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Questions remain for Reds at ST halfway point

Competition for fifth rotation spot, bullpen, bench still up in the air
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds Spring Training is approaching the halfway point and there is so much to sort out in the battles to make the 25-man roster. Though no decisions are close, there are signs of players making their move in the race for spots, while others haven't helped their own cause.

Overall, manager Bryan Price has been pleased with his players in camp.

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds Spring Training is approaching the halfway point and there is so much to sort out in the battles to make the 25-man roster. Though no decisions are close, there are signs of players making their move in the race for spots, while others haven't helped their own cause.

Overall, manager Bryan Price has been pleased with his players in camp.

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"Well, I'm happy with that fact that for the most part we've stayed healthy," Price said. "I'm very happy with what I've seen from the limited outings from some of our pitchers and some of the quality that I've seen from some of the [Minor League] free agents that we've brought in."

There were a few key storylines to follow when Reds camp opened. This is good time to revisit them.

Rotation battle for the fifth spot

The good news for the Reds is that they've gotten several good performances from their contenders. One of the frontrunners, Sal Romano, hasn't disappointed with two good starts and Tyler Mahle has pitched well during his first two appearances out of the bullpen with four scoreless innings. However, Mahle gave up four runs in 2 2/3 innings vs. the Royals on Sunday as he missed some spots with his fastball.

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But Amir Garrett has left the most emphatic impression with his two appearances, totaling 10 strikeouts over five scoreless innings. His only baserunner reached on an error. Garrett initially was handicapped at the bottom of the list of those vying for the rotation and he seems poised to change that.

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On the other hand, it's been a rough two games for another perceived frontrunner -- Robert Stephenson. On Saturday vs. the Cubs, he allowed two earned runs, four hits and three walks over 1 1/3 innings. Last Monday vs. Arizona, he gave up three runs and three hits over 1 2/3 innings.

Michael Lorenzen, who is trying to go from the bullpen to the rotation this season, had a strong first outing and a poor second one with five runs over 1 2/3 innings vs. the White Sox on Thursday. Both Lorenzen and Stephenson have struggled to command their fastball.

Good health, so far

As Price mentioned, the plague of injuries that killed the Reds the past two springs hasn't happened thus far in 2018 Spring Training. For three pitchers returning from injuries in particular -- Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan -- this is a big positive. DeSclafani has pitched well in his two games before getting hit a lot against Kansas City on Sunday. Bailey has gotten his work in without issue. Finnegan threw a controlled scrimmage and will make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday. All three have said they feel good.

The bullpen

Free-agent signings Jared Hughes and David Hernandez have pitched well while a late addition -- veteran situational lefty Oliver Perez -- was brought in as a non-roster invitee. Perez has been shaky through his first two outings. Lefty Cody Reed, who has a good chance to make the team, has been giving up a lot of hits but the club is pleased that he's been throwing strikes and showing command.

Bench battle

Since camp opened, the dynamics have changed with the additions of backup shortstop Cliff Pennington and outfielder Ben Revere to Minor League contracts and camp invites. Pennington appears to be a lock to get one of the five bench spots. Revere made his spring debut on Saturday and will try to get a spot as the fifth outfielder. But some non-roster invitees -- like Rosell Herrera, Mason Williams and Brandon Dixon -- have impressed Price with how they've played.

"Inevitably, there's going to be some surprises," Price said. "I think in particular in the bullpen potentially and on the bench, guys that are going to help support us."

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.

Cincinnati Reds, Amir Garrett, Sal Romano