Thursday, May 28, 2009

Maybe Dusty Likes Young Players After All

No question this is a big stretch for the Reds. Three games at second place Milwaukee followed by four more at first place St. Louis. But it doesn't end there. The Reds come home for a three game weekend series with the Cubs, then it's on the road for six more games. So 13 of the next 16 games are on the road. A brutal stretch to be sure, but a stretch this team can handle.
It's nice to finally see what good pitching means to a team. The Reds have been searching for way too long for this kind of reliable pitching, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen. That coupled with a youthful bunch that doesn't seem to know what it doesn't know yet has made this team resilient. Nothing bothers them because they don't know what's supposed to bother them. They just know there's a game to be played and they're going to do whatever it takes to win it. This fearlessness has been a joy to watch develop, and it's developed in a short amount of time. For that we should give some thanks to manager Dusty Baker, a guy who had a reputation for dismissing young players.

So how many do they win in St. Louis and Milwaukee? I'm going to take the pitching and say the Reds come home with four wins. I know that's not going out on a limb, but any road trip above .500 is a good one.

One more thing about the Reds. A lot has been made about the pitching, but what about that catching tandem of Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan? It was just last year when the Reds carried three catchers on the roster (Bako, Ross, Valentin) and none of those three would be kept ahead of the current duo of Hernandez and Hanigan. This is a serious upgrade. We expected the veteran Hernandez to help the cause, but how has Hanigan developed into the player he is today? I love the way he handles himself behind the plate. (how can he crouch that low?) Plus, he can hit. In 66 plate appearances this year he has struck out twice. It's unthinkable that the guy was a non-drafted free agent. Usually, 1,200 or so players are drafted each year. Hanigan was still around when the 2002 draft ended. That doesn't mean Hanigan wasn't on some one's radar. He was on the radar of Reds scout John Brickley. After playing three years at Rollins College, Hanigan was playing in the Cape Cod summer league in August of 2002. That's when the Reds swooped in to sign him and Hanigan decided to forgo is final year at Rollins. The Reds should be on their knees thanking Brickley for signing him. But Brickley had a soft spot for Hanigan. Brickley played at Rollins too, back in the 70's.

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