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Ludwick, Leake, and Hoover: Questions from the Cincinnati Reds' First Week of the Season

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Ludwick, Leake, and Hoover: Questions from the Cincinnati Reds' First Week of the Season
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3B Todd Frazier is off to a great start this season, hitting .480 through six games.

COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Reds have played just one week's worth of games so far (about 3.7 percent of the season) and already have some questions.

1. The Lineup

Things looked ominous for the Reds right out of the gate. With the exception of 1B Joey Votto, the Reds had no other serious injuries to position players or pitchers last year. Reds fans, myself included, accepted the fact that such luck would not be the case this season. Alas, we were proven right. In the third inning of the first game, LF Ryan Ludwick slid into third base and ripped up his right shoulder. Shortly after, trainers came out to look at Johnny Cueto, who was injured in the playoffs last year. While Cueto is healthy, Ludwick had surgery and will be out until at least the All-Star break.

Before the season began, I was curious to see how Ludwick would perform after his great year last year (.275/.346/.531 with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs). Now, it remains to be seen if he can contribute in the second half.

For now, 2B Brandon Phillips has moved to the cleanup position in the lineup and OF Chris Heisey will be the everyday left fielder and bat second.* This is the path of least resistance and it's the right path. Heisey won't be great hitting second as he strikes out a lot but Phillips can hit anywhere. Keeping Cozart and Frazier down in the lineup is a great move by manager Dusty Baker: they're still young and they'll see better pitches to hit.

(*OF Xavier Paul had a good day against Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals on April 7, going 2-for-4. If Heisey can't produce, I'm sure Baker will be fairly quick to pull the trigger and start Paul more.)

2. The Starting Rotation

Mike Leake didn't have a great first start, allowing four runs on six hits and two home runs in six innings. I'm interested to see how long his leash will be. If it were up to some fans, we'd already see Tony Cingrani or Daniel Corcino out there in place of Leake.

3. The Bullpen

J.J. Hoover was the Reds' best relief pitcher out of spring training but he hasn't shown it yet. In fact, he was responsible for the Reds' first two losses. Though the losses were to good teams, four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings is bad anyway you slice it.

Sean Marshall was out from March 22 to April 6 with shoulder fatigue. The decision to keep him off the 15-day disabled list is head-scratching. The Reds could have certainly used another healthy left-handed reliever in one of its extra-inning games.

As uncertainties arise, many Reds fans will scrutinize Baker's every move even more. In the end, it's the players that win or lose games.

Andrew J. Roth studied journalism at Lehigh University and received his Master's from the University of Illinois. He has been following the Reds and Major League Baseball since he met Barry Larkin in 1993.For Reds and other sports tweets, follow him on Twitter @AndrewJohnRoth.

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