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With Byrd on board, Reds turn to other needs

GM Jocketty seeks relievers, bench players

CINCINNATI -- Just under the wire before 2014 became 2015, the Reds addressed their left-field situation by trading for Marlon Byrd. But that didn't mean their offseason efforts to improve ended there.

There are roughly six weeks left in the offseason before Spring Training begins. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty already has turned his attention to other needs for the club.

"We'll concentrate now on the bullpen, and especially anything we can do to improve the bench and any of our pitching depth," Jocketty said on Dec. 31, shortly after the Reds acquired Byrd from the Phillies for Minor League pitcher Ben Lively.

With specific spots still unsettled, the Reds' bench currently has backup catcher Brayan Pena, outfielder/second baseman Skip Schumaker, utility player Kristopher Negron, reserve outfielder Jason Bourgeois and shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who came from the Tigers in the Alfredo Simon trade last month.

What's missing is a guy with pinch-hitting power. Reserve outfielder Chris Heisey, who filled that role and had a Major League-leading four homers as a pinch-hitter last season, was traded to the Dodgers last month. Also lacking is someone who could back up Joey Votto at first base. Pena made 45 starts there last season and third baseman Todd Frazier can also play the position, but the Reds wouldn't mind having another option there.

The free-agent market isn't bountiful with options at this point. The club has shown no interest in reuniting with former Red Jonny Gomes and is unlikely to do the same with Juan Francisco. Jason Kubel, who was released by the Twins in June, has six homers the last two seasons after hitting 30 homers in 2012 for the D-backs.

Other names on the market include Colby Rasmus, Nate Schierholtz, Kelly Johnson and Donnie Murphy.

The Reds' bullpen proved surprisingly volatile last year as some pitchers with decent track records took steps backward in 2014. As a whole, Reds relievers were ranked 14th out of 15 National League teams with a 4.11 ERA, and they can't say they were overused as the group owned the league low in innings pitched.

Closer Aroldis Chapman is likely to be joined in camp by righty Sam LeCure, lefty Manny Parra, righties Jumbo Diaz and J.J. Hoover and possibly lefty Sean Marshall, if he can return from two years of shoulder injuries. Pedro Villarreal, Carlos Contreras and others will be battling for spots.

Among the free-agent relievers available are Joba Chamberlain, John Axford and Burke Badenhop.

Add the five pending arbitration cases for Frazier, Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco, Mike Leake and Chapman, and the Reds have plenty left to accomplish before winter is done.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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