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01/21/11 1:55 PM EST

Inbox: How good can Wood be?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers Reds fans' questions

Am I too optimistic in believing that Travis Wood is a diamond in the rough? I also would like to see Wood start against Zack Greinke on Opening Day. Do you think he could be a Cliff Lee-type pitcher in the future before he becomes too expensive for the Reds?
-- Chris P., Ceredo, West Virginia

Not too optimistic at all. In fact, I think "diamond in the rough" might be underselling Wood after his nice rookie season. He looked poised and effective, and the fact he flirted with a perfect game and a no-hitter so early on is a nice sign he knows what he's doing.

I don't envision the Opening Day assignment going to someone with so little tenure, though. Bronson Arroyo should get first dibs, followed by Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. First, Wood has to make the rotation in Spring Training, and he will have a lot of competition in Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and others. The battle for the final two spots should be fierce in camp.

As for the Lee comparisons, they at least have geography in common, besides being their left-handers with good command. Both live in adjacent Arkansas towns and have been offseason workout partners.

Why did the Reds let Arthur Rhodes slip away? He was their best reliever last season?
-- Zach K., North Dakota

Rhodes was strong last season, despite being hobbled by a foot injury that limited him in the second half. He wanted to come back and the Reds wanted him back, but ...

There was no desire by the Reds to give Rhodes a multi-year deal, especially since he is 41 years old. He signed with the Rangers for $3.9 million this season -- which essentially matched what the Reds were willing to offer. Texas added a $4 million option that automatically vests if he gets 62 appearances and doesn't end the season on the disabled list. With its financial parameters, Cincinnati wasn't willing to roll the dice on Rhodes for that potential second year.

Needless to say I'm probably not the only Reds fan that had forgotten about Jose Arredondo's probable return next season. Do you think he can return to his 2008 form? Or at the least, how is his progress?
-- J. Klay, Lima, Ohio

Arredondo pitched at Reds instructional league this past fall, and the reports were good. The reports from the front office are that he will be ready. With the success rate of Tommy John surgery, the club believes he can be an effective guy in the bullpen this season.

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From what I've heard, Juan Francisco is flat out raking in winter ball. What is the likelihood of seeing him earn serious time in a platoon with Jonny Gomes next year in left field?
-- Tyler H., Union, Ky.

Francisco was posting good numbers again in the Dominican League until a knee injury put him out. As for left field, he didn't show the Reds enough aptitude out there last spring to make them comfortable with that. Francisco is pretty much limited to the corner infield spots.

I really enjoyed seeing Chris Valaika play in September. Does he have a legit shot at making the big club out of camp? Also, if he continues to hit, could he possibly be the future third baseman?
-- Joe R., St. Mary's, Ohio

Valaika will be one of the young guys competing for precious few spots on the Reds' bench in camp. Most of his infield experience is at shortstop and second base. In his pro career, he has logged only three games at third base -- all last season.

I have Reds questions I want answered, but I hate waiting for the every three to five years it takes for a new edition of the Inbox to get posted. What do I do?
-- Mark S., Cincinnati

OK, that's actually me, sorry. I'm proud (and privileged) to say I have nearly 5,000 followers on Twitter and a blog that ranked in the Top 10 among our beat reporters in web traffic last year. Am I saying this to brag? No (well, maybe a little). But Twitter and the Mark My Word blog might be better avenues you'd want to try to get your questions or comments answered in speedier fashion -- (and with less words!) It's hard to answer all of them, but I do my best, especially during the season. Some of your questions might even appear on the next Inbox, in about three to five years.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.