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At least for a little while longer, my Cincinnati Reds still have a shotPosted Friday, March 28, 2008, at 6:53 PM
The final days of March don't really mean much unless of course you're a baseball fan. For me, it annually means that my beloved Cincinnati Reds still are a contender. For fans of any small market teams it means that your team still has a shot at making the playoffs and if you're a Cubs fan, this could still be your year.
Much like last season, the National League Central is pretty winnable for all teams, which means that everyone has a shot.
So I'm doomed to hold out hope that the Reds can finally put it all together, cobble together a pitching staff and maybe, just maybe, contend past June for a change.
Once again the Reds will have plenty of pop in the lineup, which is always fun to watch as a fan, but there's only so many 10-8 losses I can take.
So this year I had to raise an eyebrow when we brought in closer Francisco Cordero, which should make an immediate impact in that we can bump everyone in the bullpen back a spot.
David Weathers is not a traditional closer though he tried like heck last year. He just allowed too many baserunners to hold that role again, but he could be a serviceable set-up man. He'll be joined in the trip north by Jared Burton, the slimmed down Todd Coffey and Jeremy Affeldt. The final spot will go to Bill Bray or Kent Mercker after Mike Stanton was cut on Friday.
The fact that the Reds ate a $3 million dollar contract in Stanton says how little use they had for him and how much confidence manager Dusty Baker has in the remaining pitchers.
Perhaps the reason for that confidence is the mercurial Coffey, who last year was about one Swiss Cake Roll from being able to wear Dmitri Young's old uni from Reds' days gone by. But in the offseason he must have caught a late Weight Watchers' infomercial or had a meeting with Subway's Jared on how to slim down.
He's dropped about 30 pounds and has regained the form that made him so tantalizing to scouts.
Coffey had another great outing on Thursday and Bray was having great success, finally showing some of the promise that made the Austin Kearns/Felipe Lopez trade to the Washington Nationals two years ago semi-believable.
But this year the same bullpen that made fans cringe when the outfield door swung open, has shown a bit of promise.
Forgive me if I have a wait and see attitude.
I'll reserve judgment for the time being and cast an interested eye to one young starter acquired in a trade with the Rangers for Josh Hamilton and one that the Reds actually developed themselves for a change.
Edinson Vollquez and Jonny Cueto have both showed some electric stuff during their spring appearances, enough so that the Reds have the luxury of sending designated mound savior, Homer Bailey, to Louisville for the time being.
Cueto was signed for $3,500 at a tryout camp in the Dominican Republic back in 2004, the same year that the Reds signed Bailey. Cueto has seemingly arrived and the 24-year old Volquez has been the talk of spring training with his stuff.
The 22-year old Cueto pitched the only no-hitter in Dayton Dragons history and has complemented a high velocity fastball with a changeup taught to him by Mario Soto, a former Reds ace.
Volquez made eight Triple-A starts last season and compiled a 1.41 ERA, allowing just 25 hits over 51 innings and striking out 66 batters.
Those two will likely take up the No. 3 and No. 4 spot in the rotation with Josh Fogg fitting in there as well.
How those pitchers follow up Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo will go a long way in deciding whether I can be a happy fan later this summer instead of trying to ignore Cubs and Cardinals fans discussing how this is their year. For now, it's still wide open and I think my Reds can do it!
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