I know we're still about four weeks away from Opening Day, but the battle for the fifth starter spot is becoming one of the best of the spring. When camp opened, the candidates were plentiful from Bailey, Masset, Owings, Thompson, Ramirez, etc.
Now, however, the battle is pretty much down to Micah Owings and Homer Bailey. The two have not only been good this spring, they've been the two best pitchers on the staff by far. With Harang and Arroyo locked in, and Volquez and Cueto off playing in the WBC, Owings and Bailey have had to pitch like it's Game 7 every time out. Maybe they should pitch like that when the season starts????
These two have been so good in fact, that it's made me wonder if the Reds can trade off Bronson Arroyo (again). I know I screamed for the Reds to trade him last year when he was in the crapper, but I still think of the big four, he is the first to go in my mind. Harang, Volquez, and Cueto are all ace potential starters, while Bronson is not.
What about a six-man rotation? There was a time in baseball when a four-man rotation was the norm, then everyone moved it to five probably to protect arms. Why not a six-man to further save arms? Now, I'm not serious about this. But, I'm sure there's going to be more and more mention of it the longer and hotter this battle gets.
Say neither has a spring ERA over 3.00 come late March, how do you possibly tell one of them they have to go to the bullpen or back to AAA? We're still a few weeks away from that point, but they've been awfully good so far and have begun to convince everyone that they're capable of holding down the No. 5 spot in the rotation. All the better for the Reds.
The other issue is if Bailey ends up losing the battle, does he go to the bullpen or do the Reds keep him as a starter and send him back to AAA? Nick Masset would then be your long guy out of the 'pen. OR...do you let Masset go and make Homer your long guy and get some more Major League seasoning? It will be interesting.
Other battles heating up:
- Left field: Gomes has been really impressive. Dickerson hasn't shown any signs of letting up. Hairston is still playing in the WBC. Norris Hopper has been pretty quiet. He may be out of a job.
- Back-up first base: Daryle Ward and Jacque Jones have been taking grounders there and have seen some game action as well. The Reds need a backup to Joey Votto, and this is going to be a good battle. What I like is both have power off the bench, so hopefully one will stick around.
- Keppinger vs. .100: Will Kepp stay near the .100 mark all spring? Hard to fathom considering how good of a hitter he usually is. Hopefully he'll get his timing back soon and provide a solid backup to Alex Gonzalez.