The excitement for the 2012 Cincinnati Reds hits a new level today.
In just a few short hours, Mike Leake will toe the rubber and kick off the spring training schedule in Goodyear against the Cleveland Indians. No more judging the roster based on last season’s statistics or Dusty quotes. There are actual games, with box scores and everything. Real, live baseball is back.
Here’s what I’m most looking forward to seeing over the next four weeks:
- The new pitchers, duh: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, and Ryan Madson will play their first games in a Reds uniform. Each acquisition this offseason made me more excited than the last.
- Aroldis Chapman: How will they use him as they attempt to stretch him out as a starter? How will his shoulder hold up? Where will he start the season? Will he be ready in time to bump somebody out of the rotation? Fortunately, the team has some time to feel him out and he won’t be needed in Cincinnati by Opening Day.
- The rookies: Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco are vital to the Reds’ success this season. These may be the two most intriguing players for me to watch this spring after Chapman.
- The platoons: Will one of the left fielders or catchers tear the cover off the ball? If they do, will it matter? Behind the plate, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Mesoraco and Ryan Hanigan will split time. But in left field, I think it could still be possible that either Ryan Ludwick or Chris Heisey could claim a regular role, although I think it’s more likely that it happens in the regular season should such a scenario even occur at all.
- The last spot: Who gets the last spot on the roster? It seems most likely that it will come down to Paul Janish, Wilson Valdez, and Todd Frazier. I think Juan Francisco is a lock for a spot if healthy, because he‘s the only left-handed hitter available off the bench. This is bad news for Frazier. Janish and Valdez will probably battle for the role of backup shortstop. I’m interested in seeing how each of these guys performs.
- The prospects: Four in particular. Outfielder Denis Phipps exploded last year, hitting .346 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI between AA and AAA last year. Could he be this year’s Dave Sappelt? Infielder Henry Rodriguez hit .320 last year with 13 home runs and 81 RBI between high-A and AA, and he just turned 22. Shortstop Didi Gregorius also just turned 22. He hit .303 last year at high-A Bakersfield before his call up to AA. Finally, Donald Lutz had a .301 average with 20 homers and 75 RBI at Dayton last year.
- Health: Will injuries derail the teams plans as they did last year? Please, please, please no…
- Hearing Marty Brennaman again: I can’t even describe the joy I feel when I tune into 700 WLW and hear Marty’s voice for the first time each year. It’s such a rush. The long winter is finally over and baseball is here.
What did I miss? What will you be watching out for this spring?