Reds' Spring Training opens to a different feel

Newcomers Gray, Kemp among early arrivals to join Bell

February 12th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The uniforms were still red, and the player development complex was where it's always been. But following an incredibly busy offseason by the Reds, quite a lot of other things looked and felt different.

It wasn't just that there were new faces when Reds camp opened Tuesday with the reporting of pitchers and catchers for physicals, there was a different vibe that could be felt in the hallways and clubhouse.

"One thing that comes to mind is just a real positive energy around the organization and in the city," said Reds manager David Bell, himself one of the new guys. "It's hard to put your finger on it, but you just sense that there's momentum, and it becomes really important to keep that going. But I wouldn't underestimate the importance of that either."

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Besides hiring Bell and 10 new coaches to join holdover Freddie Benavides, the Reds were one of the most active clubs this winter. The rotation was revamped via trades for , and . The offense was boosted by adding and , and reliever was officially signed as a free agent on Monday.

Even though there were no scheduled workouts until Wednesday, many players were on the practice fields throwing and hitting. After all the talk about what the Reds might do in 2019, it was time to get ready to do it.

"Being outside, get some nice weather and get to meet some of the guys, there's a lot of excitement around here," Gray said. "It's relieving and nice to be here and to officially get started."

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Kemp was one of several early arrivals among position players. The full squad is not scheduled to report until Sunday.

"You get in here, get your work, get to see and learn about new guys," said Kemp, who came over with Puig and Wood from the Dodgers in the Dec. 21 seven-player trade. "Things that you didn't know about guys that you played against for a while. I look pretty good in red."

One of the new members of Bell's staff is hitting coach Turner Ward, who was with Puig and Kemp in Los Angeles. Like Puig, Kemp said he has a good relationship with Ward.

"We had a good season last year. He's a great hitting coach," Kemp said. "I look forward to working with him some more. When I got traded, he's probably one of the first people that I called, like, 'Man, I can't get away from you.' We spent a lot of time in the cages the past year."

Much of the expected progress hinges on the success of the three new starters -- Gray, Wood and Roark -- to boost a rotation that had the second-highest ERA in the National League and the most homers allowed.

"It's cool, coming in, and we're jacked, man," Gray said. "We've all three been on winning teams for a majority of our careers, which is great. We've been around it, know what it takes. There's a lot of looking around, meeting guys, learning names, learning faces. Meeting those two things together, there's a lot of excitement. I think everyone can feel it."

Cincinnati has endured five straight losing seasons, including the last four of 90 or more losses. The many transactions underscored the need for a culture change in the clubhouse and the direction of the Reds.

The rebuilding mode may be considered over, but it doesn't mean the Reds are instant contenders.

"We have a lot of work to do, a ton of work to do," Bell said. "But things are headed in the right direction and good momentum and good energy. Talking to all of the players and people around here, there's a difference between being excited, I think, and really feeling like something special -- even if we're at the very beginning stages of it. I certainly get that sense from talking to other people and I get that myself."