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Reds looking to answer 3 big questions as spring arrives

Uncertainties remain with Votto, starting rotation, Cueto

CINCINNATI -- The impatient wait is just about over for baseball fans. Spring Training opens at the Reds' player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., on Wednesday with the reporting of pitchers and catchers. By Thursday, the first workout will be underway, and there will be familiar sights of players throwing and the sounds of gloves popping.

Throughout a series of stories previewing Spring Training on, we've taken a look at players who need to rebound, new players on the roster, prospects to watch, an overview of the big picture and projected lineups.

Next comes three big questions the Reds hope to answer. Every club heading into a camp always has questions -- some more than others.

The Reds certainly have their fair share of things to mull over, especially coming off of a disappointing 2014 season. That being said, the majority of the spots are locked up, and there are precious few openings for competition.

Here are three of the more important questions facing the Reds as they prepare to begin Spring Training:

1. Is Joey Votto healthy and ready to lead the offense?
For most Reds fans, there is no question more important than this. Votto was limited to 62 games in 2014 because of a distal strain of his left quadriceps, and the offense suffered without his usual production. Reports have been limited about Votto's progress during the offseason, but the club has been positive and optimistic that he will be healthy and ready to give full participation in camp. The only way to satisfy curiosity over Votto is for him to be on the field and hitting without limitations. It should be noted that after his 2012 injury, he returned the following season and played all 162 games.

2. Who will form the bottom two of the starting rotation?
With Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon traded, the Reds have two spots open -- likely for the fourth and fifth spots of the rotation. Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani (acquired from Miami in the Latos trade) are viewed as the leading candidates. Veterans Jason Marquis and Paul Maholm will be in the mix, as will Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg. The big X-factor is Cuban pitcher Raisel Iglesias, who didn't pitch much last year but could win a spot with a great camp.

3. Can the Reds sign Johnny Cueto?
In the $10 million option year of his contract, Cueto set an Opening Day deadline with the Reds to sign an extension or he would become a free agent after the season. If unsigned to a long-term deal, it would mean the rotation ace would become a likely short-timer with the club. Cueto set the deadline to avoid in-season distractions, but speculation will likely be rampant during camp. Because the small-market Reds were able to sign Votto and pitcher Homer Bailey to mega-contracts in the past, they can't be completely counted out to strike a deal with Cueto. But economics and a pitching-starved open market have the odds stacked against Cincinnati.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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