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Looking for Mr. Middle Relief

GOODYEAR, AZ. — With his pitching coach background, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price wouldn’t prefer 25 pitchers on his roster.

 

That, of course, can’t happen. Somebody who knows which end of a bat to hold, other than Mike Leake, has to hit.

 

So, when asked if he planned to carry 11 or 12 pitchers to start the season, Price quickly said, “Twelve — five starters and seven relief pitchers.”

 

His explanation was: “We have one day off after Opening Day and then we have eight straight games, so we need that fifth starter. Seven in the bullpen is essential.”

 

ALL THE PITCHING talk this spring concerns who will flesh out the starting rotation, but Price has another objective and that’s to find a reliable long man in the bullpen.

 

Price harkens back to 2013 when Alfredo Simon was a top-shelf long man, but he was converted into a starter for 2014 and now he is gone. And the Reds never did find a bullpen replacement for Simon.

 

“The real question is who will fill that length role,” said Price. “Simon’s value in 2013 was significant. He was a durable, strike-throwing pitcher who could throw four or five innings and within a day or two would be able to pitch again. That’s an important role. As much as we talk about the rotation, the closer and the match-up guys, a durable, strike-throwing middle guy is important.”

 

And who might be a candidate? How about candidates? How about a whole bunch of candidates. Price looked at his list of pitchers on the whiteboard in his office and listed them.

 

“Quite a few, in fact,” he said. “I thought Pedro Villareal was impressive, you can look at guy like Keyvius Sampson, maybe one of the two veteran guys like Paul Maholm and Jason Marquis if they are not in the rotation, Mike Lorenzen is a guy who could do that, Matt Magill, Raisel Iglesias is an option if he isn’t in a starting role. Those guys are all candidates.”

 

And that wasn’t all. Price paused for a quick breath and said, “You could do a guy like Jon

Moscot if we thought that was a good way to get him acclimated to the big leagues as opposed to have him start at Triple-A.”

 

JOEY VOTTO WAS not in the lineup for the third straight day when the Reds played the Cleveland Indians Thursday for the third straight day.

 

But manager Bryan Price promises that the day is drawing near when fans will see Votto in the batter’s box and at first base.

 

Asked if Votto is close to playing, Price said, “Yeah. Yeah, he is. He is. You won’t have to hold your breath. I promise nobody will have to hold their breath. He is very close and he is chomping at the bit to get in there.”

 

BRANDON PHILLIPS BATTED second for the third straight exhibition game, but Price says not to read anything into it, that it doesn’t mean he plan to bat Phillips second when the season begins.

 

“I’m looking at Brandon to bat all over because you can plug Brandon into any spot in the order and he can be an effective player,” said Price. “We’re not playing our eight regulars at the same time right now and probably won’t until we get toward the end of spring training.

 

“We’ve seen Brandon bat one through six in the five years I’ve been here and throughout the coure of spring training these guys will hit all over the lineup,” Price added.

 

THE REDS AND INDIANS played a ‘B’ game on a back field Thursday morning, mostly so Price and his staff can get a look at some young pitchers like highly regard Nick Travieso and Jon Moscot

 

“It’s a great opportunity to look at them and it is a chance to get them into a ‘B’ game environment before sending them into the 1 o’clock ‘A’ games,” said Price. “I’m really looking forward to seeing them transition from the bullpens and the live batting practice into game action. We get to see how they manage a game, manage the running game, how they compete.”

 

It wasn’t a fun morning for Mr. Moscot, despite the pleasant Arizona sun. He started the game and gave up three ground ball singles and three walks without retiring a batter. They cried ‘uncle’ and stopped the inning, the beauty of ‘B’ games. When the second inning began, Moscot was back on the mound and gave up a double and a run-scoring single, but also got three outs.


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