02/23/12 4:03 PM EST
Baker believes Cozart could thrive in No. 2 spot
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
"Wasn't he hitting second last year?" Baker replied.Cozart, 26, made nine starts and batted second in eight of them. He batted seventh in the other game. His season was cut short by a July 23 elbow injury, and the rookie is a good bet to win the starting shortstop job this season, even if Baker didn't make any such statement. "Age is a very small factor," Baker said when asked about Cozart. "Skill, ability, aptitude, unselfishness -- that's where your most unselfish player in the lineup hits. And one of your smarter players in the lineup. They take a lot for the other guy to steal, a lot of stuff." Baker acknowledged that he has more batters that are suited for further down in the order than at the top. "Everybody can't hit down," Baker said. "You don't want double-play guys back-to-back. You don't want too many strikeout guys back-to-back. If you don't put the ball in play, you have no chance. We're still working on and addressing cutting down the strikeouts. Most of the guys that have been striking out have been striking out most of their lives." Former leadoff hitter Drew Stubbs comes to mind first, after he struck out a club-record 205 times last season. "Stubbs wasn't the only guy, you know," Baker said. "He just [struck out] the most. Imagine how good our offense could be if we put the ball in play a little more. We were still second in the league in runs scored."
So far, so good: Valaika's knee feels strong
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- While there has been no game action to truly test it, Reds infielder Chris Valaika's surgically repaired right knee has made it through early workouts without issue.Valaika, 26, completely tore the anterior cruciate ligament on Sept. 11 during a game vs. the Rockies. He spent the entire offseason in Arizona rehabilitating. "The knee feels great, and it's felt great for a while now," Valaika said. "I surprise myself sometimes going for balls during BP, or taking ground balls by cranking on it, planting and making the throw. So that is all positive for me. I try not to think about it. I don't want to have that crutch in my mind where I am tentative of doing things. I'm just going and seeing where it takes me. It feels good being 100 percent." In 14 games over two big league stints with the Reds in 2011, Valaika batted .280 (7-for-25) and made seven starts. He batted .261 with seven homers and 37 RBIs at Triple-A Louisville, and is now in camp trying to land a roster spot as a reserve infielder. "I have the confidence that I feel the best I've felt in a while, and can give my best effort here for six weeks and see how it goes," Valaika said. "That's all I can control."
Single-game tickets go on sale on Saturday
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds announced that single-game tickets for all 2012 home games, except for Opening Day, will go on sale on Saturday at 9 a.m. ET.Tickets can be purchased on Reds.com and also by phone at 513-381-REDS (7337). Fans can also visit ticket windows at Great American Ball Park, select Kroger stores with Ticketmaster retail outlets, and Reds.com kiosks on Crosley Terrace, Fountain Square and at the downtown Cincinnati Skyline Chili at 4th and Sycamore Streets. Among the special ballpark promotions revealed by the club are bobblehead dolls for Joey Votto, Sean Casey, Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto. There will also be a Barry Larkin Cap Night on Aug. 18.
The Reds' 58-player full squad is due to report and work out on Friday after the position players take physicals. Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo were among the position players that had not been seen as of Thursday afternoon. Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo is among current and former Major League players that will perform on a bill with country music singers at Woodjock 2012 on March 15 in Mesa, Ariz. Proceeds from the show, to be held at Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar & Grill," benefit the Arizona RBI program.