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    1. When is Opening Day?
      1. The Bats open their season on the road in Columbus Thursday night. After four games in Columbus, they head to Toledo for a four game set.
    2. When is their home opener?
      1. Friday April 13th. Yes, that’s right, Friday the 13th. As if baseball players weren’t already superstitious enough.
    3. Are the promotions better, worse, or indifferent this season?
      1. The Bats have some crowd favorites returning to Slugger Field this season including Jake the Diamond Dog, the Zooperstars, Birdzerk, Red Panda, and Breakin’ BBoy McCoy. The Bats also return their great weekly lineup of promotions including $1 hot dogs and $1 Pepsis every Tuesday, Budweiser Happy Hour every Thursday, and fireworks every Friday. And, as always, the most anticipated promotion of the year will be Saturday, April 21—Thunder Over Louisville.
    4. Rick Sweet is gone. Who is the Bats new manager?
      1. David Bell is the Bats new manager. For those old enough to remember, yes, this is the same David Bell who played for the Louisville Redbirds back in the ‘90s.

    “(Louisville Slugger Field) is great,” Bell said. “The last time I was (in Louisville) was ‘95-‘96 when we were in (Old Cardinal Stadium). This looks like a great place to watch a game.”

    The best thing Bell brings to the table is his familiarity with the players on the team; Bell was the manager of the Reds’ Double-A team for the last three seasons, so he knows most of the players from their time in Double-A.

    “These guys know what to expect from me,” Bell said. “You can only talk so much. The true test is your actions. These guys have seen my actions and know what I’m about.”

    “He’s great,” infielder Chris Valaika said. “The short time I’ve been with him he’s been awesome. I’m excited to play for him.”

    Bell was an MLB third baseman who played for 12 seasons, so he knows what it takes to get players ready for the big leagues.

    “We’re one step away here,” he said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and this is a great time of year.”

    1. What kind of team will they have?
      1. Unlike past seasons the Bats will have more old mixed with the new for the 2012 season. Surrounding prospects such as Neftali Soto, Denis Phipps, and Nick Christiani are veteran players such as Dioner Navarro, Corky Miller, and Jeff Francis. In previous years, the Bats have been loaded with young players and commonly lacked the focus day-to-day during the season. That will definitely change with addition of some season major league veterans in the clubhouse.

    “There are a lot of big league players on this team,” outfielder Denis Phipps said. “We’ve got a good spot.”

    1. Will the bullpen woes from last year be solved?
      1. The easy answer is yes just for the simple fact that it’s really hard NOT to improve from a bullpen that blew 21 saves and posted a save percentage of just 67.2% last season. The bullpen looks to be improved from last year and pitching coach Ted Power loves the idea of having two veteran catchers in Navarro and Miller to groom the young guns.

    “We have two very, very experienced catchers,” Power said. “That always helps pitchers whether veteran or not.”

    Power said the younger guys of the staff will have a good example to follow in Jeff Francis—a veteran who knows what it takes to get to and succeed in the big leagues.

    One of the biggest challenges the Bats face is having their hands tied a lot of the time when it comes to who gets work in—which in turn creates, as Power put it, “a lot of unknowns.”

    “A lot of times the big league club has a starter they want to work a couple innings the next time there is an opening, so we have to shuffle our staff,” Power said. “The other thing is there are certain pitchers that the big league club wants to see pitch a little more than others. They call those priorities.”

    Power said the Bats will not have a specified closer, which leaves a question mark as to who will and how well Louisville will close out games this season.

    1. Will the Reds be moving players as much as they were last year?
      1. The Bats had a ridiculous 159 transactions last season (had just 132 in 2010), which caused a lot of fluidity and unfamiliarity amongst the clubhouse. This was a direct result of the injury bug plaguing the big league club. The Reds have a solid roster going into the 2012 season (as they did in 2011) so if the injury bug stays away, there’s no question the Bats will keep most of their players for the entirety of the season.
    2. Who are the big prospects to watch for this season?
      1. The Reds entire organization is littered with talented young players. There are many at the AAA level with the Bats including Denis Phipps and Neftali Soto. Phipps played the second half of the 2011 season with the Bats and hit .380/.428/.576 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 5 HR and 20 RBI in 40 games. Soto was promoted to the Bats late last season—playing in just 4 games. In 109 games with Carolina last season, Soto hit .272/.329/.575 with an astounding 30 HR and 76 RBI. Phipps and Soto will likely be the stars of this year’s version of the Bats.
    3. Will the Bats win their 4th division title in 5 years this season?
      1. They have a real good chance. As with last season, it looks like the Bats and division rival Columbus will have the most talented teams in the league. Last year the Bats went 12-9 against Columbus and posted a 36-28 overall record against their division but were 37-43 outside of their division. The Bats must improve their interdivision record if they are to contend for the division pennant.

    “Something that has to go through your mind is a championship,” Bell said of winning the division. “Then you have to come back to the moment and approach every game like it’s the most important game of the year.”

    1. What kind of Bats coverage can we expect from this season?
      1. is your new home for nightly game recaps, player interviews and features, fan polls, and, in general, all things Bats. Have a question, comment, or want to see your favorite player interview, feel free to drop us a line.

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    About Kevin Geary

    Avid fan of all things sports--especially the Louisville Bats. Lover of all things Louisville. 2007 graduate of Doss High School and future 2012 graduate of the University of Louisville.

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