[This report was filed by John Rohrig, also known as WVRedlegs, who attended the East Tour Reds Caravan stop in Charleston, WV. Thanks, John!]
The Cincinnati Reds Winter Caravan 2015 edition rolled into town Friday evening with about 300 fans excitedly waiting inside the Charleston Town Center Mall on a cold and rainy night. The East Tour entourage included Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman, President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Walt Jocketty, Reds Catcher and RLN spotlight player Tucker Barnhart, Reds relief pitcher Sam Lecure, Reds Hall of Famer Eric Davis, Reds minor league hitter of the year OF Kyle Waldrop, and mascot Mr. Redlegs.
Thom Brennaman got the festivities underway and introduced each person. There was a short Q & A session and Walt Jocketty got the bulk of the questions. About re-signing Johnny Cueto, it will be very, very difficult. About Jason Marquis, yes he was signed to compete for a starters spot. About Marlon Byrd, if he has a year close to his last two and if the rest of the offense returns healthy, this team will score some runs.
After their long day of small meet and greets, the Reds looked genuinely enthused to meet a large group of fans. It was time to let the fans start through the line to meet the players, but also each Red did an interview with the local sports radio host.
The first interview was with Walt Jocketty. I listened intently as Mr. Jocketty answered his questions. On obtaining middle infielder Eugenio Suarez from the Detroit Tigers in the Alfredo Simon trade, Jocketty said that he hadn’t seen Suarez play in person, but got very good reports from his scouts. But he also checked with “a few baseball people with other teams”. He said he talked with some people who were not in the market for a middle infielder but their team had scouted the Tigers farm system, and their scouts had given Suarez high marks. He said he talked to a couple of GM’s that did need a middle infielder, but their teams didn’t match up with Detroit for a trade, but they were impressed with Suarez. Then Jocketty added that he called former Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who is still in some capacity with Detroit. He said that Leyland told him he didn’t want Detroit to trade Suarez, but if Jocketty got him, he would be very, very pleased with the player. It would appear as though Jocketty did more than his due diligence in obtaining Suarez. A job well done, and I have been a Jocketty critic. Again, Jocketty said it would be very difficult to re-sign Johnny Cueto, especially after Max Scherzer deal. On Reds minor league OF Jesse Winker, Jocketty said he is one year away. He said the same thing on Kyle Waldrop, one year away. They are extremely excited about these two outfielders. Jocketty didn’t proclaim that pitchers Stephenson and Lorenzen are a year away though. But he did say that there would be a lot of pitching arriving in due time.
Jocketty was asked about Jason Marquis again. Jocketty said that Marquis did have TJ surgery about a year ago, but that he is fully healed and ready to go when spring training arrives. He said he thinks Marquis can compete for one of the 2 openings in the starting rotation. Jocketty said Dr. Kremcheck did the surgery on Marquis, so they had all the reliable information they needed on Marquis recovery and rehab to make a determination on whether to sign Marquis. He said all the information on Marquis was very positive.
Going through the line I asked Sam Lecure how his arm was feeling. He said it felt great. He said he is ready for the season to start now. He proudly proclaimed 2015 was going to be his best year as a Red. I hope so too, because that will go a long way for the Reds bullpen.
I asked Kyle Waldrop what his focus this year will be, and he said to continue to be a better player. He said he made some hitting adjustments last year going into the season to cut down on his strikeouts, and that he just wanted to continue working to be a better hitter. Last August I did a small Behind Enemey Line Minor League edition on two Pensacola games I saw in Tennessee. In it I mentioned how I came away impressed with Kyle Waldrop and his hustling style of play. I believe a lot of Reds fans will be impressed by his play too when he arrives in Cincinnati. By judging from Thom Brennaman’s remarks in the introductions and Walt Jocketty’s comments in his interview, the Reds are already extremely impressed with this young man. The young ladies are finding out who he is too, as Thom had to remind the ladies, who made a very loud ovation for Waldrop, that he is a married man now.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to say anything to Catcher Tucker Barnhart. He was getting interviewed on the radio when I went through the line, and I could not hear his comments either. Oh well, can’t have everything go your way.
It was nice to have the Reds Caravan visit our city. In the throws of winter, it is nice to know that baseball is just around the corner. And it also dampened the pessimism about 2015 that had overtaken me. A brighter outlook on 2015 is my goal between now and the start of spring training.