This Reds pitcher hopes to stand out in camp

February 4th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CINCINNATI -- Trying to keep up with Reds pitcher in September was no easy task. For much of the month, Spiers was either coming from somewhere or going someplace else, and of course, he was also pitching. The work came at three different levels.

“A bunch of traveling. Up and down [the] East Coast, West Coast," Spiers explained last month before heading out for more travel on Reds Caravan. "The last week of the season, I went out to the Arizona Fall League to get ready. Then they needed me in St. Louis. Then I flew right back to Arizona.”

Spiers, 26, made his Major League debut on Sept. 3 vs. the Cubs. He served as a substitute player called up from Double-A Chattanooga when the Reds were mired in a COVID-19 outbreak that depleted the clubhouse -- namely the pitching staff.

Spiers' contributions helped the Reds get through a roster crisis. After two weeks, he was sent back to Triple-A Louisville. Less than a week after that, he was recalled to rejoin Cincinnati.

"I was never part of the Major League camp and never really mingled with those guys, but every single one of them welcomed me with open arms," said Spiers, a Greenville, S.C., native who was signed by the Reds out of Clemson in 2020. "They said, ‘Hey, we need you. We want you to be ready to compete in whatever role you’re going to be in.’”

In four games for Cincinnati (two starts), Spiers posted a 6.92 ERA. In his final game of the season on Sept. 29 vs. the Cardinals, he worked three scoreless innings in relief, allowing just one hit to earn his first big league save.

“When I was called up, we were pushing to be in the postseason," Spiers said. "It was cool to be in that atmosphere.”

Spiers returned to the AFL after the Reds came up short of the postseason. His orders were to build up innings since he had only 85 combined in 2023 at Double-A and Triple-A, plus an additional 13 in the big leagues. In ‘22, he had reached 121 2/3 innings in total at both Double-A and Triple-A.

That was because Spiers opened last season in a bullpen role before moving into the Chattanooga rotation. In the Fall League, he notched an additional 18 innings while posting a 3.00 ERA, allowing just one walk and racking up 20 strikeouts.

"[Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson] and I talked about me being more consistent with my slider," Spiers said. "One thing I experienced while I was up here, I was pulling my slider. Hitters up here don’t chase as much as in the Minor Leagues. It’s [about] needing to be more consistent with that, locating that where I want to and getting ahead with that pitch.”

When Spring Training opens on Feb. 13, the Reds will no longer have a shortage of pitching options. Their rotation is stocked with nine candidates for five spots, and the list of contenders for bullpen roles is even longer.

Cincinnati worked the free-agent market significantly in the offseason, especially for relievers. They brought in left-hander Brent Suter and righty Emilio Pagán, while right-hander Buck Farmer was re-signed. A fourth pitcher, swingman Nick Martinez, could either wind up as a starter or reliever.

Along with Spiers, also seeking roles are righties Tejay Antone, Fernando Cruz, Ian Gibaut and Casey Legumina, and left-handers Alex Young and Sam Moll. Setup man Lucas Sims and closer Alexis Díaz are likely the only returning relievers with set roles.

Spiers will have to stand out amid a big crowd of pitchers.

“One thing about me is I haven’t been given anything in my life," he said. "I was a walk-on at college and had to earn my stripes that way. I wasn’t drafted and signed as a free agent.

"I am a competitor so I’m ready for camp. There’s a lot of new faces and a lot of young guys on the staff too. It’s going to be a competitive atmosphere. There really aren’t too many roles that are locked up. It’s going to be an awesome competition out there and that’s what I’m built for.”