3 Cincinnati Reds If the starting pitchers don't fade, you can color this team a contender

March 26, 2001

Dennis (Wild Man) Walker, a too-loud, too-obnoxious, know-it-all
sports-talk host on Cincinnati's WCKY radio, was innocently
sitting in the Reds' spring training clubhouse one late February
morning when--whoosh!--Hurricane Danny struck.

"Hey, Wild Man!" screamed Danny Graves, Cincy's baby-faced,
27-year-old closer. "What do you know about sports? What do you
know about anything?"

Last season, when Sean Casey was in the midst of a nightmarish
first-half slump (he hit .256 before the All-Star break), Wild
Man idiotically and publicly urged the Reds to ship the first
baseman to Triple A. Graves has a long memory. "Have you ever
played baseball?" he yelled. "Ever!?"

Wild Man, taken aback, responded quietly (and seriously), "Yeah,
Little League."

"Little League? See, guys like you don't know s---," continued
Graves. "You rip Casey, you rip Griffey, you rip me--and you've
never played the game, and you don't know anything about it! You
have no clue!"

Although it's slightly out of character for the happy-go-lucky
Graves to berate anyone, it's not surprising to see him serve as
his teammates' prime protector. Last year, as Casey and Ken
Griffey Jr. struggled, as manager Jack McKeon vainly battled to
keep his players' support, as the Reds traded No. 1 starter Denny
Neagle to the Yankees and lost No. 2 starter Pete Harnisch to a
bum right shoulder, Graves and his bullpen mates were the
seasonlong defenders of playoff expectations gone awry. "As long
as our starters get us to the sixth inning, we'll be O.K.," says
Griffey. "I feel confident saying we have the best bullpen in the
National League."

Indeed, with Graves, rubber-armed righty Scott Sullivan,
situational lefty Dennys Reyes and a back-to-normal Mark
Wohlers, Cincinnati's bullpen is deep, diverse and--most
important--effective. "If Sullivan isn't messing you up with his
sidearm delivery, I'm in with my sinker," says Graves, who was
second in the National League with 91 1/3 relief innings. "Or
maybe it's Mark, throwing a 95-mph fastball at you. Or Reyes, a
tough lefty with impossible breaking stuff."

For all of the criticism heaped on Casey and Griffey last season,
the Reds swung their bats pretty well. Their .274 team batting
average ranked fourth in the league, and their 825 runs ranked
fifth. They reached 200 home runs for only the third time in
Cincinnati history. "One thing we can always do well," says
Casey, whose .367 average with runners in scoring position was
fourth in the league, "is hit." That said, McKeon was a bit too
old-school. Despite a lineup featuring above-average base runners
in Griffey, Barry Larkin and Pokey Reese, he was loath to use the
hit-and-run. In 2000 the Reds stole 100 bases, their
second-lowest total in 20 years. "We will be an aggressive,
hard-nosed baseball team," says new manager Bob Boone. "I can
promise that." Boone will use Larkin and his .377 career on-base
percentage in the leadoff slot, dropping Reese (.319 OBP last
year) to seventh. Leftfielder Dimitri Young, who has batted .300
or better in each of the past three seasons, moves into the
number 2 spot, followed by the daunting duo of Griffey and Casey.

Even though Cincinnati--and, in Junior's case, the rest of the
nation--focused on the offensive trials that Casey and Griffey
endured in 2000, both wound up with more-than-respectable
numbers thanks to strong finishes. Griffey hit .317 after the
All-Star break, Casey (who, ahem, was never sent down) a
Cobb-like .372. Less than 48 hours before Opening Day last year,
Casey suffered a hairline fracture of his right thumb in an
exhibition game. He missed 2 1/2 weeks, returned prematurely and,
in his own words, "was pretty darn terrible." The second-half
recovery was especially important for the happy-go-lucky Casey,
whose good cheer, backslapping and "How ya doin's?" brighten
Cincy's clubhouse.

This winter Casey, 26, went to work to ensure that he would pick
up where he left off. He hired a personal trainer for daily
workouts. He took regular three-plus-mile runs and lifted
weights. And every Tuesday and Friday he drove from his Jupiter,
Fla., house to a nearby fitness center, where he and 30 women
took spinning classes. "I sort of hid in the back, trying to
stay out of the way," he says, "but I really liked it. The
music, the bikes, the intense exercise--you really get a great
workout." For these Reds, the hard work has just begun.

--J.P.

COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE Casey put a positive spin on his terrible first half by hitting .372 after the All-Star break and putting in a rigorous off-season. COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND WILLIAMSON

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Reds

Cincinnati's pitching isn't as bad as some people make it out to
be. The Reds have some talented arms. Pete Harnisch has been
lights out this spring--terrific! He's not happy that the Reds
didn't extend his contract, and if they fall out of it, he'll
help another club in July. Osvaldo Fernandez has been the talk
of their spring. He has looked great. Scott Williamson has good
power stuff, and Robbie Bell has tons of potential, so they have
the makings of a good staff....Young catcher Jason LaRue has
taken the job by the horns. He's played well, hustled and
handled the staff really well this spring....Michael Coleman
could work his way into the outfield picture. He's had a fine
spring, but I'll wait until they start throwing good breaking
balls at him to see if he can make the adjustments....Donnie
Sadler is a guy who can play a lot of positions and can run. If
he ever learned some plate discipline, he could be a productive
player....Juan Castro is a shortstop who can step in and help
if Barry Larkin goes down with an injury. He plays very well
defensively....The frontline guys on this team are pretty good.
I don't know if the Reds are in a class with the Cardinals and
Astros--I doubt it--but they have a chance to be pretty good.
They do have some clubhouse issues. Manager Bob Boone is going
to have to deal with some cliques and unhappiness that popped up
last year. You'll also have to keep an eye on Boone's
micromanaging style. When he and Tony La Russa get together,
you'll see four-hour games.

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 85-77(second in NL Central)
Manager: Bob Boone (first season with Cincinnati)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

SS Barry Larkin R 62 .313 11 41 14
LF Dmitri Young S-R 155 .303 18 88 0
CF Ken Griffey Jr. L 3 .271 40 118 6
1B Sean Casey L-R 83 .315 20 85 1
RF Alex Ochoa R 169 .316 13 58 8
3B Aaron Boone R 237 .285 12 43 6
2B Pokey Reese R 143 .255 12 46 29
C Jason LaRue R 251 .235 5 12 0

BENCH

OF Michael Tucker L-R 184 .267 15 36 13
OF Michael Coleman*(R)[1] R 272 .258 6 15 3
IF Donnie Sadler[1] R 315 .222 1 10 3
C Kelly Stinnett[1] R 345 .217 8 33 0
IF Juan Castro R 396 .241 4 23 0

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Pete Harnisch 94 8 6 6.0 1.37 4.74
RH Scott Williamson 112 5 8 5.5 1.49 3.29
RH Osvaldo Fernandez 103 4 3 5.6 1.26 3.62
RH Rob Bell 244 7 8 5.4 1.45 5.00
RH Elmer Dessens 188 11 5 6.5 1.45 4.28

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Danny Graves 39 10 5 30 1.35 2.56
RH Scott Sullivan 178 3 6 3 1.18 3.47
LH Dennys Reyes 205 2 1 0 1.65 4.53
RH John Riedling 226 3 1 1 1.17 2.35
RH Mark Wohlers 267 1 2 0 1.29 4.50
RH Chris Reitsma (R)[2] 315 7 2 0 1.09 2.58
RH Seth Etherton[1] 296 5 1 0 1.49 5.52

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Triple A stats
[2]Double A stats

"Boone will have to deal with some cliques and unhappiness that
popped up last year."

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)