Mailbag: Where does Wilson stand?
Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers Reds fans' questions
If Paul Wilson can regain any velocity on his fastball, and is in generally good pitching shape, is there any chance he could pitch in the bullpen? Maybe in the closer's role? Only pitching one inning might help his arm as opposed to pitching five-plus.
-- Ryan R., Cincinnati
It's early, but right now, Wilson's looking pretty darn good. We were remiss to not include his name on last week's poll about fifth starter candidates. He definitely has a shot. Shoulder and elbow surgeries over the years, including the major shoulder operation in June 2005 that he's trying make a comeback from, robbed Wilson off his above-90 mph velocity. But observers this spring have been impressed with his ability to locate and the quality of his sinker pitch.
Wilson has a tremendous work ethic and is a favorite of many in the clubhouse. If he's healthy and has a good run during the exhibition games, in my mind he's got to be a favorite for the fifth spot. If not, a role in the bullpen is always an option.
I'm looking for an update on Brandon Phillips. Based upon how he spent his winter and how he looks at camp, can we expect the burgeoning star of last year or the disappointing prospect of the previous years?
-- Kevin, W., Wilkes Barre, Pa.
Phillips looks very fit and happy to be in camp. He told me he spent more time in the offseason preparing for 162 games by adding more running and swimming and less weightlifting. Since he was just fighting for a job last year in Cleveland's camp, he couldn't focus as much on preparing for a whole season.
One thing I like about Phillips was that he still seems very hungry even after a breakout year. Yes, he's more relaxed knowing his starting spot is secure. But he's repeatedly said there are plenty of guys behind him gunning for his job and that he wouldn't be letting up his drive to succeed. Whether he can repeat his 2006 season will depend on how he adjusts to pitchers and more detailed scouting reports. He won't be surprising anyone this year.
Am I correct in assuming that Ryan Freel will be playing a far lesser part this year, if at all, for the Reds?
-- Dennis H., Denver
No sir, not even close. As manager Jerry Narron said this morning, "He's a starter. He just doesn't start in the same spot." Freel will probably be the primary guy in right field, assuming that Ken Griffey Jr. remains in center field. But Freel also remains valuable because he can play second and third base and is the leadoff guy in the order.
If Josh Hamilton makes the squad, would he platoon with Freel in the outfield?
-- Jerry J., Zanesville, Ohio
If Hamilton makes it, and that's a big if, he wouldn't be in a starting or platoon situation. Freel, Griffey, Adam Dunn and Jeff Conine will be the main four outfielders as it stands now. Hamilton is vying for that fifth outfielder's job, or perhaps even a sixth one as Narron alluded to this morning. There are a lot of other guys like Chris Denorfia, Norris Hopper and Bubba Crosby in that fight too. Right now for Hamilton, it's just about making the team after being out for most of four years.
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We were having a discussion about Dunn on a blog, and I mentioned that I am hopeful this is the year he hits a splash-down shot in the Ohio River. The question is: What kind of distance would it take to land a ball in the river on the fly? Also, what was the distance on that mammoth shot he hit back in 2004 that landed in the river on a bounce? Is that the longest home run in recorded history? He may strike out a ton, but Dunner can sure wallop the ball, can't he?
-- Aaron B., Newport, Ky.
Dunn is big. Dunn is strong. Dunn is big and strong, but can he reach the river on the fly? Highly unlikely. The estimated distance from home plate to the river is over 600 feet.
On Aug. 10, 2004, against the Dodgers, Dunn hit an estimated 535-foot blast that sailed over the center-field batter's eye. It bounced onto Mehring Way and eventually landed on a piece of driftwood on the banks of the mighty Ohio River and technically, into the state of Kentucky. According to baseball historian Bill Jenkinson, the dinger was estimated to be the longest home run since at least 1976. It's hard to determine if it was the longest all-time since the estimates, especially in earlier years, were far from scientific and not always accurate.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.