The Cincinnati Reds begin spring training Wednesday, Feb. 13 as pitchers and catchers have their first work out at the club’s Cactus League facility in Goodyear, Ariz., and former Tigers pitcher Kip Young told The Times-Gazette he feels the Reds will do better in 2019.
“I think they’re capable with the team they’re building this year and with the trades they’ve made, of making 80 wins or better this year,” the Whiteoak High School graduate said. “I’m hoping they’ll surpass .500, but they could be a sleeper and surprise you.”
The boys of summer from Cincinnati finished dead last in the National League Central Division each of the last four years, including a 67-95 record last season.
Young, who pitched for two seasons with the Detroit Tigers, is now retired from both the game and from education, having wrapped up a 30-year career as a physical education teacher with the Eastern Brown School District.
He spends his time now selling cars at Hillsboro Auto Sales on North High Street.
The Reds are in a tough division, Young said, but the pitchers that have been acquired during the offseason added to an already strong offense and a defense “that can hold their own,” and should boost the team out of the basement and into contention.
“It just depends on how long and stable the pitching will be through the year because six months is a long time,” he said. “Everybody will be wondering how well they’ll do, and I expect the people behind the trades will be thinking the same thing, but it all comes down to pitching and keeping guys healthy.”
Positives for the Reds this year, Young said, is their offence, especially with the acquisition of position players Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer, and pitchers including Alex Wood and Sonny Gray.
As Reds management continues to rebuild the franchise into a contender, Young said the negatives facing the team are the Chicago Clubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers — all tough ball clubs with championship aspirations of their own.
As for the new season, in the American League, he said the World Series champion Boston Red Sox should be one of the teams to watch.
“It’s tough to repeat,” he said, “but Boston has a strong, solid team with pitching, hitting and defense, and maybe those guys won’t have the drive they had last year, but they’re all competitors and I think they’ll be the ones to beat.”
He said other American league teams to watch this year include Houston, Cleveland and the New York Yankees.
“When I was pitching, you knew you were in the big leagues when you pitched at Yankee Stadium,” Young said.
In the National League, he feels the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers will be contenders for the World Series, but the wildcard in the mix is the uncertainty of who free agent Bryce Harper signs with.
Several teams have met with the all-star outfielder, he said, who turned down the Nationals offer of a 10-year, $300 million contract and became a free agent.
He said it reminded him of the Barry Bonds deal with the San Francisco Giants in 1992, where the left fielder signed a six-year $44 million contract — the largest in baseball history up to that time — and the following year the team won 103 games.
The former Big Leaguer says there is something about the game that is timeless and endearing that still makes it “the national pastime.”
“I had a guy tell me years ago that at some point in everyone’s life, they’ve played baseball,” Young said. “It may have been playing pitch and catch in the backyard, playing ball during recess at school or in high school, and it made us realize how good you had to be to move on to play at college or on the professional level, and even if you didn’t get to play it professionally like I did, you remember it was fun.”
The first work out for Reds pitchers and catchers is Feb. 13 with the first full squad workouts on Feb. 18. The first preseason game is slated for Saturday, Feb. 23 when the Reds will face the Cleveland Indians.
Opening day at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark is Thursday, March 28 at 4:10 p.m. when the Reds square off against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Reach Tim Colliver @ 937-402-2571.