Friday, June 03, 2011

Two months in, suppress panic button Reds fans

It's hard to imagine that the 2011 baseball season is just one-third complete, particularly if you're a Reds fan. In two months Dusty Baker's club has endured a season's worth of injuries, slumps, slides, streaks and adversity. And yet they've managed to remain above .500 and in the hunt for first place in the NL Central division.

The Reds, much like they did during 2010's championship season, have offered up their share of surprises, some mostly unpleasant but not all unanticipated.

I didn't expect:

-- Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez to lose his command and be demoted to Triple-A. Especially since pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery typically perform better in their first full season back from injury.

-- The first inning meltdowns by Reds starters which have become a disturbing trend involving nearly every member of the rotation at one time or another.

-- Injuries are part of the game. But not 15 transactions involving pitchers during a one-week stretch.

I had a hunch:

-- Scott Rolen would have a difficult time playing a full season. It's just a product of age, but the Reds are a different club with Rolen in the lineup and at third base.

-- Jonny Gomes would struggle. Like Rolen, his presence is important for this team. But not when he's batting sub-.200 and offering little from the defensive end.

-- Joey Votto would play like the reigning MVP.

Shocked the heck out of me:

-- Jay Bruce in May. Not sure I've seen a better month from a Reds hitter. It's easy to forget that he's still just 24, and still in the midst of making adjustments. Whatever alterations he made in late April are beginning to pay off in a big way.

-- That Drew Stubbs, for all the improvements he's making as a youg player, still cannot manage the strike zone. He's not long for the leadoff spot.

-- That Edgar Renteria, last year's World Series MVP, has provided little if anything offensively. Same for Paul Janish. I don't buy into the notion that you need offense from certain positions but the Reds have gotten nothing from shortstop.

This all adds up to 29-28, and 3 1/2 games behind the injury-riddled Cardinals. The NL Central is up for grabs. While the Reds' schedule in June is rather brutal, it lightens up after the All-Star break. The organization has enough depth to entice Walt Jocketty and his bosses to pull the trigger on a deadline deal or two.

Two months in, still much to be determined.