Reds in area: Caravan sparks excitement for upcoming campaign

VIENNA, W.Va. – Six members of the Cincinnati Reds organization visited the Grand Central Mall as part of the annual Reds Caravan Friday, and with them came a whole lot of excitement for the upcoming season.

All-star second baseman Brandon Phillips and hall of fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman highlighted the group, and were joined by minor leaguer Tucker Barnhart, assistant general manager Bob Miller, former first baseman Todd Benzinger and broadcaster Chris Welsh.

Brennaman said there is reason to believe for Reds fans in 2013.

“I think this is a better team right now than it was at the same date last year,” Brennaman said, “simply because they traded for a leadoff hitter, which they’ve not had since I can remember.”

The hall of famer was referring to ex-Indian Shin-Soo Choo, whom the Reds traded for this offseason. Choo is expected to be inserted into the leadoff spot in the lineup and play centerfield.

The acquisition of Choo means Phillips will likely move down to the second spot in the batting order, a place he has had much more success during his career. The gold glover admits, however, that other aspects of the game will likely be the biggest keys.

“We’re a pitching and defense type of team,” Phillips said. “We get key hits in key situations. That’s why we won so many games last year.”

Miller also emphasized the importance of pitching as well as players staying healthy.

“We did luck out a little bit last year as the starters didn’t miss a turn the whole year,” Miller said. “Right now we feel like we’re 9-10 deep as far as starting pitching goes. We feel pretty happy with our depth. It’s important to have as much pitching as we can find.”

Last year was a magical ride for the Reds and their fans. The team won 97 games and saw several new players come up big en route to making the playoffs for the second time in three years. However, it all ended in bitter fashion as the Giants claimed a five-game series victory after dropping the first two decisions.

“Last year was so bizarre because they played like world champions the first two games in San Francisco,” Brennaman said. “They came home leading two games to none and can’t win any games.”

It’s an ending fans and the players would like to forget. Another successful campaign in ’13 would go along way in doing so. With the leadoff spot shored up, this is a ball club with very few weaknesses. The rotation, bullpen and lineup all figure to be top five in the National League. The bench was solidified with the signings of infielders Jack Hannahan and Jason Donald to replace aging vets Miguel Cairo and Wilson Valdez. The team also has some bright young prospects in the farm system, most notably speedster Billy Hamilton and pitchers Tony Cingrani and Daniel Corcino, but on this club, the youngsters may be a year or two away.

“There will be no young guys making this club,” Brennaman said. “Not this year. This is probably as set a 25-man roster as this team has had in years.”

With that in mind, all signs seem to point toward another “Red October” this season.

Cincinnati supporters received another piece of good news earlier this week when it was announced that Great American Ball Park would host the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. It will be the first All-Star game in the Queens City since 1988.

It’s almost impossible not to be thrilled if you’re a Reds fan right now, and much to the delight of team.

“The fans, they come support us,” Phillips said. “If you’ve got the fans on your back, you can’t do no wrong.”