After being in a constant state of flummox for four years, four straight last-place finishes and four straight seasons of 90-plus losses, the Cincinnati Reds are trying to Simonize their image for 2019.
They’ve polished the roster by adding, among others, three starting pitchers and two outfielders, all with major league pedigrees.
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To upgrade a punching bag pitching rotation, the Reds went searching for help and pulled in Alex Wood, Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark. To add outfield punch, they acquired Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.
Is it enough to turn the Reds from pretenders to contenders in this celebratory season, the team’s 150th anniversary? They will wear 15 different throwback uniforms during the season, but they won’t be able to hide behind their haberdashery.
What they hope to do is wear those snazzy double-knits worn by The Big Red Machine and play like that team.
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What does success look like for the 2019 Reds? Let’s count the ways.
1: Alex Wood starts the season on the injured list with spring-long back issues and that needs to go away quickly. Tanner Roark led the league in losses last season with the Washington Nationals with 15 and needs to turn that around to 15 victories after displaying a strong spring. Sonny Gray didn't like the bright lights of Broadway in New York and was demoted to the bullpen. He needs to pitch the way he did in Oakland, where he was lights out.
2: Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp were offensive machines during spring training, hitting home runs into next year. That needs to continue, especially from Puig as he takes over right field. Kemp's playing time might be limited if Jesse Winker can shake off his spring training doldrums. The team needs that left field production.
3: How much will a new manager and two new coaches in key positions impact the team? Manager David Bell is from a strong bloodline. His granddad, Gus Bell, was a Reds outfielder and his dad, Buddy, was an excellent third baseman and managed in the majors with Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City. David managed Cincinnati's Triple-A Louisville team, served as a bench coach in St. Louis and worked in San Francisco's front office. The Reds raided Milwaukee's staff to sign pitching coach Derek Johnson, who was Sonny Gray's pitching coach at Vanderbilt and carries a strong reputation at improving pitchers. The Reds raided the Dodgers' staff to sign hitting coach Turner Ward, a personal guru in LA to Puig. There is no doubt Johnson has Gray's ear and Turner has Puig's ear, but will they gain the confidence and provide a positive influence on the rest of the roster?
Reds at Braves, 1:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 1360
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