Ask Hal: Sorting out the crowded Reds’ outfield

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: Is it just me or does spring training baseball not provide that much-needed baseball fix after a long winter? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: As usual, it is you. For true-blue, or red, fans it is as fresh as a spring breeze, whenever we get one. It is a chance for fans to see the new players and their old favorites and a chance to see up-and-coming players who they only get to see in spring training before they are shipped to the minors. Even the casual fan can pay attention to the first three or four innings when the regulars get their work in. For the real fan, New Year’s Day is Opening Day.

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Q: How do you see the Reds outfield sorting itself out as to who starts, who platoons and who is the odd man out? — GEORGE, Raleigh, N.C.

A: Only one time in my 46 years of covering baseball has a manager asked me my opinion. When Lou Piniella took over the Reds in 1990 he asked me who I thought would be a good leadoff hitter? I said Barry Larkin and he used him there and later thanked me. You’re welcome, Lou. That being said, the Reds won’t ask me, but here is how I see it. Starters: RF Yasiel Puig, CF Scott Schebler, LF Matt Kemp. I wouldn’t poo-poo platooning Kemp and Jesse Winker in left, but Winker needs to pick it up this spring. I’d keep Phillip Ervin as the extra outfielder and give him as much playing time as possible. The odd man out is Nick Senzel, who should be returned to Triple-A to play second base to take Scooter Gennett’s place next year. It seems obvious the Reds are not going to sign The Scooter to a multi-year extension and he’ll leave via free agency after this season if he is not traded.

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Q: What is your best Tom Seaver story? — DOUG, Tampa, Fla.

A: On the field it was having the privilege of covering the only no-hitter of his career, a game caught by back-up catcher Don Werner when catcher Johnny Bench, Seaver’s best friend, was injured. Off the field, Seaver was a cut-up, literally. He once took a pair of scissors and cut off the tie, right below the knot, of a writer he loved to tease and taunt. Even though there was mustard and chocolate sauce on the writer’s original tie, Seaver presented the guy with three silk ties the next day. The guy ruined them with gravy and barbecue sauce within two weeks.

Q: With the new three-hitter minimum rule for relief pitchers, I foresee a lot of faked injuries, so wouldn’t it be better to put in a rule that maximizes the number of pitchers on a roster? — MESA BILL, Tipp City.

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A: It is almost to the point where they are changing so many rules that the game of baseball as we once knew it is no longer recognizable. The three-hitter minimum for relief pitchers is another absurd attempt to speed up the game, save a few seconds and it does nothing to improve the game. Limiting the number of pitchers on a staff might work, but then we would have more of that silliness of position players pitching in games that are out of hand. It is like an NFL team putting a place-kicker in at offensive tackle.

Q: What happened to Brandon Finnegan after he showed promise when acquired from Kansas City in the Johnny Cueto deal? — TED, Kettering.

A: As happens with so many pitchers, he was beset by a plethora of injuries that caused him to miss time while he became best friends with the athletic trainers. He is a mere shadow of what he was his first year with the Royals and became the only pitcher in history to pitch in the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same year. After an awful spring he has already been sent to minor league camp and I doubt that fans will ever see him again in a Reds uniform. Finnegan’s rainbow has no pot of gold.

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Q: How and when is a player out of options? — RAY, Cincinnati.

A: A player has three option years. A player can be optioned out to the minors as many times a year as a team wishes and that counts as one option. The next year they can do the same thing and that’s one more option and it is the same the third year. After three years a player is out of options and can’t be sent back to the minors without waivers and is then exposed to another team claiming him. My options ran out 43 years ago or I might be writing for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Q: Would you consider trading Luis Castillo and Scott Schebler to the Cleveland Indians for Corey Kluber? — MARK, Kettering.

A: I would, but not sure that’s enough to pry Kluber loose from the Tribe. There are reports that San Diego is still trying to work a deal for Kluber, but are not offering enough. Is Castillo and Schebler enough? Castillo has all the tools but hasn’t taken them out of the box yet. The Indians need outfielders and Schebler could be alluring. But to get Kluber the Reds probably would have to send them Nick Senzel or Hunter Greene and that’s not going to happen.

Q: How are the seating assignments work in the Great American Ball Park press box — first-come, first-served, seniority, height or number of awards won? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: The first year GABP opened, seats were assigned and we got to pick according to seniority, which meant I got first pick and took a front row/center seat. Now writers can sit where they want and most sit in the same seat every game. I’ve taken a third-row seat out of the glare and in front of a big-screen TV. Visiting writers always sit in the second row. Writers are, indeed, creatures of habit.


Q: With all the offseason acquisitions for experience players, have the Reds given up on their rebuilding program? — TIM, Xenia.

A: Not really. Of all the acquisitions, pitcher Sonny Gray is the only one the Reds signed to a multi-year deal. The rest are one-year rentals, all eligible to become free agents after the season (Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp). Unless the Reds can sign them they’ll be gone after this season. It looks as if the Reds loaded up to have a decent team for their 150th anniversary celebration and then next year it is back to the rebuilding program with some of the high draft picks from recent years. And that’s not a bad thing.

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