Reds to see NL Central often early in 2015

Cincinnati facing division rivals in all but one game during April

Reds to see NL Central often early in 2015

CINCINNATI -- Before they even played their Opening Day game on Monday against the Pirates, the Reds had already overcome an issue that crushed them last season. The 2014 season opened with a Major League-high eight players on the disabled list.

This season, there are just three Reds on the DL to begin in starting pitcher Homer Bailey -- who should miss only one or two starts -- reliever Sean Marshall and reserve outfielder Jason Bourgeois, both of whom are on the 60-day DL. There is no time to celebrate the stroke of good fortune, not when Cincinnati's 2015 regular-season schedule opens in formidable fashion.

Of the 23 games the Reds play in April, just the final one of the month is against a non-National League Central rival. Nine of the first 12 games are vs. the defending division champion Cardinals or Pirates, who secured an NL Wild Card spot last season. And 29 of the first 44 games feature opponents who had records above .500 last season.

"It's very important to get off to a good start and not dig yourself a hole," Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco said. "I think the more we can go out and play good baseball early on can really set the tone for the rest of the year."

Reds manager Bryan Price expressed confidence in his team's ability to handle the early challenge.

"The teams that we're playing, for the most part, are teams that finished ahead of us in the standings. Our expectations are that we are going to change that trend," Price said. "We've had success in this division as recently as 2013, and 2012. Yet 2015 is a completely different year. Our expectations are we'll be at the top of the division."

Price believed this was a time to find out how the Reds will stack up in their division and the NL.

"We've got to play each team nearly 20 times apiece in our division. When that comes, to me, is not terribly consequential," Price said. "We're going to have to face these clubs and we look forward to facing these clubs."

Third baseman Todd Frazier felt it was important for the team not to place too much pressure on itself.

"You always want to put your best foot forward. Maybe sometimes, you get a little overaggressive because it's the beginning of the year and you want to do too much," Frazier said. "You just have to take a step back and understand your capabilities and do the little things in the beginning, play team ball and the rest will take care of itself."

While glad his team was healthy, shortstop Zack Cozart wasn't aware of the upcoming schedule until someone told him before Monday's game.

"I hadn't looked that far ahead," Cozart said. "It's definitely a time we're going to see what kind of ballclub we have."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.