Only two Reds who started Monday against the Angels weren’t in the Opening Day lineup a year ago against the Marlins: center fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who reached base in his first two at-bats, and third baseman Todd Frazier.
That’s great stability because only five players who started in 2011 returned to start Opening Day in 2012, and it was the same from 2010 to 2011. Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce have now started five openers in a row. Phillips is the first Red to start seven openers in a row since Adam Dunn (2002-08).
Frazier, a 27-year-old who flirted with Rookie of the Year honors before a late slump last season, joked that he would cross the experience off his bucket list.
“It’s special,” he said before the game. “You just want to play your best. I can’t wait to go stretch and see the fans and the packed house again, just like in the playoffs.”
Scott Rolen started at third base in the three previous openers. Frazier did everything but start the opener last season. He hit .273 and finished third in voting for Rookie of the Year. He knew this year would be different because he had a starting job secured.
“You might be playing 150 or 160 games, so you’ve got to be ready to go,” Frazier said. “I knew I wasn’t trying to make the team this year. I talked to Dusty (Baker) about that when I hurt my calf in spring. He said, ‘Hey, you’re not trying to make the team. Take it slow.’ I’m just ready to go. Nice and easy and no pressure at all.”
How Frazier responds to a full season as the starter is one question the team has, but Baker said, “There are no quick answers. It’s a long season. You have to play to answer those questions. You have to wait over the course of a whole season.”
The Reds have a fairly veteran group at this point. Even Frazier and the second-year starting shortstop Zack Cozart, 27, have age, if not experience.
“We like expectations,” Cozart said. “Last year a lot of people didn’t have us as the front-runner. This year, we are. We know we have the team on paper to win. We think we should. A lot of teams are good. We’ve got to go out and prove it.”