With less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Ariz., the Reds have Spring Training on the brain.
"Spring Training is not fun, [but] I'm looking forward to getting the work in and making improvements," first baseman Joey Votto said.
"The toughest part would be just to get your body in shape for the season. You're going to be sore for the first couple weeks," admitted up-and-coming shortstop Zack Cozart, who also raved about the new Player Development Complex in Goodyear, calling it "second to none."
Pitcher Mike Leake takes a lighter approach to his time in Arizona.
"I just use Spring Training as a preparation time," he said. "I don't look too far into Spring Training. It's more for seeing the guys again, and getting close and interacting again."
Chief operating officer Phil Castellini and general manager Walt Jocketty expect some of the biggest question marks of the upcoming season to be answered in the coming month.
Jocketty said he's eager to resolve the questions of the Reds' leadoff hitter, rotation and bullpen. To Castellini, the burning question is Aroldis Chapman: Will the "Cuban Missile" assimilate himself into the starting rotation come Opening Day, or will his name headline Triple-A Louisville rosters?
One thing's for sure: It will be a dramatically different Cincinnati Reds team that reports to Goodyear this season. Gone are veterans Edinson Volquez and Ramon Hernandez and top prospects Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal. Replacing them are a fresh bunch of Reds, among them pitchers Mat Latos, Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson, along with outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
Castellini, Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker all like their team's chances in 2012. Castellini was enamored with the way the team has "shored up the pitching."
Jocketty agrees: "I think it has got to be one of the best in the division, if not one of the best in the league."
"If we stay healthy, I think we've got a great chance," Baker said. "And I'm hoping that the young guys mature, and they, you know, get better just through maturity and experience. Hopefully we have a couple surprises, some young guys that we're not really counting on right now. We want to get back into the playoffs, that's number one."
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.