Pitching, pitching, pitching is theme of Reds annual local Caravan stop –
By Mark Carpenter –
Though we are in the midst of winter at the moment, last weekend brought a reminder of spring and the anticipation of those relaxing summer nights at the ball park. The annual Cincinnati Reds Caravan made its yearly rounds through Reds Country and one of those stops for the East Tour of the Caravan was at the Conference Center in Maysville, Ky. on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 25.
The Caravan is a chance for media and fans to get up close and personal with current day Reds major leaguers and minor leaguers, coaches, broadcasters, and front office staff. Representing the Reds in Maysville were: Manager Bryan Price, Reds Hall of Famer “Mr. Perfect” Tom Browning, pitchers Sal Romano and Cody Reed, Vice-President and Senior Advisor to the General Manager Buddy Bell, Broadcaster Jeff Piecoro, and minor league top prospect Nick Senzel.
As it has been all throughout the Hot Stove winter months, the questions for the Reds all seem to center around a spot on the diamond 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. With an every day lineup that seems pretty set, the success of the team in 2018 will center around the pitching staff.
“We have 31 pitchers reporting to our major league camp next month, and we will use them all,” said Price. “I really think that is important that we are impacted in a positive way by Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, and Brandon Finnegan as our veteran starters, all of whom have dealt with injuries in recent seasons. If we slide a couple of the young guys into the rotation, we have veteran leadership on our staff to take the pressure off the young pitchers.”
“Pitching really is the key, for any team, not just the Reds. The best pitching staffs throw a lot of strikes and keep the other team from scoring, those are your playoff teams. We can’t always depend on scoring six runs a game to win.”
The newest face in the Reds front office is actually a familiar face as former Red Buddy Bell comes aboard as V-P and Senior Advisor to General Manager Dick Williams, another fine baseball mind on the staff.
“I am so excited about this opportunity, “ said Bell, whose father Gus was a star for the Reds in the 1950’s and whose two sons are now working in baseball front offices in San Francisco and Arizona.
“I have been a big fan of Bryan Price for a long time, he has a terrific baseball mind. As an organization, we have to win. If we can get these young pitchers going, and get our bullpen straightened out, it could be an interesting season.”
Also part of the Caravan stop was one of the most popular former Reds pitchers, “Mr. Perfect” Tom Browning, who later this year will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his perfect game win over the Dodgers in 1988.
“It’s always a pleasure to get out here with the fans and hear stories and share stories,” says Browning. “Baseball is just around the corner and baseball chatter is starting up.”
“If this team doesn’t get good starting pitching, it has no chance. Some of these young guys know now what it takes to survive in the big leagues. We can always score six, we just can’t give up seven. Our offense is solid, our defense is solid, and I think these youngsters will become mainstays in the Reds rotation.”
One of the young pitchers who has struggled thus far at the big league level is left-hander Cody Reed, who is looking to bounce back in 2018.
“I think I have the ability to pitch in the major leagues and I just went into last year with a bad mindset,” says Reed. “I think I can be either a starter or reliever and I can’t feel sorry for myself, I just have to go out there and pitch with confidence and learn from my bad experiences. I’m proud to be a Cincinnati Red and I will keep learning from the veterans how to be a professional. My confidence is back and I’m ready to go and get another chance.”
One of the bright spots in the Reds’ future is number one draft pick Nick Senzel, who is rated among the top prospects in baseball, but will have to find a position to crack this Cincinnati Lineup. Senzel is naturally a third baseman, but Eugenio Suarez seems to be firmly entrenched there after a solid 2017 campaign, so there is talk of Senzel experimenting in spring training at other infield positions, and maybe even the outfield.
“I feel like my first couple of minor league years went by so fast,” says Senzel. “I am excited about going to big league camp, there’s some opportunities out there for me. It will be good to be around the big league guys and just soak it all up. Playing another position will be a challenge for me but I am still excited for that opportunity. I’ve been working on some of that in the off season, trying to prepare to be the best I can.”
The Cincinnati pitchers and catchers report to camp in Goodyear, Arizona on Feb. 13, with the rest of the squad due in on Feb. 19. The first spring training game is scheduled for Feb. 23 with the Cleveland Indians.