Walt Jocketty has some decisions to make

The American League extended their All-Star Game unbeaten streak to 13 years with a 4-3 victory over the National League last night in St. Louis. Teams will get back together today and begin to prepare for the second half of the season, which starts tomorrow night.

The Cincinnati Reds find themselves in an interesting position. Dusty Baker’s club is 42-45, good enough for just fifth place in the NL Central. However, they are only 5 games back in the standings, and just 3 behind the first place Cardinals (49-42) in the loss column.

Obviously, general manager Walt Jocketty has a decision to make. Is this a young team on the rise that is improving and, with a few tweaks, could make a real run at the division title next season? Or, does this team, which has stayed in the hunt despite key players missing significant time due to injuries, have enough to make a push come September?

The Reds were able to stay relatively healthy early in the year. No major roster move was made until April 28, when Edwin Encarnacion was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured left wrist.

The team was in good shape until around the third week of May. Things got bad. Then they got worse.

May 19 Nick Masset placed on 15-day disabled list with strained left oblique
May 21 Edinson Volquez placed on 15-day disabled list with back spasms
May 30 Joey Votto placed on the 15-day disabled list with stress-related issues
June 2 Volquez placed back on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in right elbow
June 17 Mike Lincoln placed on 15-day disabled list with bulging disc in neck
June 20 Alex Gonzalez placed on the 15-day disabled list with bone chips in right elbow
June 20 Encarnacion transferred to 60-day disabled list
June 23 Wilkin Castillo placed on 15-day disabled list with torn labrum in right shoulder
July 3 Castillo transferred to 60-day disabled list
July 3 Danny Richar placed on 15-day disabled list with torn labrum in left shoulder
July 12 Jay Bruce placed on 15-day disabled list with broken right wrist

This list doesn’t include time that Alex Gonzalez missed with a strained oblique and was not put on the disabled list. Before being sidelined with stress-related issues, Votto had missed time because of the flu. Brandon Phillips did as well. Phillips has also been playing with a hairline fracture in his right thumb.

The Reds are ranked 13th in the National League offensively. The .248 team batting average just edges out the Diamondbacks and Cubs who are both hitting .247. The Padres are last in the league with a .233 team batting average.

Votto is the team’s best hitter at .351. He is second on the team with 42 runs batted in, even though he has only played in 57 of the 87 games. Phillips leads the team with 60 RBI.

The pitching staff has been the strength of this team. They are seventh in the league with a 4.26 earned run average. That number has increased dramatically because of a couple of games that got out of hand, including a 22-1 loss to the Phillies last week. They do have eight shutouts and four complete games. Francisco Cordero, the Reds’ lone all-star, has converted 21 of 22 save opportunities.

What needs to happen if the Reds are going to stay in contention?

If Aaron Harang wants to be considered the ace of this staff, he needs to pitch like one. Harang (5-9) has often been the victim of little run support, but has also given up 136 hits in 114 innings.
The complete game shutout Bronson Arroyo must find the 10-run first inning Bronson Arroyo and push him over the side of his house boat.

The Reds need a bat. With Bruce out 6-8 weeks, where is the power going to come from? Votto and Phillips will hit their share of home runs, but should not be counted on to be 30-homer guys.
Even with Bruce, the offense lacks the hitter an opposing manager fears coming to the plate as the go-ahead run late in the game. Bruce does have the ability to go deep at any moment, but has been far too inconsistent.

It is going to be very interesting to see how Walt Jocketty handles this club. If they stay within striking distance, will owner Bob Castellini allow Jocketty to add payroll? Does Jocketty mind parting with young players from the minors in order to bring in a veteran player?

We shall see…starting tomorrow night.

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