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With first game on tap, Reds ready for action

First-year skipper Price, players eager to test waters in competition

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The drills, the batting practices, the bullpen sessions and the meetings have all been productive for the Reds this spring. But they've also been repetitive activities with predictable outcomes.

Players are itching to play games, and they will now have their chance.

"Workouts are good. We've all done plenty of working out," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "That stuff is going to continue to get better as far as BP. But getting out there, seeing some live pitching and playing the game is going to make us more ready."

On Wednesday, exhibition games begin for the Reds, as they will open their Cactus League schedule with the first of three games vs. the Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. First pitch is at 3:05 p.m. ET, and the game will air on MLB.TV.

"Something to talk about, really, other than the speculative stuff," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It will be great to talk about performance and how we see the team take shape over the course of this next month. That's exciting for all of us. Until they play, you really don't know where to go."

Price is turning to reliever Alfredo Simon to start the opener against Cleveland's Trevor Bauer. Simon is getting a look as a possible starter in case the injured Mat Latos (left knee) isn't ready to begin the regular season. Johnny Cueto will start on Thursday, followed by Homer Bailey on Friday.

As for the starting position players, Price expected them to play no more than five innings on Wednesday.

Inside the Reds' clubhouse, the players were anticipating a chance to get more tangible results from their efforts.

"I think everyone is ready for games, especially the guys that have been here for a while," utility player Skip Schumaker said. "I'm sure the pitchers are ready. They've probably done enough PFPs [pitchers' fielding practice]. I think we're excited to get this thing rolling."

Most of the regular eight starting spots are locked down, barring the unforeseen. But this will be the first chance for center fielder Billy Hamilton to begin solidifying himself as Cincinnati's leadoff hitter. Left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who missed most of last season with a right shoulder injury, will get to see how his power has returned. Devin Mesoraco is entering the year as the team's regular catcher for the first time.

Besides just getting ready for the regular season, Spring Training games are a time for experimentation. Price plans to have baserunners be more aggressive, and everyone will have the green light to steal. There has been a stress on situational hitting during drills, which could come into play.

"It's a great learning opportunity for us, this next month," Price said. "We'll find out really what we have. I've talked a lot about ceiling for players, but you have to start expanding the ceiling and give them the opportunity to show us what they can do."

And like the players, Price will get his first crack at showing what he can do. He has never managed at any level previously and spent the past 14 years as a big league coach, including 2010-13 with the Reds.

Price, who replaced Dusty Baker, will have a chance to make in-game decisions that he hasn't previously had to make.

"This is an important spring for me, as well," Price said. "Just getting acquainted with my position, it's a new position for me. I'm really enjoying the administrative portion of putting together a lineup, and your second wave of players. I very much enjoy that and spending time with [third-base coach Steve Smith], the catchers, [catching coordinator] Mike Stefanski as far as the slide-step signs and the signs to our hitters and baserunners. I'm really excited about all of this stuff. It's important for me to get acclimated to the role."

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

Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Billy Hamilton, Mat Latos, Ryan Ludwick, Devin Mesoraco, Skip Schumaker, Alfredo Simon