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Price encouraged by rotation health pre-camp

MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- At Spring Training last year, the Reds lost two starting pitchers early to injury, and before April was over they had lost four-fifths of the rotation to the disabled list. Heading into camp for the upcoming season, manager Bryan Price was optimistic.

Three veterans who spent much of 2017 injured -- Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan, are healthy and having normal offseasons.

CINCINNATI -- At Spring Training last year, the Reds lost two starting pitchers early to injury, and before April was over they had lost four-fifths of the rotation to the disabled list. Heading into camp for the upcoming season, manager Bryan Price was optimistic.

Three veterans who spent much of 2017 injured -- Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan, are healthy and having normal offseasons.

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"I've spoken with several of [the pitchers] and have gotten good reports from [strength coach] Sean Marohn and [head trainer] Steve Baumann," Price said.

The only pitcher behind schedule and not expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training is Rookie Davis. In early October, Davis had right hip surgery to repair the labrum and remove a bone spur. The right-hander began a throwing program this week.

"We'll certainly be cautious with how we get him ready," Price said. "We are at 31 [pitchers] total coming into camp. Thirty out of the 31, right now as we speak, we consider healthy and ready to compete in Spring Training on time without being behind schedule."

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Finnegan had surgery last season to repair the teres major muscle near his left shoulder. Following a slip and fall on a boat during the summer, he also had right shoulder surgery. DeSclafani missed the entire season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Bailey had bone chips removed from his right elbow just before camp opened -- his third elbow surgery since 2014. He was limited to 18 starts and posted a 6.43 ERA.

Price anticipated all three men to be members of the 2018 rotation, along with young right-hander Luis Castillo. The Reds rotation's 5.55 ERA ranked at the bottom of the National League while being last in the Majors in innings pitched. No significant acquisitions were made to bolster the starting staff because of confidence in the arms that are in house.

Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen will be among those vying for the fifth spot in the rotation. 

"We draw this up with as much optimism as you can," Price said. "But in the end, we have to be healthy and we have to perform. We have not done that in our recent history. We have to start to outperform our opponent at a much higher rate."

During the Winter Meetings, Price said he identified two starting pitchers that would likely be used in bullpen roles. This week, he kept their names withheld.

"We have to see what we get when our guys show up," said Price, who held a pitching summit for 11 pitchers in Arizona this week. "Unfortunately, we've just had too many early Spring Training injuries. Before games start, guys will know what they are competing for. In the same respect, you have to have fallback options."

As Price has handicapped the favorites for the rotation, and feels there are enough good arms to form a second rotation of quality depth at Triple-A Louisville, he cautioned that things could change during camp.

"Guys could come in injured or unprepared and it's easier to lose a spot in this environment than it's been the last three or four years because we've got enough depth now where we feel like we're covered," Price said. "If someone takes something for granted, that job can be taken by somebody else."

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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