Overton gets confidence boost after culling repertoire

March 16th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- , who is competing for a rotation spot on the Reds this spring, hadn't been as effective as he would like. Therefore, he very much needed to have a better performance on Wednesday vs. the Cubs -- and he got one.

“Ten times better than any other outing I’ve had this year so far," said Overton, who pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits with one walk and four strikeouts during his fourth game of the spring.

The game was canceled with two outs in the fourth inning because of rain with Chicago leading, 2-1.

Overton came in with a 14.85 ERA over his first three Cactus League games (two starts) and was frequently giving up hard contact. After talking with pitching coach Derek Johnson, he simplified his repertoire from seven pitches to four and made some other adjustments -- both physical and mental.

"Me and DJ sat down and talked and he just felt like I was leaving a lot out there, as far as effort," Overton explained. "Not that I wasn’t trying, but he was like, ‘There’s more in you and I’ve seen it.’ The focus of this week was just moving quicker, getting more out of my body and having more intent behind every pitch.”

Overton got multiple whiffs on his fastball.

"That was another thing we worked on was pitching above the zone with the heater, not just top of the zone, but actually above the zone," he said. "That was pretty effective tonight.”

Overton's first game for Cincinnati was on April 30 last season and he went 1-0 with a 1.82 ERA in four starts before a stress reaction in his back forced him to miss four months. He was able to return in September for two relief appearances.

Along with Overton, , , and prospect are competing for the final two rotation spots. An outing like Wednesday's provided a boost.

“You definitely want to finish strong," Overton said. "This is just giving me confidence for the next outing or whatever we have left here. I had a slow start. After that, I feel great. We’ll see how I can finish up.”

The Reds would like to see more positive results from the overall rotation competition. Cessa had two solid outings before departing camp to pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, where he has made one relief appearance so far.

Weaver, who has had mixed outings in his first three games, departed early from a Minor League game on Monday with a sore right forearm. The injury wasn't thought to be serious, but his next scheduled start on Saturday vs. the A's was scratched.

"Luke said he feels good today. I saw him, so that's a good sign," Reds manager David Bell said.

Williamson will make the start vs. Oakland instead. The lefty, who is ranked as the organization's No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has shown flashes of his talent, but has also struggled to throw strikes at times while posting a 9.00 ERA in four games.

Anderson was re-signed to a Minor League contract last month after camp opened. He pitched two scoreless innings in his first start, but gave up three earned runs and six hits in his second.

"I think now we’re at the point where we have to see who’s ready for Opening Day," Overton said. “I think the results definitely matter. Maybe not necessarily the stat line or scoreboard because there’s a lot of factors. Are you getting ahead in counts? Are you executing pitches? Do you have the endurance? Can you keep going? Stuff like that.”

Other items from Reds camp on Wednesday

• After he went 0-for-5 over his first two games, notched his first hit of spring vs. Chicago. Following a two-out double in the third inning, Votto lined an RBI single to left-center field to make it a 1-1 game.

• Reliever returned to the clubhouse after pitching for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic. Gibaut pitched in one game and earned a six-out save in a win over Colombia. His squad was eliminated from the tournament by Mexico at Chase Field on Tuesday.

"Obviously, it was a different atmosphere than Spring Training," Gibaut said. "It was good to get that early in the season. It was fun, high-intensity type situations. Pitching in the eighth and ninth innings was a blast."

• Lefty starting pitcher threw a simulated game in the afternoon at the team complex.