A team that enjoyed a breakout season, followed by a daunting playoff collapse. Spring training expectations that include the phrase World Series.
The Cincinnati Reds? Perhaps.
But the Washington Nationals fit that profile just as well, and although he’s trying to earn a roster spot with the Reds this spring, infielder Cesar Izturis spent some time with the Nats last August.
The 13-year veteran shortstop sees plenty of parallels between the two clubs, and said on Thursday he wouldn’t be surprised to see them squaring off in the National League Championship Series in October.
“Not at all, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that. Not at all,” Izturis said. “I think the two are very similar. Over there, they have a lot of young guys, too, and they want to win. Here, I think it’s the same. They are the same in a lot of ways.”
As for his chances of making the squad, Izturis knows it won’t be easy. With others like Jason Donald vying for spots, Izturis will get an extended look in spring training, and he’ll need to show manager Dusty Baker and GM Walt Jocketty he’s worthy of a commitment. Since Brandon Phillips will be occupied in the World Baseball Classic, Donald and Izturis will have plenty of time to fight for the utility spot.
Baker had Izturis while managing the Cubs back in 2006, and he remembers the Venezuelan’s glove being something special.
“I’m curious to see if he’s still the same. He could pick it, big time. ” Baker said. “You don’t want to have him around just to have him around. He has to be part of the team. He has to bring something to the table.”
Izturis, who won a Gold Glove with the Dodgers in 2004 and was a National League All-Star the following season, is hopeful he can make the cut as he sees big things in the team’s future.
“It’s a group of good young people around here. I would like to be part of this. I’d like to help someone win and this is a team that can win,” he said. “They’re good. Last year they proved they’re good. They played great baseball and they want to win, they want to finish it all.”
Cueto, rotation updates: Johnny Cueto, told by the Reds he couldn’t participate in the WBC, is expected to get his first spring start Wednesday when the team plays the Arizona Diamondbacks. Cueto said an oblique injury from last season isn’t bothering him, but added he’s not upset the team kept him out of the tournament.
His agent, Bruce Dixon, Tweeted about the team’s decision on Cueto, saying that “despite his desire to play, he respects their decision.”
Meanwhile, the Reds announced that Tony Cingrani will take the mound in Friday’s opener. The lefty, who skyrocketed from Single-A Bakersfield all the way to three solid relief appearances with Cincinnati, will be followed by Alfredo Simon on Saturday.
Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to get his first start on Feb. 28 as part of a split-squad game against the Colorado Rockies.
The Reds public relations staff informed those covering the club that Sunday’s matchup with Cleveland will include a standing room only press box. It might have something to do with the Indians’ Daisuke Matsuzaka making his debut during the finale of a three-game set.
Short, chilly workout: On the eve of their first spring training game, the Reds players enjoyed an abbreviated session in the chilly temperatures. That didn’t stop them from picking up the pace a bit, however.
While Devin Mesoraco and Ryan Hannigan took batting practice on field No. 1, Brandon Phillips fielded extra grounders between pitches off the bat of bench coach Chris Speier. Phillips, who will play for Team USA in the upcoming WBC, worked extensively on tough short hops. After every fielded grounder, he flipped to Delino DeShields, the former Dayton manager, who was manning second base.
Speier had Phillips sweating, as he hit balls back and forth to the limit of Phillips’ range. On one to his left, Phillips dove into the outfield grass after flipping the ball to DeShields.