The Reds opened Spring Training on Wednesday without a defined regular shortstop.
Freddy Galvis wasn’t brought back as a free agent. Prospect José Garcia is expected to get more development in the Minor Leagues after he jumped from Class A Advanced to the Major Leagues in 2020.
“I feel great about the options we have,” Reds manager David Bell said from Goodyear, Ariz. “I’m not ready today to name a starting shortstop by any means, but at the same time, we know who we have. We’re familiar with our personnel and the options that we have at that position, and we feel great about that.”
Alex Blandino played in the Majors for the Reds in 2018-19 but spent 2020 at the alternate training site. He came up as a shortstop but has played all over the infield.
“To his credit, [Blandino] continued to work and did everything he could at the alternate site and on the taxi squad when he came over,” Bell said. “He’s put himself in a position to get a really solid look at that position.”
Cincinnati is also carrying a Rule 5 Draft selection, Kyle Holder, who was acquired in a trade from the Phillies on Jan. 30. Holder is a left-handed hitter and a true shortstop, but he hasn’t played above Double-A since 2019.
The other candidate is veteran non-roster invite Dee Strange-Gordon, who was signed last week. However, Strange-Gordon hasn’t played shortstop regularly since 2013 with the Dodgers. With the Mariners over the past three seasons, he was a utility player with only 11 starts at shortstop.
“He has a chance to add speed to our team,” Bell said. “Over the course of his career, he’s increased his versatility. We know he can play the infield. We know he’s played some outfield. And I think that gives him the best chance to make our team and contribute to our team at this point.
“But that’s not limiting him either to really stepping in and becoming a regular potentially. I know that he has not played shortstop on a regular basis for a few years. He will get opportunities in Spring Training. We’d like to see him play there. The athlete he is -- and I saw him years ago play there every day in the Minor Leagues, and I know that he has experience. So we’d like to see where he’s at, at that position, at this point.”
Pitcher workloads will be watched
Like every team, the Reds will be challenged to carefully ramp up the workload of pitchers after last year's unique 60-game season. The Major League leader in innings was Lance Lynn for the Rangers with 84, far from the 175-200 innings most frontline starters can provide.
“We feel great about the work,” Bell said. “I think all the players know that it was a shorter season last year, so there’s been steps taken to compensate for that and make sure that we’re thinking of everything from the health and performance standpoint, and trying to prepare the best we possibly can.”
Starting pitcher Sonny Gray plans to consult with pitching coach Derek Johnson to come up with his innings plan.
“I don’t think anyone truly knows what to expect,” Gray said. “Do you shorten it at the front to be able to continue it at the back? Do you come out guns blazing and just see what happens? What do you do? I’m sure different organizations will have a philosophy on that. I trust D.J. with everything, as you guys know.”
Sims will be ready
During his offseason throwing program, reliever Lucas Sims felt some right elbow tightness and shut down to rest. He underwent an MRI that came back negative for any serious injury.
“It felt weird, kind of just precautionary,” Sims said. “I was able to shut it down on my own. Just a little bit of tightness. We got a scan just for peace of mind and came back -- it was all good. Playing catch and should be off the mound here soon. I’ll be ready for the beginning of the season. It feels good, but that’s behind me.”
After closer Raisel Iglesias was traded to the Angels in December, Sims became a candidate for the job with Amir Garrett. Sean Doolittle was signed last week to also compete for the spot.
“If you’re in the bullpen, you want to be at the back end to lock it down,” Sims said. “When I saw that [Iglesias] move, I saw it as an opportunity to go out there and do what I know what I’m capable of and try to grab that.”
In a departure from Spring Training tradition, the Reds have 15 of their 28 Cactus League games scheduled for the night. Part of that was because of COVID-19 prevention protocols, but Bell has been a proponent of more spring night games.
“You look at forever, I think, you’re up at 5 or 6 a.m. in the morning. There are morning people and players, and some benefit from that, but not everyone,” Bell said. “Trying to create a schedule that mimics the season as much as possible, I think, was important. On the days we have control over it, pushing it back a little bit just to be able to allow for the most rest and recovery. When we are at the ballpark, making it as efficient and on task as possible.”