Robert Stephenson has been cleared to throw off a mound. (Fay)

A hometown newspaper wrote about Kristopher Negron and the player’s desire to repeat his 2014 performance with the Reds. (Fairfield Daily Republic)

Was Negron surprised by his resurgence at the plate? “Kind of, yeah,” he said. “Everything went so well, I finished out strong. I knew if I ever got the opportunity I’d make the most of it. I couldn’t say (I expected) the numbers, but I always play my hardest, give it everything I have. I worked my tail off and good things happened last year.” You know good things have happened when you can’t narrow a best moment of the season down to just one. His first hit of the season, a home run with his wife in the stands watching, was cool. So was his four-hit game in Colorado with his parents and grandma in attendance. And then there was that home run in his final at-bat of the season.

The Reds new left fielder, Marlon Byrd, talks about his role on the team and the batting order. (Rosecrans)

Position players don’t report to camp until Monday and will have their first workout on Tuesday, so any talk of lineups are far away, but that doesn’t mean Byrd hasn’t looked. He said he pretty much knows he won’t be leading off – that will go to Billy Hamilton. In the lineup he’s penciled in, he sees Brandon Phillips second and Joey Votto third – and after that, it’s up in the air.

“From that point on, being able to shuffle four-through-seven, eight isn’t bad,” he said. “I think the cool thing is, I was looking and you have a lineup of two through seven capable of hitting 30 home runs, no matter how you mix and match.” I don’t know if (Todd) Frazier hit 30 (he hit 29 last season). Brandon’s hit 30, Votto’s hit 30, (Jay) Bruce has 30. I have 25, and I’m hoping for 30 at some point before I retire. I don’t think it really matters how you make the lineup, as long as there is no selfishness as far as where guys are hitting.”

Bryan Price discusses the balance between Tony Cingrani staying healthy while not changing his delivery too much. (Rosecrans)

Quoting Price: “Last year, he (Cingrani) wasn’t healthy and he struggled with command, and probably struggled with command because he wasn’t healthy. We definitely discussed that his arm needs to be up in time or it’s going to put more load on his shoulder and he’s going to feel it. That’s an area that we’ll be focusing on over the course of the spring and throughout the season.

Joey Votto addresses his health and that other stuff. (Sheldon)

Votto wasn’t ready to proclaim himself 100 percent or without limitations. He did spend the winter home in Toronto and was able to hit, throw, field and run — calling it a “big contrast” from where he was at the end of last season. “I haven’t gone through the evaluation process with the strength staff and the [physical therapy] staff and the doctor and obviously, the baseball people,” he said. “If I get a couple of days under my belt and get the [evaluations] done, I think we’ll have a better idea of where we’re at. As far as how I feel now, I feel good.”

In case you missed it, the Sheldon article carries the recent quote from Pete Rose about Votto’s hitting style:

“Joey Votto is just a good, pure hitter,” Rose told USA Today on Feb. 11. “Why should he swing at balls out of the strike zone? Joe Morgan never did. Mike Schmidt didn’t swing at balls out of the zone. Ted Williams didn’t either. If Joey Votto was on the Big Red Machine, nobody would say anything. Joey Votto gets on base, and as long as you score 100 runs or drive in 100, you’re doing your job.”

15 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    Thank goodness it’s not Byrd’s job to fill out the batting order. Phillips batting 2nd would be a disaster, and would put us further in a hole than we already would be with Hamilton’s below average OBP. Not to mention that Phillips leads the known world in GIDP (something that would only be slightly mitigated by having Hamilton on in front of him).

    Now, I’m optimistic Hamilton can make improvements, and I do like his speed in front of the likes of Votto, Frazier, Mes, and Bruce. If they’re not going to bat him 8th/9th (no indication the Reds are that forward thinking about batting order) then batting Hamilton lead off will have to do.

    Phillips should bat no higher than 7th. And we’d be lucky to see Phillips sniff 20 HR’s, let alone 30.

    • Chris

      “Phillips should bat no higher than 7th.” Here’s to hoping. But, I doubt it. Would have LOVED to have seen Joe Maddon managing this team and figuring out the best places to slot everybody. I’m afraid Price is just keeping things status quo.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I hear what you’re saying, and you’re probably right. I guess I’m just hoping Price looks at it from a baseball prospective and not a fan perspective. Without any “fan-hood” involved in the equation, and assuming Billy will bat first, is there a reasonable argument that can be made that would suggest that Phillips should bat ahead of Votto, Frazier, Mes, Bruce, or Byrd? The power is dwindling, the K rate is rising, the OBP is below average, the speed has succumb to aging, and hits into double plays a lot.

        Meanwhile, when healthy Votto is a top 5-10 hitter in the game, Frazier and Mes are rising talents, Bruce has better BB skills and power, Byrd has better power, especially recently. Byrd is probably the one you could make an argument on…but what message does it send to bat the offensive fix, to one of the worst offenses last year, seventh?

        (well, probably about the same message as saying we need OBP guys and going out and getting a poor OBP guy that strikes out a ton)

    • lwblogger2

      Unfortunately, I can almost promise you that he’ll hit 2nd.

  2. jessecuster44

    If Joey Votto is good enough for Pete Rose, he’s good enough for me.

  3. ohiojimw

    Other than the obvious things at the top of the list, i.e. Votto, Bruce, the rotation staying healthy etc. Negron could emerge as a key piece if he can be the supersub/ 4th outfielder. He would figure to give them better all around ABs than they would have gotten from Heisey. The question is can he continue the surprising spot power he showed in 2014?

  4. BigRedMike

    Two low OBP players at the top of the order does seem to be a grwat idea. Frazier batting second might be an option.

    • ohiojimw

      At a career OBP of .325, Frazier is not exactly a glowing option for the 2 slot; but, he might be the Reds best option if they want to leave Votto in the 3 slot.

      Just once I’d like to see the Reds #2 OBP immediately in front of Votto with no softer out in between. Think about it. It would mean that thirty whatever percent of the time Votto would bat with at least 1 man on base. Then if Votto is around his career OBP, at 40% of the time the guy behind him will bat with at least 1 man on and some significant amount of ABs that guy behind Votto would be batting with at least 2 men on which means at least one in scoring position.

      • BigRedMike

        I agree with Votto batting second. It would be nice if Hamilton improves his OBP as well for the scenario you noted. Frazier did have a 336 OBP last year, but, that has been his peak. Just do not want Phillips batting second, but, maybe the options are few with this team.

  5. JMO

    Lineup should be:

    Hamilton, Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco, Bruce, Byrd, Phillips, Cozart

    • Hotto4Votto

      That is exactly my thoughts on the matter. (well with the caveat that Suarez bats 8th)

  6. gusnwally

    People blasted Joey for a lack of RBI’s in 2013. And sure Choo was on base at a 400 plus rate. But then Cozart either struck out or hit his customary infield popup. Ergo,Choo is on 1st, not in scoring position. Lets have Billy get on, steal 2nd and see how many of Joey’s hits drive in a run.

  7. PDunc

    I think a lineup with Hamilton #1, Votto #2, Bruce, Frazier & Mesoraco in some order #3-#5, Byrd & Philips #6 & #7, Cozart or Suarez #8 is the best we can hope for from our starting 8.

    A statistics/study I’d be interested in seeing are the number of times a player gets himself into scoring position on there own. i.e. Hamilton (with a .291 OBP) had 25 doubles, 8 triples, and 56 steals. Lets assume 40 of the 56 steals were of 2nd base (I don’t know the correct number) and that would mean he got himself in scoring position 73 times last season.
    To compare with a couple other lead-off hitters;
    Dee Gordon (with a .321 OBP) had 24 doubles, 12 triples, and 64 steals (assume 45 of those are of 2nd) meaning he got himself in scoring position 81 times.
    Matt Carpenter (with a .375 OBP) had 33 doubles, 3 triples, and 5 steals (going to assume all steals of 2nd base) meaning he got himself in scoring position 41 times.

    I wonder who would lead the league in this statistic and what kind of value that has as a lead-off hitter. What relative value would Gordon or Hamilton getting themselves into scoring position 70-80+ times have in comparison to Carpenter who has a much higher OBP but doesn’t get himself into scoring position nearly as often?