Questions and projections
After Friday, it will be nine days left in the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting. I have a camp preview in the editing process that will go up late Sunday or early Monday.
Especially after some of the debacles of last year’s camp, namely the pitching injuries to Cueto and Bailey, Arroyo’s mono and Volquez’s visa issue, I’m cautious about saying this job is locked up or that spot is filled. You never know what will go down during Spring Training. Depth and health will be key for sure but assuming all goes as planned, this is about as strong of a group entering a Reds camp I’ve seen since I started here. (This will be season No. 7 covering the Reds for me).
No doubt there will still be enough questions like — can Aroldis Chapman crack the top 5 and if he does, who is out? In my projected rotation you will see Monday, Chapman is currently out. Is Devin Mesoraco ready to step and assume either most of a good portion of the catching duties in the big leagues. I expect him to be in a similar tandem situation with Ryan Hanigan, at least at the beginning. Will Brandon Phillips ever sign a contract extension? Is Scott Rolen healthy, and just as important, able to contribute at the level he did in the first half of the 2010 season? That will be a big key. There will be a serious dogfight for the final bench spots as well.
*Here is my pre-Spring Training NL Central final standings projection:
The Reds have no doubt been impressive in the roster improvements, and the Cardinals suffered some losses with the departures of Albert Pujols, Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan. But St. Louis is not just the reigning champion, they have a very strong team coming back. Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Yadier Molina and now Carlos Beltran are in the lineup. Chris Carpenter, a should-be healthy Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia are in the rotation. The bullpen is pretty solid. So far now, I have to give the Cardinals the edge. This is certainly subject to change in the coming weeks.
Odds and ends
*I was at GABP’s loading dock yesterday for the surest sign Spring Training is near — the loading up of the 18-wheeler for Goodyear. Here is my short story if you want to take a look. There is also a little video in there.
*If you haven’t had a chance, please check out the efforts from Meggie Zahneis, our MLB.com youth correspondent. In the short time since I’ve met Meggie, I’ve been very impressed with her work and even more impressed with her as a person.
*Nice effort last night by Rich Linville, who narrowly lost in the second round of “Baseball IQ” on MLB Network. Like many people, I’m sure, I was repeatedly saying “Mike Piazza!” to the TV. So close. So close.
*Emily Szink, a University of Dayton graduate from Kettering, is one of 50 finalists vying to be a contestant for the 2012 MLB Fan Cave. Through Feb. 22, fans can vote for their favorites at mlbfancave.com.