Same ol' Reds

How differently does the Cubs' Opening Day opponent stack up compared to last year? Not much.

SEASON PREVIEW

With the exception of one addition to the starting rotation, Bronson Arroyo, and a new first baseman, Scott Hatteberg, not much has changed with the Reds.

Arroyo definitely makes the rotation stronger, and the trade to acquire him made the team better on the field, too.

To get Arroyo, the team traded left fielder Wily Mo Pena, a one-dimensional power hitter who is a defensive liability and strikes out once every three at-bats.

The plan, before Arroyo, was to move left fielder Adam Dunn to first base to replace traded Sean Casey and play Pena in left field. By trading Pena, the team is able to return Dunn to left field and put Hatteberg, a free agent acquisition, at first base.

Hatteberg is a contact hitter who makes pitchers work, much the same as Casey, who was traded to save $6.2 million. That means that with Hatteberg as a Casey clone, the team on the field is much the same.

The other change is second baseman Tony Womack, acquired to give the team speed and a leadoff hitter, something it lacked last year. Womack, though, is not strong defensively.

The team remains weak defensively and the starting pitching remains suspect, unless right-hander Aaron Harang and left-hander Brandon Claussen improve. The other improvement could come from lefty Eric Milton, a 15-game loser last year who looks as if he might return to the winning form he showed at Minnesota and Philadelphia.

PRIMED FOR A BIG SEASON: 3B Edwin Encarnacion, 23, spent the last half of last season getting his feet wet in the majors and nearly drowned, hitting only .232 with 60 strikeouts in 211 at-bats. He was told the job was not his and he had to win it this spring, and he has responded with six homers and 14 RBIs in the first half of the exhibition season.

ON THE DECLINE: RF Austin Kearns is only 25 and was much sought after by other teams in the offseason despite three straight seasons of perpetual injuries. The club opted to keep him and traded OF Wily Mo Pena, hoping Kearns will live up to expectations he hasn't fulfilled.


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