Cincinnati’s season got off on a positive start in an exciting way when Todd Frazier crushed a three-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Reds a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh in their 2015 opener at Great American Ball Park. The game had a wild finish when a two-run homer by Andrew McCutchen tied the score in the top of the inning. Jumbo Diaz ended that rally by striking out the only batter he faced, which had timing to give him the win. Aroldis Chapman started the season out normally for him, retiring the side in order with a couple of strikeouts, for the save.
Johnny Cueto turned in a splendid outing, allowing no runs on four hits/one walk while striking out ten and even returned to work through the seventh inning after a rain delay. A third inning balk that scored Billy Hamilton and a solo homer by Jay Bruce the next frame gave him a 2-0 lead that he turned over to the bullpen which should have been plenty good for the win, but they coughed up the lead before Frazier’s tiebreaker.
Kevin Gregg, a surprise member of the opening day roster relieved Cueto and didn’t do anything to make manager Bryan Price glad that he gave him a chance today. All four batters he faced hit hard shots with two finding leather and two going for hits including McCutchen’s dinger. Manny Parra entered to yield a single to the only batter he faced before Diaz put out the fire.
In spite of blowing the lead, Cincinnati’s chances improved in their final at-bat when Hamilton reached with a single. Joey Votto followed him with his second base hit of the game setting up Frazier who cut loose on a 1-1 pitch from Tony Watson and drove it hard into the left field second deck. That preceding Chapman’s close was enough to give the Reds a 1-0 record on the season. The two teams will have a day off Tuesday and resume the series Wednesday with Mike Leake scheduled to start against Gerrit Cole.
One thing that made Gregg’s spot on the active roster surprising was that room was made by sending holdover Sam LeCure to Louisville. LeCure had been a very reliable reliever for Cincinnati for a couple of seasons before he started getting roughed up last June. Meanwhile the 36 year-old Gregg was a non-roster invite to spring training after appearing in only a dozen games with the Marlins last year before an elbow surgery ended his season.
This isn’t the first time that Price has made some surprise bullpen decisions before opening day in Cincinnati. While he was pitching coach in 2013 veteran Jose Arredondo failed to make the opening day roster despite coming off a solid season in which he posted a sub-three ERA while throwing over sixty innings. Though questionable at the time, that move was justified when Arrendondo not only cleared waivers, he was lit up for an ernie near six at Louisville and was out of baseball last year.
The bullpen was the last portion of the roster to be finalized this preseason. Joining Chapman, Gregg, Parra, and Diaz will be Tony Cingrani, Burke Badenhop, and J.J. Hoover. Though unimpressive, it’s only one outing for Gregg who will have an opportunity to right the ship. Meanwhile once LeCure recovers from the disappointment of his demotion he’ll have a chance to work his way back to the MLB level. If he regains his pre-June 2015 form there will be a spot for him somewhere.
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