Reds report early with available roles aplenty

Fifty of 62 players on Cincinnati's camp roster already in Arizona

Reds report early with available roles aplenty

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With more roster spots and roles up for grabs than in recent years, Reds players wasted little time getting to Spring Training.

Camp officially opened at the player development complex in Goodyear on Thursday with the reporting of pitchers and catchers and the first scheduled workout. But many players have already been on the ground for days.

"More than anything, guys are excited and want to get acclimated," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "A lot of first-time big league camp guys, and a lot of new guys to the organization."

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As of Wednesday, about 50 of the 62 players on the camp roster had already checked in. Physicals were taken on Thursday morning, and the first workout commenced in the afternoon.

"Green grass, we're all champing at the bit to get out there after an offseason," Reds pitcher John Lamb said. "For me at least, I can't wait for this environment. Personally, I am excited. From what I'm seeing, we're all just catching up a bit and getting our minds in the right place to go out there and compete."

Once its players stepped on the field for drills, Cincinnati officially put a tumultuous offseason in the rearview mirror. Coming off of a 98-loss season in 2015, Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty and new general manager Dick Williams made all of the team's expensive veteran players available.

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It yielded two trades -- Todd Frazier to the White Sox and Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. Both deals brought the team Minor Leaguers.

Add in those brought in from the July trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, and the prospects groomed already from within the system, and it means there are a lot of fresh faces appearing in the Reds' spring clubhouse for the first time.

"When you get all the pitchers and catchers together, it's special, because you get to form a bond," catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "You start right away forming those relationships that will help during the season. The new guys especially, we as catchers have to get accustomed to and get comfortable with."

There are 34 pitchers and seven catchers working out for now, with the full squad set to both report and work out Tuesday. The Cactus League schedule of exhibition games begins March 1 with the first of three straight games vs. the Indians. While management has been open about the rebuilding process that's been ongoing, Price doesn't want to create an environment of low expectations for his players.

"Things are a little bit different when you're not predicted or expected to win your division," Price said. "When you're not expected to have the experienced talent to go out there and win a division or a World Series, you're picked where we are ... down toward the bottom of baseball.

"The thing we have to remain optimistic with is we have a really nice everyday lineup if we stay healthy, and we have young, prospect players we're very excited about. A lot of our success will be based on how quickly these guys grow into big leaguers."

Two pitchers will begin on a slower pace at the onset. Veteran Homer Bailey, who is returning from Tommy John surgery last May on his right elbow, isn't expected to be ready to pitch until early-to-mid May. Lamb may not be ready until mid-April as he recovers from disc surgery on his back. Catcher Kyle Skipworth is recovering from ankle surgery in December and will not be participating in drills this spring.

Bailey returns from surgery

Key players returning from injury will be closely in focus this spring. Catcher Devin Mesoraco had left hip surgery last year and missed most of 2015. Shortstop Zack Cozart had reconstructive right knee surgery in June and center fielder Billy Hamilton had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in September. Cozart and Hamilton received permission from the league and the Major League Baseball Players Association to begin formal workouts early because they were injured last season.

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With the Reds rebuilding, it has created opportunities for several young players at multiple spots. There are openings in left field, three open spots in the rotation and several bullpen roles available.

Price, Jocketty and Williams will spend the next six-plus weeks evaluating all the spots in competition, with the task before them to get the roster to 25 players by Opening Day. The Reds open the season vs. the Phillies on April 4 at Great American Ball Park.

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