GOODYEAR, Arizona -- Bryan Price was sad to see Brandon Phillips go and wished him well, but you get the sense the Reds manager is relieved not to have to deal with the dilemma that Phillips would have created.
“It weighed heavily,” Price said. “It was going to influence the playing time for some of the younger guys and could have created somewhat of a challenging environment.
“I think that needed to settle itself and it has.”
With Phillips traded, Jose Peraza is the second baseman, Zack Cozart is the shortstop and Dilson Herrera is the guy trying to find a spot. It’s easier to juggle three than four.
If Phillips had not been traded, he certainly would not have been happy ceding time to the young players. That could have been a huge distraction.
“The issue with that, of course, with four guys is that in order to make it work, you’re going to take two veteran guys in Phillips and Cozart and ask them to step aside and turn over a start or two a week to accommodate some younger players,” Price said. “I don’t think that would have been the best way to go into our season.”
Price made it clear that Peraza is the starter.
“Peraza, to me, based on his body of work last year at the big-league level, is a big-league regular. Just for me going into spring training, he’s a regular. He’d have to play his way off that opportunity.”
Herrara, the 23-year-old obtained in the Jay Bruce deal with the New York Mets, has to prove himself.
“With Dilson, it’s opportunity to play in front of the big-league staff and front office and possibly discuss some alternative positions that would allow him to get on the field more frequently,” Price said. “That’s something we will discuss. He’s played a little bit of third base, but he’s really been a second baseman.”
Monday was the day pitchers and catchers reported. That group will work out Tuesday. Position players report Thursday. The first full-squad workout is Friday.
Price is ready to get started.
“Now it’s time to go out there and figure some things out,” Price said. “We have a nice group of regulars. The real question marks are going to be spots 4 and 5 in the rotation, two or three spots in the bullpen and really primarily, the bench spots.”
The catching situation is the other big question. Devin Mesoraco will be held back early in spring because he is coming off shoulder and hip surgery. That could open a spot for Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner.
But the biggest question is rotation, especially after Homer Bailey’s injury. Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and free agent Scott Feldman will be in three spots.
Price mentioned Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson and Tim Adleman as the front-runners for the fourth and fifth slots.
“Then we get into some of the younger guys that could make the club but it would be a little bit more of a challenge,” Price said.
Rookie Davis, Jackson Stephens, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano fall into that group.
What about Bronson Arroyo?
“The only reason I left him out is simply because we want to see that he can throw,” Price said. “I saw his bullpen on Friday. He looked great. So instead of saying, 'hey, we're going to dangle the carrot out there as a starter,' I just want him to be healthy and he'll write his own story. Right now he's in line for anything on the staff, from starter to virtually any role in the bullpen.”
But the success of the rotation will depend on the young pitchers -- and, in turn, the success of the team will depend on the rotation.
“I don't want to sit there and say, 72, 75 wins is a nice improvement for a team that's rebuilding,” Price said. “We have to set much higher goals and standards for ourselves and in order for that to happen, we have to have stability in the rotation. We need some step-up performances.”
Stephenson and Reed had a chance to do that last year and failed. Finnegan is basically the same age as them and was among the club’s most reliable starters.
“Not every young guy has to come up here and struggle when they come up here,” Price said. “There are guys that have come up and been really good from their first start and been able to compete. . . I’d be really happy if we could get two guys that could perform the way Brandon Finnegan did last year.”