Injuries derail promising Reds campaign
Regular Cincinnati lineup on field for only 10 games in '09
CINCINNATI -- With their young players maturing and pitching staff deep with talent, the Reds felt for sure their fortunes would be better in 2009, and that a winning season was finally in the cards.
A rash of injuries and a deep mid-season slump made a plus-.500 record elusive for the ninth consecutive year. Cincinnati finished 78-84 and in fourth place in the National League Central. There were 19 players that made 21 appearances on the disabled list, and a team record was set in games missed. The projected Opening Day lineup was together for only 10 games all season, and Brandon Phillips was the only regular player to not spend time on the DL.Not all of the Reds' troubles in 2009 could be traced to injuries. The team led the Majors in first-inning runs allowed with 115. Those early holes were made deeper by a lack of offensive production. Cincinnati ranked 15th out of 16 NL teams with a .247 team batting average. There were some positive things to come out of the season. Bronson Arroyo was a 15-game winner in back-to-back years, and Phillips and Joey Votto had very productive seasons at the plate. Former first-round Draft pick Drew Stubbs emerged as an answer in center field, and veteran Scott Rolen solidified third base. Young starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey made positive steps in their development, and closer Francisco Cordero was one of the league's best and ranked second in saves with 39. As the calendar year ends and the Reds prepare for 2010, it's a good time for one final look back at '09.
JanuaryAs players on the free-agent market scrambled to find teams before Spring Training opened, the Reds made a signing that proved to be a low-risk, high-reward one when Jonny Gomes agreed to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. Although Gomes didn't make the team out of camp, he was called up in May and batted .267 with 20 homers and 51 RBIs in only 281 at-bats.
The Reds also avoided arbitration with veteran reliever David Weathers, who was signed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.February The final Reds Spring Training in Sarasota, Fla., opened as players got used to seeing several new faces in the clubhouse. The Reds had been in Sarasota and Ed Smith Stadium since 1998, and in Florida since 1923, with a three-year exception during World War II. In February 2010, everyone will be getting comfortable in the club's brand new spring complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Several Reds players earned spots on their respective nations' World Baseball Classic squads and left camp to compete. Votto played for Team Canada, while starting pitchers Edinson Volquez and Cueto and center fielder Willy Taveras were with the Dominican Republic. Utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. played for Mexico, and catcher Ramon Hernandez was with Venezuela.
MarchAfter he struggled at the plate throughout camp while batting .140, the Reds traded infielder Jeff Keppinger to the Astros for a player to be named -- one that proved to be utility man Drew Sutton. In the first signs of an issue that would bother him throughout 2009, Arroyo revealed that he was nagged by carpal tunnel pain in his right wrist. Arroyo would need two cortisone shots to get through the season. April Nobody does Opening Day like the oldest professional franchise in baseball. The Reds opened the 2009 regular season with legend Frank Robinson as grand marshal of the Findlay Market Parade and singer Nick Lachey throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. The game itself proved to be a disappointment, as the Reds were handed a 2-1 defeat to the Mets. Aaron Harang held New York to one run in five innings in his fourth consecutive Opening Day outing, but Cincinnati mustered only a Brandon Phillips sacrifice fly. Injuries were a major theme of the Reds' 2009 season and it didn't take long for them to strike. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion was placed on the disabled list on April 28 with a fractured left wrist. He would miss 59 games. May Cueto continued his sensational start to the season during a 5-0 blanking of the Pirates on May 3 at PNC Park. In a career-best eight-inning outing, no Pirates hitters reached second base against Cueto, who set the dominant tone to quiet the Pirates with just four hits and a walk allowed. He was one shy of a career high with nine strikeouts. For one day, the Reds could claim a share of first place in the National League Central. It came on May 14 following the previous night's 10-3 win over the D-backs at Chase Field. A three-game sweep of Arizona came as Cincinnati scored 20 runs with 38 hits in the series. With a 20-14 record, the Reds were starting to get excited. "Our team chemistry is gorgeous," Phillips proclaimed. June In his first game back from the disabled list with back spasms, Volquez lasted only one inning in a June 1 start vs. the Cardinals. Volquez came out of the game because of numbness in the pinky and ring fingers of his right hand. The news would only get worse later in the summer, when Volquez needed Tommy John surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right elbow. He made only nine starts in 2009 after a breakout 17-win season in 2008. The Civil Rights Game between the Reds and White Sox on June 20 provided one of the most memorable scenes of the season. Pregame festivities honored Beacon Award winners and icons Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby. The Reds wound up losing the game, 10-8, after blowing a 5-0 lead. With his hometown of Toronto as the backdrop, Votto returned from the DL after a 21-game absence for what was originally termed a "stress-related issue." It turned out to be much more than that, as Votto revealed to reporters that he was being treated for depression and anxiety that stemmed from grief over his father's sudden death in 2008. Before he went on the DL, Votto was suffering from an inner-ear infection. July Cordero was named as the lone player to represent the Reds in the All-Star Game in St. Louis. At the time, Cordero had saved 20 of 21 games, and he went on to earn 39 saves, second-best in the NL. The Reds were active at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, sneaking in two trades just before 4 p.m. ET. The biggest move was the acquisition of Rolen in a four-player trade that sent Encarnacion and pitchers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to the Blue Jays. Hairston was dealt to the Yankees in exchange for Minor League catcher Chase Weems. August The top 2009 Draft picks were brought into the fold before the Aug. 15 deadline, as pitcher Mike Leake, the eighth overall selection, signed for a $2.27 million bonus. Supplemental first rounder (No. 43 overall), right-handed pitcher Brad Boxberger, received a bonus worth $857,000. On Aug. 14, shortstop Alex Gonzalez was traded to the Red Sox along with cash for a Minor Leaguer. The move allowed Cincinnati to give an extended shortstop audition to Paul Janish. Freshly called up to the Majors for the first time the previous day, Stubbs led off the 10th inning with a walk-off solo homer to left field off of the foul pole that gave the Reds a 2-1 win over the Giants on Aug. 20. Stubbs would go on to a sensational final six weeks of the season and put himself on the inside track for a starting job in 2010. September Phillips hit his 20th homer of the season on Sept. 15 during a 5-4 win over the Astros. Phillips and the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez are the only players in the Majors to have produced at least 20 homers, 20 doubles and 20 steals in each of the past three seasons. Arroyo notched his 15th victory in his final start of the season on Sept. 30. In a 6-1 win over the Cardinals, Arroyo pitched 8 1/3 innings and allowed just one run on two hits. Controversy would surface the following day when Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan accused Arroyo of doctoring baseballs with pine tar hidden in his cap. Arroyo denied the allegations. October On Oct. 2 before the final weekend of the season, the Reds decided to relieve pitching coach Dick Pole of his duties while inviting the rest of Dusty Baker's coaching staff to return in 2010. About two weeks later, the Reds hired former D-backs and Mariners coach Bryan Price to replace Pole. On the final day of the season, longtime television play-by-play broadcaster George Grande announced he was stepping down from his role with the Reds after 17 seasons. Grande opted out of his contract with Fox Sports Ohio to pursue other interests. November: On Nov. 16, amid speculation the Reds would reduce payroll and shed veteran players, catcher Ramon Hernandez was re-signed to a one-year contract worth $3 million. This came after the club decided not to pick up Hernandez's $8.5 million option for 2010. December: On Dec. 4, Cincinnati held Redsfest and celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 1990 World Series championship. Fans at the Duke Energy Center got to see rare appearances by Barry Larkin and former manager Lou Piniella, among others. To get more payroll flexibility, the Reds restructured Rolen's contract for 2010 and also extended him through the 2012 season. Rolen's salary dropped from $11 million to $6 million for next season, but he will get over $23 million for the next three seasons, including a $5 million signing bonus.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.