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02/11/10 10:00 AM EST

Competition to highlight Reds' spring

Intriguing battles for left field, fifth starter on agenda

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. Who will get the job in left field?
For the second straight year, the left-field spot is wide open and likely to end up being some sort of platoon situation. There are some familiar candidates carrying over from last season, including Chris Dickerson, Laynce Nix and Wladimir Balentien and newcomer Josh Anderson.

Also expect elite prospects like Chris Heisey, Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco to get close looks. All of them have great track records for hitting in the Minors. But of the three, only Heisey is a natural outfielder.

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2. Who will win the fifth starter's job?
The top four spots seem reserved for Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. The presence of Aroldis Chapman will make the battle for the fifth spot beyond interesting.

There will be a solid set of competitors that include lefty prospects like Matt Maloney and Travis Wood, and right-hander Micah Owings will try to win his job back. Veteran Justin Lehr, who had some positive moments when he got a chance late last season, will also be back. Middle reliever Mike Lincoln was also promised a chance to compete.

3. Can Aaron Harang return to ace-like form?
Harang was often snake bitten with bad luck and poor run support, but he also hasn't been as dominant as he was when he won 16 games in both 2006 and 2007. He was 6-14 last season, including a 13-start stretch where he was 0-9 with a 5.49 ERA from May 30-Aug 3.

Appendicitis ended Harang's tough year in late August, and he will be looking to again prove he belongs at the top of the rotation.

2009 record
78-84, fourth place in the NL Central

Projected batting order
1. CF Drew Stubbs:
  .267 BA, .323 OBP, .439 SLG, 8 HR, 17 RBI in 2009
2. SS Orlando Cabrera:
  .284 BA, .316 OBP, .389 SLG, 9 HR, 77 RBI in 2009
3. 1B Joey Votto:
  .322 BA, .414 OBP, .567 SLG, 25 HR, 84 RBI in 2009
4. 2B Brandon Phillips:
  .276 BA, .329 OBP, .447 SLG, 20 HR, 98 RBI in 2009
5. 3B Scott Rolen:
  .305 BA, .368 OBP, .455 SLG, 11 HR, 67 RBI in 2009
6. RF Jay Bruce:
  .223 BA, .303 OBP, .470 SLG, 22 HR, 58 RBI in 2009
7. C Ramon Hernandez:
  .258 BA, .336 OBP, .362 SLG, 5 HR, 37 RBI in 2009
8. LFChris Dickerson:
  .275 BA, .370 OBP, .373 SLG, 2 HR, 15 RBI in 2009

Projected rotation
1. Aaron Harang, 6-14, 4.21 ERA in 2009
2. Bronson Arroyo, 15-13, 3.84 ERA in 2009
3. Johnny Cueto, 11-11, 4.41 ERA in 2009
4. Homer Bailey, 8-5, 4.53 ERA in 2009
5. Matt Maloney, 2-4, 4.87 ERA in 2009

Projected bullpen
Closer: Francisco Cordero, 39/43 saves, 2.16 ERA in 2009
RH setup man: Nick Masset, 2.37 ERA in 2009
LH setup man: Arthur Rhodes, 2.53 ERA in 2009

The new guys
SS Orlando Cabrera: A free agent signed to a one-year contract on Feb. 1, Cabrera was acquired more for his offense than his defense, even though he is also a two-time Gold Glove winner.

LHP Aroldis Chapman: The Reds stunned the world when they emerged as the winners in the bidding for the 21-year-old defector from Cuba. A big risk -- $30 million to be exact -- was taken on a still unpolished lefty. Chapman can throw in the high 90s and even 100 mph, but his ability to command his pitches remains a question.

INF Aaron Miles: Coming off a lousy year for the Cubs, Miles will seek a return to his better 2006-08 seasons with the Cardinals -- when he played for general manager Walt Jocketty.

INF Miguel Cairo: A non-roster invitee who was signed to a Minor League deal, Cairo is a veteran who can play almost any position in the field.

OF Josh Anderson: Signed to a Minor League deal in January, Anderson is with his fourth organization in one year. A left-handed hitter with speed, the Kentucky native had 25 steals in 30 attempts last season with the Tigers and Royals.

Prospects to watch
OF Chris Heisey: The Reds' Minor League player of the year has a legitimate chance to win the left fielder's job. He has hit well at every level of the Minors and never seemed to have adjustment issues after each promotion. He also played well in the Arizona Fall League.

LHP Travis Wood: The organization's Minor League pitcher of the year in 2009, Wood has a shot to be the fifth starter. His chances will be good if he can successfully use his changeup and the cutter he developed for battling right-handed hitters last season.

INF/OF Todd Frazier: Named the Reds' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America during the offseason, Frazier's versatility in the field is one of his best assets. His other is that he can hit well regardless of the position he's playing. Frazier learned left field last year and got up to speed rather quickly.

3B/LF Juan Francisco: A big left-handed bat who impressed during his September callup last season, Francisco is blocked at third base by Scott Rolen. His best chance to make the club will be in left field, where he has played some during winter ball. Otherwise, he will likely start the season at third base at Triple-A Louisville.

On the rebound
RF Jay Bruce: A rough season at the plate preceded a 57-game stint on the disabled list with a broken right wrist. However, Bruce came back in September and hit well down the stretch. He will be needed to help lift the offense that was lackluster last season.

RHP Mike Lincoln: The middle reliever was limited to 19 games last season because of a bulging disc in his neck that required surgery.

RHP Edinson Volquez: The 2008 All-Star right-hander had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in August and isn't expected to be ready until midsummer at the earliest.

C Ramon Hernandez: Left knee surgery in July forced Hernandez to miss 57 games last season. He was re-signed to a one-year, $3 million contract and will be the starting catcher again.

LHP Bill Bray: The injury bug has bitten Bray hard the last two Spring Trainings and prevented him from reaching his potential. He was limited to just three Triple-A games in 2009 before he needed Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.

Long gone
CF Willy Taveras: Like Corey Patterson in 2008, Taveras was a one-and-done disappointment in center field in 2009. The rise of Stubbs made Taveras' days in Cincinnati numbered since he isn't versatile enough to come off the bench. He was traded on Feb. 1 to the A's, who immediately designated him for assignment.

INF Adam Rosales: The well-liked rookie, who was known as "Pete Rosales" because of his Charlie Hustle-like style on the field, was also part of that Feb. 1 trade to Oakland that brought over Miles.

OF Jonny Gomes: Although non-tendered by Cincinnati in December, long gone isn't totally appropriate for Gomes. With a week before camp opens, the Reds were still in discussions to bring back the outfielder on a Minor League deal. Gomes has right-handed clout, powering 20 homers in 281 at-bats last season.

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