Reds bring back Strickland, familiar 'pen option

February 18th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Without a job, veteran reliever decided it was time to go to Spring Training anyway, and drove from his home in Georgia to Arizona. The trip paid off.

"It was trusting the process and trusting what happens. It presented itself yesterday and luckily we came to an agreement and now we’re here. It’s a blessing," Strickland said on Saturday after the Reds brought him back on a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training.

Strickland, 34, will immediately enter the competition for a bullpen spot that has many candidates.

Last season for Cincinnati, Strickland didn't post sterling numbers, going 3-3 with a 4.91 ERA and 4.78 FIP. But he led the pitching staff in games (66) and games finished (35), and set a career high with 62 1/3 innings pitched.

Strickland was given the chance to close some games but often struggled in that role. He had seven saves and four blown saves in 11 tries. The down year came after he pitched to a 2.61 ERA in 57 appearances in 2021.

"I feel like there’s unfinished business on my end, personally," Strickland said. "I feel like I have a lot more to give than I gave last year, from a performance standpoint. My relationships with the staff and community were real. There was a lot of time and effort invested in that and I want to see that through. There’s a lot of good people and good talent from the top down.”

Manager David Bell often pointed to Strickland's durability and clubhouse leadership. The right-hander was one of two players (and the only pitcher) to spend the entire season on the Reds' roster without a stint on the injured list.

"Hunter was available for 162 games," Bell said. "I haven't been doing this for a long time, but I'd never seen that before. Even after three [games] in a row, he was always available on that fourth day. That's just who he is, what he believes he's paid to do.

"I do value the desire, and I think it can say a lot about a player that wants to be out on the field no matter what all the time."

More from Saturday at Reds camp
• Joey Votto and Wil Myers reported to camp. The report date for position players is on Sunday, with the first full-squad workout on Monday.

• Reds pitchers worked in live batting practice and faced hitters for the first time in camp. Hunter Greene took the mound against Myers, Jonathan India and Kevin Newman. Greene did hit India with an inside pitch, but the batter was OK. Reliever Lucas Sims and rotation candidate Connor Overton also faced the same trio.

• On another field, lefty pitching prospect and rotation candidate Brandon Williamson looked good while facing Jose Barrero, Spencer Steer and Chad Pinder.

• Overton and fellow starter candidate Justin Dunn are among those who could still make the team for bullpen spots if they don't make the rotation out of camp.

"We’re looking for the best 13 guys to break camp with," Bell said. "There’s a priority of filling out the five-man. Hopefully we have guys that show they can be a sixth [starter] early in the year if something comes up. If the guys that don’t make the rotation very easily could be in the best 13. I want Connor and Justin to get every opportunity to make the rotation. They are candidates, [Luis] Cessa is the same way. Those guys could easily shift to the bullpen."