Reds pitching prospects form a tough tandem in Fall League

October 28th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- "This is so awesome."

A group of fans seated behind home plate were referencing the ambiance of Surprise Stadium on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, but they very well could have also been referring to the tandem of and , the duo of Reds prospects who carved up Scottsdale batters en route to a 4-2 victory.

Piggybacking has been nothing new for Spiers or Hubbart, who have operated as a unit throughout their time in the Fall League. By virtue of Saturday's outing being a seven-inning contest, it marked their first occasion of going the distance.

"There's a lot that goes unspoken," Hubbart said. "You wouldn't necessarily see it on the field, but a lot that goes into our throwing -- he's got better control, I can be kind of all over the place sometimes. It's like a mini shoulder to rest on."

Spiers got the start once again and was a strike-throwing machine, getting ahead of seven consecutive batters to open the contest and 14 of 15 hitters in total. Of his 46 pitches, 38 went for strikes.

"It’s a staple of my game," Spiers said. "I want to get ahead. I want to get to two strikes before I get to two balls. It feels good when it happens, that’s what you try to do as a pitcher. When you execute it, good things will probably happen more times than not."

The good times were rolling for the 25-year-old through the front three frames as he went nine up, nine down against a Scorpions lineup that tagged him for four hits and three runs (one earned) on Oct. 6. A trio of singles plated a run in the fourth, but the right-hander finished with five strikeouts (three of which came on his slider), giving him 16 over 14 innings of Fall League action.

Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Clemson in June 2020 (a year in which the Draft was shortened to just five rounds), Spiers has taken a precipitous rise through the Reds' system. He began '23 in the bullpen for Double-A Chattanooga, but less than five months later, he was making starts in the throes of a big league pennant race for Cincinnati. He finished the year with four Major League appearances in total.

While the Fall League can often serve as a proving grounds for hurlers looking to ramp up their workload ahead of the impending season (as it is doing for Hubbart), in Spiers' case, he's looking to make a statement about his viability as a member of the club's big league rotation. One of the few players in Arizona equipped with experience of pitching in The Show, he's been bringing those lessons to the bump.

"No matter what game you're playing, you're always trying to learn and grow in some aspect," Spiers said. "Me and [Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson], we had a lot of talks since my time being up [in Cincinnati] and smaller parts like tweaking pitch designs and things like that that I’m trying to do here."

Hubbart, a third-round pick in 2022 out of Florida State, has become something of a piggybacking savant during his second year of pro ball. Well acclimated to the rhythms of pitching in bulk whether as a starter or reliever from his time with Single-A Daytona, the 22-year-old southpaw has now reeled off three consecutive appearances of working three frames with one run or fewer allowed.

"I mean, it was definitely a change," Hubbart said during Fall League Media Day last month. "But I think I think it's good for me in terms of my career because then it helps [the Reds] realize that I can do both.

"I could long relieve, I could relieve, I could start ... you know, whatever you needed me to do. I could eventually figure out how to do it."

The integral third man has been catcher Michael Trautwein, who caught Spiers this season with Chattanooga and has caught the Spiers/Hubbart tandem in each Fall League outing.

"I remember my first outing, I was shaking him off a few times, and then after that, you kind of realize, 'OK, this guy knows what he's doing back there,'" Hubbart said. "I'm really, really glad that he's caught us every single time. He's the man back there, he just keeps you under control the entire time. He commands the game and does what a catcher's supposed to do."

To continue the Reds zest that was prevalent from the first pitch, third baseman Austin Callahan walloped a two-run homer -- his first in the Fall League -- in the fourth on a down-and-in heater which ultimately served as the difference in the run column.