Nobody does Opening Day like Cincinnati, and I was glad to be able to enjoy another trip down to Great American Ball Park to enjoy all of the pre-game events. Seeing the flood of red through the streets and listening to people talk Reds baseball again was a joy. The parade, the crowd at “The Banks,” the food, and the entertainment leading up to the first pitch makes such a great atmosphere. Cincinnati is a baseball town and it always will be. If you know me, you also know how much I enjoy Bengals football as well. I attend every Bengals home game and I have to say that the crowd surrounding the city for Opening Day was much larger than any Bengals game I have attended. This isn’t taking anything away from Bengals football, it just shows that even after a “less than stellar” year from the Reds, the city still floods with red at the end of March.
First Game of the Season
As I am writing this article, the Reds have played just one game and have two remaining against Pittsburgh over the weekend to round out the series. While it didn’t end in a Reds win, I was quite pleased with many performances at the plate from our young ball club, but the team just ended up running out of time to make a comeback. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives from the March 30 matchup against the Pirates:
• Hunter Greene recorded a 105.2 mph fastball. No that is not a typo either, you read it correctly. While I will also record some negatives from his first start of the 2023 season, he did manage to strikeout 8 batters in just 3.1 innings pitched. I truly believe he will have a great season and this was just an outing that went downhill after a few mental errors.
• Jonathan India had a magnificent game and went 2-4 at the plate including a single, a walk, and a late double to left field.
• Jake Fraley went 2-4 at the plate with 2 singles and a walk. I think Fraley is going to be a major part of the success of the team and I was glad to see him get off to a fast start.
• Jason Vosler had a clutch triple to right to bring in 2 much needed RBIs. While Votto is injured, Vosler is going to need to continue to perform well for Cincinnati to be successful.
• Spencer Steer smoked a home run to left center (435 feet). Everyone in GABP knew that ball was out as soon as the ball came off the bat. Steer is still considered a rookie and he looks to put up numbers good enough to be in the race for a rookie of the year award.
• Alex Young, Derek Law, and Ian Gibaut all threw scoreless frames and only gave up 1 total hit combined.
• Hunter Greene managed to only go 3.1 innings with 3 earned runs to begin his 2023 campaign. He will have many better performances throughout the year and this shouldn’t worry any Reds fan by any means. When your starter only goes 3 innings though, it is hard to expect a good outcome come the end of the 9th.
• Jose Barrero, despite his good Spring Training, went 0-4 at the plate with 2 strikeouts. It is early, but I hope to see him rebuttal quick. Despite his batting struggles, he played quite well defensively and made some impressive plays.
• Will Benson made the Opening Day roster, but he had one of the worst performances of his young career. Benson struck out swinging 4 times.
• TJ Friedl in the “2-hole” went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. Cincinnati is going to need Friedl to play a lot of innings this season and I expect him to improve greatly as the season continues.
• Fernando Cruz didn’t make it through a full inning and had 3 BB and an earned run. His ERA will begin the season at “27,” but we all know Cruz is much better than what he displayed on Thursday.
Marty Brennaman joins Matt’s Take
The one and only, Marty Brennaman kindly joined Matt’s Take this week to talk “all things Reds” with me. Marty doesn’t even need an introduction, as everyone in the Cincinnati area already knows who he is, but I will do one anyway. Marty was the play-by-play voice for the Reds from 1974-2019. Some of his notable calls alongside Nuxhall and others include Hank Aaron’s 714th career home run, Tom Seaver’s no hitter, Pete Rose’s 4192nd hit, Griffey Jr.’s 500th career homerun, Jay Bruce’s walk off to clinch the Central, and many more historical moments throughout Reds history. He has won numerous awards and has been a staple within the Reds organization for years. Being able to talk baseball with a Reds legend was something I will cherish for a long time.
Q: What is your favorite Reds moment?
A: “That is a good question. I would probably say the 1990 World Championship. Unlike the Big Red Machine, the 90’ club was my favorite team, simply because when the season began nobody picked them to win anything…They were playing under a new manager under Lou Piniella and they went into first place on Opening Night and they never vacated…It was just a team that got along incredibly well.”
Q: What is your honest prediction for the Reds record this season?
A: “Well, I think the Vegas over/under is 65.5 wins. That is for the gamblers, which I am not one of them. I think they will be better than that, but I don’t really know how much better. I have not really given a whole lot of thought to wins, but last year they won 62. I don’t think they will lose 100, but they’ll have to battle to stay out of last place in the Central Division.”
Q: What is the best new food item to try at Great American Ball Park?
A: “The 50 West Brew Burger. They have a special sauce that distinguishes it from all other hamburgers. It was tremendous…I was amazed at how good it was.”
Q: If you could sit and watch a baseball game with any past or present player, who would you choose and why?
A: “I would probably choose Ted Williams. I think he was the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. When I was a kid growing up, my dad was a Williams fan and I inherited that from him. I remember as a kid growing up in Portsmouth, Virginia back in the 50’s, and I remember vividly every morning waking up and making a beeline to the newspaper to see what Williams had done the night before…Check the numbers out, 345 lifetime batting average, on-base percentage at roughly 50 percent which is completely impossible. He had 521 homeruns and did that with 4 and a half years taken out of his career because of service in World War II and the Korean conflict. He was a fighter pilot in Korea and was shot down, so he was a man who served his country and was the greatest hitter to ever live.”
Q: During your career, who within the Reds organization would you say impacted you the most?
A: “Nobody has ever asked me that question before, that is a good question. I’d say Joe Nuxhall without any question. Working with him for 31 years and getting to know him as I did and watching the way he handled success in this town…he is the greatest sports figure in Cincinnati because of how loved he was in this town…He always had time for people.”
Q: Many of us have seen you at the Adams County Fair. What brings you down to the Adams County Fair?
A: “Well, I think it is something I have never experienced before. When we had the opportunity to go, we jumped at it. I have only been there once. Amanda and I went, so it must have been in the last 11 years. I had never been to a true County Fair, as I was born and raised in a city of over 150,000…County Fairs were not something that we, city people, we’re accustomed to. Seeing guys in a rodeo atmosphere among all the other things we saw, such as animal judging, it was an experience I never had before. I remember driving home with Amanda that night and thinking what a great experience it was.”
Q: Do you believe we will see Encarnacion-Stand, De La Cruz, or McLain in the big leagues this season?
A: “I don’t know that I have ever seen a player hit three balls as hard as Strand did…He is an incredibly mature kid offensively, he has some problems defensively and that is the biggest reason I think the Reds sent him down. He needs to work on his defense. Had he been better defensively, I think they may have given him a shot to begin the season here…I would not discount the possibility that you could see him sometime during the season. Quite honestly, I think you could see all three of them. But, I think the chances would have to hinge on need. If Steer doesn’t cut it for whatever reason, and Encarnacion-Strand is having a good year in the minor leagues, I think they could possibly jump him. As far as De La Cruz, if Barrero’s offensive short comings from last year show up again, I could see if De La Cruz is having a good year, that they could bring him up…And McLain was impressive in Spring Training. He can play a number of different positions. If I had to pick one of the three, I would probably lean on Encarnacion-Strand…”