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Reds build on core of 2012 NL Central champs

Reds build on core of 2012 NL Central champs play video for Reds build on core of 2012 NL Central champs

CINCINNATI -- A team that won 97 games in 2012 but disappointed in the playoffs, the Reds are determined to do better in 2013.

While the group of core players that led the Reds to a National League Central title remains, upgrades were made, and some key players were re-signed. As the opening of Spring Training dawns next week, Cincinnati has a crowded roster.

Lots of jobs are already locked up, and precious few are open for competition.

"This is probably as deep of a roster as we've had going into a Spring Training," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "From the starting rotation to the bullpen to the starting lineup and bench, we are very strong. And we have good depth at Triple-A."

Shortly after the Reds were bounced from the NL Division Series by the Giants, Jocketty got to work at improving the areas of need. Offensively, the primary need was for a new leadoff hitter, and that objective was met by the trade for Shin-Soo Choo. A lack of bench production was addressed with the signing of backup third baseman Jack Hannahan. Meanwhile, Jocketty sought not to lose production and re-signed left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who revived his career during his first season in Cincinnati.

On the pitching side, the Reds are not playing it safe, as they will attempt to move successful closer Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation. If it works, a good rotation becomes another level better. Jonathan Broxton was re-signed to take on the closer's role if the Chapman transition succeeds.

The moves have created an overflow of arms, including six starting pitchers who are vying for the five-man rotation.

After the Reds won the NL Central in 2010, the club did little the following offseason. They were decimated by injuries in 2011, especially when three pitchers were down in Spring Training. This year, they leave nothing to chance, and the roster makeup for camp reflects that.

"You can't take it for granted; I'd rather have too much depth," Jocketty said. "We need to stay healthy and play like we're capable."

Pitchers and catchers report

Feb. 12

Full squad reports

Feb. 15

First Spring Training game

at Indians, Feb. 22, 3:05 p.m. ET.

Opening Day

vs. Angels, April 1, 4:10 p.m. ET.

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. Will Aroldis Chapman transition successfully to the rotation?
As they re-signed Jonathan Broxton with the expectation to be the new closer, the Reds paved the way for Chapman to fulfill his original expectation to become a starting pitcher. Lots of other questions are tied to this issue -- namely just how the club will ramp up the left-hander's innings while also protecting his arm. And if he's part of the starting five, what will become of last year's fifth starter, Mike Leake?

Last spring, Chapman was the best starter in camp before injuries to the bullpen forced the club to use him as a reliever. Since his arrival in 2010, Chapman has always been a front-and-center attraction, and this spring should be no different.

2. Is Joey Votto's left knee 100 percent again?
It was clear last September, when Votto returned after missing 48 games because of two surgeries that repaired torn cartilage, that his left knee wasn't allowing Votto to do all that he could normally as a hitter. Votto lacked power and his usual ability to drive the ball. After an offseason of rest and continued rehabilitation, a healthy Votto would be a much-needed force again from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

3. How will Shin-Soo Choo handle center field?
Acquired from Cleveland to improve the Reds' fortunes from the leadoff spot, Choo will move out of his comfort zone in right field and become the new center fielder. It's a position he's played only 10 times in the Majors and none since 2009. The trade for Choo to replace the speedy but struggling Drew Stubbs showed that Cincinnati was willing to give up some defense for more offense, but the team does not want to give up too much defense.

2012 record
97-65, first in National League Central

Projected batting order
1. CF Shin-Soo Choo:
  .283 BA, .373 OBP, .441 SLG, 16 HR, 67 RBI in 2012
2. 2B Brandon Phillips:
  .281 BA, .321 OBP, .429 SLG, 18 HR, 77 RBI in 2012
3. 1B Joey Votto:
  .337 BA, .474 OBP, .567 SLG, 14 HR, 56 RBI in 2012
4. LF Ryan Ludwick:
  .275 BA, .346 OBP, .531 SLG, 26 HR, 80 RBI in 2012
5. RF Jay Bruce:
  .252 BA, .327 OBP, .514 SLG, 34 HR, 99 RBI in 2012
6. 3B Todd Frazier:
  .273 BA, .331 OBP, .498 SLG, 19 HR, 67 RBI in 2012
7. SS Zack Cozart:
  .246 BA, .288 OBP, .399 SLG, 15 HR, 35 RBI in 2012
8. C Ryan Hanigan:
  .274 BA, .365 OBP, .338 SLG, 2 HR, 24 RBI in 2012

Projected rotation
1. Johnny Cueto, 19-9, 2.78 ERA in 2012
2. Mat Latos, 14-4, 3.48 ERA in 2012
3. Bronson Arroyo, 12-10, 3.74 ERA in 2012
4. Homer Bailey, 13-10, 3.68 ERA in 2012
5. Aroldis Chapman, 5-5, 1.51 ERA in 2012

Projected bullpen
Closer: Jonathan Broxton, 27/33 saves, 2.48 ERA in 2012
RH setup man: Logan Ondrusek, 3.46 ERA in 2012
LH setup man: Sean Marshall, 2.51 ERA in 2012

The new guys
CF Shin-Soo Choo: Acquired in a three-team trade, Choo is expected to be around for one season before heading off as a free agent to richer pastures. But the Reds are hoping that for this one year, his skills at getting on base will be the catalyst from the leadoff spot that leads to more production for the middle of the order.

3B Jack Hannahan: Signed to a two-year, $4 million contract, the former Indians corner infielder will bring a left-handed bat to the bench and serve as a backup to Todd Frazier at third base.

LHP Manny Parra: A late free-agent acquisition signed last week to a one-year, $1 million contract, Parra could bring added depth from the left side in the bullpen. Once expected to be a rising star for Milwaukee's rotation, he made 62 relief appearances last season after missing all of 2011 with injuries. Perhaps a change of scenery could make Parra better in Cincinnati.

INF Jason Donald: Part of the Choo trade with the Indians, Donald is a light hitter but plays multiple positions around the infield and outfield.

SS Cesar Izturis: A non-roster invite after signing a Minor League contract, Izturis fits the mold of the defensive-minded veteran shortstop that manager Dusty Baker likes having on his bench each season.

C Miguel Olivo: Signed to a Minor League deal last week, Olivo should add veteran catching depth at Triple-A and be someone who could push for the No. 2 spot, if needed.

Prospects to watch
CF Billy Hamilton: This will be the first big league camp for Hamilton, who stole a professional-record 155 bases in 2012. There are no expectations that Hamilton will make the team, but it will provide a glimpse of what might be ahead in 2014. Playing center field is relatively new to the 22-year-old, who transitioned from shortstop in the offseason.

LHP Tony Cingrani: Impressive out of the bullpen last season as a September callup, Cingrani will return to starting and is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Louisville. Last season, after three promotions, he zoomed all the way from High A to the Majors. He would add quality depth just in case anything happened to the rotation.

RHP Daniel Corcino: Often compared to Cueto for having similar makeup and pitches, Corcino was 8-8 with a 3.01 ERA last season for Double-A Pensacola, and he should be able to upgrade to Louisville. This will be his second big league camp.

On the rebound
RHP Nick Masset: The Reds' primary set-up man since 2009, Masset sustained a shoulder injury during camp last year and wound up missing the whole season. He had shoulder surgery in September to repair a torn anterior capsule with the hopes of being ready for Spring Training this year.

C Devin Mesoraco: The organization's top prospect one year ago, Mesoraco did not have the impact rookie season many had awaited. He didn't come close, as he batted only .212 in 54 games as a backup to Ryan Hanigan.

Classic departures
2B Brandon Phillips: Picked to represent Team USA, Phillips is currently the lone big league player who will leave Reds camp to play in the World Baseball Classic. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Phillips said he prepared for the season earlier and a little differently to be ready not only for international play in March but also for the rigors of a 162-game season.

Long gone
3B Scott Rolen: This one remains questionable. Left shoulder and back injuries limited Rolen to 92 games last season after he played only 65 games in 2011. Set to turn 38 in April, Rolen was still contemplating a return for 2013, with the Reds a likely team to bring him back for a yet-to-be defined role. But as of now, his plans are uncertain.

CF Drew Stubbs: It was another rough season at the plate for Stubbs in 2012, as he sunk to a .213 average and seemed sapped of confidence. A first-round pick of the Reds in 2006, Stubbs had the speed and skills to be a good leadoff hitter, but his profound slumps and rampant strikeouts were no longer acceptable. The Reds included him in the trade that brought Choo to Cincinnati.

INF Miguel Cairo: A clubhouse favorite and behind-the-scenes leader, Cairo was indispensible from the bench in 2010-11, but the 38-year-old limped to a .187 average in 70 games last season.

INF Wilson Valdez: Acquired in a trade last winter from the Phillies for infield versatility, Valdez brought little to the table as a hitter while batting .206 in 77 games. He was non-tendered after the season.

LHP Bill Bray: Injuries marred much of Bray's time with the Reds since he was acquired as part of a blockbuster 2006 trade with the Nationals. After he came down with a groin injury in Spring Training last year, he was limited to only 14 appearances and 8 2/3 innings. He missed most of the rest of the year with groin and back injuries.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }