The ace of the Reds has four pitches, none above average. His favorite is a tricky little cut fastball. His two-seamer, which tops out at 92 mph, is designed to drop. Often it doesn't; last year he allowed a team-high 32 homers in 34 games. His changeup is as good as his English, which he doesn't speak much. Mostly he gets by on grit and know-how.
The ace of the Reds believes Cincinnati can hang with the Astros, Cardinals and Cubs in the Central Division. So does manager Bob Boone. The popular reasoning? "The way I see it," says catcher Kelly Stinnett, "we have five Number 3 starters. If those guys can get us through six innings, the bullpen can take over."
Indeed, the Reds' strength is a tested relief corps that led the National League with 567? innings pitched and a 3.71 ERA in 2001. The bullpen will benefit from the return of Scott Williamson, perhaps the most gifted man on Gullett's staff. Last year he made the jump from middleman to the rotation, only to have his elbow explode in his second start. He underwent Tommy John surgery a few days later. Were Williamson to move into the rotation this year, he would immediately leapfrog Dessens to the No. 1 spot. Boone, however, will be patient. "Too many guys have rushed back and hurt themselves," he says. "We won't make that mistake with Scott. We'll stick with the starters we have."
The ace of the Reds doesn't consider himself the ace of the Reds. "I don't stand out," Dessens says. "We have a lot of starters like me." The ace of the Reds is correct.
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