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Rule 5 players eager for camp competitions

O'Grady, Cave were selected from other clubs in December
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The size of the opportunity before lefty reliever Chris O'Grady is not lost on him. The Reds' bullpen has no defined roles set, and it's a wide-open competition in Spring Training.

Adding to the intrigue, O'Grady is a Rule 5 Draft pick.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The size of the opportunity before lefty reliever Chris O'Grady is not lost on him. The Reds' bullpen has no defined roles set, and it's a wide-open competition in Spring Training.

Adding to the intrigue, O'Grady is a Rule 5 Draft pick.

"In a brief sentence, grateful and excited," O'Grady said Saturday about getting this chance. "I never got to go to big league camp with the Angels. Just getting to come to camp is a huge deal to me. That's one thing, and knowing I have a shot at making the team is unexplainable. I can't even describe how excited I am."

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Rule 5 players are players who were left unprotected on their original club's roster and subsequently selected by a new club for $50,000 with the stipulation that they must stay on a Major League 25-man roster the entire season. If they aren't, they are returned to their original organization for $25,000.

The last time the Reds carried a Rule 5 player was 2007, when they had two successes in outfielder Josh Hamilton and reliever Jared Burton. Cincinnati actually has two Rule 5 players this year: Before O'Grady was taken from the Angels, outfielder Jake Cave was plucked from the Yankees in the first round.

Cave, 23, also faces an open competition as the Reds have a vacancy in left field and no bench spots set.

"This is a good opportunity to be in for an outfielder," Cave said. "The Yankees had a little bit of a logjam of left-handed-hitting outfielders. For somebody to be able to pick me in the Rule 5, it's a club that obviously needs some versatility in the outfield. I'm excited."

Rule 5 selections are often viewed as a low-cost, low-risk gamble. That can especially be the case for a team not expected to contend, because it's a little easier to hold a roster spot. Many times, the player is plucked from the lower Minor Leagues, not close to being ready for the Majors and hidden on the roster with limited game action.

Video: ATL@NYY: Cave ties the game with ground-rule double

Cave and O'Grady are not in that latter situation.

"They'll have to fill a need," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think it's hard to compete if you don't have a player that can help you at the big league level. They have to fill a particular void on your club. It may not be as an impact, everyday player or a starter or late reliever, but they've got to help you. If it's a guy like Cave, he's going to have to be able to platoon, pinch-run, defend, pinch-hit. If it's Chris O'Grady, he's going to have to come in and be able to throw good, consistent innings to have any real value.

"I don't think either one of those guys, with where they are with their experience, are guys you try to keep on your roster for a year so you can send them to the Minor Leagues next year."

O'Grady, who turns 26 on April 17, posted a 3.28 ERA last season in 45 games, 38 of which came with Double-A Arkansas and seven with Triple-A Salt Lake. In 57 2/3 innings, he allowed 47 hits and 14 walks with 57 strikeouts and a 1.06 WHIP. He prefers having to earn the roster spot out of camp, rather than to get it just because the Reds would risk losing him if he doesn't.

"It's a positive in a couple of ways. One, they had the confidence to take me, which tells me they have the confidence I can make the Major League roster and stick with the team," O'Grady said. "Also if I do make it, it's not given to me. It's because of what I showed them in Spring Training and in the past. It's that I proved to everybody else that I belong and deserve to be here."

O'Grady would be expected to get batters out on both sides of the plate. He fared better vs. righties last year, as they hit .215 compared to the .238 mark posted by lefties. Not a power pitcher, he relies on a variety of pitches, including a cutter.

Cave batted .278/.339/.359 with two home runs and 39 RBIs in 132 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015. He has posted a .285/.346/.391 slash line over his four Minor League seasons, and he can play all three outfield positions.

"You never know the situation. The more positions you play, the more opportunity you get to play," Cave said.

A decision about whether to keep Cave and O'Grady could be held until the end of camp.

"I thought Chris O'Grady, just watching him on video, if he can simulate what he's done in the Minor Leagues at this level, he'll find success," Price said. "The difference for a guy like Jake would be going from a guy that's playing regularly to maybe being in a platoon situation or being a guy that rotates around the outfield and finds some different ways to help our ballclub. It's a tough role."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds