This is Part 6 in the series of stories previewing Reds Spring Training on MLB.com. Today's edition covers three big questions.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The offseason was certainly a unique one to watch for Reds fans. It's not typical in recent history for the club to trade two popular All-Stars for Minor Leaguers while rumors consistently swirled about other prominent players who might have been moved and weren't.
Well, this Reds' offseason will soon have one thing in common with the other clubs -- it will finally be over. On Thursday, Cincinnati's pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
With the arrival of camp, the page will really be turned past departed stars Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman. The shroud of mystery about several of the new players on the team will quickly give way to more familiarity as they assimilate with those who return as part of a team in transition.
Any rebuilding team will certainly open a Spring Training with a lot of questions. Here are three of the bigger ones facing the Reds as they are set to open another camp:
1. Who will be on the pitching staff?
As covered in Part 4, the Reds have Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias locked in to lead a young rotation, with veteran Homer Bailey set to rejoin it in May following the completion of elbow surgery rehab. That leaves three open spots with a wide-open competition that could feature up to nine pitchers. The bullpen is an even more fluid situation with no roles decided. J.J. Hoover is the favorite to move from the eighth inning and replace Chapman as closer, but getting between a starter and Hoover will be especially key this year, as young pitchers are prone to racking up high pitch counts earlier in their outings.
2. Can Billy Hamilton find his swing?
Hamilton struggled as a leadoff hitter early last season, and then struggled even more after being moved down to the ninth spot in May. While his speed and quality of defense is undisputed, this will be a pivotal year for Hamilton to prove that he can hit consistently and get on base in the Major Leagues. As if that weren't enough to deal with, he will also be trying to come back from arthroscopic surgery that he had on his right throwing shoulder in late September.
3. Can other key veterans return to 100 percent?
Catcher Devin Mesoraco was limited to nine starts behind the plate because of a left hip injury that required surgery to repair a torn labrum. Shortstop Zack Cozart's 2015 season ended in June after he required reconstructive right knee surgery. With Frazier's 35-homer output missing, the contributions of both players are required for the Reds' lineup to be competitive. Both reported having strong offseason rehabs and expect to be ready for the start of camp, but exhibition games will provide the best test. Add in Bailey trying to come back from his second major arm surgery in less than a year, and Hamilton's shoulder, and the medical staff will have plenty to monitor in Goodyear.