Mailbag: Who will make the club?

Mailbag: Who will make the club?

It looks like the Reds might have some tough choices in getting down to a 25-man roster. Who do you see making the club on Opening Day?
-- Todd M., Cincinnati

As a disclaimer, I reserve the right to change my mind anytime I want -- especially if I jinx someone I pick and he hits the skids or gets cut by the club!

Catchers: David Ross, Javier Valentin, Chad Moeller.

Infielders: Scott Hatteberg, Brandon Phillips, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion, Juan Castro, Jeff Conine.

Outfielders: Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Ryan Freel, Josh Hamilton.

Pitchers: Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Kyle Lohse, Eric Milton, Matt Belisle, Todd Coffey, Kirk Saarloos, David Weathers, Rheal Cormier, Mike Stanton, Bill Bray, Dustin Hermanson.

If Griffey does begin the season on the DL because of his hand, Bubba Crosby or Norris Hopper will get the final outfield spot. I imagine that eyebrows are going up because I have three catchers listed and I'm probably going out on a limb. I did that because I think if the Reds want Valentin as their the top pinch-hitting option from the left side, they'd want catching protection. I also believe they signed Moeller to be on the big-league team in the long run, and not for depth in the Minors.

Clearly, if they like other lefty pinch-hitting options beyond Valentin (Hamilton and/or Bubba Crosby perhaps), then Moeller would be out.

First of all, great reply on the Josh Hamilton question. I'm glad to see he is playing as well as he is and I firmly believe he will make the Opening Day roster. Now for my question: Ever since Brandon Phillips has come over to the Reds, it appears that he has been a model teammate who has said all the right things and has worked hard to earn the starting position at second base. Why is it that all we heard from the Indians organization was that he had poor work ethic and basically was a bad apple?
-- Brad W., Shelbyville, Ky.

I heard many of the same things you probably heard about Phillips before he came to the Reds and was pleasantly surprised as well. Not only has he always been accessible to the media, he's usually friendly. Many inside the Reds organization have been thrilled that he's always participating in club community functions like Redsfest, winter caravan, and other initiatives. And no one can complain about the on-field results he provided last season.

Phillips was pretty honest last year when he said that he let early success go to his head in Cleveland. I'm sure the fear of unemployment and a lost big-league dream was pretty stark when the Indians cut him loose one year ago. The trade to Cincinnati offered him a fresh start and a clean slate. To his credit, he made the most of it.

I was just wondering what the latest on Eddie Guardado's recovery is. I heard something about him saying that mid-March was a key point in assessing how far along he is. If he comes back healthy, all of a sudden we have a heck of a back end to our bullpen.
-- Brendan H., Cincinnati

Guardado had a big moment in his rehab only this past Friday when he threw his first 15 pitches off of a mound since his September elbow surgery. Returning from the ligament replacement procedure is often filled with setbacks and other pitfalls, but it's so far, so good for "Everyday Eddie."

With a work ethic everyone should strive to have, Guardado is constantly pushing to accelerate his rehab schedule while the medical staff does its best to keep him from rushing too fast and risking one of those setbacks. It still looks like he has June 22 in mind as a target comeback date, which is when the Reds visit the Mariners in Seattle (Guardado's previous club). If he and Dustin Hermanson are both healthy and effective this summer, the Reds can feel pretty good about holding a lead heading into the ninth.

What would happen if a Rule 5 pick like Josh Hamilton is injured? Do the Reds lose his roster spot or can he be placed on the disabled list? Can he spend rehab time in the Minors? Thanks.
-- Brian M., Cincinnati

If Hamilton, or fellow Rule 5 pick Jared Burton, were on the team and got hurt, they definitely can go on the DL and remain with the club. If there was a Minor League rehab assignment to be done, they can go.

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It's getting close to that time of year. What are the Reds going to do with the Burton kid? Could they really let this kid go back to Oakland? He throws hard and has future closer written all over him. Is there any situation you see the Reds keeping him given the already crowded bullpen?
-- Brandon, Lexington, Ky.

It will definitely be a very tough call in the final days. There are five bullpen spots locked up and a sixth one goes to Hermanson if he is added to the roster. The Reds could try to work out a trade with Oakland to keep Burton or if they can't find room for him, they'll just have to let him go.

What are the chances that Paul Janish makes the Reds? What is his future with Alex Gonzalez signed for three years, and Brandon Phillips a quality young starter at second and Edwin Encarnacion a quality young guy at third?
-- Doug, St. Louis, MO

If you're asking about this year, there's no chance -- especially since Janish was sent to the Minor League camp on Tuesday.

The Reds are indeed very high on Janish and he's looked pretty solid in camp. He earned two promotions and reached Double-A by the end of last season, but he spent most of the year in Class A ball. The 24-year-old missed most of 2005 with an elbow injury. There's some development left to be done at the upper levels of the system.

As for being blocked by young talented players at the highest level, that's a common problem many teams face. It certainly doesn't diminish his future. Clubs constantly need depth and protection as a contingency for all types of unforeseen situations.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.