Reds anticipate good battle for bullpen spots

Hoover enters camp as presumptive closer; young arms to compete for openings

Reds anticipate good battle for bullpen spots

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A cavalcade of young pitchers filled Reds camp as it officially opened for Spring Training on Thursday. Seeing all the talent and upside in many of the arms of prospects has Reds management excited. At the same time, those same pitchers have limited or zero experience in the Major Leagues.

Some of those pitchers -- starter prospects included -- will be in contention for spots in the bullpen.

"[They] will only have limited history at the big league level and will have to hold down some pretty important innings in middle- and late-game situations," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I don't think I'm going to handicap the club right now and define roles in our bullpen, but there are very few locks in our bullpen right now."

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Take away closer Aroldis Chapman and setup man J.J. Hoover, and the Reds' bullpen often struggled to bridge the innings from starter to the late innings last season. Chapman was traded to the Yankees in December. Price feels that the closer's role for 2016 is Hoover's to lose. He posted a 2.94 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 67 appearances last season.

"I would say that's fair," Price said. "[Hoover has] earned that right with his performance from last year and who we have in camp. We don't have a definitive closer in camp. We have guys who have done it in Triple-A. Blake Wood had a really nice year, racked up some saves. Zack Weiss had a terrific year in Double-A, racked up a lot of saves."

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Wood, who was signed to a one-year big league contract in the offseason, led the International League with 29 saves in 2015 for Indianapolis in the Pirates organization.

Weiss, a 23-year-old right-hander, saved a combined 30 games for Double-A Pensacola and Class A Advanced Daytona. Price and his coaches will find a way for all the contenders for the pitching staff to get innings this spring.

"There's a lot of people here in the organization who feel like [Weiss] is very close -- if not ready -- to pitch in the big leagues now," Price said. "He should be given every opportunity. Drew Hayes is a non-roster guy who had a great year in Triple-A. We've got Dayan Diaz, who had unbelievable numbers in Double-A and Triple-A. A.J. Morris, Caleb Cotham, guys who have really performed at the Triple-A level to the point where you go, 'Jeez, they're better than the league.'

"They deserve a good, long look in camp, and we're going to give them that as long as we can. And then it's going to be a battle."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.