago was as much a result of a lack of run support as it was due to his own performance. Bronson Arroyo (15-11, 4.77) is another solid veteran hurler who provides depth and experience.
Second year pro Johnny Cueto posted a 9-14 record as a rookie, but showed glimpses of being a top-of-the-rotation pitcher down the road. Micah Owings (6-9, 5.95 for Arizona) also can be a solid starter for the Reds.
The bullpen includes closer Francisco Cordero (34 saves) as well as veteran setup men David Weathers (4-0, 3.25) and Arthur Rhodes (4-2, 2.04 for Seattle). Jared Burton (5-1, 3.22) and Nick Masset (2-0, 3.92) are among the young relievers who provide depth in the bullpen.
Given the annual volatility experienced in the National League Central, it is tough to predict whether the Reds will contend this season. While the Chicago Cubs, winners of the last two division titles, will likely be in contention, it is difficult to predict which other teams will be around come playoff time. In addition to an improving Cincinnati team, the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers all have the potential to be in contention throughout the season.
To read more from Dean, go to his sports blog: Sports Then and Now