I caught up with the Reds’ Caravan last week as they made a stop in Richmond, Indiana, and had the opportunity to interview manager Bryan Price about his thoughts concerning last season and a look at the year ahead.
The Cincinnati Reds got 110 starts from rookie pitchers last season. This gave the organization the chance to evaluate whether a pitcher was best suited as a starter or a reliever. They allowed the pitchers a chance to learn on the job.
“It gave us the real opportunity to pitch young guys even if they didn’t pitch very well,” Price said. “To come back and not look over their shoulder, not wondering if they’re going to be sent back down. There’s value in that, but as we start this next season our expectation is to compete. Can they throw strikes and give us a chance to win games?”
If you haven’t followed the Reds since the All-Star break last year, you may be surprised by some of the new players. It’s time for a late-game pitching change and out from the bullpen comes, who? The Reds need a pinch hitter in comes, who? That’s two of the places you will see new faces.
Left field, the starting rotation, the bullpen and the bench could be filled with unfamiliar names. Right now Price thinks left will be handled by a platoon of players. In the mix could be 23-year-old Reds farm hand Yorman Rodriguez; Adam Duvall, who was acquired in the Mike Leake trade and hit 30 home runs in AAA last season; and possibly Jesse Winker, who is ranked the No. 34 prospect in all of Major League Baseball by MLB.com.
The rotation could be made up of several players. Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias and John Lamb should be fighting for spots. Homer Bailey is doing well in his rehabilitation after Tommy John surgery and expected back in May. Some pitchers to watch for later in the season could be former first round pick Robert Stephenson and left hander Cody Ross, who was acquired in the Johnny Cueto deal.
“We know that J.J. Hoover is in our bullpen and going to pitch, but beyond that we don’t have a bunch of guys who are in that bullpen that we anticipate no doubt going to make our ball club,” Price said of the Reds’ bullpen. “We’ve had too much inconsistency and in the starting rotation, however, that was really youth based, inexperienced based. Coming into this next season guys like John Lamb, be it Keyvius Sampson, be it Jumbo Diaz, be it Blake Wood, who we signed has three years of major league experience from the Pirates. These guys can solidify spots on our ball club and really be impact pitchers, but they’ve got to be ready and be ready to get the job done. I think they can. There will be a lot of guys around the club that won’t make the club at AAA, ready to take jobs if they aren’t quite ready.”
There is a veteran group of players still on the team. Catcher Devin Mesoraco, first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips carry the leadership role along with outfielders Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton.
Price is happy with his lineup, but said the Reds must surround them with solid pitching and a quality bench.
“We have a great foundation for us,” Price said. “Veteran presence of guys who knew the teams of 2010, 2012, 2013. Know how to help introduce young guys to what our expectations are and what it’s like to win in Cincinnati.”
When asked about his expectations for 2016, Price very specifically pointed out what the Reds will have to do to win games this year.
“We must play hard and learn,” he said. “We’ve got to grow as a team. We’ve got to buy into a system where we extract every bit of ability out of the players and ourselves and find every small way to improve our club and the way we play. Take every extra base. Be in the right position for our pitchers on defense. Be able to execute a bunt play perfectly. To do the things that you have to do to win when you’re going to be in a lot of close ball games. The maturity of our pitching staff has to happen and happen rapidly.”