Jul 2, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) follows through during the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
If Cincinnati Reds fans were granted one wish for the 2015 season as Spring Training dawns, the most common plea would be a simple one: health. When the Reds Caravan kicked off from the team’s Hall of Fame and Museum today, manager Bryan Price played genie, delivering the news that both first baseman Joey Votto and right fielder Jay Bruce are completely healthy a month out from heading to Goodyear.
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Now, you have to consider that the Caravan is all about creating goodwill with fans and making the team look appealing, so you could hardly expect Price to be gloomy about his stars’ prospects fr 2015, but if his “news” is even close to being true, it could be an interesting spring.
Without Votto for most of the season, and with Bruce rushing back from knee surgery and never performing up to his usual standards, the Reds stumbled to a 76-86 record in 2014 and finished fourth in the National League Central division. What gets lost in looking back on a pretty ugly season is that Cincinnati entered the All-Star break as one of baseball’s hottest teams and were within a couple games of the division leaders.
That was despite the paltry production from their two big boppers, as the Reds were buoyed by a solid rotation, a surprisingly productive Billy Hamilton and breakout performances by Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco.
Of course, it turned out to be mostly smoke and mirrors, and the team could not sustain their success into the second half, collapsing under the strain of trying to replace the lost production of Votto and Bruce.
But it’s nearly spring now, and we all get to play, “What if?” when our teams head for the sunshine.
If Votto and Bruce are back to full health, and if Johnny Cueto pitches like Cy Young again, and if the Reds can replace Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos in the rotation, and if Marlon Byrd can continue producing in his late-thirties, well then, maybe Cincinnati can contend.
That’s an awful lot of conditional logic, but Price’s pronouncement today was a happy bit of news in the right direction.