Reds surprise fans with unexpected starter for Cactus League opener

Cactus League action begins this weekend in Goodyear.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Carson Spiers (68) delivers a pitch
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Carson Spiers (68) delivers a pitch / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

The Cincinnati Reds will open Cactus League play on Saturday, Febraury 24th against the Cleveland Guardians. Both the Reds and the Guardians call Goodyear Ballpark home during spring training, but Cleveland will be the home team this weekend.

The Reds have an extensive competition this spring among their group of starting pitchers. Outside of Hunter Greene and Frankie Montas, there are arguably seven or eight pitchers battling it out for a chance to land in the Reds Opening Day rotation.

One of those pitchers is Carson Spiers. The right-hander, after a successful stint in the minors last year, earned a call-up to the big leagues during the 2023 season and was surprisingly named the Reds' starting pitcher for the Cactus League opener against the Guardians on Saturday afternoon in Arizona.

Carson Spiers named the Reds' starter for Cactus League opener

Spiers may seem like an odd choice, as he's likely pretty far down on the list in terms of pitcher Reds fans expect to see on the field come Opening Day. But Cactus League games are an exhibition, and more than anything, give players opportunities to get in shape for the regular season.

Greene, Montas, Nick Martinez, and Andrew Abbott are all scheduled to toe the rubber in the coming days as well. Both Graham Ashcraft and Nick Lodolo aren't ready for Cactus League games quite yet. Ashcraft has thrown off the mound this spring and is on track for Opening Day. Lodolo's next step is to throw live batting practice.

Spiers is likely keeping a spot in the rotation warm for one of Lodolo, Ashcraft, or Brandon Williamson. But don't take that to mean that Reds Country won't see the 26-year-old in the majors season. While the Cincinnati faithful are hopeful to see their top five pitchers make every start this season, injuries happen. And when they do, a pitcher like Spiers is sure to get the call.

Last season, Spiers had yet to even throw a pitch in Triple-A when he was called up to The Show. A rash or injuries and illness forced the Reds to make some moves they didn't anticipate, and Spiers actually saw the field for four games, including two starts in 2023. The Clemson product owned a 6.92 ERA in 13 innings of work and struck out 12 batters while posting a 4.02 FIP.

Carson Spiers is likely to give manager David Bell one or two innings on Saturday before ceding the game to the bullpen. At this stage, starters rarely go more than two innings. The bigger question on Saturday might be who's in the Reds starting lineup? Fans will have to wait a couple more days to find out.

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