Major League Baseball continues to be in a lockout thanks to the greed and indifference of its franchise owners and their puppet master, Rob Manfred. Therefore, we have no baseball about which to write. Instead, we’re going to periodically write about what the Cincinnati Reds would be up to had the winter of 2021-2022 not been interrupted by Manfred and his oligarchical brethren. We’ve done that here.
It’s a 9:05 PM ET start time, just the second evening game of the year. The Milwaukee Brewers are in Goodyear to take on the Cincinnati Reds, with NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes on the mound for what is set to be his first multi-inning outing of Cactus League play.
For that reason, Joey Votto’s in the leadoff spot tonight, because Joey Votto wanted to be in the leadoff spot tonight. He knows it’s his best chance to get multiple PA against Burnes, and if there’s one thing we’ve come to know about Joey, he’ll do everything he can to get the most work in against the best opponents this time of year to set the tone for the entirety of the rest of his season.
“He struck me out twice last year,” Votto said when speaking to the media prior to batting practice on Monday. “He might do that again tonight, I dunno, but I’m going to find out what I can find out about him now. Maybe he’ll slide an inch over on the rubber from last year, or try to pick up a few more RPM on his slider,” the Reds 1B muttered while wearing a t-shirt with the face of Kenny Chesney on it and the words ‘She Thinks My Range Factor’s Sexy’ above it.
We’ll get our first look at talented young righty Emerson Hancock, too. The University of Georgia product was the 6th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft and came to the Reds as the centerpiece of the deal that sent Sonny Gray and Shogo Akiyama to the Seattle Mariners back in January. The 6’4” righty has worked hard on developing a cutter to work in with the four-seamer he can hum up to 99 mph, and Derek Johnson has raved about him since he first set foot in camp in early February.
“When he was coming through the high school ranks back in 2016, Tim (Corbin) texted me some video of him on the mound and said ‘there’s no way we get him out of Georgia, so you’ll have to get your hands on him at the next level.’ Thankfully, we had the chance to do that, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with him in Cincinnati,” said Johnson.
Centerfielder Jose Barrero will hit behind Votto tonight, and will look to continue his hot start to the spring. He has hits in each of his five starts so far, with a pair of 500 foot homers into the barren wasteland that is the Land of the Endless Strip Mall already under his belt. Shortstop Kyle Farmer will hit third, the ink on his shiny new 7-year contract extension barely dry.
“I’m still just so excited,” Farmer said after his press conference on Saturday afternoon. “Y’know, I was a bit worried when I told them I was going to pick up hitting left-handed, but the team was all about it. They said ‘you just do whatever you want out there Kyle, and we’ve got your back,’ and that’s all you can ask for as a player,” Farmer said while doing his Luke Bryan voice.
Expected to be backing Hancock on the mound today are the likes of Tim Adleman, Nick Howard, and veteran Kevin Gregg, who was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to camp over the weekend. The 43 year old is looking to make it back to the big leagues for the first time since 2015, when he also was on the Reds, and has leaned heavily into a knuckleball to help make that dream come true.
“I was in Northern California working out last winter and through a mutual friend ended up pitching to Alex Blandino. We got to talking, and I ended up picking his brain for how to throw the perfect knuckler, something I’d always wished I could do,” Gregg said. “We’ll see how it goes, but the shoulder feels great, the elbow feels great, and the knuckler only has to go about 60 mph to work anyways.”
The Reds, who are 1-9 through their first 10 Cactus League games, will turn around and head to Peoria in the morning for their 1:10 PM start against the San Diego Padres. Jack Leiter will take the mound for the Reds opposite Mike Clevinger.