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Inbox: Could Reds use young arms in the 'pen?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers questions from fans
MLB.com @m_sheldon

Any chance the Reds would put Jackson Stephens and Brandon Finnegan in the bullpen? That would leave Luis Castillo, Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Robert Stephenson and Sal Romano as a possible starting five (assuming one of the other young starters doesn't step up). Rather than going after a journeyman veteran, why not use in-house pitchers in the bullpen who don't make the rotation?
-- Dan M., Noblesville, Ind.

There's definitely a possibility for that to happen and I don't think the Reds are ruling out any of the younger arms from their 2018 bullpen. Finnegan has big league bullpen experience and could do that job in the late innings. He's also coming off of injuries to both of his shoulders. He will get every chance to start, but he'd be enticing to use out of the bullpen. Stephens has mostly started but could certainly make the transition to reliever. Cody Reed and Amir Garrett could also be relievers if they don't make it as starters, but all will likely get chances to start in camp.

Any chance the Reds would put Jackson Stephens and Brandon Finnegan in the bullpen? That would leave Luis Castillo, Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Robert Stephenson and Sal Romano as a possible starting five (assuming one of the other young starters doesn't step up). Rather than going after a journeyman veteran, why not use in-house pitchers in the bullpen who don't make the rotation?
-- Dan M., Noblesville, Ind.

There's definitely a possibility for that to happen and I don't think the Reds are ruling out any of the younger arms from their 2018 bullpen. Finnegan has big league bullpen experience and could do that job in the late innings. He's also coming off of injuries to both of his shoulders. He will get every chance to start, but he'd be enticing to use out of the bullpen. Stephens has mostly started but could certainly make the transition to reliever. Cody Reed and Amir Garrett could also be relievers if they don't make it as starters, but all will likely get chances to start in camp.

Video: BOS@CIN: Stephens allows one run over six, singles

Hopefully with Nick Senzel progressing, he can make a push to join the Reds out of Spring Training. With Eugenio Suarez playing at such a high level defensively at third base, and with Senzel's above-average skill set defensively, would he be a better fit to succeed Zack Cozart at shortstop, keeping both Jose Peraza and Suarez at their current second- and third-base positions?
-- Dave S., Cincinnati

Video: Senzel named the Reds' Pipeline hitter of the year

That's what Spring Training might reveal. The plan is already to have Senzel get time at multiple positions beyond the third base he played exclusively in the Minors. The No. 1 prospect in the organization according to MLBPipeline.com, Senzel has amateur experience at second base and shortstop and the Reds think he's athletic enough to play left field or right field. I don't envision Senzel skipping Triple-A to open 2018 but he could be in the big leagues at some point given his current rate of progress.

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Can you see the Reds signing a veteran pitcher like R.A. Dickey or Chris Tillman to eat innings in 2018?
-- Matthew T., Lexington, Ky.

Both would fit the profile of the type of pitcher they might seek, as veterans who are not big budget busters. Dickey is a little unique being a 43-year-old knuckleballer, but he's from Tennessee and might enjoy that hometown proximity to Cincinnati. His numbers haven't been thrilling the past few seasons but he's made 30 or more starts each season since 2011.

Video: TEX@BAL: Tillman tosses six innings of one-run ball

Tillman could be an interesting low-risk type of gamble, depending on the contract. He had 30 or more starts for four consecutive seasons from 2013-16 and 200 innings in two of those years. But he struggled last season, which began with a shoulder injury that kept him out a month. He then went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 24 starts and surrendered 24 home runs in only 93 innings. If he can get back on track, that type of lefty would help the Reds.

With nine of 10 starters on the disabled list coming out of the last two Spring Trainings, do you think it's time for the Reds to re-evaluate their program for conditioning pitchers?
-- Andy F., Dayton, Ohio

All teams, including the Reds, should always strive to improve any programs that involve conditioning and keeping players healthy. The phrasing of your question implies that only the Reds endured injuries. Pitching injuries happen all over the industry, because throwing baseballs at 90-100 mph isn't a natural thing for elbows and shoulders. While the Reds did have six starting pitchers go on the DL in 2017, the team was close to the middle of the road in overall games missed by players. Cincinnati placed 11th in the Majors with 1,549 days missed on the DL last season.

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.

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