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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Thoughts on the opening day roster

--Opening Day roster:

Outfielders:Jay Bruce, Chris Dickerson, Willy Taveras, Layne Nix, Jerry Hairston Jr., Darnell McDonald

Infielders:Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion, Paul Janish.

Catchers:Ramon Hernandez, Ryan Hanigan

Starting pitchers:Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez, Micah Owings, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo

Relievers:Francisco Cordero, David Weathers, Jared Burton, Mike Lincoln, Arthur Rhodes, Daniel Ray Herrera and Nick Masset

Some thoughts:

* The biggie, of course, is Darnell McDonald making the team and starting on opening day. I understand the need for defense if Taveras is ill, but I also tend to think that Dickerson could play there competently in a pinch. I'd rather take a platoon-disadvantaged Dickerson over a platoon-advantaged McDonald, even against Santana. But whatever, it's just a start and there's no reason to think that he'll be around all season in any kind of significant role. Right?

The consequence of this, however, is that Gomes didn't make the team and may not agree to an assignment in Louisville. Yes, his terrible defense curtails his value, but Gomes might a better hitter than Bruce at this point in their respective careers. That sort of bat off the bench, or in a platoon in left, could be awfully valuable to a team that may struggle to put up runs. I hope he does take the assignment to AAA, because I'm sure he will get a chance to play this season.

* Bailey didn't make the rotation, and was sent to Louisville rather than risk losing Nick Masset to waivers. I have to say, while I understand the move on some level, I think this sends a terrible message to Bailey. The kid clearly did everything he possibly could do, drew raves from everyone who saw him, including claims that he'd made more progress in the offseason than he had in the past two years. So what do they do? The same thing you would have done if he'd screwed off all offseason and had gotten lit up in spring training. Part of me hopes that Arroyo is, in fact, going to have to go on the DL, just so Bailey can get back to Cincinnati as soon as possible. It's time for the guy to be on this roster, period. Keeping him down so that the Reds can keep the 7th man in the bullpen under their control leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

* The only other move that looks mildly controversial is Bray being sent to Louisville in favor of Daniel Herrera. But if Bray really has lost 5 mph off his fastball velocity as Baker suggested a week or so ago, then I can't disagree with this. Hopefully it's just a matter of building up arm strength. Because with all due respect to Arthur Rhodes, this team needs a healthy Bill Bray in its pen.

* I have no problem with Janish over Rosales, especially given Alex Gonzalez being the question mark that he still is.

* What, just two catchers? Is that legal?

Update: Here's something I wrote in response to Chad's link to me and the subsequent comments at redlegnation. It basically amounts to a rant, but here it is anyway:

@Chad, I probably stole the 3-catcher comment from your and Bill's podcasts, which I've started listening to now and then on my ipod during my commute. :)

@Nathan (and in general), I'm sure they did have a good conversation with Bailey about this. But we're dealing with a guy who is FINALLY getting where we want him to be from a maturity standpoint. And my feeling is that this is a stupid thing to do to a guy who you're trying to encourage.

If I were Homer, no matter what was said in that conversation, I'd be at the very least disappointed and at worst really pissed off. Opening day roster spots are definitely overrated, and I have no doubt we'll see a lot of him this year. But I think it's the wrong way to handle him. It probably won't make much difference in the long term...but I still don't like it.

As for Masset's experience and the peculiarities of a bullpen gig...what I'll say is that this team won't make or not make the playoffs based on whether they have an experienced long reliever in the bullpen. Masset just doesn't matter very much. What could matter, however, is keeping an encouraged, hard-working Homer Bailey on the staff and exposed to big league hitters every outing early in the season. I mean, seriously, what good is going to come from him pitching effectively in AAA?

I don't frankly care if my long man can only pitch twice a week--you shouldn't need him more often than that with as many pitchers as a modern team carries. As Baker himself said, there are a lot of top-flight starters that made their debut as a long man in the bullpen and spot starter before securing a full time starter job. It's a good way to break in.

Or heck, another choice is to option Herrera and keep both Masset and Bailey. We already have Rhodes for LOOGY duties. Some successful teams don't carry even a single left-hander in the 'pen.
-j