Sunday, February 27, 2011, 3:05 PM EST
Matt Maloney vs. Josh Tomlin
Partly cloudy. Game time temperature around 55.
While this game will surely be overshadowed by the return of Orlando Cabrera to face his former club, let's not forget that it's also the kick-off to Spring Training. Excellente. Despite being technically an "away game," this one takes place at Goodyear Ballpark, where both the Indians and Reds hold sway during their Cactus League schedules. Of course, the notion of any kind of Reds home game in Arizona is absurd to begin with.
Early weather reports out of Goodyear suggest only slightly nicer weather than a Midwestern March, but I'm not going to be there - and you're probably not either - so let's be just be thankful if baseball happens. Two diluted versions of major league baseball teams going 80% in an exhibition game 2,000 miles away, but at this point, I'd watch them play indoor Coaches Pitch tee-ball. Which is kinda what they've been doing for the last two weeks.
I'm glad for the return of nine-inning baseball - and not a moment too soon - after an unforgiving winter that was also relatively sleepy from the hot stove perspective. Spring is a time to accentuate the positive, but this particular Spring also brings most well-founded optimism to Reds Country in a decade. 2001 was the last season the franchise went into camp following a winning season and '96 the last follow-up to a playoff berth.
Alongside unbridled excitement, there's also a note of caution. Obviously: Please no one get hurt, OK? And somewhat related: Spring Training stats don't mean all that much. Spring performance can certainly push bubble players into the Opening Day roster. But because many players with guaranteed roster spots are extra-vigilant to avoid an injury in the pre-season, because there's a lot of fine-tuning goin' on and because rosters are irregular, it's not worth reading a whole lot into stat lines, especially with pitchers ahead of hitters in the early going. To wit: Brandon Phillips hit .167 last spring, Wilkin Castillo: .310.
You can throw out 30-40 Spring ABs from anyone as "slow start," especially given the size of the sample. DIPs pitching can be a little bit more instructive, especially in looking at this year's version of the 5th starter race. It will also be telling, to the extent that they share them, the coaches' read on how pitchers' "stuff" looks "out there." Those impressions, along with BBs issued, were decisive in Leake v. Wood (2010). It's worth noting that both pitchers posted higher ERAs than Owings and Lehr last spring.
Edinson Volquez, your Opening Day starter, was supposed to take the first few innings today and begin his quest to recapture the ace mantle he held in 2008. But due to a visa issue, he's not currently allowed to pitch in front of paying customers, so Matt Maloney will lead things off instead. The Reds will also be using the DH in the early games. Marty's back in the booth for this one, so we've got play-by-play on 700 WLW and all affiliated outlets. The cheapskates and those outside the Clearchannel umbrella will have to settle for Gameday. Or between-inning tweets from the Beat writers; expect some freeverse poetry.
The marathon begins with a single (careful) stride. Go Reds!
|Drew Stubbs CF
|Michael Brantley CF
|Brandon Phillips 2B
|Asdrubal Cabrera SS
|Carlos Santana C
|Travis Hafner DH
|Jay Bruce RF
|Austin Kearns RF
|Jonny Gomes LF
|Orlando Cabrera 2B
|Edgar Renteria SS
|Matt LaPorta 1B
|Ramon Hernandez C
|Travis Buck LF
|Fred Lewis DH
|Jason Donald 3B