Are the Reds really in this for the long haul?

The calender says it’s mid-June and the Reds occupy the top of the NL Central. This is uncharted territory for a team that is emerging from the “lost decade.”

Typically the injuries begin to pile up, and the Reds begin to fold. This year features more of the same injury problems (Homer Bailey, Ryan Hannigan, Chris Dickerson, Mike Lincoln, and Edinson Volquez), but the team has stayed afloat.

The difference?

Veterans such as Scott Rolen and Orlando Cabrera.

Rolen’s team-leading 14 homers are his most since 2006. He’s hitting .307, which would be his highest season average since 2004.

“It’s been nice, but I’m not taking too much for granted,” says Rolen, 35, who has had three shoulder surgeries since 2005. “I’d probably be remiss if I tell you the ballpark (in Cincinnati) hasn’t helped me out a bit. It’s a fly-ball park and the ball travels well. Some of my better swings have been rewarded with home runs rather than doubles.”

Ah yes the beauty of Great American “Small” Park.

Cabrera, also 35, is with his seventh team in seven years. In the previous six seasons, he has missed the postseason once. He is the vocal leader in the clubhouse, and has brought a winning attitude to Cincinnati.

Both players bring stellar defense to the table and have truly stabilized the left side of the infield. The defense overall has drastically improved. Extremely important when your home field is so tiny.

The young guns like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs are soaking it all in. They are learning how to win while following Rolen and Cabrera’s lead. The results have been obvious—the Reds lead the major leagues in come-from-behind wins (22), they lead the NL in team batting average (.278) and slugging percentage (.453).

“In Cincinnati we haven’t had a winning club in years, and I think the fans have been frustrated by that,” GM Walt Jocketty says. “Cincinnati is traditionally a very good baseball city, but fans have lost some interest. Well, it’s our job to get that interest back.”

“It’s our responsibility to be very competitive. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that we’re building for the long haul with a team that can be in contention for a long period of time.”

Manager Dusty Baker has been making the right moves to keep everyone happy and productive. He has regularly given the two veterans days off to keep them fresh. He stuck with Stubbs and Bruce despite their massive early season struggles.

He juggled the line-up around when the offense was abysmal. Now the offensive numbers are with the best in baseball.

Help is on the way as well. Edinson Volquez threw five shutout innings in AA Lynchburg. Combined in two starts—eight innings, three hits, zero runs, zero walks, seven k’s—batting average against .111.

Volquez should be back in mid-July. Bill Bray hasn’t allowed a run in three innings at AAA Louisville. Homer Bailey hopefully will be back before the end of June, and Hannigan will return the next week.

So now the schedule makers send the Reds to the west coast for six games against the Mariners and A’s. They are 13-32 on the West coast over the past four years, including 2-7 last year.


But this is a different team. The new-look Reds are capable of winning five of six in the next week. But will they fold up into a ball and get home-sick on the West Coast?

This road trip will be a telling sign for the new look Reds, as will the rest of the slate till the All-Star break. Seven games against the Phillies, three at New York and four at Wrigley against the Cubs. Can the Reds handle this stretch of playing 17 of their next 23 on the road? This next stretch will be a very telling sign for the Reds.

“We’re a bunch of fightin’ fools,” reserve outfielder Lanyce Nix said.

Yup sums it up.

Read more MLB news on