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Know Your Enemy: Cincinnati Reds

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Continuing our series on the Cubs' opponents this year with a look at a team that's made major pitching changes since last year.

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After having made the postseason three of four years from 2010-2013, the Reds fired Dusty Baker as manager. That likely resulted from Cincinnati's early playoff exits under Baker.

So they named pitching coach Bryan Price manager, and promptly dropped from 90 wins to 76. Now, don't blame Price. The Reds had tons of injuries in 2014, particularly to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, and had subpar years from other key contributors. They finished 13th in the National League in runs, but did all right pitching-wise, where they were fifth-best.

And what do they do then? Why, of course. Rip apart a starting rotation that was one of the best in the league. Mat Latos, who missed a lot of the year with an injury but who pitched well when he was active? Gone to the Marlins. Alfredo Simon, very good transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation? Gone to the Tigers.

The Reds hope they have good young starters to replace those two, and they might. Tony Cingrani, a Chicago-area native, had his moments and the team got another "Tony," Anthony DeSclafani, in the Latos deal. Both have promise, but are relatively unproven. Beyond that? Ugh. The next three on the Reds' starting depth chart are Dylan Axelrod, David Holmberg and Raisel Iglesias. Iglesias is 22, from Cuba and in his first professional season in the USA -- and was mostly a reliever in Cuba.

The bullpen is where the Reds are in good shape, with Aroldis Chapman still closing (and yes, I believe he should, because he doesn't seem to have the stamina to start), Sean Marshall returning, Pedro Villareal (who can throw 95-plus consistently) and one of my favorite current baseball names, Jumbo Diaz. Diaz, who is listed at 315 and might be the heaviest player in major-league history, once stole a base when he was at Triple-A Indianapolis. If you don't believe me, there is actual video proof (which is well worth watching; the link says "Jose" Diaz, but it's him).

Really, for the Reds to do anything this year it all depends on their offense recovering its previous level. That's entirely possible, but that's a lot of "ifs." Former Cub Marlon Byrd was acquired from the Phillies in a salary dump (had to be -- Philly just signed him to a three-year deal last offseason). Byrd is 37 and had another big power year in 2014 (25 home runs), but with a ghastly number of strikeouts (185 in 591 at-bats). Another ex-Cub, Kevin Gregg, is in Reds camp on a minor-league deal. That could be fun if/when the Cubs face him. That might not take long as the Cubs will face the Reds in Mesa on the spring's second day, Friday, March 6.

Finally, as you well know, the Reds have the most despicable broadcast team in the major leagues. Marty Brennaman has dissed the Cubs and Cubs fans many, many times on the air. He turns 73 this year and really, it's time for him to retire. I can't think of any team broadcaster -- not even Hawk Harrelson -- who says such awful things about his team's opponent. I realize he's just pandering to his fanbase, but so does Harrelson and he doesn't do what Marty does. And don't get me started on Thom Brennaman, either. Suffice to say I try to avoid listening to him at all costs.

The Cubs will face the Reds 19 times this year, and again, as with the Pirates, the schedule-makers do these teams no favors. They'll play twice in April (13-14-15 at Wrigley, 24-25-26 in Cincinnati), then not again until mid-June, four games at Wrigley. Next after that: three in Cincinnati after the All-Star break, then home-and-home sets in September.