Cincinnati Reds: The Latest Out of Spring Training (Week 1)

Feb 18, 2016; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds players jog during workouts at Cincinnati Reds Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2016; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds players jog during workouts at Cincinnati Reds Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Baseball is finally here! Well, sort of. Pitchers and catchers reported to Cincinnati Reds camp in Goodyear, Arizona, on Thursday to begin their workouts, while the position players are set to join them on Tuesday. With a good number of players and coaches already at the facility, the media has gotten a chance to learn a little more about the club’s plans for the upcoming season. Here are the latest news and notes from the first two days of spring training:

Devin Mesoraco is back behind the dish

One of the big concerns for Reds fans was whether or not their 2014 All-Star catcher would be able to return to his position after missing most of last season with a hip injury. The early reports from Goodyear are encouraging for the 27-year-old.

Per’s Mark Sheldon:

"“Everything went as planned in the offseason. We were able to do everything we wanted to do in January. At this point, no limitations,” Mesoraco said. “I think, medically, I’m 100 percent ready to go. I don’t think my hip should be a factor.”"

In an offense that sorely lacked consistency and pop last year, Mesoraco’s bat was undoubtedly missed. While the lineup doesn’t figure to be much more potent this year, having his big stick back in the middle of the lineup can’t do anything but help the Reds.

A sooner-than-expected return for Homer Bailey?

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The Reds’ lone veteran starting pitcher was not expected to be ready to return to the mound until mid-May as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but it appears he could be ready by the start of the month instead, according to WCPO’s John Fay.

Having Bailey back sooner rather than later would be a huge boost to a starting rotation that will be largely lacking big-league experience. When he’s been healthy, the former top prospect has been one of the Reds’ most reliable pitcher over the last several years, going 33-27 with a 3.61 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 between 2012 and 2014.

Keyvius Sampson, Tony Cingrani to pitch in relief

The picture has become slightly more clear when it comes to the Reds’ starting rotation, as Bryan Price will use Sampson and Cingrani out of the bullpen, per Fay.

With Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias guaranteed to make the rotation, that leaves Michael Lorenzen, Brandon Finnegan, Jon Moscot, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Tim Melville and Jonathan Sanchez to battle for the last three spot on the staff, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans. Two of those spots, of course, will be temporary as Bailey and John Lamb are both expected to return at some point within the first month of the season.

We gave our thoughts on the competition earlier this week (Melville and Sanchez weren’t included on the list, but you can safely pencil them in under the “long shot” category).

Jesse Winker will get his fair shot to win left field job

The other big battle of spring training — left field — also got a bit of clarity from Price on Friday. According to Sheldon, the three main competitors are expected to be Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Yorman Rodriguez. However, the organization’s top position-player prospect, Winker, is also in the mix.

Per Rosecrans:

"“Jesse hasn’t gotten to Triple-A and mastered that. However, sometimes you just feel like a guy’s ready and give him an opportunity to play on a regular basis,” Price said. “I think right now I’d like to see him start the season at Triple-A. But I’d never say never with this kid; I know he’s a special talent.”"

While it would be exciting to see Winker in Cincinnati to start the season, there’s not much point to rushing him. He hasn’t spent a day at the Triple-A level and given the time it took him to adjust to Double-A, he could probably use the experience in Louisville. When he does arrive to the majors, likely at some point in 2016, his Votto-esque skill set should help to bring him early success.

The closer’s job belongs to J.J. Hoover for now

As expected, the fifth-year reliever is set to take over the job of closer with Aroldis Chapman out of the picture, according to Sheldon. Hoover bounced back from a miserable 2014 to go 8-2 with a 2.94 ERA last season, though he did see a drop in his strikeouts (7.3 K/9) and his walk numbers remained high (4.3 BB/9).

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If Hoover falters, several other candidates could be in line to take his place. Our own Zach Chatterton outlined who some of those players could be this week.

Sheldon also mentions Zack Weiss as a reliever to watch this spring. The 23-year-old UCLA alum had a breakout season in 2015 while pitching in High-A Daytona and Double-A Pensacola, posting a 1.98 ERA and 0.90 WHIP to go along with 30 saves. He also struck out opposing hitters at an astounding rate of 12.7 per nine innings while only walking 2.1. In a bullpen competition that’s wide open, Weiss could sneak up on some people and grab a spot.

Kyle Skipworth out after ankle surgery

While he wasn’t expected to make the Reds, the former first-round pick won’t even get that opportunity. Per the Enquirer’s new Reds beat writer Zach Buchanan, Skipworth had ankle surgery in December and is expecting to miss all of spring training.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old was likely destined for Triple-A Louisville whether he had the surgery or not, but it certainly hurts the Reds’ organizational depth to have him missing time. Last season between Pensacola and Louisville, Skipworth hit .199/.285/.402 with 11 home runs. He also had two brief stints with the Reds, but did not appear in a game. He certainly needs to work on putting the ball in play more often and cut down his strikeouts (116 in 276 plate appearances last season) if he hopes to make it back to the majors.