“Hope springs eternal,” the old saying goes, but Reds fans have more reason than ever to look forward to the 2010 season.
While attending a game at Great American Ballpark has always been a good time, it’s likely to be more enjoyable this summer since the team’s rebuilding plan has started to show signs of fruition.
Joey Votto and Gold Glove winners Brandon Phillips (pictured), Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen anchor an infield that will save runs as well as drive them in regularly. In hitter-friendly GABP, infield defense is of paramount importance.
A healthy Ramon Hernandez promises to raise the level of productivity from the catcher position, a sore spot from the 2009 campaign. Jonny Gomes, after having a breakout season in a reserve role last year, hopes to play every day as the leftfielder and duplicate his impressive power-hitting performance (20 home runs in only 281 at bats). Chris Dickerson and/or the speedy Drew Stubbs will patrol centerfield and presumably cover more ground than their predecessors.
Amongst the team’s cadre of exciting young talent, rightfielder Jay Bruce has the most raw power. If he’s able to stay healthy, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could hit more than 30 home runs.
Aaron Harang, oft-maligned over the past two seasons, still has No. 1 starter talent, and if the offense gets him more run support his win total should increase dramatically. Fan favorite Bronson Arroyo looks to have found a modicum of consistency as he won 15 games in both 2008 and 2009.
Young fireballer Johnny Cueto’s repertoire seems a bit more polished than last year’s, and once this young man puts it all together the rest of the National League is in trouble.
Homer Bailey was among baseball’s best hurlers toward the end of last season, and there’s no reason to believe that armed with a split-fingered fastball he won’t have the type of year Reds fans have been eagerly anticipating since he was drafted in the first round in 2004.
Youngsters Mike Leake won the spring competition to be the fifth starter in the rotation, but look for contributions soon from other young pitchers like Travis Wood, Justin Lehr and Matt Maloney.
If ever there was an “X factor,” it would be Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban sensation who dazzled scouts in last year’s World Baseball Classic. While it would be wise not to expect Chapman to be Sandy Koufax upon making his big-league debut, a lot of people who think the lanky youngster who regularly hits 100 miles per hour on the radar gun will be a star.
The Reds bullpen, among the league’s best last season, is again anchored by All Star closer Francisco Cordero, who is set up by talented relievers Arthur Rhodes, Nick Masset and screwballer Daniel Ray Herrera.
Major League Baseball fields a 162-game schedule because it’s about what happens on the field and not writers’ expectations that dictates who plays in the postseason and who goes golfing. That said, the Reds’ future, which has seemed bright for years, actually appears to be now.
With so much talent — both young and not so young — this year’s team promises to provide ballpark visitors with great entertainment as well as wins.
Catch the Reds
Where: Great American Ballpark, Second and Main streets, Downtown
When: Find the home schedule here.
How Much: Single game tickets are $5 (upper deck far corners) to $230 (Diamond Seats behind home plate)
How to Buy: Buy tickets online, via phone (513-765-7600) or in person at the stadium.
Reds Hall of Fame & Museum: Adjacent to the stadium on Main Street (aka Joe Nuxhall Way). Open on game days from 10 a.m. until two hours after the end of afternoon games or until 8 p.m. during evening games. Open on non-game days 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors; children 4 and under are free. Details here.