Reds end caravan optimistic about '17 season

Recent acquisition Storen thinks Cincy has ability to exceed expectations

Reds end caravan optimistic about '17 season

FLORENCE, Ky. -- As they try to work quickly to complete a rebuilding program, there won't be many prognostications that have the Reds among teams expected to battle for the postseason in 2017.

But the Reds aren't giving themselves a built-in excuse to not be competitive. Reliever and recent free-agent acquisition Drew Storen heard his new boss, general manager Dick Williams, speak repeatedly with high expectations over the past four days of their leg on Reds Caravan.

"The big thing I took away from it is just the idea that everybody thinks this is a rebuild, but we all strongly believe that we have some pieces here to surprise some people," Storen said on Sunday. "It was exciting to hear. It's absolutely true. If you think about it, we have a good group of young guys and some veteran guys. That's when you can really have some exciting teams."

Reds Caravan spreads cheer to kids at Dayton Children's Hospital

Sunday marked the final day of the caravan at Florence Mall in Northern Kentucky, where all four legs of the tour converged for a question-and-answer session and autograph signings.

"We want to compete," Williams said. "This is the time for some of these young guys we've been talking about, they have their opportunity to grab a spot on this team. I'd like to see this happen. Once we get into the regular season, we want to see these guys go out there and compete."

The Reds were able to travel and tout the signing of Storen to upgrade the back portion of their bullpen on a one-year, $3 million contract on Jan. 3. The club started the trip with the announcement that Scott Feldman was signed to a one-year, $2.3 million contract on Wednesday to shore up the rotation.

Meanwhile, there was emphasis placed on the development of prospects like pitchers Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett and Sal Romano, infielders Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera and more established younger players like Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez.

Several hundred fans turned out in Florence, most with enthusiasm. It was something that Williams noticed throughout his western leg of his trip.

"I felt like the tone in the questions, the atmosphere and the energy was very positive," Williams said. "That's what I enjoyed about it and enjoyed about Redsfest [in December]. I think people are focused on the future and focused on the upside that we've got. I really believe that. We got a lot of positive questions."

Duvall receives warm welcome in hometown

While he was on the southern leg of caravan, Reds manager Bryan Price also sent a message of higher expectations ahead of the start of Spring Training on Feb. 13 in Arizona.

"We don't want to be a team that is a second-tier, second-division, out-of-the-race-in-June-or-July type of ball club," Price said. "We want to be a team that's perennially in the discussion and in the standings where we get to compete for the postseason and be able to have something to play for in August and September. That has a lot to do with the maturation of our young players. You have to accept that responsibility and make it your own. I think we're on our way to doing that."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.