GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds rookie right-hander Tim Melville is vying to make the 40-man roster and claim a spot in the starting rotation. And because of trades and injuries, which have damaged the club's pitching staff, the situation seems to be just right for him.
"I'm here for whatever they need me to do," Melville said after pitching six innings as the Reds defeated the Indians, 7-4, on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark. "Starter, relief. It doesn't matter. I'm just trying to go out there and get better every day."
If Melville should make the team, the 2008 fourth-round Draft pick of the Royals will make his first regular-season Major League appearance after 141 at every level of the Minor Leagues.
Melville allowed seven hits and four runs against the Indians, all of them on a trio of Cleveland homers hit by Yan Gomes, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana. The latter two were struck back-to-back deep to right field with two outs in the sixth.
The Reds signed Melville as a Minor League free agent this past Nov. 25. There's a chalkboard in manager Bryan Price's office replete with the names of all the players still in camp. As a non-roster invitee, Melville's name is etched in orange. The players on the roster are written in black.
Price has been trying in vain to determine at least a semblance of a starting rotation and announce his starter for the season opener against the Phillies in Cincinnati on April 4. Nothing that's happened the last few days is making it any easier.
"The pitchers haven't been pretty to watch," Price said in perhaps the understatement of the day. "We're giving up a lot of runs. I do think the pitchers are going to pitch better when they understand they are on the team and do have even a loosely defined role. That should help in their preparation and performance instead of saying, 'Boy, I hope I don't go in there, screw up and lose a spot on the team.'"
The homer has been an epidemic of sorts for Cincinnati pitchers the last few days. They've allowed 10 homers in games against the Rangers, Rockies and Indians, eight of them off starters Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias and Melville.
Brandon Finnegan started in a 9-7 split-squad Reds win over the White Sox on Saturday at Camelback Ranch. And though Finnegan didn't give up any homers, he was shellacked for seven runs (six earned) on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings to bring his spring ERA to 10.05.
Because of trades last season that dispatched veterans Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, the Reds have been utilizing their starting rotation as a tryout camp ever since the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. They set a record by starting a rookie every day from that point to the end of the season, losing 43 times in their final 62 games.
"And that was very painful," Price said.
This spring, as Homer Bailey is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last May 8, the Reds have also lost pitchers Michael Lorenzen (sore right elbow) and Jon Moscot (intercostal strain) to injury.
To compensate, they've already added free agents Alfredo Simon and Ross Ohlendorf, whom they signed Saturday. Simon will make his second spring start on Sunday against the Dodgers, and Ohlendorf is targeted for the bullpen.
Moscot is slated for his first start since March 8 on Monday night.
What's a manager to do? The Reds' baseball brain trust seemed no closer to figuring this whole thing out on Saturday than they were at the end of the day on Friday.
"Oh, boy, that's a fair assessment," Price said. "We've chopped up that rotation and how to dispense the slots a hundred different ways, and we're still trying to figure out who's going to be healthy enough, stretched out enough to start the season in our rotation.
"I'd love to tell you who my five starters are and who's in the bullpen, but I think I'd be reckless to do so because I'm not sure I can stick by my word. There's just been a lot of flies in the ointment. It's been a challenge."