GOODYEAR, AZ. — With a clutter of candidates for the No. 4 and No. 5 starting spots in the Cincinnati Reds pitching rotation, how will manager Bryan Price get to see enough innings and appearances from all the suspects?
Price is a Man with a Plan — as always.
First of all, here is a partial list of the candidates to pitch behind Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake: Tony Cingrani, Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Dylan Axelrod, David Holmberg, Paul Maholm, Jason Marquis, Michael Lorenzon.
So how does Price and his staff evaluate so many pitchers when exhibition games begin March 3 and where do they find enough innings and enough games?
Price already has indicated that at first glance Cingrani and DeSclafani are the early on-the-board 2-to-1 favorites. Those odds could easily change during the 33-game exhibition schedule.
SO HERE, IN BRIEF, is Price’s plan. Not all the starting pitchers will get to start games. There will be some piggy-backing, meaning that one starting pitcher might follow another starting pitcher in games, come into games in the third of fourth innings. Some pitchers who are sure-things to make the team will pitch in minor-league games and some will pitch in three or four early-morning ‘B’ games that the Reds have scheduled.
“It is hard to get them all starts, but we will find the innings for all of them,” said Price. “We’ve scheduled two ‘B’ games, one with the Indians and one with the Diamondbacks. We may look to add more after March 15, if necessary.
“We are going to see guys who are competing for the rotation have to come in after a starter, have to come into relief in the fourth or fifth innings because we can’t accommodate them all with starts,” he added. “The guys we have competing for spots are the guys we don’t want pitching in a ‘B’ game or in minor-league games. We need to evaluate them here in the ‘A’ games.
“Some of the guys we know are going to make the team will pitch in one or two minor-league games or a ‘B’ game in the second half of the spring schedule,” said Price.
Maholm and Marquis are veterans, guys who have bounced around. While they are contenders, if they pitch glowingly this spring, they are more like insurance policies and stop gaps.
“It would be much more challenging if the fight was between five or six rookies or inexperienced players,” said Price. “The great part about having experienced players in camp is that you know they won’t hurt themselves by making poor pitch selections or mental mistakes. They are established and have been comfortable pitching in the big leagues.”
The big question is if Maholm, 32 and a nine-year vetern and/or Marquis, 36 and a 13-year veteran, still have the stuff, the command, the velocity.
“If they aren’t successful, typically it is because their stuff is not there any more,” Price said of the veterans. “They don’t have enough stuff to compete at this level. But I don’t think that’s the case for Jason or Paul. So I feel really, really good with the options we have for our rotation — youth and experience.
RANDY MARSH, a northern Kentucky resident, former major league umpire and now an umpire supervisor and special consultant with Major League baseball, was in camp Saturday, along with MLB official Joe Garagiola Jr. Their mission was to meet with manager Bryan Price and the Reds coaches to discuss the new rules aimed at speeding up the game.
One of the new rules is that a batter must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box at all times, no wandering around between pitches. So what is penalty? Reportedly, there will be a grace period through April for players to adjust, then it will be a $500 fine.
AND WHAT DOES Jay Bruce, a Happy Wanderer between pitches, think about it?
“Really haven’t thought about it, but it is a rule I will follow,” said Bruce. “Whether you like it or not, it is a rule you have to follow. I’m just an employee who works here and follows the rules.”
SKIP SCHUMAKER is one guy who was glad, sor of, to see Mat Latos traded. It isn’t that he disliked Latos or that he doesn’t think he can pitch. It is all in the numbers.
Throughout his career at St. Louis and Los Angeles Schumaker wore No. 55. When he arrived in Cincinnati last year No. 55 belonged to Latos. Now that Latos is gone, Schumaker is wearing ’55,’ “A number that was given to me my first year and I’ve kept wearing it. So, to Latos, I said as he left, ‘Don’t let the door hit you in the butt.’” He was kidding.