Reds manager Bryan Price lists four "locks" for starting rotation
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price fielded questions from the media Wednesday afternoon during Major League Baseball's winter meetings in Orlando, Florida.
The 25-minute press conference was streamed live on the Reds' Facebook page.
When asked about the team's 2018 starting pitching, Price said he sees four "locks" for the rotation.
The Reds skipper named Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Luis Castillo as the four he expects to make the rotation next spring.
"As of today, I would say I've got four guys in mind that I'm really comfortable with in the rotation that for me would be considered locks," Price said.
Other guys who Price discussed as potential fifth starting pitchers are Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen. Each could also fill in if any starters face injury.
"I don't have the only vote in the room on this and we have to get through Spring Training whole," Price said. "You have to create a depth to our starting options."
DeSclafani missed all of the 2017 season with an elbow injury and Bailey has missed significant time each of the past three season, throwing only 125.1 innings combined.
Price added that some guys who don't make the rotation could see time in the bullpen rather than being sent to the minor leagues. He did not specify which pitchers could be considered for relief pitching roles. Lorenzen pitched exclusively out of the bullpen the past two years and hasn't started since 2015, but has expressed an interest in returning to the rotation.
"What we're going to do, first and foremost, is in the best interest of the ball club and if it's Michael as a reliever, then he'll be in the bullpen," Price said. "But, I'd like to provide him with an opportunity to showcase his skills as a starter."
Price also said he would prefer sticking to a five-man rotation rather than trying to do a six-man rotation.
Other notable pitchers the Reds have on their roster that made at least one start in 2017 are Jackson Stephens, Cody Reed, Amir Garrett and Rookie Davis.
Price did not discuss the possibility of the Reds adding a veteran starter to the roster through free agency or waivers, something they have done in each of the last three years when they signed Jason Marquis in 2015, claimed Dan Straily in 2016 and signed Scott Feldman in 2017.
Who those pitchers will be throwing to most frequently was also made clear by the Reds manager. He stated Tucker Barnhart will be the club's number one catcher with Devin Mesoraco as the backup. He sees Mesoraco, who has missed significant time due to injury the past three years, catching a couple times a week and providing a quality bat off the bench rather than an everyday role.
"Tucker is going to get the lion's share now and he's earned that," Price said.
Barnhart, who filled in for Mesoraco during his injuries, signed a four-year contract extension with the Reds in September.
For much of 2017, the Reds carried three catchers on the roster that included Stuart Turner, but Price said he doesn't plan to do that in 2018.
The Reds have been rumored to be discussing a trade of center fielder Billy Hamilton at the winter meetings, but Price was asked how he sees the leadoff role being distributed assuming both Billy Hamilton and Jesse Winker are still on the roster.
"Jesse's always been an on-base guy," Price said. "Billy's got to start getting on base and impact the offense at a higher rate. He's been in the league for four years. He's got tremendous physical ability, but it's got to start paying the dividends where we see the consistency. In that role, when you're going to lead the team in at bats or plate appearances, you have to have that ability to affect the offense at a high rate in order to justify getting those at bats."
Hamilton got on base less than 30 percent of the time last year in 633 plate appearances. His career on-base-percentage is .298.
Price said if Hamilton isn't leading off the lineup, he'll likely hit ninth, after the pitcher. Price also added the team's expected shortstop as a potential lead-off candidate.
"Jose Peraza was an on-base guy, much better on-base percentage in the second half of last season. His walks went up. He got better with his strike zone command and he's 23 years old, this kid that I think is going to be a stud," Price said. "I think he's another candidate to hit toward the top of the lineup."
Reds pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Goodyear, Arizona on February 13.