CHICAGO -- Once summoned, several of the Reds' September callups could be getting multiple auditions to set themselves up for making the big league team in 2016.
"Our primary need, barring any injuries to the position players, is going to be pitching," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Monday, the day before rosters can expand. "We're not just going to need a number of pitchers, we're going to need guys that can throw innings."
Price would not reveal plans that he helped determine with general manager Walt Jocketty. But Reds' No. 2 prospect Robert Stephenson is definitely under consideration to get his first big league callup from Triple-A Louisville.
"Walt and I have spoken about him," Price said. "He missed a little bit of time this year with that little bit of a funky wrist injury. It wasn't terribly significant but it did keep him from pitching. It's going to be important for him to build up his innings so he can be a consideration next year -- either if he competes for a spot on the team or comes up during the year and needs to pitch through September. I would like him to be more conditioned to do that."
In 23 starts combined for Louisville and Double-A Pensacola, Stephenson is 8-9 with a 3.47 ERA. He pitched four scoreless innings in his return from the disabled list on Thursday and is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday for Louisville. The 22-year-old has worked 124 1/3 innings after he had 136 innings last year for Pensacola.
Jocketty previously stated he didn't expect No. 1 prospect and outfielder Jesse Winker to be called up from Pensacola. But that was before the team traded Marlon Byrd. The outfield has been depleted by injuries to Billy Hamilton and Brennan Boesch as well. Winker has 13 homers this season but hit six of them in August while batting .352.
Expect to see left-handed starter Brandon Finnegan, who was one of the prospects acquired from the Royals in the July 26 trade. With a few of the starters in the all-rookie rotation closing in on their limits, Price hasn't ruled out a six-man rotation next month.
"With all the rookies, that's a consideration," he said. "You don't want to turn this into a Spring Training feel or instructional league feel with how you preset your innings like we do in Spring Training. Under the circumstances, one of the other options would be to divide the games with pitchers [in a tandem system]. But I'd much rather go to a six-man rotation as an option."
Some players could be familiar faces who have been up previously, like reliever Carlos Contreras, swing man Dylan Axelrod and catcher Kyle Skipworth. Outfielder Yorman Rodriguez is not likely to be up since he's been on the DL since July with a left calf strain.
The cramped visitor's clubhouse at Wrigley Field -- where the Reds will complete a three-game series on Wednesday -- won't see a big influx of callups immediately. The seasons at Louisville and Pensacola end on Sept. 7 and some of the players will finish the schedule with their teams first.
"If we were in playoff contention, I think it would be a little bit different approach," Price said. "But if we have a game where we play extra innings or the bullpen gets beat up, we can access guys from Triple-A rather quickly. Position-player wise, I think there will be probably another guy or two [Tuesday]. And then we'll see after that who comes up once the Triple-A season is over."