Refurbished And Realigned

April 03, 1994

Ah, things were back to abnormal with the reds this spring. Owner Marge Schott forced her front-office personnel to drive their own cars from Cincinnati to Plant City, Fla., in order to save on airline and rental-car expenses. Then she threw an elaborate birthday party for her Saint Bernard, Schottzie 02. Centerfielder Bobby Kelly changed his name back to Roberto, saying, "That Bobby guy was always hurt." And when The Today Show movie critic Gene Shalit walked through the clubhouse recently, leftfielder Kevin Mitchell asked, "What's Albert Einstein doing here?"

All of this should be good news to Cincinnati fans. Last year, while Schott was away, the Reds played badly. Injuries had a lot to do with that, of course. The projected starting eight played .750 ball, but they played only four games together. Dave Johnson replaced Tony Perez as manager after only 44 games, but he could do nothing to stop the bleeding, and the club finished fifth. All pitcher Jose Rijo could get out of a 2.48 ERA in 257 innings was 14 victories.

So the Reds had a busy off-season. They acquired starter Erik Hanson and second baseman Bret Boone from the Mariners for a couple of prospects, added middle relievers Chuck McElroy and Jeff Brantley and picked up utility player Lenny Harris. Johnson named three new coaches, including Bret Boone's dad, Bob. On Nov. 1 Schott officially returned, having served a year's sentence for racial insensitivity. In addition, several Reds declared themselves new men. Johnson vowed to tighten the ship. Reliever Rob Dibble said, "I'm tired of my own act." Even Mitchell, who has never been mistaken for Einstein, did the smart thing and lost 15 pounds.

Cincinnati has nothing if not depth in its pitching staff: 17 pitchers in camp had major league experience. With Rijo, Hanson and John Smiley, who has recovered from elbow problems, the Reds have a pretty good 1-2-3 punch in the rotation. Dibble is still expected to be the closer, but he has tendinitis in his right shoulder. The job could fall to Hector Carrasco, who throws in the high 90's and has finally developed some control after bouncing around the minors.

Top to bottom the Reds have the most potent lineup in the division. Their only worry was third base, where rookies Willie Greene and Tim Costo were battling it out most of the spring. Who won the battle? Why, Tony Fernandez, the shortstop of the world champion Blue Jays, of course. Cincinnati signed the unwanted free agent for a mere $500,000, plus incentives, three weeks before Opening Day. Fernandez had to wait another week while he cleared up a visa problem. Actually, it was new National League president Leonard Coleman who solved the problem when he made a few calls to friends in the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Said Johnson, "That new commissioner got it done."

No, baseball's top job has not been filled yet. But come October, the Reds will probably fill the NL Central's top spot.

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PHOTOJOHN IACONOOne of the new additions is a Boone to the infield.

THE LINEUP

CF

Roberto Kelly

Hit .341 against opponents now in NL Central

3B

Tony Fernandez

Last played 3B in 1984 (10 games with Blue Jays)

SS

Barry Larkin

Has hit .310 over the last five years

LF

Kevin Mitchell

Can have an MVP year and still not hit his weight

RF

Reggie Sanders

Led Reds in nearly every offensive category in '93

1B

Hal Morris

Hit .335 after All-Star break (26 multihit games)

2B

Bret Boone

12 HRs in half a season with the Mariners

C

Joe Oliver

75 RBIs last year was third among NL catchers

Ace

Jose Rijo

First Red to lead NL in K's since Ewell Blackwell

Closer

Rob Dibble

In 42 IP in '93: 49 K's, 42 BBs and 8 HRs

INSTANT ANALYST

The good news was that Roberto Kelly, Barry Larkin, Kevin Mitchell and Hal Morris all hatted over .300 in '93. The bad news was that injuries limited each to fewer than 400 at bats. The Reds thus became the first team in this century to have four players in the 300-300 club: a .300 average with at bat totals in the 300's.

Player

Games Played

Games On DL

Avg.

AB

H

HR

RBI

Kelly

78

72

.319

320

102

9

35

Larkin

100

52

.315

384

121

8

51

Mitchell

93

33

.341

323

110

19

64

Morris

101

56

.317

379

120

7

49

PREDICTED FINISH: FIRST

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)