Cincinnati Spring Training Progress

As teams use spring training to determine opening day rosters Cincinnati has gotten some nice starts from candidates for jobs that are still up for grabs. They’ve also lost some action from minor injuries, but none are expected to affect their opening day lineup.

Cincinnati has played eight exhibition games thus far and is sitting on a 4-3-1 record. First of all, a disclaimer needs to be issued saying that not a lot should be read into spring training stats. For example, today’s starter Johnny Cueto could have a double digit ERA this spring and nothing short of an injury will prevent him from being the Reds’ starter on opening day. They have 64 players at camp, but not all of them have a realistic chance of making the trip to Cincinnati when camp breaks. However, there are still a few jobs up for grabs and unless someone has privy to management communication, spring training performance along with public statements issued are about the only things to go on right now while anticipating the active roster.

The biggest stat is Joey Votto’s. His 1-3 in two games isn’t as noteworthy as the fact that he’s back on the field. He was expected to be a go when he entered spring training after missing most of last season to an injured quad, but he still didn’t see action in the first few games. For Reds fans the uncertainty of his injury had added frustration because there was a lot of anticipation for his return to action last year, which never happened. There were rumors late in the season that he’d be back, but perhaps at that time Cincinnati might have wanted to eliminate the risk of reinjuring when they had no chance of making a post season appearance. Typical Votto, he also has a walk making two trips to first base in his first four plate appearances.

Third baseman Irving Falu may not have a chance at making the opening day roster, but he’s not letting that slow him down in the Cactus League. Thus far the 31 year-old Puerto Rican has started off 5-7 with a walk and four runs scored. He’s been used at third base after spending most of his previous 47 games of MLB action at second for three different teams. Utility infield jobs are expected to go to Eugenio Suarez and Kris Negron, but lifetime Falu is a .277 AVG/.320 OB hitter in 130 plate appearances. The switch-hitter spent most of last season at Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate in Nashville where he hit .291 AVG/.343 OB in 76 games for the Sounds. He’s a non-roster invite and though it still seems improbable, if he were to force his way onto the active roster there could possibly be room for all three infielders because Negron also plays outfield.

Though Brennan Boesch is not in the 40-man he figures to get some consideration for an outfield spot and he hasn’t hurt his chances thus far with a 5-11 start that has included two homers. Jay Bruce has started off 4-10 with a homer which is encouraging after he dealt with injuries during the worst season of his career in 2014. Another outfield hopeful, Jason Bourgeios has gone 4-12 with three runs scored. Finally, though Donald Lutz is considered more of a first baseman, he also plays left field and is making a case for himself by going 3-10 with a homer.

Though there is a lot of uncertainty on the bench, the regular lineup has been locked in for the Reds since they traded for veteran Marlon Byrd to take over in left field. There is a chance that Suarez might challenge for regular duty at shortstop and he’s gone 3-9 with a walk. However, it doesn’t look like holdover Zach Cozart is going to step aside quietly because he’s 4-11.

The rotation is a very different scenario however. The backbone of their team the past few seasons had had a couple of spots turnover from budget-motivated offseason trades and another returnee, Homer Bailey is questionable for opening day availability after his season was shut down early for an elbow surgery.

Among the replacement candidates Tony Cingrani is atop the list due to a strong rookie season in 2013 and he’s made one appearance in which he tossed two scoreless innings. Daniel Corcino has matched that with one scoreless inning in each of two games. Raisel Inglesias has been touched up for a couple of runs in three innings, but both of them were unearned. Other zero ernies are Matt Magill (2 IP), Paul Maholm (2 IP), Jason Marquis (5 IP), and Kelvius Sampson (5 IP). David Holmberg has allowed only one run in 5 IP while Dylan Axelrod has allowed four runs (one earned) in 3 IP. High-profile trade pickup Anthony DeSclafani has been touched up for four runs (three earned) in 5 IP. Probably most noteworthy in the above paragraph are the three pitchers that have been run out for five innings. Cueto, Mike Leake, and Bailey are mainstays in the rotation and will probably get just enough action to get properly tuned up for the beginning of the season. It’s purely speculation, but perhaps there is a reason that certain candidates for the other two spots are getting more action.

And then there’s the bullpen where closer Aroldis Chapman is the only cinch certainty. Jumbo Diaz and Sam LeCure have both turned in two scoreless frames while J.J. Hoover and Manny Parra have both allowed one run in two appearances each. Sean Marshall, who is coming off two injury-riddled seasons, has yet to pitch while Burke Badenhop was lit up for six runs (five earned) in less than two innings. Jose Mijares has allowed a couple of runs in two-plus innings.

There’s still a lot of Arizona baseball to be played as manager Bryan Price decides who to make available for the season opener. A few regulars have missed some action: Devin Mesoraco (mild concussion), Billy Hamilton (shoulder pain after colliding with an outfield wall), and Todd Frazier (back spasms, expected to return today); but none of the ailments are considered serious enough to threaten the starts to their seasons.

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