Reds finding success while mixing and matching

Reds finding success while mixing and matching

Reds finding success while mixing and matching
CINCINNATI -- There are very few spots in the Reds' lineup that are guarantees anymore.

You can usually pencil in Brandon Phillips at second, Zack Cozart at short and Jay Bruce in right, but aside from those three spots, Cincinnati sees a different lineup nearly every game.

"We're just mixing and matching and trying not to let guys be off too long," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "I'm trying to keep guys strong and healthy and keep their timing to a degree."

Even the three usual starters aren't always assured a spot in the lineup, as Wilson Valdez got the nod at short over Cozart on Sunday.

Baker has successfully mixed and matched so far, leading his club to a season-high 14 games above .500 as of Sunday, with wins in 10 of its last 12.

Ryan Hanigan and rookie Devin Mesoraco share starting time behind the plate depending on who is pitching.

With Votto out, Todd Frazier and Miguel Cairo have filled in at first base. Frazier has also contributed behind Scott Rolen at third and Ryan Ludwick in left field.

Ludwick owns most of the starts in left, but has received his share of off-days to allow Frazier and Chris Heisey to grab some playing time.

"Coming over here, even all the way back to the offseason, one of the reasons I signed here is how deep this lineup is," Ludwick said. "It's a really deep lineup, especially when everyone is hitting. I don't think everyone has really hit yet. If we get one through eight hitting, it's going to be pretty."

Baker said balancing the roster, especially in the heart of the season, is a challenge, and player fatigue will play a crucial part in the Reds' run at the postseason.

"When guys are starting to drag, that's called dog days. This is very important in how we program these guys, and you hope that the opposition might have a different outlook on how to run the race, and run their guys in the ground, hopefully. Or they don't have the depth that we have, so I don't have to run them."

The Reds are entering a stretch of the season where they play 46 games in 49 days.

"This is all designed for this stretch of late July and August," Baker said. "In September, we'll get a little help and it'll get a little cooler, but this is the epitome of dog days coming up here. Every game is kind of a hard-fought-type game. We're playing some teams that are trying to stay in it, and when you're on top, they play their best against you."