No magic in the Rhineland this year
Strong points: Pitching and power. The front-line pitching is impressive: Joey Jay (21-10, 3.53 ERA), Jim O'Toole (19-9, 3.09 ERA) and Bob Purkey (16-12, 3.73 ERA). Behind the Big Three are hard-throwing youngsters Ken Hunt (24 years old) and Jim Maloney (21). When the starters sputter, erudite Jim Brosnan (10-4, 12 saves) and laconic Bill Henry (12 saves, 2.21 ERA) pick up the loose ends from the bullpen. Right Fielder Frank Robinson (26), the league's MVP, and Center Fielder Vada Pinson (23) are an exciting, young one-two punch (.333, 53 HRs, 211 RBIs combined). Both are sure fielders, inseparable buddies off the field. Complementing them are power hitters Gordy Coleman (26 HRs) and Wally Post (20 HRs). And always ready to break up a ball game is Jerry Lynch, the best pinch hitter in baseball (.341 in four years).
Weak spots: Catching and defense. The Reds hope that 23-year-old Johnny Edwards and 26-year-old Jesse Gonder are ready to be regular catchers. Edwards has played only 52 major league games and hit .186. But he is big and strong and handles himself with grace behind the plate. Gonder, obtained from the Yankees, has played even fewer major league games—22. He impressed the Yankees with his power last spring but batted only .226 in the minors last year. Behind them is Darrell Johnson (34), who delivered a late-season lift to the pennant push but can't be counted on for regular duty. The infield has a knack of turning ground balls into singles. The team was last in double plays in 1961, and for good reason. Coleman, a dangerous man with the bat, is just as dangerous at first. Don Blasingame at second and Eddie Kasko at short have limited range. Post in left has even less range.
The big ifs: The Reds' hitters and pitchers all had big years in 1961 and they won the pennant by four games; then the Yankees chewed them up. This season Cincinnati has to prove that the pennant race (see page 112)—not the World Series debacle—was the team's true worth. Of more immediate concern to Manager Fred Hutchinson is finding a replacement for Third Baseman Gene Freese (26 HRs), who broke his ankle in spring training. Cliff Cook, the American Association's MVP and home run leader (32), has the job if he can hit in the majors. If he doesn't, Kasko moves over to third, where he is adequate, and Utility Man Leo Cardenas (.308) plays shortstop.
Rookies and new faces: The only veteran additions are relievers Dave Sisler and Johnny Klippstein and Utility Outfielder Marty Keough, all obtained from the Senators. Aside from Gonder and Cook, the rookies with best chance to stick with the team are two smooth-fielding infielders—Tommy Harper (21) and Cookie Rojas (23)—and Don Pavletich (23), a power-hitting catcher.
OUTLOOK: The Reds came from sixth place to win the pennant last year. In the well-balanced National League it will be easier for the Reds to finish sixth again than to repeat as pennant winners.
A good living on the bench
"I'm being well paid to pinch-hit," said Jerry Lynch, the highest-paid pinch hitter in the history of baseball. "Sure, you always want to play regular, but I don't care anymore. I probably never could have made as much playing regular.
"It's funny," Lynch went on. "Some guys hate to come off the bench cold. I love to pinch-hit. It's a challenge. The spot is tough, the pitcher is bearing down and it is his best against your best. It makes you really want to do well. I play the whole game on the bench. I watch the pitcher and I watch the guy warming up in the bullpen. I follow the score and I know the game situation. Sometimes your job is just to move a guy along, sometimes just to try to start a rally. You have to be thinking out there."
Does Jerry Lynch ever think he won't hit when he's up in a tough spot? "I'll tell you," he said, "when I've had a few hits I figure of course I'll get a hit the next time I go up to the plate. That's why I'm here.
"Then again, there's the time you get up and you've been without a hit for a while."
He pumped his bat gingerly and looked out on the field. "That's when you figure you just may have to do something else for a living."
Gordy Coleman is a muscular 27-year-old first baseman with freckles on his face, a crinkly smile and a gentle nature. He has a pretty wife, a handsome son and a pleasant home in Rockville, Md. He knocked in 87 runs for the Reds last year, batted .287 and was one of the few to show well in the World Series for his team. This spring Coleman was the only first baseman on the team roster. This all should add up to a contented young man with a bright future. It does not.
"I'm a worrywart," said Coleman as he peeled his undershirt after a stiff workout. "When I hit, I worry I'll stop. When I don't, I worry I won't start." (Manager Fred Hutchinson constantly had to reassure Coleman last season that he was a good hitter.)
A slow starter, Coleman hopes the confidence expressed by the manager will help him. "I guess if I'm the only first baseman on the roster, he thinks I can do the job. That means I'll get more work early in the season than I usually do. It could help."
A little later, Hutchinson was talking about his team. "Coleman is the only first baseman, but we have two or three other guys who could play first base."
"That's right," said Coleman, when told of his manager's statement. "That's why you have to worry. There are always guys looking over your shoulder who aren't even there."