Springfield News-Sun : 2019-02-11

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C6 | SPRINGFIELDNEWS-SUN | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2019 COMPLETE. IN-DEPTH. DEPENDABLE. McCoy Glove, although he took a small step backward both defensively and offensively. Realmuto would have been a gargantuan upgrade, but the Reds can live with Barnhart. The infield remains the same, a solid offensive group with Joey Votto at first, Gennett at second, Jose Peraza at shortstop and Eugenio Suarez at third. All four are offensive weapons with Suarez and Peraza taking big strides last season. Defensively, the infield is average — not good up the middle and just adequate at first and third, although Suarez is getting better and better. New manager David Bell most likely will do a lot of experimenting with lineups during exhibition games, seeking the right combination. Peraza most likely will lead off, as he did most of last season when Hamilton was dropped to the bottom of the order. Peraza puts the ball in play, doesn’t walk much, and has shown power. The lineup might look something like this: Peraza, Winker, Votto, Suarez, Gennett, Puig, Schebler, Barnhart. Or it could be Peraza, Gennett, Votto, Suarez, Kemp, Schebler, Puig, Barnhart. Bell will sort it out. The lineup has punch in any order. The major problem, of course, is the National League Central. The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers are all still strong. But if all goes well — no injuries and the new pitchers perform — the Reds could pass the Pittsburgh Pirates, vacate last place and come close to .500. Whatever the case, the 2019 team will be interesting, more competitive and finally break the 90-plus loss chain it has worn around its neck the past four years. NASCAR Byron wins Daytona 500 pole, puts Hendrick up front continued fromC1 It is a one-year push, then it retreats back to the rebuilding cycle. Why say that? Because while they have made several solid and noteworthy acquisitions, most are oneyear rentals, players who can become free agents after the 2019 season. That’s the case with pitcher Tanner Roark, pitcher Alex Wood, outfielder Yasiel Puig and outfielder Matt Kemp. They did add one pitcher, Sonny Gray, whom they locked up with a three-year, $31 million deal. And they have not extended the contract of second baseman Scooter Gennett, also eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. While they do this, it gives their top prospects Nick Senzel, Taylor Trammell, Hunter Greene and Jonathan India, among others, the chance to get more minor-league seasoning as part of the continuing rebuild. In the meantime, the Reds have filled their roster with interesting players for the fans for 2019. The colorful Puig will be a fan favorite. But where will he play? The Reds are still without a legitimate center fielder after letting go of Billy Hamilton. Will they move Scott Schebler from right field to center field and play Puig in right? It would seem that Puig in center and Schebler in right is a better option. And they are still talking about moving infielder Senzel to center field. That will work itself out over the next six weeks in spring training. How about left field? Will they play the veteran Matt Kemp there or keep the young up-and-comer, Jesse Winker, in left. That, of course, could be a platoon situation, although that would seem to stifle Winker’s progress. ByMarkLong AssociatedPress NewReds starter Tanner Roark led theNational League in losses in 2018. — William Byron put Hendrick Motorsports in a familiar position: on the pole for the Daytona 500. His bigger goal is to make the starting spot pay dividends for the NASCAR powerhouse. The 21-year-old Byron and 25-year-old teammate Alex Bowman locked in the front rowfor “TheGreat American Race” during qualifying laps Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. They comprise the youngest front row in Daytona 500 history. The coveted starting spot hasn’t meant much for NASCAR’s season opener over the last two decades, though. The last Daytona 500 pole- sitter to win the racewas Dale Jarrett in 2000. The last four — Hendrick’s Jeff Gordon, Chase Elliott (twice) and Bowman — have failed tonotch a top-10finish. “To have them on top of each other means the organization did a heck of a job,” Hendrick said. “This is the deal to sit on the pole at Daytona.” ByronandBowmanedged the other twoHendrick drivers: seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson andfan favorite ChaseElliott. “That’s a pretty amazing feat, I feel,” said longtime Hendrick crew chief Chad Knaus, who is entering his first season with Byron after 18 years with Johnson. KnausandJohnsonlanded theDaytona500pole in their first race together in 2002. After splitting with Johnson at the end of last season, Knaus essentially repeated the feat with Byron. “I think it’s huge,” Knaus said. “We’ve had a lot of late nights, a lot of long hours. The last time I came here with a newdriver, we sat on the pole. This is really special for me.” Byronreached a topspeed DAYTONABEACH, FLA. MITCHELL LAYTON / GETTY IMAGES How good the Reds will be still starts and ends on the pitcher’s mound. The Reds will score runs, but will they stop the opposition from scoring more? There is no question Roark, Wood and Gray are upgrades, but none are accomplished top-of-therotation pitchers. Those three are expected to join Luis Castillo and injury-prone Anthony DeSclafani in the five-man rotation. Who will start Opening Day? That, too, will be determined over the next six weeks. Roark led the National League in losses last season at Washington, Gray struggled mightily in Yankee Stadium and Wood was up-and-down with the Dodgers. Both Gray and Wood found themselves in the bullpen during parts of last season. For the Reds to improve, all three need to reach a higher plateau than they did last season. The bullpen once again should be a plus with Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Michael Lorenzen, Sal Romano, Cody Reed and Amir Garrett behind closer Raisel Iglesias. The Reds tried hard to pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins, offering catcher Tucker Barnhart and No. 1 draft pick Jonathan India. The Reds balked, though, when the Marlins wanted Senzel or Greene or Trammell, so the Phillies landed Realmuto. Barnhart, though, is one year removed from a Gold William Byron, driver of the#24Axalta Chevrolet, talks with crewchief Chad Knaus during qualifying for the Daytona 500 on Sunday in Daytona Beach, Florida. SEAN GARDNER / GETTY IMAGES qualifying races. “We want to take care of the cars for sure,” Hendrick said. “We don’t want to put the cars in any unnecessary harm’s way. It’s kind of a two-edge sword on the front row. You don’t want to take a chance of tearing up a really good car, but you’ve got to figure out what to race.” Hendrick has been outspoken about how difficult the 2018 season was on the organization, calling it one of theworst in teamhistory. The Hendrick cars were mediocre at best — Johnson failed to win for the first time in his Cup career — and it took 22 races for the organization to get its first victory. The final tally included three victories for Elliott and no drivers in the championship-deciding finale for the second consecutive year. Hendrick responded by splitting up Johnson and Knaus, tasking Knaus with building another team around Byron. A new racing package in 2019 also should benefit Bowman and Byron because neither had much experience under the old rules. For at least one day or maybe even a week, the moves are paying off. of 194.304 mph in the final round of qualifying, nearly two-tenths of a second faster than Bowman (194.153). “I thoughtwewere going to be somewhere in the hunt,” Byron said. “I was excited to get down here and see what we had. It’s really cool.” The rest of the 40- car lineup will be set by two qualifying races Thursday. Thirty- six of those spots are already filled because ofNASCAR’s charter system. Former Hendrick driver CaseyMears and Tyler Reddick secured two of the remaining spots in the Daytona 500. They posted the top speeds of the six drivers vying for four open spots in NASCAR’s season opener. “I really feel like we’ll be able to be competitive,” Mears said. “I can tell you this: I’ve been at Daytona with a lot less and ran inside the top five.” Joey Gase, Ryan Truex, Parker Kligerman and Brandan Gaughan likely will have to race their way into the 500 during the qualifying races. Twoofthemwillmake it, and the other twowon’t. Byron and his teammates will spend the week being lauded as the Daytona 500 favorites. They also will try to stay out of trouble in the Contact this contributing writer at [email protected] hotmail.com. PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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