Earlier in the day, it was announced that Tony Cingrani would be getting the ball Opening Night for the Reds as they ushered in the St. Louis Cardinals. Today featured his final tune up before he clashes with the Redbirds.
Cingrani was not the only one receiving some last minute tinkering as the Reds ran out what may be their Opening Day lineup (outside of Chris Heisey playing for Jay Bruce) in their 9-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.
Offensive Side of the Diamond:
Wrapping up his first Spring Training as the team’s go-to leadoff hitter, Billy Hamilton was the surprise of the camp. Coming in from the winter cold, speculation ran rampant about Hamilton and how he could never measure up to what Shin-Soo Choo had produced. Thankfully, for Hamilton, he has already began to exceed expectations.
Finishing with a batting average of .327, Hamilton went 3-for-4 with two triples and a RBI in what was his final test. To expect him to be in contention for a batting title come September may be naïve, but it would be equally foolish from a fan’s perspective to hope that that is not the case.
The man who will be batting behind Hamilton this season, Brandon Phillips, finished the spring with an average just north of the Mendoza line at .208. Recently, Phillips was quoted as saying that the balls have been coming off his bat well. Therein lies the rub with Spring Training games. The majority of games, let alone at-bats, are ever seen, and a box score can only tell so much.
Phillips has in fact been hitting the ball extremely hard these past few weeks. In a simple 2+2=4 equation, with Hamilton reaching in front of Phillips, he is more likely to see fastballs. Luckily, for Brandon, he thrives against the hard stuff, especially hitting it the opposite way. With an established position in the lineup, and legitimate offensive threats around him, it’s hard to fathom how Phillips does not have his best season yet.
After 31 games, it does not seem that Chris Heisey has been able to overtake Ryan Ludwick for the starting left field position. He did outhit him by 60 points (.310 to .250, respectively) over the course of the spring, but Ludwick’s experience and longevity will be given a look before the reoccurring theme of Heisey’s streakiness will.
In the meantime, having a player with the skill level of Heisey off the bench is immense. Lest we not forget, Heisey earned his calling card as a late-inning pinch hitter that jumped all over first pitch fastball throwing relievers. Rather than having to hope it’s his turn in the order, Bryan Price will be able to handpick when and where he can use his best bench ammunition.
Late in the game, the lower level Reds hitters jumped all over the lower level Diamondback hurlers. Scoring seven runs combined in the seventh and eighth innings were all the Reds needed to polish off the convincing win.
Reds’ Toeing the Rubber:
For the first time all spring, Tony Cingrani seemed poised to dominate. Although we can sit here and say he was inspired by his selection of being the Opening Night starter, the more likely cause of his spectacular outing was the lack of relevance of any hitter he faced.
With the Arizona Diamondbacks having already gotten their season underway last Saturday while playing in Australia, it is only logical that they not burn out their players who have already played two games which have counted.
Don’t tell any of this to Tony Cingrani, who simply operated on instinct, mowing down one victim after another. Once his seven innings were complete, he had only allowed a single run, five hits and two walks, while striking out six. The “Bearded One” now awaits the likes of Allen Craig, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.
* * *
The Reds are in action tomorrow, but not against a Major League club. They take on the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the team’s Double-A affiliate at 7 PM. Tune in here for the wrap-up, or, you can follow former writer Kourage Kundahl (@kourageFS) on Twitter, who is the man when it comes to Blue Wahoos baseball.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds