Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker has never been accused of sitting on his hands when there is some good, old-fashioned tinkering to be done. Renowned for creating roster room for such seasoned veterans as Shawon Dunston, Paul Janish and Todd Walker, Baker can't seem to resist the opportunity to adjust his lineup that such utility players afford. The Reds' skipper also carries with him the perception of overworking his young pitchers, and many aren't convinced that his various machinations have had much positive impact on his teams. I generally fall into that camp as well, but the news of Baker's latest brainchild, a reordering of the Reds' rotation, is somewhat welcome news for a couple of reasons.
As it stands now and has for awhile, the Reds rotation generally shakes out as Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey. Baker, though, has wanted to move the chess pieces around "forever," but is just now getting around to setting his new pitching lineup: Cueto, Arroyo, Latos, Bailey and Leake. Will this revolutionary change-up have a profound effect on the Reds fortunes the rest of the season and into October? I hardly think so, but then again, that's what makes this move so exciting. Baker's latest jockeying means that the manager and his charges are in full-blown playoff preparation mode.
I don't buy Baker's argument that Cueto and Latos need to be separated in the rotation order because they are so similar. I also don't think it matters much whether Leake or Bailey is slotted as the fourth starter, because neither one will make or break the season. In fact, this season is already made in the shade, as the Reds are cruising toward a division title, and that gives Baker the luxury of setting up his rotation the way he wants for the playoffs. Which is really what this move is all about, don't you think?
With all of the off days during baseball's second season, teams essentially live and die with their three top workhorses, and Baker has his in Cueto, Arroyo and Latos. The Reds are still fighting for home-field advantage, but they will almost surely start the playoffs on the road, thanks to a screwy schedule for 2012. With the regular season ending on a Wednesday (October 3), Dusty is finagling his rotation to make sure that Cueto is available to open the postseason on Saturday or Sunday.
And that beautiful music is why it's wonderful to see Baker shaking things up again. It means that the Reds are sitting pretty for October.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Cincinnati Reds fan since the early 1980s, when gods like Dan Driessen and Cesar Cedeno roamed the ethereally green Riverfront turf. He thinks that Dusty Baker is the anti-Davey.