Two positions likely available for Reds’ Opening-Day roster

Ready or not, the 2018 major-league baseball season starts in 10 days.

Bryan Price knows who his 10 starting position players are. Yes, there are only eight for any given game, but Price considers four outfielders - Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker - starters. Catchers Tucker Barnhart and Devin Mesoraco will not be in a strict platoon but both have earned top honors at their positions. Mesoraco had injury problems the past three years but it is hard to tell by the way he’s performed this spring.

That leaves two Opening Day spots available, two or three bullpen jobs and two or three bench openings depending on the decision to carry seven relievers or eight.

The Reds sent top prospect Nick Senzel to the minor league camp to play more. He showed the Reds why he is a top prospect while he was competing in the Cactus League.

“He showed the ability to move around the diamond. He came in here and we asked him to play a lot of shortstop,” Price said. “Freddy Benevides is really excited about the progress he’s made at short. We already think very highly of him as a third baseman. As far as his strike zone discipline and his feel for the game, his instincts on the bases, everything was really, really good. He gives outstanding effort in every thing that he does.”

Senzel hit .278 with two doubles in 15 games.

• Robert Stephenson was better in the 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs Monday night but he has fallen behind Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, Amir Garrett and Cody Reed in the competition for the starting rotation.

Stephenson believed he did OK even though he gave up two runs in 3.2 innings and was bailed out by a couple of line drive double plays.

Stephenson allowed five hits, walked two, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and committed a balk. It was a busy night. He was surrounded by base runners for the first two innings.

“The results on the scoreboard weren’t exactly what I want but I was a lot happier with the way I pitched,” Stephenson said.

The last two innings were better. Stephenson fanned Contreras and Russell and took care of Almora on a lazy pop to first baseman, Joey Votto, who played the entire game. Ervin dropped a fly to deep center that he had to run down but he should have made the catch and was charged with an error. Stephenson finished by striking out Freeman and Court.

“It got better for Stephenson,” Price said.

• Spring training results don’t mean a lot for some players but are crucial to others. Joey Votto hasn’t had a lot of hits but he is getting on base like he usually does. Brandon Dixon, Alex Blandino and Phil Gosselin have had really good results but two of them will probably not make the team.

Blandino made nice plays in the field and is hitting .364. Dixon has played all over on defense and hit four home runs to go with his .351 average. Gosselin is hitting .306.

“I wouldn’t use Joey as the comp because he’s a established player,” Price said. “He knows what he wants to work on. I have total faith he’ll be ready.”

Ben Revere, David Hernandez, Jared Hughes and Phil Gosselin fit into the latter category.

Ben Revere is hitting just .136 but has an eight-year track record. Revere is a close second to Billy Hamilton both with the glove and on the base paths. He made a terrific diving catch against the Cubs on Monday.

Phil Ervin is also having a fine spring. If the Reds decide to have a five-man bench, he could be the fifth outfielder. The decision is whether to use an option and let him play every day in Louisville. He is hitting .278 and played all three outfield positions.

“I really like Ervin,” Price said. “I believe he can be a good every day outfielder.”

• Against Cubs starter Jon Lester on Monday, Mesoraco had two hits and is hitting .355. Jose Peraza had three hits and is now at .310, Scooter Gennett was 3-for-3 to raise his average to .345. Barnhart is hitting .367. Schebler is at .515. Winker is hitting .378.

About the Author