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Questions left to answer on Reds' 25-man roster

Rotation, bullpen and bench have open spots to fill before Opening Day
February 10, 2017

Editor's note: With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Reds squad each day this week. Today's topic - Predicting the 25-man roster. This is an updated version of a previously published story that reflects that Brandon Phillips was traded to

Editor's note: With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Reds squad each day this week. Today's topic - Predicting the 25-man roster. This is an updated version of a previously published story that reflects that Brandon Phillips was traded to the Braves on Sunday.
CINCINNATI -- Every Spring Training, Reds manager Bryan Price keeps his entire camp roster written out on a dry-erase board next to the desk in his office. As the days go on, the names on the board gradually become fewer and fewer.
And no matter what circumstances arise between the start and end of camp, the one steadfast fact is that the Reds will have exactly 25 players at Price's disposal come Opening Day vs. the Phillies.
How the Reds arrive at that conclusion is part of the annual intrigue of Spring Training. There are openings in the rotation, bullpen, bench and middle infield. One big conundrum of how to create playing time up the middle was partially solved Sunday when Phillips was traded to Atlanta for two Minor League pitchers. That leaves shortstop Zack Cozart, Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera to get the bulk of the playing time.
"I could see a nice combination of those three playing up the middle," Reds general manager Dick Williams said on Sunday. "There should be plenty of at-bats to go around in Spring Training. This trade does free up some opportunities for these guys, and we hope they'll take advantage of it."
Here is a breakdown of the Reds' projected Opening Day roster:
Catchers:Devin Mesoraco, Tucker Barnhart
The big X-factor here is the health of Mesoraco, who has been limited to 18 games behind the plate the last two seasons. He's had a major surgery on each hip and one on his left shoulder in that span. If he shows he is ready, Mesoraco and Barnhart would likely split the role in some tandem form. If Mesoraco has a setback, Barnhart would be the regular catcher and either Rule 5 selection Stuart Turner or someone else gets a chance.
First base:Joey Votto
This is rock solid, especially with Votto having seven years and $179 million left on his contract. The 33-year-old is coming off two strong seasons that garnered MVP votes.
Second base: Peraza
With Phillips out, this creates a golden opportunity for Peraza to establish himself as an everyday player. Set to turn 23 on April 30, Peraza batted .324 with a .352 on-base percentage over 72 games (56 starts) last season. His primary position is shortstop, but he can play second base, left field and center field. If Peraza doesn't start, the job could go to Herrera, who was acquired from the Mets for Jay Bruce on Aug. 1. It's also possible perhaps to find a way for both players to get regular playing time in a rotation with Cozart at shortstop.
Shortstop: Cozart
Because of there being little demand for shortstops this offseason, the Reds were also unsuccessful at dealing Cozart, who can also be a free agent after 2017. But they will certainly enjoying using him while he's at their disposal. Following a devastating right knee injury that required reconstructive surgery in June 2015, he bounced back well in '16. In 121 games, he batted .252/.308/.425 with a career-high 16 home runs. He did not play a game after Sept. 10 because of tendinitis in the same knee, but he is expected to be 100 percent when Spring Training opens.
Third base:Eugenio Suarez
After moving over from shortstop, Suarez had a learning curve to overcome, and it showed as he committed 12 errors in his first 53 games. He led Major League third basemen with 23 errors but showed improvement as the season progressed. Offensively, Suarez was streaky, but he showed plenty of pop with 21 home runs.
Starting outfield:Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler
In left field, Duvall is coming off a breakout year where he hit 33 homers with 103 RBIs and made his first All-Star team. After a slow start last season, Hamilton became the type of leadoff hitter he was expected to be, batting .293 with a .369 on-base percentage and 36 steals in 45 games after the All-Star break. His durability is a question, though, as a strained oblique caused him to miss the final month, the third straight season he finished with an injury. Defensively, his speed and ability make him one of the best center fielders in baseball. Schebler batted .290 with eight homers following his Aug. 2 recall from Triple-A Louisville, while showing an improved arm. He has the inside track to be the regular right fielder.
Bench: Herrera, Arismendy Alcantara, Desmond Jennings, Hernan Iribarren
The one drawback for Herrera is that he only plays second base. There would need to be enough at-bats available for him to stay in the big leagues. Otherwise, he would start at Louisville. Jennings can play all three outfield spots, and Alcantara can play the outfield and infield. Iribarren is not a prospect at 32, but he was the International League batting champion in 2016, and he hit .311 in 24 games as a September callup. He can also play multiple positions.
Rotation:Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson
The group is already one man down with oft-injured Homer Bailey having arthroscopic surgery this week to remove bone chips from his right elbow. The rotation provided the least number of innings in the Majors last season after being riddled with injuries and depth issues. DeSclafani should be steady and good for 200 innings, but there are less known quantities behind him. Finnegan had trouble working deeper in games but is very competitive and capable of working 200 innings. Feldman was used mostly as a reliever last season, but he has a track record as a starter and for throwing ground balls. Reed and Stephenson struggled last season, but if they show up and "look like Major Leaguers" as Price said, should have the inside track over Amir Garrett and others.
Bullpen:Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Drew Storen, Tony Cingrani, Blake Wood, Sal Romano, Austin Brice
The bullpen can only improve from 2016 after it was prone to home runs, walks and disastrous outcomes. Price will try to be innovative in how he uses his staff, hoping to have pitchers throw fewer games but multiple innings, especially on the back end. Iglesias, Lorenzen, Storen and Cingrani could all wind up having turns to close and other high-leverage situations. Storen, signed for a bargain at one year and $3 million, could turn his career around in Cincinnati after a couple of down years. Romano is a rotation contender but the club is also looking at him for a bullpen role if he doesn't get to start.

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