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Unity, study hot topics at Reds' pitching summit

Hurlers, backstops and coaches gather at Arizona training facility
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- The Reds are calling this week's workouts a "pitching summit." While the term sounds like meeting of pitchers of different disciplines seeking to make peace and levy sanctions on rogue knuckleballers, manager Bryan Price's vision is team building and unity.

Eleven young Reds pitchers and four catchers gathered at the team's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., to both throw in the bullpen and learn. Price last held a summit in January 2016, when the roster was loaded with many pitchers that didn't have experience above Double-A.

CINCINNATI -- The Reds are calling this week's workouts a "pitching summit." While the term sounds like meeting of pitchers of different disciplines seeking to make peace and levy sanctions on rogue knuckleballers, manager Bryan Price's vision is team building and unity.

Eleven young Reds pitchers and four catchers gathered at the team's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., to both throw in the bullpen and learn. Price last held a summit in January 2016, when the roster was loaded with many pitchers that didn't have experience above Double-A.

"We were somewhat depleted through trades and injuries at the big league level and were looking forward to this next wave of young pitchers to come through and supplement the big league roster," Price told MLB.com by phone from Arizona. "We knew we had to pick up the pace of their development and unify the group. We're building a team/organizational mentality, not an individual mentality."

For the 2018 version of the summit that began Monday and ended on Thursday, most of the participating pitchers have reached the big leagues. They include Brandon Finnegan, Amir Garrett, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Zack Weiss, Jackson Stephens, Keury Mella, Kevin Shackelford and Ariel Hernandez.

Tweet from @Reds: We have action!Several #Reds pitchers are in Goodyear already for early work before the official start of spring training next month. ������🌵 pic.twitter.com/KLIz6mNwuv

Cincinnati's pitchers are trying to improve greatly after a 2017 season in which they ranked last in the National League with a 5.17 ERA, while leading the Majors in home runs allowed (248), walks (631), opponents' slugging percentage (.465) and hit batters (77). Depleted by injury and often hampered by underperformers, the Reds used 31 different pitchers, including 16 starters. The rotation provided the fewest innings (820) in the Majors.

In 2016, the Reds' pitching summit was held in early January, before pitchers were ready for mound work. Timing it late in the month for this year was essential.

"Spring Training and regular-season games are starting earlier. We know these kids need to initiate their mound work earlier, by at least a week," Price said. "The pitchers involved are aware that this season is starting earlier so they have to pick up the tempo and start the offseason throwing program earlier. That allowed them to be ready.

"It's nice to have a robust staff of pitching coaches here to oversee these guys as they get started. They get to initiate their bullpen throwing work in front of a Major League pitching coach and our upper-level pitching coaches in the system."

Video: Price discusses the Reds' potential rotation in 2018

After morning bullpen sessions and lunch, the players and coaches headed upstairs to the conference room for what was termed "chalk talk." A large portion of that is the discussion of advanced metrics and data.

"Some of these guys -- just getting their first taste of the big leagues -- will be a little bit more familiar with our analytics and data usage, and our video system, the ways that we use it and the way we evaluate," Price said. "It's such a big part of baseball now."

Price also felt it was important for the coaches on the player development side to also get exposure to the analytical side.

"When you interview for a big league job, if you're not familiar with a lot of the analytics and how we access data, Trackman and the bat system and those things, it does put you behind the 8-ball when you go in for a job interview," Price said.

Ultimately, the message of the topics covered mirror what was discussed two years ago.

"Unification," Price said. "And doing whatever it takes to help the team in a team-first focus."

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