It’s about time for the Reds to break camp from Goodyear, Ariz., and head home for Opening Day on Thursday.
The Reds came to 2021 Spring Training with a plan for what they wanted to do to prepare for the regular season. In a matter of weeks, though, the club realized it had to pivot amid developments.
No position received as much attention as the shortstop vacancy. It was an open competition among several players, including Kyle Farmer, Alex Blandino, Dee Strange-Gordon and Jose Garcia, the Reds' No. 6 prospect. As Cincinnati prepares to break camp, the leading candidate to man shortstop is now veteran third baseman Eugenio Suárez.
Injuries to the pitching staff will test the Reds' depth out of the gate as they try to return to the playoffs after earning a National League Wild Card berth in the expanded 2020 postseason.
“We’re in a situation where we’ve got to get started fast this season, so it is going to test us, but we have a group of guys that are willing to do just about anything possible to help the team,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “But it is one of those things where you’re going to have to grind through it and call on some guys we didn’t think were going to be called upon that early. But I think we’re in a good spot for those guys to have success.”
Jonathan India was only part of an early Minor League camp when Spring Training started, but he played so well in workouts and games that he earned a promotion to big league camp. The maturation of India, Cincinnati’s No. 5 prospect, enabled the club to rethink its whole infield. It helped pave the way for Suárez to move from third base to shortstop and Mike Moustakas to move from second base to third, enabling manager David Bell to have the 24-year-old India debut in the Majors as his second baseman.
First baseman Joey Votto was having a strong camp in the early games before a positive COVID-19 test forced him to quarantine for 12 days. The 37-year-old Votto’s chances of being ready for the opener are murky.
Player who opened eyes
Left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan fell way off the radar and hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since 2018. Poor performances, lack of conditioning and injuries contributed to his coming off the 40-man roster in ’19, and he didn’t see any game action in ’20 because of the pandemic. Finnegan spent much of '19 at Driveline Baseball to rework his mechanics and find lost velocity. The quality pitches and velocity appeared to be back when Finnegan got into some early games. Like India, he earned a promotion from Minor League to big league camp and into a legitimate candidacy for a bullpen spot.
Finnegan may or may not make the Reds when they break camp. But he definitely has put himself in position to return to the big leagues at some point in 2021.
In his first Spring Training start against big leaguers, and his first game action anywhere since 2018, Reds No. 2 prospect Hunter Greene was throwing gas. Greene’s first three pitches against the Angels on March 2 were fastballs that registered at 101, 102 and 103 mph, respectively, on the radar gun.
In case you missed it
Here's the story about Greene’s first game this spring for Cincinnati.