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05/18/09 1:45 PM ET

Inbox: Returning starters on short leash?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers Reds fans' questions

About six months ago, the last Reds mailbag of 2008 was posted with the promise it would return in January 2009.

Oops. All you've gotten in response to your questions since was silence, nothing but cyber crickets. Sorry about that.

Like many of your favorite TV shows with a small but loyal following, the Mailbag as you know it was canceled. This is the first edition of the Reds Inbox, which is the exact same thing with a new name. The only difference is it won't be a weekly feature -- just a cameo appearance now and then.

If you have topics that desire more immediate feedback, I often answer questions on my blog, Mark My Word. You'll have to register a screen name to post comments or questions, but there is no pain or suffering involved with doing that. You can also get Reds updates and ask questions via my Twitter page (@ m_sheldon).

Now that Alex Gonzalez has returned, and when Edwin Encarnacion returns, we'll have to sit two guys who have been playing well (whether that be Laynce Nix, Jerry Hairston, Paul Janish or Adam Rosales). How short a leash do you think will be on the returning starters? If they continue to struggle, will they sit for the guys with the hot hand?
-- Ryan S., Saint Bernard, Ohio

Gonzalez returned Friday and it's already been made clear by manager Dusty Baker that he is the shortstop who will play regularly. Expect the same for Encarnacion at third base when he comes off the disabled list from a left wrist chip fracture. No leashes.

The reality is Gonzalez has a $5.3 million salary this season and is one of the best defensive players around, even when he doesn't hit. As for Encarnacion ($7.6 million over 2009-10), he has a penchant for lousy starts. Remember '07, when he was demoted to Triple-A and returned as the team's best hitter? Both players have track records for being better hitters than they've been. I think Rosales has the goods to play every day in the Majors -- his time will come. As for the other guys, Baker will mix and match according to matchups and I don't envision Hairston sitting much since he can move around.

I'm a huge fan of Bronson Arroyo, but it's obvious that he's far too inconsistent at times. It seems that every year there's talk of him getting traded. Do you think the chances of him getting traded this season are higher, especially when we have Homer Bailey pitching well in the Minors?
-- Jeff F., Jeffersonville, Ind.

Far too inconsistent? Sure, Arroyo is prone to a big clunker of an outing here and there. But he has led the staff in innings in all three seasons he's been in Cincinnati and has logged at least 200 innings the past four seasons. To reach that benchmark, you have to have some ability to last in games and he does that.

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As for dealing Arroyo, I wouldn't move him (or any starter) as long as the Reds are competitive in the division. He's been solid as a third starter and unless a major hole opens up elsewhere, you're not dealing pitching. If the Reds are out of it come July, Arroyo would be a prime trade chip -- he's durable, has a relatively reasonable contract ($11 million next season) and postseason experience.

Regarding the Darnell McDonald situation, surely by now everyone realizes he's overmatched at the Major League level. I can't see how Jonny Gomes hasn't earned his spot on this team. Gomes is doing his thing at Triple-A (slugging homers and driving in runs) while McDonald continues to contribute absolutely nothing on the field. I don't get it.
-- Ed E., Eustis, Fla.

With the Reds playing relatively well, there is less to complain about. Naturally, focusing on the 25th man is an easy target. You're right, McDonald hasn't done much but it's not an easy gig getting one at-bat every few games. His spot is tenuous at best, which comes with the territory of his role. Gomes had a poor start at Louisville, but has come on lately. He would be a nice addition to the clubhouse and offer pop in the late innings. The thing is, how well would he do playing once or twice a week?

What do the Reds plan to do with their Class A ball team in Sarasota? Do you think they will move the team or leave them at Ed Smith Stadium?
-- Brian T., Russell Springs, Ky.

The Reds own the team and will likely depart, especially considering the big league club ended its Spring Training tenure there. Attendance isn't very good most of the time during Florida State League games, and other options will present themselves once other affiliate contracts end after the season.

Any insight on what the Reds will do with their first selection (No. 8) in the Draft? Are they more likely to take a player out of college or high school? Also, how much involvement does Baker have in Draft selections?
-- Andrew H., Brandon, S.D.

People can project selections all they want, but most teams keep their intentions a closely guarded secret. Draft plans and information are under lock and key, and the lock and key are under another lock and key. The Reds will likely stick to their M.O. by not picking according to need and taking the best available player (like they did with Yonder Alonso last year). The manager rarely has input in the Draft selections, including Baker. He's more concerned about the 25 players he already has, not the 40-50 that are being drafted -- most of whom he will never see.

When a player is called up to the Reds, does he have to pay his own way -- especially if he is flying to join the club while it's on the road?
-- Michael C., Westerville, Ohio.

A player paying his own way to join the team was probably something former owner Marge Schott might have liked, but it's not how it works. When a player is called up, Reds traveling secretary Gary Wahoff arranges their transportation -- no matter where the team is. And yes, the club picks up the tab.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.