Ask Hal: Under 65 wins for Reds could be safe bet

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 halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: With pitching on Opening Day one of the game’s top honors, can we now consider Anthony DeSclafani in the same sentence with Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Not DeSclafani, my friend. He is hurt and won’t pitch Opening Day. Since C.J. Wilson won’t pitch Opening Day for the Los Angeles Angels, put DeSclafani with him. Raisel Iglesias is Cincinnati’s Opening Day starter. Kershaw? Greinke? Iglesias isn’t even close to Mario Soto, but just wait.

Q: I have under 65 wins this year for the Reds for $100 in Las Vegas. Is it possible? LARRY, Oxford.

A: That means the Reds have to lose 96 or more for you to win your wager. They lost 98 last year and they had Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake for half the season and Aroldis Chapman the entire season. The team is not better. Then consider St. Louis won 100, Pittsburgh 98 and Chicago 97. Chicago will be better while St. Louis and Pittsburgh won’t be much worse. So, I’d say you have a safe bet, but Las Vegas has a lot of my money from the blackjack tables.

Q: What do you expect offensively from shortstop Zack Cozart, because if he hits the Reds infield should be darn good at the plate? — RICHARD, Middletown.

A: As constituted, offense shouldn’t be a problem for this team if it can hit with runners in scoring position, which it hasn’t the past few seasons. If Cozart hits between .260 and .275, which he is capable of, he’ll be a positive complement. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are going to hit and it looks as if third baseman Eugenio Suarez is for real. To me, Cozart is one of baseball’s most underrated players.

Q: Don’t major-league players have mirrors and see how ugly those long beards are? — RON, Washington Twp.

A:Beards are in, especially with pitchers. They think it makes them look fearsome. They all need to acquire razor and shaving cream commercials. As an old-school guy, I love that the Miami Marlins have banned facial hair. Remember The Big Red Machine under Bob Howsam? Hairless on the face. Now, though, even Mr. Red, the team’s mascot, sports a mustache.

Q: If the Reds need a starting pitcher, how about Justin Masterson? — ALICE MARIE, Tipp City.

A:When the Beavercreek High School graduate was healthy he was magnificent. And he is a magnificent person. When he was healthy he was one of baseball’s top pitchers. But he has had injury issues the past couple of years. He is unemployed right now but did some workouts last week in Arizona for a few teams. With the current state of the Reds rotation, who knows?

Q: Can we start to expect that Robert Stephenson will never be a starter or a reliever? — MICHAEL, Fairborn.

A: That would be foolhardy. He can’t play left field. Yes, he struggled this spring, but as a No. 1 draft pick the Reds are not going to give up on him soon. He has great stuff and is working hard on a change-up. As happened for Homer Bailey, one day it will click and he will be at the top of the rotation. Talent is at the top of the list, but experience and the learning curve have to kick in, too.

Q: Any chance the Reds will take another go at Sam LeCure, recently released by the Diamondbacks? — SHIZ, Almonte Springs, Fla.

A: It was interesting last week that Sam LeCure, Manny Parra and Skip Schumaker, all Reds last year, were released by three teams on the same day. The Reds can use any bullpen help they can get. LeCure was a disaster last year, but he had a decent spring and there is no better leader in the bullpen. And they probably could get him on the cheap. Not a bad idea.

Q: Last year we watched the St. Louis Cardinals get hit with plenty of injuries and just keep on rolling. With what Reds GM Walt Jocketty has not done, can they hire the entire Cardinals scouting staff? — JAMES, Lumberton, N.C.

A: Do you believe the Reds can pay the St. Louis scouts what the Cardinals pay them? Do you believe any Cardinals scouts would come to Cincinnati right now? The current Reds scouting department is working to turn things around quickly, but it is a mighty tight turn.

Q: If you could choose a player, past or present, to start a team, who would you pick? — CARL, Kettering.

A: If I’m allowed to pick a deceased player, I’ll take Roberto Clemente. Of current players, I’d take Mike Trout, but not even a player of Trout’s calibre can win by himself. If I picked my 25-man roster, not even Apple, Inc. could afford it.

Q: Give us some hope as to when the Baseball Hall of Fame will wake up and smell the Rose? — JACK, Englewood, Fla.

A: I can’t give hope where there is no hope. Baseball must reinstate Pete Rose before the Hall can even consider him. Unfortunately, baseball and the Hall do smell Rose and they don’t like the odor.

Q: Do the Reds have a chance of continuing their nine-game winning streak in the World Series this year? — GARY, Oslo, Norway.

A: Oh, they definitely will continue the streak of nine straight. They won’t lose a World Series game because they won’t play in the World Series. And for the same reason, they certainly won’t advance the streak. Check back in, oh, 2020. In the meantime, stay warm in Norway.

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