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Command a priority as Reed eyes rotation

Reds lefty focused on mechanics after disappointing 2017 campaign
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- When the Reds made a pre-non-waiver Trade Deadline deal in July 2015 to send ace starter Johnny Cueto to the Royals for three lefty pitching prospects, there were obviously high hopes on the return. Acquired along with Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb, Cody Reed realizes things haven't gone too well the past year.

Reed was hit hard in 2016 and struggled with his command in '17. That hasn't dashed his expectations for the '18 season, when Reed hopes to have another crack at the rotation.

CINCINNATI -- When the Reds made a pre-non-waiver Trade Deadline deal in July 2015 to send ace starter Johnny Cueto to the Royals for three lefty pitching prospects, there were obviously high hopes on the return. Acquired along with Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb, Cody Reed realizes things haven't gone too well the past year.

Reed was hit hard in 2016 and struggled with his command in '17. That hasn't dashed his expectations for the '18 season, when Reed hopes to have another crack at the rotation.

"I just have to get back on track and get back to where I was when they traded for me back in '15. I don't think they traded Johnny Cueto for a bullpen guy," Reed said. "Finny got bit by the injury bug and Lamb isn't with us anymore. That trade will be talked about for a long time, with Cueto being here so long."

Reed competed for the rotation in Spring Training this year, but he made the big league club as a reliever. In seven games, including one start, he had a 6.43 ERA. And it was alarming that he had as many walks (15) as strikeouts over his 14 innings.

Video: CHC@CIN: Reed fans Russell in the 1st inning

Command improvement didn't come once Reed was demoted to Triple-A Louisville. The 24-year-old was 4-9 with a 3.55 ERA in 21 games (20 starts), but he led the International League in walks, hit batters and wild pitches.

"This year was just a big wash for me," Reed said. "I went down [to Triple-A] and wasn't myself. I looked back on my years before in the Minor Leagues, and I've never walked that many guys. I've never been that type of pitcher, not even going back to high school. Here I am walking guys, it was frustrating."

The Reds brought Reed back as a September callup. He threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings over five games, but he still had four walks. Manager Bryan Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins felt that Reed's mechanics can be fixed. When Reed is on top of things, he has an effective mid-90's fastball and a plus slider.

"Command really wasn't anything we were talking about when we got him over here and he was pitching in Double-A in 2015 and initial eight to 10 starts in Triple-A in '16," Price said. "But there are some habits he's gotten into that we've got to break and get him back on top of his game -- certainly the extension."

During some bullpen sessions in the closing days of the season, Jenkins showed Reed something he discovered. Besides his arm rotating too far back, the pitcher's stride to the plate opened to the third-base side of the mound.

"[Jenkins] showed me a picture of me pitching last year, actually my debut, and the last time I pitched here," Reed said. "The still picture showed me what the difference was. I was definitely opening up.

"Right after he showed me, he drew a line where my feet are on the rubber and a straight line all the way down to home plate. He said he wants me to be on the left side of the line so I'm staying closed."

The Reds have a crowded rotation picture, and several young pitchers have surpassed Reed since his acquisition -- Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle and Robert Stephenson.

Reed wants to show he belongs among the starting five.

"I know my stuff can play," Reed said. "I know I can get guys out."

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.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cincinnati Reds, Cody Reed