AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Reds manager Bryan Price was driving to Goodyear, Arizona, for the start of spring training and thinking about all of the decisions ahead.
He’s got many more than usual because of Cincinnati’s near-total makeover.
The Reds continued their full-scale rebuilding in the offseason, trading popular third baseman Todd Frazier and closer Aroldis Chapman for prospects. What’s left is enough veterans to fill out most of an everyday lineup, a starting rotation with little experience, and a bullpen that has to be totally reconfigured.
And the bench? That’s a whole other story.
“We’ll have a lot of competition in camp,” the third-year manager said during a phone interview as he headed for Cincinnati’s spring training complex.
The Reds lost 98 games last season as they launched into an overhaul that will take several years. Most of the prospects they acquired aren’t quite ready for the majors. The Reds are hoping to add some veterans to the roster before the start of the season, giving them a few more reliable options off the bench and out of the bullpen.
The everyday lineup is set at six spots: Joey Votto at first; Brandon Phillips at second after blocking trades; Zack Cozart back at shortstop; Billy Hamilton in center field; Jay Bruce in right and Devin Mesoraco behind the plate. Eugenio Suarez, who filled in at shortstop after Cozart tore knee ligaments, will move to third initially and fill Frazier’s spot. Left field is likely to be a platoon role with several players competing.
The pitching staff is anybody’s guess.
Some things to watch:
There’s no heir apparent to Chapman and his 100 mph fastball. He was 33 of 36 in save chances last season, with nobody else getting more than one save. J.J. Hoover had a solid season in the set-up role, but was only 1 of 7 in save chances. Jumbo Diaz was 1 of 5.
“That’s probably out biggest challenge, without question — trying to define bullpen roles,” Price said. “We’re still going to look and see if there’s an opportunity to acquire somebody before opening day.”
MESORACO & COZART
Mesoraco had hip surgery on June 29. Cozart tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments and the biceps tendon in his right knee on June 6. Price said both are on schedule for returning to a full-time role by opening day. He’ll ease them in during spring training games.
Starter Homer Bailey had Tommy John surgery on May 8 and is on schedule to return in early May. Price said he threw 15 pitches off a bullpen mound last week without problem. As the only member of the rotation with significant experience, the Reds are counting on Bailey to help the youngsters come along.
“It’s essential,” Price said. “It’s important to have a veteran guy with the players in the clubhouse.”
Anthony DeScalfani (9-13, 4.05 ERA) and Raisel Iglesias (3-7, 4.15 ERA) pitched well enough to be considered part of the 2016 rotation. There’s a long list of young pitchers who will be looking to fill out the last three spots for the start of the season. Cincinnati went with an all-rookie rotation after Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake were traded in July, and most of them struggled.
It’s been the big hole in the lineup for years. The Reds finally got a full-time starter by trading for Marlon Byrd before the 2015 season, but he also was dealt as part of the midseason overhaul. A half-dozen players could get considered for a platoon at the spot.