On some days, this is the best club in baseball—depending on who's pitching. Except for pitching (and disregarding their inadequate reserves), the Reds have a fabulous baseball team. Roy McMillan is the finest fielding shortstop in the major leagues. Johnny Temple is an alert, run-scoring, play-making second baseman. Gus Bell and Wally Post are two of the hardest hitting outfielders extant, and both are top-flight fielders. Fat little Smoky Burgess is, after Campanella, the best-hitting catcher in the National League. And Ted Kluszewski, that impressive mass of muscle, is one of the really great batsmen (he has averaged 45 homers a year for the last three seasons). But Redleg pitching, aside from All-Star Joe Nuxhall, is nightmarishly uncertain. Because of it and the substandard bench this collection of fine players will be lucky to finish higher than fifth.
11 ROY McMILLAN, SHORTSTOP: He turns the apparently mundane routine of fielding a ground ball into something near beauty and is improving as a hitter.
18 TED KLUSZEWSKI, FIRST BASE: Huge (242 hard pounds) Klu is big man in the big Cincinnati attack, an old-fashioned cleanup hitter. But he pulled a muscle high in his thigh in early training and has been hampered by it.
28 WALLY POST, RIGHT FIELD: Relatively unpublicized but one of hardest hitters in baseball. Players stop to watch him bat in practice. Hit 40 homers last year, drove in 109 runs. Superb throwing arm.
39 JOE NUXHALL, PITCHER: Pitched briefly in majors at 15 in 1944 but departed then until 1952. Big, left-handed fast bailer, won 17 games last year, is stopper. His good fast ball may put him in 20-game class this season.
Gus Bell, who rates with Willie Mays and Duke Snider as a breathtaking center fielder, has batted in more than 100 runs annually over past three years, is another key Redleg. So is scrappy Johnny Temple, who is a hitting-fielding second baseman, a real rarity nowadays. Reds count on good-hit, poor-field Ray Jablonski to fill weak spot at third and hope hard-hitting Burgess' bat makes up for fielding lapses behind plate. Matt Batts and Ed Bailey are better catchers but neither can hit. Other reserves include Chuck Harmon, Rocky Bridges, Stan Palys, Bob Thurman, who have gloves but no bats. As for pitching, after Nuxhall the Reds pin hopes on Veterans Art Fowler and John Klippstein, on ex-Brooklyn Reliever Joe Black, and on Brooks Lawrence and Hal Jeffcoat (below). Tebbetts says of last three: "They all had it once. I just hope they can come up with it again."
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
20 FRANK ROBINSON, LEFT FIELD: Tremendous prospect, but hurt shoulder throwing and now babies once-powerful arm. A question mark, but looked good in spring training.
42 HAL JEFFCOAT, PITCHER: Came from Cubs in trade. Former outfielder. Fine competitor. Keeps ball low. Pitched good relief ball for Cubs first half of '55.
46 BROOKS LAWRENCE, PITCHER: Obtained from Cardinals. Won 15 games in '54, developed ulcers last year, lost his stuff. Big man, throws hard, looked good in training.
In camp Redlegs had fine-looking young lefty in Charley Rabe and a remarkable 18-year-old youngster named Curtis Flood, who is marked "Deliver to majors in three years."
BOARD OF STRATEGY
1 George (Birdie) Tebbetts, who was a shrewd major league catcher for 14 seasons, took over Redlegs in 1954 and led team to most wins they'd had in decade. An intelligent, articulate man, Tebbetts has sharp tongue but has kept it pretty well in check as manager. His coaches include wry JIMMY DYKES (4), former White Sox, Athletics and Orioles pilot, TOM FERRICK (3), who is pitching coach, and FRANK McCORMICK (2), ex-Red star.
1 BIRDIE TEBBETTS