The strange, unfamiliar spring training jerseys are replaced with the usual style, the names on the lineup card are no longer hard-to-spell minor leaguers and most importantly n the games begin to count.
Opening day in baseball is like no other professional sport. The of hope for a playoff berth or World Series title runs as strong on opening day in Milwaukee as it does in New York.
Opening day in Cincinnati, is like not other opening day in baseball. The city kicks off the celebration with a parade, airplanes fly overhead with ad banners, bands perform on Fountain Square n and all this happens before the players even head out for batting practice.
One problem for the Reds in recent years however has been finding a way to win on opening day. The Reds were 2-6-1 over their last 10 openers before beating the Cubs on Monday.
More importantly than that, winning games at all has become a problem for Cincinnati. The Reds went 80-82 last season and haven't had a winning season in six years, their longest drought since the 1950s. During the drought the Reds have lacked consistent pitching, a situation that seems, in part at least, to have been fixed.
Aaron Harang looked great on Monday, pitching seven innings without giving up an earned run. On Wednesday, the Reds turn to all-star Bronson Arroyo, giving the Reds one of the top one-two punches in baseball.
The Reds success depends as much on those two however, as it does on the bottom two in the rotation and the bullpen.
Kyle Lohse, the No. 3 starter, has given up homeruns in 184 career games but his 4.86 ERA is at lease reasonable in the offense-first era. Matt Belisle has a similar ERA but is less proven as a starter. Belisle was a decent middle-reliever and looked good in two starts near the end of the 2006 season but time will tell how the switch works out. The last major reliever-to-starter rotation of Danny Graves ended with a frustrated Graves making obscene gestures while watching his pitching ability plummet.
Further, the Reds have no closer. David Weathers and Kirk Saarloos both looked good on opening day and Reds' manager Jerry Narron has been toting the “closer by committee” line but any casual fan of baseball knows that's just coach-speak for “I haven't figured out what to do about a closer.”
If the pitching holds up the offense looks fine. After being shifted from his long-time spot in centerfield, look for Ken Griffey Jr. to have a chip on his shoulder. Also of interest, if Griffey hits 37 homers this year he will reach 600 for his career.
Adam Dunn has worked on his at-the-plate discipline and he's already a homerun machine. Ryan Freel is leading off, Brandon Phillips is batting high in the order and their No. 1 bench player, Josh Hamilton, batted over .400 in spring training.
A lot of things can happen over the next 161 games, but with one game down, this year could very well have a “Red” October.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org