Close study of Reds#8217; roster reveals real potential

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

When studying how good the Cincinnati Reds will be this season, general manager Wayne Krivsky may not want to let the facts get in the way of the fans’ view.

Krivsky made a lot of offseason moves, but are they really impact moves or just something to merely mask a lot of shortcomings.

Let’s take a look at the facts.

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Pitching will again determine the Reds success, and the pool of arms may be deep but their performances remain a question mark.

There is steady Aaron Harang serving as the ace and he is joined by his sidekick Bronson Arroyo who moonlights as the heir apparent to Jimmy Buffett.

That’s a pretty decent duo, but the supporting cast seems more like they are auditioning for the Not Ready For Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live.

Eric Milton was quite a move two years ago when the Reds signed him from out of the Philadephia rotation. The problem is, the move has helped the Phillies more since Milton has had two disappointing seasons in Cincinnati.

There was the uneventful trade with Oakland that brought pitcher Kirk Saarloos to the Reds along with his 7-7 record and 4.75 earned run average. Add Kyle Lohse and Matt Belisle and no one will confuse them with the 1970s rotation of the Baltimore Orioles who had four 20-game winners in one season.

If — or rather when — the starters falter, the bullpen may be able to actually save a few victories if Bill Bray lives up to his potential, Gary Majewski can return healthy, and Todd Coffey can get batters out on a consistent basis.

David Weathers, Mike Stanton and Rheal Cormier are just hoping to make it to the All-Star break because that’s when their AARP memberships kick in.

The bench added Jeff Conine, but the key players are catcher Javier Valentin, a great pinch-hitter, and outfielder Josh Hamilton.

With Ken Griffey Jr. always an injury risk, Hamilton could be more valuable than expected. In fact, since kicking his drug habit and getting back into playing shape, Hamilton may be the Reds best outfielder by the end of the season and force Adam Dunn to move permanently to first base.

Speaking of Dunn, the 6-foot-6 behemoth brings power along with his own air conditioning system for fans. Dunn whiffs so much the Reds don’t even consider the need to play in a dome stadium.

Dunn could increase his production if he ever decides to drive the outside pitch to the left side, but that may not change as long as fans “oooh” and “aaah” at his long homer runs.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Dunn and Griffey. Those are my two favorite players along with Ryan Freel. How could you not like a guy like Freel who plays so hard and wreckless that one promotion this season features a dirty Ryan Freel shirt giveaway?

Although it’s not like the Big Red Machine days, the offense still packs some punch.

Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion should be more comfortable and have a breakout year.

Alex Gonzalez bolsters the defense as he fills the hole a shortstop. Second baseman Brandon Phillips is another player who could rise to stardom.

Catcher David Ross had a very good season last year (21 HR, 52 RBI, .255BA) which made Jason LaRue expendable. He’ll need to match those numbers when you consider his replacement might be Chad Moeller.

So are the Reds a team ready to contend? That’s a definite maybe.

Prediction: Wild card.

— Sinatra —

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.