The Reds head northeast in 12 days but they have 21 days to finalize the roster. They won’t need a fifth starter until April 9 with two off days in the first week.
Bryan Price wants to have a five-man bench but to do that he must have good starting pitching that eats innings so it won’t wear out an eight-man bullpen. That has been a huge challenge for Price the last three seasons.
The decisions to be made are, two starting pitchers, one or two bullpen slots and three bench players.
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Anthony DeSclafani will not be ready and will be likely headed for the bullpen. Brandon Finnegan has been a week behind since camp opened. A knot in his biceps last Sunday, kept him behind.
Finnegan threw a light bullpen of 15 pitches on Friday. He was cleared to throw another one Sunday.
“If everything goes well tomorrow (Sunday) we can anticipate finding a way to slide him into a game,” Price said. “If the goal was to have him ready for the ninth, I’d say he’d be ready. If his goal was to be on the Opening Day roster that would be a challenge.”
That leaves two spots open unless Finnegan has another setback which would make it three pitchers needed to join Homer Bailey and Luis Castillo.
Sal Romano, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed and Tyler Mahle have been consistently good this spring. Michael Lorenzen and Robert Stephenson have struggled.
If Reed and Lorenzen don’t earn a spot in the rotation, they are ticketed for the bullpen, barring a surprise in the last dozen days.
“We’ve had some good performances from the starters, who have been healthy,” Price said.
Price named four pitchers, who will start the season in the Major League bullpen, barring the unforeseen of course, Raisel Iglasias, Wandy Peralta, David Hernandez and Jared Hughes.
Add Lorenzen and Reed if they don’t make the team. Kevin Shackelford, Zack Weiss, Vance Worley, Dylan Floro , Austin Brice and Oliver Perez are left in the competition.
The Reds signed Oliver Perez with the idea of providing a left-handed specialist.
“I’m looking forward to the competition,” Price said. “It’s really interesting to see the last week or 10 days when guys are still in the hunt to see how they handle the pressure. The pressure isn’t any less than making it to the big leagues with the role you’ve got to fill.”
Devin Mesoraco will backup Tucker Barnhart. The Reds will rotate four outfielders, Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker. That leaves two spots with a nine-man bullpen and three with an eight-man bullpen.
“From day to day there is going to be a different look to the bench because of the two catchers and the four-man outfield,” Price said. “Trying to define the usability of those other pieces. The shortstop, somebody to play shortstop, if (Jose) Peraza needs a day or there’s an injury. With the two other spots it is trying to define. Does a player hit left-handed? Do they run? Does their swing allow them to hit off the bench?”
Price is referring to a repeatable short swing that doesn’t need constant at bats to maintain.
“Speed and the ability to play multiple positions is a key component to one of our bench guys,” Price said.
The Reds have to consider the younger players who need more at bats to develop.
“It’s tough. There are some guys I really like,” Price said. “(Phillip) Ervin is a guy, I like a lot. He’s had a nice spring. How much playing time unless there’s an injury can he get playing outfield only? He is a really good player waiting to break out. (Sebastian) Elizalde has had a nice spring and kind of fits that simple swing component. He hits right-handed and left-handed pitching. He’s not overwhelmed. (Phil) Gosselin is a proven bench player. (Alex) Blandino has had a nice spring. He can play second, third and a little short.”
The Reds optioned C Stuart Turner, LHP Kyle Crockett and RHP Jimmy Herget to Triple A Louisville.
“We challenged Herget to find a way to be more effective against left-handed hitters,” Price said. “I think he’s going to be an effective big league reliever. I expect to see him this year. We didn’t see the best out of Kyle. He made the big leagues with Cleveland. He’s been a strike thrower. We challenged him to be quicker to the plate and control the running game better than he did in camp.”
Turner had to stay on 25-man roster or be sent back to Minnesota but got very little playing time in 2017 as an insurance plan for the recovering Devin Mesoraco.
“This is a chance for him to get his swing back,” Price said.