CINCINNATI » Closer Francisco Cordero has to pass when asked what it’s like for the Cincinnati Reds to be in the playoffs.
In his long career, he’s never made it there. Same goes for most of his teammates.
These Reds are really green when it comes to the postseason. Bronson Arroyo is the only member of the playoff rotation who has pitched in the postseason. Catcher Ramon Hernandez, third baseman Scott Rolen and shortstop Orlando Cabrera are the only starting position players to get there.
The Reds open the playoffs tomorrow in Philadelphia, facing the two-time defending league champions who know all about the ultimate pressure. They won the World Series in 2008, got there again last year and lost to the Yankees in six games.
Cincinnati? Hasn’t made it past the regular season since 1995.
October is more than just an unfamiliar month for the NL Central champions. It’s a concern.
"Anything can happen with the nerves," said outfielder Jim Edmonds, who has playoff experience but might be too hurt to play. "I think the biggest thing for us is it’s the first time a lot of these guys have been involved and we’re going to have to calm them down and play baseball the way we know how to play it.
"That’s going to be the key for us. It’s not who we play, it’s how we play. And we’ll see how it goes."
The few who have been through it have some advice for the first-timers: Don’t get caught up in the moment.
REDS VS. PHILLIES
Best of five
"It’s going to be interesting the first game because they’re going to see the atmosphere, see the pressure, the intensity, and then they’re going to relax and play baseball," said Cabrera, who won the 2004 World Series with the Red Sox. "I think we took that approach a long time ago, at the beginning of the season. It’s a good thing for us. We don’t need to turn any switch on because I think we’ve been playing really well."
The rest of the roster will have to take his word on that.
"I’ve never been in the postseason," said the 35-year-old Cordero. "I’ve watched on TV, but it’s not the same. There’s a lot of young people and (veterans) like myself who have never been to the playoffs."
The Reds don’t have to set their playoff roster until tomorrow morning. They’re waiting to see how Edmonds’ right Achilles’ tendon feels. The 40-year-old outfielder injured it while rounding the bases on a homer on Sept. 21 and hasn’t played since.
Others with playoff experience: reserve infielder Miguel Cairo (three league championship series) and left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes (four league championship series).
The rest of them are trying to find comparisons to what they’ll experience. Right-hander Edinson Volquez will start the first game thinking it’s not much different than one of his winter baseball appearances in the Dominican Republic.
"I’m trying to be positive, like it’s a regular game for me," Volquez said yesterday. "I’ve been playing in the Dominican, where it’s crazy. It’s going to be loud and (fans) will make a lot of noise, but I’ll be ready for that."
Edmonds found that it’s not the noise, but the heightened intensity that starts with the first pitch and never lags.
"Being focused is the key," said Edmonds, who keeps to himself before playoff games. "It’s not being too excited and too hyper. You have to be focused and do your job each pitch. Every pitch is super important."
The Reds have a little history they can call upon as a reminder.
The 1990 Reds were full of newcomers and playoff first-timers when they reached the World Series against heavily favored Oakland. They swept the A’s in one of the most shocking World Series outcomes.
Edmonds experienced the same thing in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 105 games in 2004, but got swept in the World Series by Boston. The Cardinals barely made the playoffs in 2006 with 83 wins and ended up beating Detroit in five games for the World Series title.
"I’ve been on some great teams that didn’t win, and I’ve been on some really bad teams that won, actually won the World Series," Edmonds said. "You never know what’s going to happen when you get there. Every team’s vulnerable."
CINCINNATI VS. PHILADELPHIA
Season series: Phillies won 5-2.
Projected lineups – Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips (.275, 18 HRs, 59 RBIs, 16 SBs), SS Orlando Cabrera (.263, 4, 42), 1B Joey Votto (.324, 37, 113, led NL in slugging percentage at .600), 3B Scott Rolen (.285, 20, 83), LF Jonny Gomes (.266, 18, 86), RF Jay Bruce (.281, 25, 70), CF Drew Stubbs (.255, 22, 77, team-high 30 SBs), C Ramon Hernandez (.297, 7, 48). Phillies: SS Jimmy Rollins (.243, 8, 41 in 88 games), 3B Placido Polanco (.298, 6, 52), 2B Chase Utley (.275, 16, 65), 1B Ryan Howard (.276, 31, 108), RF Jayson Werth (.296, 27, 85), LF Raul Ibanez (.275, 16, 83), CF Shane Victorino (.259, 18, 69, 34 SBs), C Carlos Ruiz (.302, 8, 53).
Projected rotations – Reds: RH Edinson Volquez (4-3, 4.31 ERA in 12 starts after returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery in July), RH Bronson Arroyo (17-10, 3.88), RH Johnny Cueto (12-7, 3.64). Phillies: RH Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44, 9 CGs), RH Roy Oswalt (7-1, 1.74 in 13 games with Phillies after trade from Houston; 13-13, 2.76 overall), LH Cole Hamels (12-11, 3.06).
Relievers – Reds: RH Francisco Cordero (6-5, 3.84, 40/48 saves), LH Aroldis Chapman (2-2, 2.03 in 15 appearances), RH Nick Masset (4-4, 3.40), LH Arthur Rhodes (4-4, 2.29), RH Logan Ondrusek (5-0, 3.68), LH Bill Bray (0-2, 4.13), LH Travis Wood (5-4, 3.51 in 17 starts), RH Homer Bailey (4-3, 4.46 in 19 starts). Phillies: RH Brad Lidge (1-1, 2.96, 27/32 saves), RH Ryan Madson (6-2, 2.55, 5/10 saves), RH Jose Contreras (6-4, 3.34, 4/5 saves), RH Joe Blanton (9-6, 4.82 in 28 starts), LH J.C. Romero (1-0, 3.68, 3 saves), RH Chad Durbin (4-1, 3.80), LH Antonio Bastardo (2-0, 4.34).
Big Picture – Reds: Champions of the NL Central, the Reds are making their first playoff appearance since 1995, when they lost to Atlanta in the NL Championship Series under manager Davey Johnson. They went through three owners, five general managers and seven managers before finally making it back. … The Reds went 91-71, the first time they reached the 90-win mark since 1999, when they lost a one-game tiebreaker to the Mets for the NL wild card. … Baker is the second manager to take three NL teams to the playoffs, joining Bill McKechnie. Baker also went with the Giants and Cubs and has four division titles as a manager. … The starting pitching was slow to come around, leaving the Reds a season-high five games out on May 4. They pulled within three games of defending champion St. Louis on May 10, and the two teams were never separated by more than that until Aug. 19. The Reds pulled away by going 19-8 in August, opening a seven-game lead that essentially secured the title. … The Reds made the playoffs by beating up on bad teams. They were 61-30 against teams with losing records, 30-41 against clubs that were .500 or better. … Votto led the NL in slugging percentage at .600, finished second in batting at .324, third in homers with 37, and third with 113 RBIs, making him a leading MVP contender. Phillies: Coming off their fourth straight NL East title, the Phillies (97-65) are trying to become the first NL team to win three consecutive pennants since the St. Louis Cardinals did it from 1942 to ’44. Charlie Manuel’s team overcame a seven-game deficit on July 22 by going 49-19. … Injuries decimated the Phillies early, forcing six of the eight regulars to spend time on the disabled list. An offense that featured four hitters with 30 homers last year had only one this season. Howard led the team with 31 homers, far below his average of 49.5 over the previous four seasons. … The starting rotation is the best in the majors. With an extra day between games in the first round, the Phillies are going with their three aces in the series because each can pitch on normal rest. … A bullpen that struggled last year is a strength. Lidge bounced back from a poor season, and the Phillies were 85-2 when leading after eight innings. … Fans flocked to the ballpark in Philadelphia, selling out every game and setting a club attendance record.