A: I’d say it’s time for a sequestered furlough for you, but fortunately we don’t pay you. And Baker doesn’t try to get his players a day off, he does it often so that he keeps all his players fresh. If we give you a week off, will you be fresh?
Q: The criticism of Dusty Baker's handling of young pitchers is overstated and there were other circumstances in Chicago involving Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, but has Dusty changed his approach since he started managing? — COURT, ARLINGTON, VA.
A: We all change and we all evolve. I’m not the same as I was when I first started and covered high school sports. And Dusty will tell you he has changed, too. It is nothing gigantic or life-changing, but like all managers he changes as the game changes — and it is always changing. Starting pitchers threw more innings when Wood and Prior arrived with the Cubs, which was the way it was in those days. They probably wouldn’t pitch as many innings today as they did then, but Baker was managing the way the game was played at the time.
Q: Who has had the biggest influence on your career? — ERIC, CELINA
A: Working under Dayton sports editors Ritter Collett and Si Burick left indelible marks, all good. My biggest influence, though, was former Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray. In fact, I’m right now reading his biography, “Last King of the Sports Page.” I once sat next to him in a press box, and while I should have been working I watched him work and said to myself, “I know all those words he is using, I just can’t put them together the way he does.”
Q: Who will be the Reds center fielder at the end of the season? — BILL, HOUSTON
A: I know it won’t be Drew Stubbs. So, you don’t think Shin-Soo Choo will survive the season either because of no production or injury? I sure liked what I saw of him this spring, and if he stays healthy he’ll be the center fielder. Since you are from Houston, my question: Who will be the catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder and right fielder for the Astros at the end of the season?
Q: What position do you think the Reds need to work on the most? — NOURM, WOODVILLE, OHIO
A: They had one spot to work on during the off-season and that was center field. They fixed it by trading Drew Stubbs for Shin-Soo Choo. So it isn’t a matter of working on a position, it is a matter of working on cutting down strikeouts (dumping Stubbs should help) and getting hits with runners in scoring position. From that standpoint, every position player needs to work on that.
Q: Do you think the Reds will keep Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco as their catchers and send Miguel Olivo to the minors? — BILL, MESA, ARIZ.
A: Absotively. They wanted to see improvement this spring from Mesoraco, especially offensively, and he has done that from the first exhibition game. Olivo was brought in just in case, and it makes it even easier that Olivo is not on the roster and can be sent to the minors if he accepts it and takes the $100,000 retention clause until June 1. Heck, if they give me $100,000, I’ll go to Bakersfield.
Q: Should I be concerned about Joey Votto not hitting home runs? — RICK, VANDALIA
A: You can, but I’m not. Hey, he has hit two this spring, second most on the team behind Jay Bruce’s four. Why waste ‘em when they don’t count? That’s what Votto says (with a laugh). He wants to hit his first home run in a real game since last June on Opening Day, then start adding them up.
Q: What do you think of Ryan Ludwick batting fourth and do you think Joey Votto (batting third) will ever get any good pitches to hit? — MICHAEL, DAYTON
A: That’s the way it was most of last season and how’d that work out? Ninety-seven wins and an NL Central title, that’s how. Ludwick had a good season after a slow start and should have an even better one. Good pitches to hit? Votto only needs one. And if he doesn’t get it, he takes his walks so Ludwick and Bruce can drive him home — a pretty good formula last season.
Q: How many games will the Reds win this season? I'm going to hold you to this and check back to see how you did. — JERRY, CINCINNATI
A: If I could do that, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’d be in Las Vegas living large. Nobody can predict that. If you tell me who will and who won’t get hurt and tell me who will and who won’t have an off year and who will and who won’t have a great year, I can probably come within 10 either way. Maybe.
Q: Has anything changed with the status of Billy Hamilton and when can we expect to see him up with the Reds? — JIM, FORSYTH, ILL.
A: Nothing has changed, other than proof that, yes, he can run like a hurricane and steal bases, but he needs work in center field and a lot of work at the plate, especially from the left side since he began switch-hitting. He hit .174 with a .240 on-base percentage this spring and will start the year at Class AAA Louisville.