LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Reds would have been willing to bend to a six-man starting rotation to accommodate Shohei Ohtani. That was because the club has some veterans coming off of injuries and a lot of young pitchers.
Manager Bryan Price still faces that the same situation without Ohtani, but he isn't warm to the idea of a six-man rotation in 2018.
"I understand the question, for sure," Price said on Wednesday during the Winter Meetings. "I think there's teams that will probably take a look at that. For me, I like a traditional five-man rotation, in particular with the addition of the extra off-days this year. I think it's a lot harder once you train your players to be in this, in a six-day or six-man rotation. If you ever want to peel that back, I think that becomes a bit more challenging.
"We're conditioning our guys in the system to pitch on an every-five-day rotation, at least from A-ball. And maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I would like to see us stick with a five-man rotation and hopefully only a seven-man bullpen, so we have some more bench strength."
• Bryan Price Winter Meetings interview transcript
Price acknowledged he doesn't have the final say in the rotation makeup, but has his first four guys in his mind as being Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Luis Castillo. DeSclafani, Bailey and Finnegan each missed all or most of last season with injuries.
The fifth spot would be up for grabs at Spring Training among Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson and Tyler Mahle, among others. Michael Lorenzen, a right-handed setup man from the bullpen the last two seasons, will also get a chance to start during camp.
"We've learned this lesson the hard way, is that you have to be conditioning more than five guys," Price said. "You may have six guys or realistically seven guys that are competing for your rotation, if you're in a situation like ours. But because we've really had a hard time getting out of Spring Training healthy within our starting rotation, we have to have the depth."
Price noted that there are two pitchers that have been starters in the past that will be looked at as relievers.
"Not going to mention them right now, because I would rather talk with them about it before I make any announcements, and make sure that [general manager Dick Williams] and our front office have their support in that," Price said. "But I think we have at least two guys that have been primarily starters in our system that will compete for bullpen spots in Spring Training and bullpen spots only."
Cincinnati competed with the youngest roster in the Major Leagues last season and currently has two players over 30 on their 40-man roster. While the rebuild has been painful, with four straight losing seasons, many of the Reds' young players -- especially the pitchers -- now have valuable big league experience.
The Reds want to turn the corner and contend before their current wave of young players -- such as third baseman Eugenio Suarez and left fielder Adam Duvall -- get close to free agency.
"When you're in Cincinnati, we got to hit it right," Price said. "You get to that point where all of a sudden we need this thing to hit because pretty soon these are going to be guys that are in their fifth or sixth season, and we have to make the tough decisions on who we can extend and who we have to look to move.
"I would like to think that next season is going to be an improvement that we have been waiting to see in this group. But not only do we have to see improvement pretty soon, we've got to see our playoff window open for us and we have got to jump through it."