Move to bullpen has benefited righty Brice

Move to bullpen has benefited righty Brice

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Coming off of his first exposure to the Major Leagues with the Marlins last season, reliever Austin Brice had every expectation of competing for a spot in Miami's bullpen this season.

All of that was turned upside down on Jan. 19, when Brice was one of three prospects traded to the Reds for starter Dan Straily. He is now vying for one of the two openings in the Cincinnati bullpen instead.

"I certainly wasn't expecting to be traded, especially so close to Spring Training," Brice said. "In terms of the opportunity, that's something that I just have to work for. I don't think I'm given anything."

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Brice, 24, made his first Cactus League appearance for the Reds during Saturday's 8-2 loss to the Indians. He walked the first batter he faced on four pitches and hit the second, which led to an Indians run. He escaped the inning with just the one run allowed and struck out one, as well.

A starter for most of his career in the Minors, Brice began doubting himself and at times struggled. But he was chosen to pitch in the Arizona Fall League after the 2015 Minor League season and moved to the bullpen in July of last year. Since then, he has thrived.

By August, Brice was in the Majors and posted a 7.07 ERA in 15 appearances. But he had a 1.00 WHIP and .173 batting average against, as well as averaging a strikeout per inning. His fastball hits low-to-mid 90's mph, and he also features a slider and curveball.

"Basically, it was that I could do it," Brice said about what he learned last season during his stint in the big leagues. "After going through a couple of Minor League seasons, I started to really wonder if I was going to be cut out to do it. I found something that worked last year and ran with it. I proved to myself that I was ready. It's been good.

"What really helped me was going to the Fall League and facing those top echelon guys and finding myself. It wasn't anything too crazy I did with my mechanics or anything. It was more just trusting myself and letting the game come to me and not letting things speed up."

Brice was born in Hong Kong because his father was in construction and worked a lot internationally. As a young child, he traveled wherever his parents went.

"By the time I got to grade school, my mom put her foot down and said no more moving around," Brice said.

Brice grew up in Pittsboro, N.C., but he was invited to play for Team China in the World Baseball Classic. He declined so he could put his priorities with the Reds.

"It was a lot easier for me to worry about Spring Training than the World Baseball Classic," Brice said.

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.