01/30/2003 4:55 pm ET
Reds Spring Training rundown
Team hopes to avoid injuries that have plagued it
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
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Ed Smith Stadium
78-84, third in NL Central
2002 Hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg: Austin Kearns, .315
OBP: Kearns, .407
SLG: Russell Branyan, .516
Runs: Adam Dunn, 84
RBIs: Aaron Boone, 87
Hits: Todd Walker, 183
2B: Walker, 42
3B: Reggie Taylor, 4
HR: Boone and Dunn, 26
SB: Boone, 32
2002 Pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Jimmy Haynes, 196 2/3
W: Haynes, 15
L: Chris Reitsma, 12
Win %: Gabe White, 6-1, .857
S: Danny Graves, 32
ERA: John Riedling, 2.70
K: Haynes, 126
K/9: Scott Williamson, 10.2
WHIP: White, 1.09
Projected starting lineup
SS Barry Larkin
1B Sean Casey
CF Ken Griffey Jr.
RF Austin Kearns
LF Adam Dunn
2B Aaron Boone
3B Brandon Larson
C Jason LaRue
1. Jimmy Haynes
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Danny Graves
4. Paul Wilson
5. Seth Etherton, Pete Harnisch or Jose Acevedo
LH setup man: Gabe White
RH setup man: John Riedling
Closer: Scott Williamson
Spring Cleaning: Five questions that need to be answered
1. Has Ken Griffey Jr. shaken the injury bug? Griffey reportedly spent the offseason working out diligently in an effort to avoid the leg problems that have plagued him since the end of the 2000 season. Emerging from Spring Training injury-free would be a good start, though he did so last year before hurting himself in the regular season's sixth game.
2. How good is Felipe Lopez, and what's his best position? The Reds dubbed Lopez the shortstop of the future upon acquiring him from Toronto during the Winter Meetings. He probably won't usurp Barry Larkin's starting job this year, but he could make a strong bid for playing time. Lopez also could emerge as a factor at second base.
3. How intense will competition be for the fifth starter's spot? Very. Seth Etherton insists he has overcome the shoulder problems that have prevented him from pitching since he joined the Reds in December 2000. But don't count out veteran Pete Harnisch, who endured lingering arm problems in 2000-01 before undergoing surgery and missing the entire 2002 season. Other candidates include Jose Acevedo, who enjoyed a strong winter ball campaign; Chris Reitsma, who would start for a lot of other teams; Luke Hudson, who has tremendous stuff; and Jimmy Anderson, a non-roster invitee who was 3-1 against the Reds with Pittsburgh last year.
4. Is the bullpen set? Almost, but not quite. Scott Williamson, who saved eight games in September, is virtually certain to be the closer. But left-hander Gabe White and right-hander Scott Sullivan, who logically should be two of Williamson's top setup men, could be traded, since they'll earn a combined $6.05 million this year. Reitsma and Hudson could figure in the setup mix if they aren't in the rotation. But spots for right-handers will be limited, since lefties Kent Mercker and Felix Heredia, both non-roster invitees but proven veterans, have a good chance to make the Opening Day squad.
5. Is Adam Dunn really going to lead off? Probably not. Then again, these are the Reds, who moved former All-Star closer Danny Graves to the starting rotation and Aaron Boone, an improving third baseman, to second base. Manager Bob Boone mainly wants to find a leadoff alternative to Barry Larkin, in case the veteran shortstop's absences from the lineup become more frequent. Though the slugging, strikeout-prone Dunn doesn't fit the leadoff stereotype, his superior on-base percentage (.400 last year) and willingness to take pitches make him a candidate for the spot.
New faces: Players acquired via trade or free agency
RHP Paul Wilson -- This could be a "sleeper" acquisition. Scouts said that Wilson's 2002 statistics (6-12, 4.83) were deceiving, since he pitched for a poor Tampa Bay ballclub. The Reds like Wilson's durability (193 2/3 innings last year) and believe he can help anchor the rotation. Other teams pursued Wilson in free agency, including division rival St. Louis, so the Reds weren't alone in their thinking.
INF Felipe Lopez -- No matter what position Lopez plays, the 22-year-old should help improve the Reds' speed and range up the middle. He hit .318 in Triple-A last year but only .227 in 85 games with Toronto, indicating that he still needs offensive development.
LHP Felix Heredia -- He has quietly been among the most effective situational relievers in the Majors, holding left-handed batters to a .220 average in seven seasons. Heredia has extensive National League experience, spending 1996-2001 with Florida and the Chicago Cubs before moving to Toronto last year.
2B Todd Walker -- Enjoyed a solid all-around season, batting .299 with 42 doubles while improving defensively. But his $3.4 million salary for 2003 prompted the Reds to ship him to Boston for a pair of prospects.
RHP Elmer Dessens -- Strange that the Reds, who always seem to need pitching, would trade an apparently healthy starter who had the NL's sixth-best ERA last year (3.03). But Dessens was eligible for a considerable raise in salary arbitration, forcing the Reds to think ahead and include him in the four-way deal that brought Lopez to Cincinnati.
RHP Joey Hamilton -- Last year's Opening Day starter looked sharp early in the season until a hamstring injury stunted his momentum. Hamilton never fully regained his groove afterward, though he occasionally pitched well in relief. St. Louis, the Reds' chief NL Central rival, was impressed enough by Hamilton to sign him in January.
LHP Shawn Estes -- Sudden ineffectiveness last September forced the Reds to drop Estes from the starting rotation, eliminating any chance that they might re-sign him once he became a free agent this offseason. He stayed in the division by signing with the Cubs.
RHP Brian Moehler -- Barely a year removed from shoulder surgery, Moehler clearly needed more time to strengthen his arm. The Reds seemed to have some interest in re-signing Moehler, but negotiations never accelerated, leaving him to sign with Houston.
Returning from injury
1B Sean Casey -- Swing was hampered all last season as the two-time All-Star played with a torn muscle in his left shoulder. Casey underwent arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 12 and is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
SS Barry Larkin -- Though Larkin played in 145 games last year, he needed arthroscopic surgery at the end of the season to remove loose bodies and bone spurs from his right big toe. The injury wasn't considered serious.
3B Brandon Larson -- Apparently on the verge of gaining valuable playing time, Larson suffered a broken right big toe on Aug. 15 when he was hit by a Randy Johnson pitch. After making a speedy recovery, Larson then broke his left hand in a freak accident as he fell to the dugout floor while trying to elude a foul line drive on Sept. 4. He has recovered fully.
RF Austin Kearns -- The Rookie of the Year candidate strained his left hamstring on Aug. 27 while running to first base and missed the rest of the season. Kearns has resumed working out and will be ready for Spring Training.
INF/OF Russell Branyan -- Likely to begin the season on the disabled list after injuring his right shoulder, which had bothered him during the regular season, while playing winter ball. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Dec. 3.
C Jason LaRue -- Underwent hernia surgery on Sept. 24, but is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
OF Wily Mo Pena -- Is said to have recovered nicely from the left hamstring he injured after playing three games in the Arizona Fall League, requiring arthroscopic surgery in mid-October. But, since Pena is out of minor-league options, the Reds may buy time by placing him on the DL to begin the season.
LHP Gabe White -- Did not pitch last season after straining his left groin muscle on Aug. 28. White considered returning late in the year but decided against worsening the injury.
RHP Seth Etherton -- Finally ready to pitch after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on March 20, 2001, to remove bone spurs and repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Etherton, who was 5-1 in 11 starts with Anaheim in 2000, made 10 injury rehabilitation appearances last year and pitched last fall during instructional league, helping build his arm strength and confidence.
New kids on the block: Prospects to watch
RHP Bobby Basham -- Impressed management with a big-time performance in Arizona Fall League (3-2, 1.98 ERA for Scottsdale) after finishing 6-4, 1.64 with Single-A Dayton and winning the clinching game of the California League playoffs for high-A Stockton.
RHP Dustin Moseley -- Mature beyond his years, Moseley posted a combined 11-9 record at Stockton and Double-A Chattanooga. The 21-year-old is considered to have a fair chance to reach the Majors by September if he continues his progress.
RHP Josh Thigpen -- Acquired from Boston in the Walker trade, the 20-year-old will concentrate on starting after dividing his professional career between the bullpen and the rotation. Thigpen has struck out 133 batters in 125 minor-league innings.
On the rebound
Ken Griffey Jr. -- Played in only 181 games the previous two seasons and hit .264 last year with eight homers and 23 RBIs.
Barry Larkin -- Bashed a career-high 37 doubles, but his .245 average was his lowest since 1987 (.244), which happened to be his first full Major League season.
Adam Dunn -- Hit .300 before All-Star Game last year, .190 with 17 RBIs in 252 at-bats afterward.
Ryan Dempster -- Left Florida in midseason trade as franchise's all-time leading winner (42 victories); joined Reds and recorded 6.19 ERA in 15 starts.
Jason LaRue -- Led Majors with 20 passed balls last year, offsetting above-average throwing arm.
Scott Sullivan -- Hardest-working reliever in Majors since 1997 (601 1/3 innings) compiled career-worst 6.06 ERA last year.
Aaron Boone -- Amassed plenty of impressive statistics (38 doubles, 26 homers, 87 RBIs, 32 stolen bases) but hit career-low .241.
The bottom line
Mostly, the Reds know who's going to play. Given their abysmal luck with injuries the last two seasons, they need to keep their best players healthy and develop better depth in case health becomes an issue again.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.