Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds' Spring Training To-Do List

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2014

Cincinnati Reds' Spring Training To-Do List

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    After an offseason full of minor moves by the Cincinnati Reds, spring training is finally here.

    Cincinnati has the luxury of keeping the team together, thanks to a young core. The team got even younger this winter after veterans Bronson Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo signed elsewhere.

    This team doesn't have much to do this spring. There aren't any openings up for grab in the lineup, rotation or bullpen. Now it's all about getting everything put together and organized.

    With about a month-and-a-half until Opening Day, the Reds still have a few things they need to do to prepare for the 2014 MLB season.

    Let's take a look at what the Reds still have to do before the regular season gets underway.

     

    All stats are via MLB.com.

Settle Final Bench Spot

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The only spot projected to be up for grabs is the final bench spot. However, there is one less potential contender for the job.

    Infielder Henry Rodriguez was designated for assignment last week, as The Cincinnati Enquirer's Dave Clark wrote. He had an outside shot of making the club to back up Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier.

    Now the competition seemingly comes down to three players who are on minor league deals: infielder Ramon Santiago, infielder Chris Nelson and outfielder Roger Bernadina.

    There may be three names in the mix, but barring a spectacular spring, Bernadina has very little chance of making the roster. The team has plenty of outfielders on its roster, but it could use some more infield help.

    Neither Santiago nor Nelson are much of a threat with the bat. Santiago hit .224 with only 10 extra-base hits in 80 games with the Detroit Tigers last season, and Nelson hit .227 with three home runs, four doubles and four triples while playing for three teams in 2013.  

    Based on potential, Nelson may be the better pick. He hit .301/.352/.458 with nine homers, 21 doubles and three triples in 2012 with the Colorado Rockies. The 28-year-old could be a nice addition to the bench if he can get back to hitting like that.

    It may be out of his control, though. Cincinnati wanted a switch-hitting infielder, via MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. That exactly what it got in Santiago. He can hit from both sides of the plate and play shortstop.

    Nelson has appeared in only three games at shortstop in the majors. He did appear in 532 games at the position—with 155 errorsin the minors, but most of those appearances came during the early years of his career.

    Given the lack of depth behind Zack Cozart, the position battle could come down to need rather than potential at the plate.

Get Healthy

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    Injuries are often out of a team's control, but Cincinnati needs to do everything in its power to get healthy in the coming weeks.

    Spring training could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Reds.

    A few days before pitchers and catchers were required to report to camp, Mat Latos slipped while tossing and tore meniscus cartilage, via MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. On Friday, Latos underwent minor knee surgery and is expected to resume throwing in 10 days.

    Sure, he may be ready to get back to throwing soon. However, will he be ready for Opening Day?

    "We'll just see how he progresses," Walt Jocketty said, via Sheldon. "Right now, I can't say whether it would or not. We don't think so, but we'll see."

    Latos was walking around without crutches or pain the day after the surgery, via Sheldon. The 26-year-old weighed in on when he would be ready:

    There's really no rush to get back. We're not going to win a championship in April. That being said, I would love to be out there Opening Day and pitching against the Cardinals. I guess a good sign is you see me up and walking around.

    [...]

    We're just going to play it by ear. Kremchek says seven to 10 days when I'm actually able to start throwing on it. He's the doctor, not me. I just throw a baseball for a living.

    The right-hander was also rehabbing his right arm after having bone chips removed shortly after the season. Now he has to find a way to rehab both injuries in six weeks.

    Cincinnati does not need a fifth starter until April 9 in St. Louis. That gives Latos a few more days to get ready to go before he is really needed. If he's not ready by then, the Reds will need to figure out what to do. His health is more important than rushing him back, but he is a key member of the rotation.

    Latos' injury will get all of the attention, but the Reds have a few injuries from last season that they need to put behind them.

    Sheldon also provided updates to Cincinnati's two setup men—right-hander Jonathan Broxton and left-hander Sean Marshall.

    Broxton needed surgery to repair a torn muscle in his right forearm in August. He is doing a throwing program and could be pitching off a mound by the end of the month. His status for Opening Day is up in the air.

    Marshall had shoulder tendinitis that limited him to only 16 appearances last season. He is at "full go" after cutting back on the workload this winter. There could be an unexpected setback, but it sounds like he will be ready to go come March 31.

    The Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reported that right-hander Johnny Cueto does not have any lingering effects from his lat injury that began in 2012.

    Cincinnati's pitching staff is working hard to get healthy by Opening Day. The schedule isn't very forgiving early on, as 19 of the team's first 25 games are against teams that made the 2013 MLB playoffs. Although the Reds can't afford to go too long without some of their top pitchers, rushing guys back could be harmful down the road.

Evaluate Starting Pitching Depth

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    Last year, the Reds were fortunate to have a starting pitcher ready in the minors when Cueto went down with an injury early in the season. Tony Cingrani dazzled during his first year in the majors, and he was a big reason as to why the Reds were able to make the playoffs.

    Heading into this season, it doesn't look like the Reds have anyone capable of making a Cingrani-like impact in the majors if needed. That's not a good sign given Latos' injury situation.

    Cincinnati acquired left-hander David Holmberg from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team deal that sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays. The 22-year-old appears to be the team's best option in the event that it needs someone from the minors to fill in.

    In his major league debut with the Diamondbacks in August, Holmberg allowed three runs on six hits and three walks in 3.2 innings. That is his only appearance in the majors. The southpaw has a career 3.40 ERA in five seasons in the minors, including a 2.75 ERA in 26 starts in Double-A last year. He has yet to throw an inning in Triple-A.

    Daniel Corcino was expected to be in the conversation to battle for a spot in the rotation in 2014, but a rough 2013 season in Triple-A showed that he needs more time in the minors. The right-hander went 7-14 with a 5.86 ERA in 28 games, including 23 starts, in Louisville last season. He walked 73 batters while striking out only 90 in 129 innings, which is a huge decline for his ratio.

    Top prospect Robert Stephenson is quickly working his way through the system, but September is likely the earliest he would reach the majors. Even that is a long shot considering the 20-year-old has made only four starts at Double-A.

    Cincinnati did bring in a couple of veterans on minor league deals: right-hander Chien-Ming Wang and left-hander Jeff Francis.

    Wang already had a setback as he looks to make a comeback. The Reds assistant director of media relations, Jamie Ramsey, reported that Wang had X-rays on his foot on the first day of camp. The pitcher is fine, but he can't afford injuries at this point.

    The 33-year-old hasn't posted an ERA below 4.00 since 2007, and his ERA hasn't been below 6.68 in three of his last four stints in the majors. Wang went 1-2 with a 7.67 ERA in six starts with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013. Reds fans should not feel comfortable if Wang gets to make a spot start, especially in Great American Ball Park.

    Francis returns to the organization after going back to the Colorado Rockies in 2012. The veteran posted a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts with Louisville two years ago, but that didn't lead to success in the majors. He has a 4.94 ERA in his nine-year career in the majors. His ERA has been below 5.00 only once (4.82 in 2011) since 2008, and it has steadily risen in each of the past three years.

    Pitching at Coors Field won't help a pitcher's numbers. However, there's not much of a difference between Coors Field and Great American Ball Park.

    The Reds have some options in the minors, but it doesn't look good to start the season. The spring needs to be used to see who is the readiest in the event that a starter is unable to take the mound.

Set the Order of Rotation

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Setting the rotation will be tough to do until the Reds know the status of their pitchers. 

    Right now, here's the projected rotation:

    1. RHP Johnny Cueto
    2. RHP Mat Latos
    3. RHP Homer Bailey
    4. RHP Mike Leake
    5. LHP Tony Cingrani

    If everyone is healthy, the top of the rotation could change. As MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reported, manager Bryan Price has yet to name an Opening Day starter. 

    Price did like his options, via Sheldon: 

    I have an idea of what I want to do. I'd like to make sure our guys are healthy. We know Mat has been banged up. Johnny has been the man and continues to be, but we want to make sure he is healthy. Homer has turned his corner I think. Me personally, I love Johnny at the top of our rotation. There are other guys I would be happy with at the top as well.

    Cueto has started the past two Opening Days, allowing only one run on six hits in 14 innings. After Latos' injury, Cueto looks like the favorite to get the nod.

    If Latos is healthy, the rotation is set. If he misses the beginning of the season, the Reds have some decisions to make.

    Latos' absence would force Cincinnati to figure out how to adjust the rotation. Either Mike Leake or Cingrani would have to pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals. Leake went 0-2 with an 8.27 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals last year, while Cingrani went 2-0 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts against St. Louis.

    The Cardinals were the fourth-worst team in baseball last season with a .238 average against southpaws, but they were the third-best against right-handers with a .280 average. 

    Latos was the team's best starter against the Cardinals in 2013, but his latest injury could shape the rotation differently than expected. Six of the Reds' first nine games are against St. Louis, so making sure the team has the best chance to succeed against its archrival needs to be a priority.

    Again, Price can't do much without knowing how Cueto and Latos are feeling in March. A healthy rotation means that Price's only decision will be who starts on Opening Day, but any injuries will force him to make tough calls. 

    The Reds have a very talented rotation, so it will be up to Price to set the rotation to give the club balance throughout the season.

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