Apr 8, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) flips a ball to first to get out St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. Cincinnati defeated St. Louis 13-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Series Six-Pack: "Mark Prior is still a 'pipe dream'"

The Phillies move on to Cincinnati, the ‘Miami of Ohio’ as it is called by the impossibly mundane who have never been to Miami.

There won’t even be one of those off days in between for people to have entire 24 hour periods to assemble their Series Six-Packs.  No matter.  John Rentz of Blog Red Machine was up to the task, and withstood the forcefulness of my inquiries like a pro.

We in Philadelphia know a little something about panic. If too many young people converge on an intersection, we know they’re probably going to start punching each other. We also panic about sports, due to massive insecurities. So I ask you, who should be panicking more: a Reds team expected to do big things who just dropped five in a row, or a Phillies team expected to be .500 sitting at .500?

April 14, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) runs the bases against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Honest answer: neither team should be panicking (yet).

If anything, the Phillies fans should actually be happy to be sitting where they are so far with some true positives in the past week or so (I know, probably asking too much). While Reds fans *shouldn’t be panicking* with the recent sequence of bad events, many of them already are. Unnecessary, mind you, but they are. Yes, MANY things went wrong with the recent skid, marked notably by really spotty relief pitching, which *should* be a team strength. The offense has been far more proficient than a year ago, and, to that point, I’m really happy to see it.

As two teams, both seeing “IS IT TIME TO PANIC?!” in the headlines on probably a daily basis, what/when would be a good reason/time to definitely start panicking?

If history teaches anything, a team left for dead, even as late as mid-August, probably isn’t really dead if they aren’t mathematically eliminated. However, a “realistic” time for true fan panic to creep is probably by late-June, especially if facing a deficit of 5-10 or more games and if the same deficiencies now have only been amplified.

The hard part to face right now, especially for Reds fans, is the rash of injuries to some really key players – starting with Ryan Ludwick’s dislocated shoulder and labrium tear on Opening Day (a LONG absence), “shoulder fatigue” in a bullpen steady arm like Sean Marshall, and most recently losing Johnny Cueto to what might be a recurring problem (reminiscent of what knocked him out of last fall’s NLDS).

Compound those troubles with any more red flags (including a bullpen that is getting too much work with so-so results) and the jiggly wheels on the wagon might just fall off.

How likely is it that we see Billy Hamilton cross over to the Big Club this season? And how much does his comparison to Roman Quinn drive you mad?

Feb 22, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) walks through the dugout during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Chances of Billy Hamilton in the majors in 2013? Slim to none.

Hamilton hasn’t had a season above AA until this year, and, while the Reds *could* make him jump quickly through AAA Louisville en route to Cincinnati, he hasn’t proven to nail the fundamentals of hitting just yet (including proficiency as a bunter at the higher(est) levels) while being a hitter from both sides of the plate. More importantly, he’s still making the transition to CF, where he’ll probably be most valuable if a full year in AAA goes well. If he got really hot at his current level, he could possibly be around by late August (to be potentially post-season eligible); however, he’s more likely a September call-up when rosters expand if all things stay the same.

I can say with complete candor I’d never heard of Roman Quinn before glancing at that piece … so, if there’s another up-and-coming speedster who also happens to have more pop than Hamilton does, more power to him and best of luck.

I didn’t read this thing, but it seems to hint that a Mark Prior comeback could be possible, and it just might save the Reds season. Your thoughts.

Mark Prior is still a “pipe dream” to a lot of fans, who want to see a guy get another chance who had so much potential.

Simultaneously, they want that “redemption” to come in tandem somehow with the guy they associate causing his problems in the first place – Dusty Baker. I think a Prior return adds all kinds of intrigue if he really is healthy again and could really be a sleeper benefit to this club if we see ANY sign of the Prior of old, but, if he comes up prematurely and the bus is spinning out of control at the MLB level, he’ll only add fuel to the fire of the chaos that could ensue and unnecessary questions for Baker.

How much of a howling black hole in your rotation does Johnny Cueto’s tricep injury create?

Cueto being absent is an unquestionable loss. It was evident in the NLDS (even if they did happen to win the game he started by sheer perseverance) but will be worse if this absence extends beyond a 15-day DL stint.

Losing a starter to a short DL time isn’t earth-shattering (really only 2-3 starts if the schedule plays right), BUT the Reds are in the midst, starting with this past weekend’s Pittsburgh set (and debacle), of 20 straight games without a break. It’s a grueling stretch against mostly tough opponents.

The big hope is that inevitable call-up Tony Cingrani makes good on his own potential to plug that gap at least until Cueto can come back, hopefully sooner rather than later.

As an outsider, what is your take on the Phillies touted rotation in 2013? Remember, Doc just threw eight innings of one-run ball so he doesn’t suck anymore, and also Cole Hamels doesn’t actually suck either, he’s just – according to the radio – got his deal, so he’s taking the year off now.

June 2, 2012; Round Rock, TX, USA; Round Rock Express pitcher Roy Oswalt (51) warms up prior to a game against the Albuquerque Isotopes at the Dell Diamond. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Again, personal honesty here – not as daunting as it was heading before 2011. The combination of Halladay-Lee-Oswalt-Hamels was, to me personally, as scary as it got.

Doc isn’t the same Doc I remember from the years pre-2012 when he was as dominant as it got and arguably the best pitcher in the game. He’s a shell of that now, and, without his dominating strikeout numbers, I can’t see him as some “new Greg Maddux” finesse / location guy. Maybe I’m wrong (for the sake of the Phillies).

Obviously, Oswalt is already a season-plus removed (ditto the “sad to see him go” label, maybe not to be seen again anywhere).

However, with regards to the rest, Cliff Lee (whom the Reds will face tonight) is clearly the cream of the crop, and I’m confident in his chances (Reds perpetually struggle against tough lefties, and Lee has owned them in the past for the most part). I’ve been supportive of Hamels over the years, even he’ll be perpetually “underrated” or maybe “underachieving” depending on one’s perspective.

Kendrick is an interesting pitcher, and I won’t lie that he provided me some fantasy benefit as a mid-season pickup last year (so I’m on the “plus” side for him) and see his potential just starting to be realized. As for Lannan, I’ve only watched him in limited time with the Nationals (only made 6 appearances late in 2012, none against Cincinnati, so I can’t say I’ve seen him much since his 2011 season).

The Phillies will almost assuredly benefit from the plethora of lefties that a large majority of teams simply don’t have … especially in the series they’re about to start with the Reds.

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