How Sweet it is to watch players grow

How Sweet it is to watch Reds grow

HOUSTON -- Working with the Reds the past several games to assist the coaching staff, Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet often sees many familiar faces when he walks through the clubhouse.

"The only two position players here I didn't have are Javy Valentin and Paul Bako," Sweet pointed out on Thursday.

Sweet, who finished his fourth year at Louisville with a division title and playoff berth this season, has a unique view of the youth movement at the big league level.

Among the players Sweet has had the past couple of seasons are Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Chris Dickerson and Ryan Hanigan. Many of them, and others, have contributed to the Reds' solid final month of the 2008 season.

"I'm excited," Sweet said of the Reds' current wave of younger players. "They say don't let September or Spring Training fool you. But most of them have been here longer than September. The other thing is, we're playing teams in hunt. That means they're straight-up, legit games. It's not like September callups vs. September callups. We're facing the best those teams have."

Sweet also managed 2006 first-round Draft pick Drew Stubbs this season. The outfielder batted .277 with seven homers, 57 RBIs and 33 steals combined over Class A Sarasota, Double-A Chattanooga and Louisville.

Stubbs batted .293 in 19 games with Louisville and is slated to play in the Arizona Fall League. He played center field exclusively, but could move to the other two outfield positions next year.

Like Bruce last season, Stubbs was pushed for the greater challenge of Triple-A closer to the end of the season to prepare him for next year.

"He held his own," Sweet said. "He left the season knowing he can play there next year. He'll come back, and he'll be, not a veteran, but he's been to most of the ballparks and knows what to expect. He's a very good player. Obviously, he's talented. But he made adjustments while he was with us. That's what you like to see."

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