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Garrett impresses with D as Reds shake up PFP

Bell puts premium on pitchers' fielding; position players report Sunday
February 16, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- During some Reds pitchers' fielding practice (PFP) drills on Friday, Amir Garrett was playing first base. Alex Wood was at shortstop and Brandon Finnegan was flashing some skills all over the infield.This clearly wasn't the usual PFP, a Spring Training staple that often has a wash, rinse

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- During some Reds pitchers' fielding practice (PFP) drills on Friday, Amir Garrett was playing first base. Alex Wood was at shortstop and Brandon Finnegan was flashing some skills all over the infield.
This clearly wasn't the usual PFP, a Spring Training staple that often has a wash, rinse and repeat feel to it. The purpose behind the change of approach was not only to avoid the mundane. Manager David Bell is open to using pitchers at other positions this season, should there be a need.
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"I don't like saving guys just in case," Bell said on Saturday. "It makes you feel a lot better having that approach when you actually have guys that have practiced and prepared. You're not so afraid of putting someone out there and they get hurt. These guys are athletes. Every one of them are athletes. We want them to see it that way."
There was a lot of laughing and howls when any of the pitchers made an impressive play.
"It was fun watching them yesterday because they were having fun," Bell said. "They were working really hard, but smiling and enjoying themselves."
Garrett, the left-handed reliever, certainly impressed as he picked one-hop throws from the dirt on several occasions. Teammates loved watched him flash the leather.
Because pitchers are so locked in on facing hitters, it's easy to forget that they are also infielders. And at 60 feet, six inches away from the plate, they are the closest infielder to the hitter.
"I used to play first base when I was in the field and also outfield," Garrett said. "I'm just having fun with it, not being scared of the ball or anything. I think it was a good drill for us. It was to find that versatility that pitchers are missing and the athleticism.
"PFP is so standard. You're just going and everybody is trying not to get hurt. What we did yesterday was really good. You're just playing the game like you did as a little kid. You don't really know what you're doing, but you're playing the game. That's when you're at your best, just having fun. We're being able to move certain ways and throw the ball from different angles. I think it was great."
Bell felt it was important that a regular season game isn't the first time a pitcher took a groundball at a non-mound position.
"It creates a presence on the field," Bell said. "The idea is when they do get that groundball or get that play, it makes them stretch themselves a little bit."
Position players report Sunday
Reds position players officially report to camp on Sunday and will take their physicals. Almost every player has already been in camp for a few days, with only Joey Votto, Eugenio Suárez and Jose Siri not seen publicly as of Saturday morning.
Because physicals will be going on in the morning, Bell pushed the pitchers' workout schedule back to the afternoon.
"Things are really going to pick up here the next couple of days with everyone reporting and first full day," Bell said. "It's kind of why we pushed tomorrow back, too, just to give a little breather to the guys that have been here for a week or so."
The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Monday.

A true backup shortstop needed?
If the Reds carry 13 pitchers, as expected, that will leave only four spots for bench players -- which will make versatility even more important. Sometimes, there is a premium on a role player who is a "true shortstop" in case a defensive change is needed. On the Reds, they could use Alex Blandino or Blake Trahan to back up José Peraza. Christian Colón is also in camp as a non-roster invite.
Suarez, the All-Star third baseman, has played shortstop in the Major Leagues. It's his natural position.
"I haven't seen him play there, but a lot of people have in the organization, and it's been brought up as an option," Bell said. "He's settled in pretty nicely at third base -- not to say I would be afraid to move him, but I don't know that that would be the first choice."
Whoever plays at shortstop besides Peraza, Bell wants that person to be both capable and comfortable there.
"With Peraza, knowing his durability and the commitment we've made with him at short, it's not mandatory," Bell said. "It's always nice to have depth. It's an important position. If everything goes perfect, you're fine, but it's nice to have somebody you really trust at that position -- any position, but especially up the middle."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.