February 2009

Harang to start Opening Day

Greetings from Day One of Spring Training — pitchers and catchers have reported and several position players are here too.

There’s already some news to report:

Reds manager Dusty Baker gave no hesitation when asked about this — Aaron Harang will be the Reds’ Opening Day starter for the fourth-straight year. The Reds open on April 6 vs. the Mets.

“If we started tomorrow, he would be,” Baker said on Saturday morning. “If he stays healthy and everything stays the same, then yeah.”

Harang is coming off a career worse 6-17 record with a 4.78 ERA in 2008. Edinson Volquez, who went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA, would have been the natural candidate if Baker decided to change the rotation order, but that’s not happening.

“I think No. 1, he’s been the Opening day starter the last few years,” Baker said of Harang. “I’m not going have one down year spoil the last three. Confidence and all kinds of things are involved.”

It was clear that Harang wasn’t dwelling on his lousy 2008 season.

“I flushed last year down the can,” Harang said. “I didn’t even look back over my shoulder.”

Harang appeared to have taken off about 20 pounds over the winter too and looked in great shape. He said he started working out earlier this year and changed his eating habits by going on the Zone Diet and exercising some portion limits.

“I feel like it will keep me more durable during the season in the long run,” Harang said. “Hopefully this will give me a shot to get another 15-20 innings in.”



On the ground in Sarasota

I just landed less than an hour ago — the Florida air feels good at first contact when walking out of the airport.

I made a bee-line for the Reds complex and picked up my credential, said hello, etc. The report date for pitchers and catchers is Saturday and for position players, it’s Tuesday — but there were a bunch of players already ready to go.

Jay Bruce got to camp on Thursday and I talked t him for a little bit — it’s going to be a different camp for him. Last year he was trying to make the team and knew his chances weren’t great once Corey Patterson was signed. This year, he is the right fielder.

Chris Dickerson, Francisco Cordero and Bill Bray are also here and I saw prospects Todd Frazier, Matt Maloney and Devin Mesoraco. The first workout on Saturday is at 1:30 p.m. ET after the physicals.

One thing that struck me as weird was walking into the clubhouse and not seeing the big black trunk that belonged to Ken Griffey Jr., even though it’s been gone since July 31. He was the only one that had it and he sat on it everyday to talk and poke fun of people. Griffey was the only player at camp to get two lockers — now everyone has one.

The report day is usually without drama, but not always. During my first spring of covering the Reds in 2006, the late Josh Hancock was cut on the first day because the club said the reliever came in overweight. 

Everything gets rolling Saturday — hopefully you will check in here from time to time to get updated.



Almost that time…

Early Friday morning, I will be catching my flight to Sarasota, where the forecast says it will be 76 degrees (not bad). If all goes smooth with the trip, I will head over to the complex around midday and see who is around. Maybe I will be able to start banging out some copy too. The pitchers and catchers report date is Saturday and it’s Tuesday for position players.

Media relations director Rob Butcher sent out a note earlier listing some of the early arrivals.

RHP Aaron Harang, RHP Jared Burton, OF Chris Dickerson, IF/OF Jeff Keppinger, LHP Arthur Rhodes, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Nick Masset, RHP Josh Roenicke, LHP Daniel Ray Herrera, RHP Daryl Thompson, C Ryan Hanigan, IF Adam Rosales, IF Paul Janish and OF Norris Hopper.

Reds on TV

From Fox Sports Ohio — the three-game Reds television schedule from Spring Training:

Thursday, March 19                 Reds vs. Red Sox – 7:00 pm
         Friday, March 20                      Reds vs. Astros – 1:00 pm*
         Saturday, March 21                  Reds vs. Pirates – 1:00 pm
                                                            (*replayed in primetime at 7:00 pm)

All times are Eastern. The 2009 regular season TV schedule will be released soon.


Spring Training think tank

We’re three days from Reds pitchers and catchers reporting and I’m two days away from heading to Sarasota….

Spring Training always has interesting storylines and subplots — some we know already while others develop after a few weeks. What are some of the potential Reds stories at camp that will interest you?

Is it position battles — left field, fifth starter, bench spots? Is it Alex Gonzalez and whether he is healthy enough to play shortstop regularly? Is it the plan to try to win with speed, pitching and defense over the power/home run approach that hasn’t worked? Or the core of younger players that will be expected to carry the team?

I have a few thoughts of my own but I’d love to take a few of your ideas to Florida. It could be a suggestion of a player profile or something broader. Go ahead and chime in here please.


Another catcher for camp

The Reds added catcher Chris Denove as a non-roster player for big league camp on Tuesday. Denove, 26, played 53 games at Double-A Chattanooga last season and batted .245. His addition will give the Reds eight catchers in camp.

Depth is especially needed at that position during the early days of camps so all the pitchers can get their work.

Chance for Opening Day tickets

A press release from the Reds:


In a continuing effort to make Opening Day tickets available to as many fans as possible, the Reds have announced the annual online ticket opportunity for the April 6 game vs. the New York Mets.
Now through Thursday, Feb. 12 at noon, fans can register at reds.com for the opportunity for the chance to purchase up to four Opening Day tickets.

There are a limited number of tickets available through this opportunity.

Applicants must complete and submit the registration form only on Reds.com to participate in this opportunity for the chance to purchase Opening Day tickets.

Winners will be selected at random from the pool of registrants.

Winners will be notified via email and will have the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets to Opening Day.

On the web: http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/ticketing/opening_day.jsp

Who's in LF?

So the Reds identified acquiring a right-handed hitting, run-producing left fielder as a top priority in the off-season. You’re probably wondering ‘what happened?’

The choices weren’t great and in my mind, no one out there really was someone that could catapult the Reds into an instant World Series contender.

Now it appears left field will be by committee (er…platoon). The choices are Chris Dickerson, Jerry Hairston Jr., Jonny Gomes, Norris Hopper and Jacque Jones.

Who do you like and why? Who will win the job?


What happened to mailbags?

Just before the holidays in December, my Reds Mailbag was published with the following sentence:

The mailbag will return on Jan. 5, 2009.

I accidentally lied to you. A couple of days later, we learned mailbags were being shelved and were not to be seen again. I apologize to all of those that sent in questions that went unanswered.

The good news is that after some reconstructive surgery and a trip through the witness relocation program, the Q&A forum will be coming back. Since “Mailbag” is so 20th century, the new incarnation is called “Reds Inbox.” It won’t be posted every Monday like the mailbag was but will pop up every so often when there’s a news event or issues that need answers and opinion.


The email address is the same: mark.sheldon@mlb.com. Just put ‘Reds Inbox’ in the subject line please and include your first name, last initial and city and state.


Blogging, finally.

You can’t arrive much later to a party than I have when it comes to baseball blogging. By the time I’ve gotten my blog going — the food is gone, the beer is flat and there’s toilet paper hanging from the tree. But at least I’m up and running and I hope you bookmark this page.

If you come here, you can expect — first and foremost — to get Reds breaking news and information. I will also try to post some of the fun stuff, quotes, etc. I come across in the clubhouse or press box that doesn’t always get into my stories.

As for comments — just be civil, please. If you’d be ashamed of yourself if your kids, spouse, parents, girlfriend, boyfriend, friends, co-workers or neighbors heard you say it — don’t write it here. Thanks!


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