Reds provide hope despite losing opener

By Tom Usher - Guest columnist

The Reds tossed their fans a few morsels of hope last year.

They had their first winning record (31-29) since 2013 and made the wild-card round of the playoffs.

So what can we expect this year?

There remains hope for another winning season.

Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals knocked off the Reds 11-6 on Thursday’s Opening Day at Great American Ball Park.

But several key Reds hitters delivered and one rookie had an impressive debut.

The bullpen also had a strong afternoon.

For the Reds, Nick Castellanos went 3 for 5 with a home run, double and two RBI.

Jesse Winker went 2 for 4 with a double. Eugenio Suarez had a solo home run.

And second baseman Jonathan India, in his MLB debut, went 2 for 4 with a double.

Joey Votto had an RBI single.

Delivering timely hits will go a long way in getting two straight winning seasons, after they hit .212 last year.

Starting pitcher is the other critical area. It should be a strength, but injuries have derailed the original rotation.

Two starting pitchers will start the year on the injured list in Sonny Gray (back spasms) and Michael Lorenzen (strained right shoulder).

Gray is only expected to miss two starts. The timetable for Lorenzen is cloudy after a recent minor setback.

That will put added pressure on the likes of Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and lefty Wade Miley until Gray and Lorenzen return.

Castillo (4-6, 3.21 last year) didn’t get off to a good start on Opening Day in the frigid weather.

In the first inning, Castillo gave up six runs, five earned.

The big blow was a three-run home run to right by Dylan Carlson to make it 6-0.

Castillo never got in sync. He lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up 10 runs, eight earned, on eight hits. He had no strikeouts and walked two.

With the Reds new-look infield of No. 5-prospect India at second, Suarez at shortstop and Mike Moustakas at third, there is a concern about the infield defense.

The infield shakeup was put together for offensive punch.

And while Suarez hit a solo home run Thursday, he also made two errors at shortstop.

On the plus side, India made several nice plays covering ground at second.

Good health is always a concern.

Joining Lorenzen and Gray on the injured list is outfielder Shogo Akiyama (hamstring).

Center fielder Senzel left the game Thursday with a left shoulder injury after making a diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of the Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning. He stayed in the game after the catch, but left the game in the home fourth when he was pinch-hit for by Tyler Naquin.

The Reds’ bullpen has a few new faces and a few question marks, as well.

On Opening Day, Cam Bedrosian gave up a solo home run in 2/3 of an inning.

After that, Sal Romano threw two shutout innings. Carson Fulmer followed with two shutout innings.

Sean Doolittle, the former Nationals closer, gave up a leadoff double in the ninth, then retired the next three hitters for a scoreless inning.

In an Opening Day loss, there were plenty of reasons for hope.

Coldest openers: The first-pitch temperature was 37 degrees, which tied for the second coldest Reds’ Opening Day ever. According to the book “Opening Day,” by John Erardi, the coldest Reds’ Opening day came in 1901 when it was 35 degrees. Thursday’s game tied the 2009 opener of 37 degrees on a cold, rainy day. The third coldest Cincinnati Opening Day was 38 degrees, with a light dusting of snow in the morning, in 1935.

By Tom Usher

Guest columnist

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

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