Hal McCoy: Hamilton should be on the bench for Reds opener


Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: Are fans being betrayed during spring training games when after four innings Joey Votto and company parade from the dugout through the outfield wall, signifying that their day is done? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

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A: Spring training is not about winning and not about the regulars playing nine innings. Spring training is about getting ready for the season and it is about the organization seeing other players to fill out the roster and to see how their young players are developing. When the regulars leave the stadium, their day is not done. Most of them return to the complex and work on drills or work out in the weight room. But I do believe ticket prices are too high for meaningless games. Expenses and high salaries make it necessary.

Q: What do you think the Reds starting lineup will be for Opening Day? — JUDY, Centerville.

A: I’m not privy to Bryan Price’s lineup card, but mine would be: RF Jesse Winker, 3B Eugenio Suarez, 1B Joey Votto, LF Adam Duvall, CF Scott Schebler, 2B Scooter Genneett, C Tucker Barnhart, SS Jose Peraza, P Luis Castillo. Notice something? No Billy Hamilton. But I suspect Price’s card will look like this: CF Hamilton, 3B Suarez, 1B Votto, 2B Gennett, LF Duvall, RF Schebler, C Barnhart, SS Peraza, P Homer Bailey. If Price does play Hamilton, he should move him down in the order until he starts getting on base. We’ll see about that.

Q: What would you recommend the Reds do if they start the year well by hitting and pitching well and winning, and would you invest in another starter or a seasoned hitter? — ANGELO, Oviedo, Fla.

A: All my recommendations to the Reds fall on closed ears. I agree with Joey Votto and manager Bryan Price that the fans deserve to see some progress, meaning no more 90-loss seasons and no more last-place finishes. The Reds have enough hitting, I think, but do need some veteran starting pitching. I believe they should have signed one of those top-notch starters that were available free agents in the off-season. I fear, though, they will stay the course on their rebuilding plan and won’t invest in a veteran starter, even if they get off to a fast start, which is doubtful.

Q: What will the outfield platoon look like and how can they find enough at-bats for all four worthy outfielders? — JIMMY, Cincinnati.

A: Manager Bryan Price says he can work it out, but that probably is to his satisfaction and not to the satisfaction of the players. Both Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker are having good springs and both deserve to play every day. That’s a major dilemma. Both will say the politically correct things, but you know both want to play every day. He will probably alternate them in right field, plus he can give Billy Hamilton time off and play Schebler in center and Winker in right. He can also rest Adam Duvall in left and play Winker. Duvall has worn down in the second half the last two years. That’s the scenario I see, but there will be some bruised egos.

Q: What do you think of the Eugenio Suarez signing, and if the Reds are in rebuild mode why sign him to seven years? — JAY, Englewood.

A: I despise those long-term contracts. Look at what happened with Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey. Due to injuries the Reds have received almost zero return on the investments after giving them long-term deals. But it is the only way to keep players they think are worth it from leaving via free agency. By signing Suarez to a seven-year, $66 million deal they wiped out his arbitration and free agent years and have him under control through 2025. Now they just have to keep him out of the doctor’s office.

Q: General Manager Dick Williams said after signing Eugenio Suarez that the Reds are now ready to begin competing, so do you think they can compete with the pitchers they have now? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: I didn’t hear or read any statement from Williams that the Reds are ready to compete. I don’t believe he is that foolish. Lack of consistent pitching is an issue, but the bigger issue is that Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee are much better overall and the Cubs are going to be better for a long, long time. The Cardinals and Brewers are positioned to be tough to catch in the immediate future.

Q: I am wondering about oblique injures and how they relate to past players and if players in the 1970s had strained obliques. — BRIAN, Bellbrook.

A: Obliques seem to be the injury du jour in baseball these days. An oblique is a major muscle in the abdomen. And, yes, there were oblique injuries, even in the 1920s. But they were always called a pulled stomach muscle. Trainers didn’t get so specific and didn’t use the word oblique. I’ve covered baseball for 45 years and never used the word oblique until recent years.

Q: Do you find it odd that the Reds are having Nick Senzel play second base instead of shortstop at Louisville and is that a sign that Scooter might be gone sooner rather than later? — MARK, Kettering.

A: No, I don’t find it odd. I believe the Reds are preparing Senzel to play all three infield positions (other than first base) in case Eugenio Suarez or Jose Peraza or Scooter Gennett gets hurt. Senzel already has experience at third and short. If an injury occurs, they can bring up Senzel and plug him in. But they probably prefer to keep Senzel at Triple-A for at least a couple of months. Gennett is safe until the end of his contract when this season is over. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.



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