Larkin on whether Reds can contend in 2021: ‘Absolutely’

New FOX Sports Ohio analyst confident in direction of team

Barry Larkin grew up listening to Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall on 700 WLW. He learned about broadcasting from another Cincinnati Reds legend, Joe Morgan, and has imitated his path in media after a Hall of Fame career. He also has been mentored by George Grande, the lead broadcaster for the Reds on television for most of Larkin’s 19-year career.

When the Reds suspended Thom Brennaman last season, Larkin reached out to Reds President and Chief Operating Officer Phil Castellini and told him he’d be willing to help on the FOX Sports Ohio broadcasts.

“He told me, ‘Not now, but maybe,’” Larkin said. “I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Well, now I know what it means.”

The Reds announced the hiring of Larkin as an analyst for their broadcast team on Tuesday, and he plans to work all 81 home games at Great American Ball Park.

In addition to having great knowledge about the history of the Reds thanks to growing up in Cincinnati and playing with the Reds for 19 seasons, Larkin knows the current team well. Here are his thoughts on the group that held its first spring training workout for pitchers and catchers on Thursday in Goodyear, Ariz.

On whether the Reds can contend in 2021: “Absolutely. Obviously when you lose Trevor Bauer and (Raisel) Iglesias at the back end of the bullpen, you have to question, ‘Oh my goodness, how good are we going to be?’ But the pitching I think is very solid. We have a lot of depth. There’s a lot of new arms. I’m looking forward to seeing how those new arms play. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in (pitching coach) Derek Johnson. He did an amazing job with those guys, and I think he will continue to do that. He’s like the magic man for me. The offense got us to the postseason. We just couldn’t score in the postseason. I think there’s a lot of positive things that have happened, a lot of things that I’m looking forward to. I think we learned something as an organization this past postseason, and hopefully through my conversations with (General Manager) Nick Krall, some of those things have been addressed.

It’s just going to be a matter of if we see a consistent change in an approach — as an organization or as a team — based on some of the things that were exploited this past offseason. The beauty about having an offseason is that you get a chance to in a non-competitive way make adjustments so I’m looking forward to some of the adjustments that that will be made. I’m convinced that they will be made because we’ve got really good, smart, heady people in the organization that are talking about things specifically that need to be changed. I’m looking forward to seeing how it manifests itself and how the team makes adjustments to what happened.”

On the shortstop position: “I do know that it’s open. I still believe long term that Jose Garcia is going to be a monster, and my hope is that he is given enough time to develop. Obviously, we saw last year that he just wasn’t quite (ready) offensively. I think he caught about everything that was hit his way. But he’s still a young man and he’s growing.”

On other possibilities at shortstop: “What I’m excited about is the acquisition of a few older players, and one namely simply because I’ve worked with him is Dee (Strange-Gordon). I think Dee Gordon, given the opportunity can really help this this team and this organization from first of all a leadership standpoint. He’s an outstanding young man. He’s a family man and highly motivated. He was in a very tough situation this past season with the Seattle Mariners and didn’t get much of an opportunity to play but had a very positive impact on some of the young players in that organization. And I think coming from that situation, coming into a situation where there’s an open opportunity, I truly believe Dee Gordon could play shortstop at the big-league level. But he also could play a very good second base at the big-league level and a very good centerfield at the big-league level. He’s just that kind of athlete.

On his appreciation for first baseman Joey Votto’s career: “Joey has been amazing. I get a chance to talk to Joey, and Joey is at a point where he is making adjustments. I went through kind of the same type of situation. As a veteran, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m still trying to figure out how can I continue to make adjustments although I’m established and this is what I do and this is who I am.’ And I think that’s what we’re seeing Joey go through right now, but Joey is a smart, very competitive guy. And I expect that he will. He will regain that form. I know there were some streaks last year where he was the Joey Votto of old, the MVP. And that’s what happens when you get a little bit older. You start to get a little streaky, if you will. But I look for a lot of positive streaks from Joey simply because he’s a strategist. He’s a super competitive guy and he wants to do well, and he wants to represent the team well.”

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