And then there were four. As of Friday, a total of 11 teams had fled the desert, and the Cactus League schedule had dwindled to just a few games. Some teams, like the Angels, Giants and Brewers, headed home for exhibition games in their home parks. The Padres and Rangers had a date in San Antonio before making their way to Opening Day games.
But the Reds were one of four teams to see this whole Cactus League thing through, with Friday night’s late game against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field leading up to a busy Saturday, one in which split-squad teams will pair off with the Diamondbacks and Indians.
Is Dusty Baker ready and eager to get the real games rolling? The Cincinnati manager said he doesn’t really think of it as ready. Spring training simply is what it is.
“My son asked me the same thing. I’ll probably be eager once the plane leaves. Then spring training is officially over once the plane leaves,” Baker said.
Some cuts still remain, including two in the bullpen that hadn’t been made as of Friday afternoon.
But for Baker, the work isn’t complete until he thinks his team is as fine-tuned as possible for Monday’s home game against the Los Angeles Angels. Baker has been taking part in springs like the one that’s wrapping up for more than 45 years, and he insists it’s not something players necessarily look forward to, but they need the work before a grueling campaign.
“Baseball doesn’t get old. Spring training’s always gotten old, but it’s necessary for what you have to do,” Baker said. “I don’t think anybody really likes doing homework, but if you don’t do the homework you can’t pass the test.”
As for the frivolity that comes with the spring, with fans arriving from chilly climates to soak in the Arizona sun and unwind at spring training’s sluggish pace, Baker said that’s all well and fun — for everyone who doesn’t make baseball their livelihood.
“Spring training is fun for the fans and the youth. Spring training’s work. The games are fun, but there’s something you have to do,” Baker said. “When buddies come down, spring training is fun for them, they stay up half the night, sleep late and then come see me play.
“I gotta go to bed early, get up early, then go to bed early. That sound like fun to you?”
Sluggers slugging: Although some of the pitching numbers have been unsettling this spring (Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, etc.), the offensive numbers the team might have been looking for have certainly come in.
Those worried about Shin-Soo Choo adjusting to life atop the order needn’t be. Choo had two more hits Thursday against the Royals, lifting his average to .366. He’s also stolen three bases, despite missing time due to some back issues.
As for Joey Votto, he doubled against Kansas City and brought a .347 into Friday night’s game. Votto has also knocked in a team-high 13 runs.
Looking for a number that might translate in the future? Donald Lutz is second in RBIs behind Votto with an even dozen. Lutz still strikes out a bit too often (he had 13 of those in 45 at-bats), but as Baker said earlier this spring, “Big Lutz” might put pressure on the organization to move him up the ladder sooner than expected.
Extra bases: The largest uniform in the history of the Reds was unveiled on Thursday as relief pitcher Loek van Mil came in to work the ninth inning against the Royals. At 7-foot-1, van Mil will be the tallest player in the minor leagues. The closer for the Netherlands in the recent World Baseball Classic worked a scoreless ninth. … The starters are expected to play at Chase Field on Saturday while a B squad will take on the Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. Bailey, who is carrying an ERA of 8.64, will try to get better control of his pitches against the Diamondbacks in a game that will be broadcast on Fox Sports Ohio.