Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams, who promised to bring the best team to Cincinnati to open the season, was asked directly if Major League service time was a factor.
“No. This is the hardest cut I can remember,” Williams said. “With Nick in particular, it is the recognition that he exceeded expectations this spring. …He’s literally been in 12 games, we owe it to him to him to get the opportunity to get better.”
The Reds also reassigned pitchers Cody Reed, Sal Romano, Lucas Sims and Ian Krol to minor league camp, leaving the starting rotation set with the addition of Tyler Mahle. There are five pitchers — Wandy Peralta, Anthony Bass, Matt Bowman, Robert Stevenson and Matt Wisler — left to compete for the last two bullpen spots. Stevenson and Wisler are out of options. They could be exposed to waivers if they are not on the roster. Reed and Romano will both pitch out of Louisville’s bullpen.
»MCCOY: Sorting out Reds’ crowded outfield
“We’d like to have this decided before we get to Atlanta but we want to be sure we make the best decision possible,” Bell said.
Catcher Juan Graterol, infielder/catcher, Kyle Farmer, infielder Blake Trahan and outfielder Phil Ervin also were reassigned.
“These are guys that a lot of teams would be happy to have,” Williams said. “They all had good springs. It just speaks to the depth of our team. The list of outfielders on the team all had good springs.”
The infield of Scooter Gennett, Joey Votto, Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez has been set since the camp opened along with catcher Tucker Barnhart.
Catcher Curt Casali and infielders Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias, who have not been formally added to the roster because they signed minor league contracts, will make up the bench, along with the fourth outfielder.
The Reds cleared a roster spot Thursday for Dietrich or Iglesias by trading Rule V player, Connor Joe, to the San Francisco Giants for minor league pitcher Jordan Johnson.
The Reds will have a four-man outfield of Jesse Winker, Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler and Yasiel Puig.
»RELATED: Depth makes roster decisions difficult
“They will all get a lot of opportunity to play,” Bell said. “This is all so new but I wouldn’t call it a platoon. It will be mostly matching up and getting guys in the right situations to succeed.”
Starting pitcher Alex Wood and infielder Alex Blandino are most likely to start the season on the disabled list.
The Reds could have gone without a fifth starter until April 6 but have decided that Mahle will take Wood’s place in the rotation. Mahle will pitch Game No. 5 on April 2 against Milwaukee.
“The way Mahle was pitching was a factor in choosing him,” Bell said, “(but) how we feel about Tyler is another. We could have gone with four starters, but in the end, we see the benefit of a five man rotation. The extra rest for each starter, especially early in year. It doesn’t seem like you need it that early but I think we will look back be glad we did it. There will be plenty of long stretches without a day off during the season.”
The Reds will start the season with the only rookie being the manager. The past few seasons the Reds have set franchise records for games started by rookie pitchers. Last season there were five rookies on the Opening Day roster.
“It’s a veteran team but it’s a young team. It is the best of both worlds,” Bell said.
Reds vs. Indians, 4:05 p.m., FS Ohio