Opposite dugout: Pitching still poses biggest problem as Reds' rebuild comes together

reds-logo.pngManager: Bryan Price (5th season)

Record: 68-94 (5th in NL Central in 2017)

Last 10 games: Season opener

Who to watch: 1B Joey Votto (.320/.454/.578 with 36 HR, 100 RBIs), 2B Scooter Gennett (.295/.342/.531 with 27 HR, 97 RBIs), 3B Eugenio Suárez (26 HR, 82 RBIs), RHP Luis Castillo (3-7, 3.12 ERA), RHP Raisel Iglesias (2.49 ERA, 28 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (1-6 in 2017)

Pitching probables:

March 30: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Homer Bailey, 4:10 p.m., MASN
March 31: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP Luis Castillo, 2:10 p.m., MASN
April 1: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Sal Romano , 4:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Reds:

It's a new season (finally after Thursday's rainout of opening day), which means a fresh start for all 30 major league teams. That's both good and bad news for the Reds faithful entering the 2018 campaign. The good: The Reds' young talent has another season under their belts and will be able to display their growth. The bad: The Reds are, once again, not expected to contend, with a fifth straight postseason absence and perhaps fourth straight last-place finish in the National League Central a popular pick for the Redlegs.

The bats, however, weren't the reason the Reds struggled to win last year. Cincinnati's offense ranked in the NL's top 10 in most major statistical categories in 2017. First baseman Joey Votto led the way with an incredible season, earning him a second-place finish in NL MVP voting. Votto's slash line of .320/.454/.578, 36 home runs and 100 RBIs were surely impressive, but he finished just two points behind then-Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who took home the hardware.

Second baseman Scooter Gennett enjoyed the best season of his career - his first with the Reds - in 2017. The 27-year-old slashed .295/.342/.531 and posted career highs in home runs (27) and RBIs (97). Third baseman Eugenio Suárez also had career highs in homers (26) and RBIs (82), which earned him a seven-year, $66 million extension with a team option for 2025. Adam Duvall (31 home runs, 99 RBIs) and Scott Schebler (30 home runs, 67 RBIs) are power threats, while Billy Hamilton stole 59 bases last year, second-most in all of baseball.

Now to the pitching, which was the Reds' downfall last year. The complete opposite of the bats, the pitching staff finished last in the league in almost every major statistical category. The starting rotation only accumulated a major league-worst 820 innings (for comparison, the Nationals rotation led the majors with 937), and no Reds pitcher topped 125 innings (the Nationals had four top 175).

Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani injured his left oblique for the third straight spring training and will be out for the foreseeable future, so Homer Bailey gets the opening day assignment at Great American Ball Park. The 31-year-old right-hander has been limited to 26 starts over the last three seasons due to forearm and elbow injuries. In just 18 starts last year, he went 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA and gave up 16 runs in just 5 2/3 innings in two losses to the Nationals. Highly touted prospect Luis Castillo gets Saturday's afternoon start. The 25-year-old right-hander finished his first big league season 3-7 with a 3.12 ERA, good enough to earn him a single third-place NL Rookie of the Year vote. He went 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against the Nats. Sal Romano will take over for fellow rookie right-hander Tyler Mahle, who was scratched from his scheduled start when opening day was postponed, for Sunday's series finale. Romano posted a 5-8 record and 4.45 ERA in 16 starts last year, none against the Nationals, highlighted by eight shutout innings against the Pirates on Sept. 16.

Who bridges the gap between the starting pitcher and closer Raisel Iglesias may be a revolving door this season. But if the Reds manage to get to the ninth with the lead, it figures to be safe more often than not. Iglesias recorded 28 saves with a 2.49 ERA last season as one of the best young closers in the game.

Scherzer's ready - for whatever comes his way (upd...
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