A: There is always a way if there is a will. I’m not sure the Reds have the will to sign another 34-year-old veteran who made $7 million last year. We know Scott Feldman and Brandon Finnegan are in the rotation. If this is a true rebuild, then I believe the rest of the rotation should be Sal Romano, Cody Reed and Rookie Davis with Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson next men up. But the last time the Reds asked my opinion was, well, never.
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Q: Should a pitcher’s performance in spring training be the primary determination as to whether he makes a team’s rotation? — JOHN, Fairfield.
A: Depends upon a player’s status and experience. A pitcher with a track record in the majors gets huge leeway, as he should, because usually he is just tuning his game in exhibitions. Rookies trying to make the team have to perform. But numbers aren’t everything with them. Control, command, mound presence and repertoire also are considered. For sure, though, if you have no major-league experience you don’t want to get beat up every time out.
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Q: Is this a make-or-break year for Robert Stephenson? — RICK, Vandalia.
A: Not at all. He just turned 24 and has made eight major-league starts. He is a No. 1 draft pick, which means he gets more latitude than most. He has been pretty good this spring, so far. If he doesn’t make it, he can always return to poetry and travel writing.
Q: Tell us what you enjoy most about spring training? — ALAN, Sugarcreek, Twp.
A: Most of all I just enjoyed getting to go. But after 41 years of going, I haven’t been there the last two years. Nobody to pay for it. When I did go I enjoyed the weather, of course, and the laid-back atmosphere. Players are loose and relaxed and easy to interview. They all have stars in their eyes. But once the season begins a lot of them end up with black eyes from their struggles at the plate or on the mound.
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Q: How improved will the bullpen be from the disaster it was in 2016? — RYAN, Lewisburg.
A: It can’t possibly be worse, can it? It was the worst I’ve ever seen. But tell me who will be in it and how well they will do and I’ll answer that. If Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen stay healthy (they didn’t last year) and Tony Cingrani lives up to his talent and Drew Storen returns to the results in his recent past, then the answer is yes. But, as always, there are more “ifs” than certainties in baseball.
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Q: How many of the current Reds will make it to the Hall of Fame? — JOE, Kettering.
A: All of them, if they pay their way in. As for those who might be enshrined, well, you can start and end with Joey Votto. His numbers suggest first-ballot approval. As for any others, right now, none. They are too young and nobody knows how good, or bad, they will be. And I can’t envision any recent ex-Reds making it, although I’ll vote for Scott Rolen when he becomes eligible. And why not Vada Pinson?
Q: What’s the catching situation and the health of both? — GARY, Bonita Springs, Fla.
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A: We know Devin Mesoraco is wealthy and now he seems to be healthy, too. He is still scraping the rust off from only playing 39 games the last two years due to three surgeries. The Reds are just taking it easy with him, easing him back in. Tucker Barnhart is healthy, too, and one wonders how he and Mesoraco will be used after Barnhart had an excellent season during Mesoraco’s absence last season. They’ll probably share duties once the season begins if Mesoraco proves he is ready.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q: Whatever happened to highly regarded prospects — and former Dayton Dragons — Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran? — JOHN, Sidney.
A: You forgot Donald Lutz. With the influx of so many prospects obtained recently by the Reds, there was no room on the 40-man roster. The Reds did not protect them and all three were eligible for minor league free agency and all three took it, meaning they could sign with any team. So far, none of the three has been signed. It’s a tough game.