Reds ready for first camp under Price's leadership
After four years as pitching coach, he takes reins from longtime skipper Baker
CINCINNATI -- The Reds will be arriving this week to Spring Training with a roster mostly intact from 2013, but this edition of camp will have a big difference at the top.
Bryan Price is now in charge.
Price is a first-time manager at any level, and he was promoted after four seasons as the Reds' pitching coach to replace Dusty Baker. Cincinnati dismissed Baker after the Reds won at least 90 games and made the playoffs in three of the past four years but did not advance past the first round.
The quality of the pitching staff, led by Price, was one of the main reasons for the club's overall success in past years.
"Having Bryan here, the things he instilled for our rotation and bullpen -- 25 guys need to buy into it," Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey said. "We need to play the game better. I know where [Price] stands for all of that. It's definitely so far in the right direction, it's great. We still have to go out there and win games."
As for player transactions, the Reds were largely idle on big moves in a winter that will be remembered more for two big losses. Free agents Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo will not be back.
Rookie Billy Hamilton has a chance to replace Choo as the leadoff hitter and center fielder. Because of Hamilton's inexperience as a hitter, immediate success is not viewed as a lock. Another young player, lefty pitcher Tony Cingrani, is slated to replace Arroyo in the rotation.
The core of the team -- Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips -- remains, as do returning younger players like Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco.
Bailey was optimistic about his team's chances to contend in the National League Central.
"I think it's going to be good," Bailey said. "We definitely have our work cut out for us. But in a way, I don't think we're as bad off as everybody thinks."
Bailey noted that the Reds were able to overcome significant losses during last season.
"Any team that loses their two big set-up guys, one of their top rotation starters for most of the year, and their No. 4-hole hitter and still win 90 games -- think about it," said Bailey. "That's pretty impressive, right? I don't think there are any other teams that could have done that. It's tough to win games like that, but we did. I think we have a good group here."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
At Indians, Feb. 26, 3:05 p.m. ET.
Home vs. Cardinals, March 31, 4:10 p.m. ET.
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Is Hamilton ready for the leadoff spot?
The Reds already know that the Hamilton is super fast and can handle himself defensively in center field. What they won't know until camp is over is how well he can do hitting as the team's leadoff man. Hamilton has put in the extra work since last season with winter ball, and he arrived at camp early to work on his hitting, particularly his bunting.
2. What is Price -- the manager -- going to be like?
For the first time since 2008, there is a new person and voice running the show as field manager. Price, promoted from pitching coach to replace Baker, brings familiarity since he's already been on the coaching staff for four years. But this will be his first managing job at any level. Although Price didn't expect many stark changes from the previous regime, he will be different from Baker. How much different he'll be remains to be seen.
3. Is Johnny Cueto ready to be the ace again?
Three stints on the disabled list because of a strained right lat muscle limited Cueto to only 11 starts in 2013. He looked good during his return for two regular season starts in September, and Cueto said during the offseason that he feels 100 percent healthy again. However, the rigors of Spring Training should provide a good test heading into the regular season.
90-72, third in the National League Central
Projected batting order
1. CF Billy Hamilton:
.368 BA, .429 OBP, .474 SLG, 0 HR, 1 RBI in 2013
2. 2B Brandon Phillips:
.261 BA, .310 OBP, .396 SLG, 18 HR, 103 RBIs in 2013
3. 1B Joey Votto:
.305 BA, .435 OBP, .491 SLG, 24 HR, 73 RBIs in 2013
4. LF Ryan Ludwick:
.240 BA, .293 OBP, .326 SLG, 2 HR, 12 RBIs in 2013
5. RF Jay Bruce :
.262 BA, .329 OBP, .478 SLG, 30 HR, 109 RBIs in 2013
6. 3B Todd Frazier:
.234 BA, .314 OBP, .407 SLG, 19 HR, 73 RBIs in 2013
7. C Devin Mesoraco:
.238 BA, .287 OBP, .362 SLG, 9 HR, 42 RBIs in 2013
8. SS Zack Cozart:
.254 BA, .284 OBP, .381 SLG, 12 HR, 63 RBIs in 2013
1. Johnny Cueto: 5-2, 2.82 ERA in 2013
2. Mat Latos: 14-7, 3.16 ERA in 2013
3. Homer Bailey: 11-12, 3.49 ERA in 2013
4. Mike Leake: 14-7, 3.37 ERA in 2013
5. Tony Cingrani: 7-4, 2.92 ERA in 2013
Closer: Aroldis Chapman: 38/43 saves, 2.54 ERA in 2013
RH setup man: Jonathan Broxton: 4.11 ERA in 2013
LH setup man: Sean Marshall: 1.74 ERA in 2013
The new guys
IF/OF Skip Schumaker: A left-handed hitter, Schumaker was added to boost the bench. He can serve as a backup outfielder and second baseman. He was signed to a two-year, $5 million contract.
C Brayan Pena: Signed to a two-year, $2.275 million contract, the former Tigers backup catcher is a switch-hitter who will provide a veteran presence behind the young Mesoraco. Pena is also looking forward to teaming with a fellow Cuban Chapman.
INF Ramon Santiago: Signed to a Minor League contract, Santiago can earn $1.1 million if he makes the team. Not known for hitting, he can play three infield positions and could be a backup shortstop.
OF Roger Bernadina : A non-roster invite after signing a Minor League contract, Bernadina can earn $1 million if he makes the team out of camp. He can play all three outfield positions, but he essentially provides protection behind the rookie Hamilton in center field.
RHP Chien-Ming Wang: Another invite on a Minor League contract, Wang can provide depth at the Triple-A level behind the five pitchers in the rotation.
LHP Jeff Francis: Back again as a non-roster invite after being in the same position in 2012, Francis is a veteran lefty who could also provide depth should something happen with the rotation.
Prospects to watch
RHP Robert Stephenson: The organization's top pitching prospect will be in his first big league camp. In 22 starts combined last season at Class A Dayton, Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, the 20-year-old Stephenson was 7-7 with 2.99 ERA. His fastball can often touch the high 90s mph, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him in the Majors by the end of 2014.
RHP Michael Lorenzen: The 38th overall selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, Lorenzen moved quickly through the system last year. He pitched at four different levels in his first pro season and reached Double-A before completing a stint in the Arizona Fall League. The 22-year-old is learning how to become a starting pitcher after he was both a reliever and outfielder in college.
C Tucker Barnhart: The 23-year-old Barnhart batted .260 with a .348 on-base percentage in 98 games at Pensacola last season. He also caught 37 percent of runners attempting to steal. Barnhart is expected to be at Triple-A Louisville this year.
On the rebound
Ludwick: An Opening Day headfirst slide caused Ludwick to tear the labrum in his right shoulder, resulting in surgery. It cost him much of the season and limited him to 38 games. The 35-year-old's power wasn't back upon his return, as he had two homers and 12 RBIs in 129 at-bats.
Cueto: The Reds will need their ace to be back to his 2012 levels, when he won 19 games, pitched more than 200 innings and was able to make every start.
Phillips: Despite setting a career high with 103 RBIs, Phillips' overall production declined after being hit on the right forearm by a pitch on June 1. He should be 100 percent heading into camp.
Broxton: Entering the second year of a three-year, $21 million contract, Broxton had surgery in August to repair a torn flexor mass in his right forearm.
Marshall: Shoulder tendinitis put Marshall on the disabled list last season from May 24-Sept. 16 and limited him to 16 appearances. This will be an important season for Marshall to show he's healthy and durable.
Choo: Highly respected by his teammates despite playing just one season in Cincinnati, Choo provided exceptional skills from the leadoff spot and a .423 on-base percentage. His departure was expected and sealed with a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Rangers.
Arroyo: A durable pitcher who never missed a start and worked 199 or more innings in all eight of his seasons in Cincinnati, Arroyo will be missed on multiple levels. But he's turning 37 and was seeking a multiyear contract, something the Reds weren't willing to do -- especially with Cingrani ready to be a full-time starter.
C Ryan Hanigan: Part of a three-team trade that sent him to the Rays, Hanigan was respected for his defense, how he worked with pitchers and his ability to shut down an oppenent's running game.
INF Cesar Izturis: A camp invite who made the club last year, Izturis was the backup infielder and made 15 starts at shortstop. But his bat was too light to be an effective bench player.
OF Xavier Paul: The Reds' primary pinch-hitter was non-tendered in December. He signed a Minor League deal with the Orioles.
OF Derrick Robinson: Impressive in camp last year as a non-roster player, Robinson was deservedly summoned when Ludwick went on the DL in April. Although he showed great speed, his base running skills were not so strong. Robinson was designated for assignment after the season.