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Bell names likely starting 5, staging 'pen battles

Multiple Reds relievers ready to compete for hybrid-swing role
February 14, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Unlike recent Reds Spring Trainings, much of the drama about who would comprise the rotation was already removed on the first day of camp. That's when manager David Bell revealed the starting five would likely be -- in no particular order -- Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Alex

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Unlike recent Reds Spring Trainings, much of the drama about who would comprise the rotation was already removed on the first day of camp. That's when manager David Bell revealed the starting five would likely be -- in no particular order -- Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani.
Bell and the club envision multiple pitchers being used in a hybrid-swing role that could involve starting or long and situational-relief work. That's opened a different competition.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"Those are five really quality starters. They're going to give us a chance to win every time out," said right-handed pitcher Sal Romano, who made 25 starts last season. "But I know that there's definitely a spot on this team for me to help in some possible way, being a swing guy able to step in when I need to, a key situation to get a ground ball or anything like that."
Besides Romano, Cody Reed, Tyler Mahle and Brandon Finnegan are among those in consideration. Michael Lorenzen appears locked into a spot already after he made 42 relief appearances and three starts last season.
"I already have done both," Reed said. "I definitely ended last year pretty well. I really don't care. I don't care when I get the ball, if it's in the first inning, after the first pitch of the game, or the eighth inning and I throw to one hitter. I just want to be in the big leagues and stay there. I think I definitely have what it takes to be a big league pitcher, starting or reliever."
Data have shown many starters' performances waned significantly the second or third time against an opponent's batting order, prompting quicker hooks by managers. Few pitchers worked complete games or surpassed 200 innings last season.
"We were kind of used to that and bullpen guys were used to that, being ready in the fourth or fifth innings," Reed said. "With all the analytics stuff and guys batting the third time through the order, it's just the way it is. Some managers are different than others. [Former interim manager Jim] Riggleman was a guy who was quick on the trigger, but we have guys in the bullpen that are really good that could get us all the way through the ninth inning."
Injury report
The Reds revealed Thursday that backup catcher Curt Casali had surgery to repair the labrum in his left hip the day after the 2018 season ended. It was performed at the Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd Hip Institute in Casali's hometown of Nashville.
Casali may be a little behind during camp, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day. He has been catching in the bullpen for Reds pitchers.
"The rehab is going good," Casali said. "In 2017, I had my right one done by [Byrd]. Now, I'm nice and even and pain-free. Last year was a grind from a catching standpoint. It was incredibly painful, but you've got to suck it up and help the team win."
• Pitcher Robert Stephenson is being held back because of right shoulder inflammation, the same shoulder that was injured and kept him out the final month of the '18 season. Stephenson is trying to make the team, but is out of Minor League options.
• Reliever Matt Bowman is dealing with a right lat strain and will be evaluated Sunday.
Romano slimmed down
There's always one player each spring who stuns with a dramatically slimmed-down look. In 2019, that player is undoubtedly Romano after he dropped 28 pounds in the offseason -- going from 278 to 250 pounds.
"I've never been fat. But I thought I could condition my body to improve my game all around," Romano said. "I think it will definitely benefit me."
Namaste, Reds players
One new program added to the Reds' Spring Training routine is yoga. It's considered voluntary for players, coaches and staff.
"I know there's people that are in this organization and very interested in [yoga]," Bell said. "When I came in, I tried to seek those people out to find out how much interest is there, because it's something that I've added into my personal life over the last 10 years. Basically, [yoga has] kind of healed me in a lot of ways from playing days and all that. I've been very interested in it.
"I've always thought it would be something, as an athlete you can't just do yoga all day long and be prepared to go out and play a baseball game. Yet, it could be a tool. It could be a practice that can be very beneficial to add into your overall program."
A yoga instructor was slated to hold a morning class on the upstairs patio at the complex, but rain forced the session to be moved indoors to the batting cages.
"We're going to start slow and have a couple sessions that are optional for guys, not only our players, but really everyone in the building," Bell said. "We'll make it available and see how it catches on."

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.