DAYTON, Ohio — Dick Williams has some good news for Bryan Price.
“We’re not numerically oriented,” he said.
In other words, Williams, the Reds’ president of baseball operations, will not judge Price by wins alone.
That’s fair. Because for this year’s model of the Reds to win more than they lose would take a baseball miracle of sorts. The over-under on wins in Las Vegas is 70. A wise man one told me to never doubt bookies.
If the Reds were to win 82 games, Price would get voted manager of the year. One stat: The five pitchers in the rotation combined to make 36 starts last year.
With wins theoretically off the table, how will Price, who is working on a one-year contract, be judged?
“What we talked about is the influence Bryan and his staff can have on the young developing players,” Williams said. “Our measurement tool is really development strides to be taken by that young group. That’s how we’re going to measure. In wins and losses, I couldn’t tell you. We’re not numerically oriented as much as we are seeing guys like Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano take that next step and develop.
“If we’re doing that, the wins will follow. But most importantly, we want see how Bryan and his staff do with the players developing at the big league level. We certainly saw some momentum in that direction in the second half last year.”
Reed, Garrett, Stephenson, Romano and Rookie Davis are the Reds’ young starting pitchers. Garrett and Davis begin the year in the rotation. Stephenson and Reed are in the bullpen for now but figure to start at some point.
The fate of the season rests largely with them, and so does Price’s. And that’s OK with Price.
“I love this group,” he said. “This is a group we’ve been talking about, particularly with the young pitching. Garrett and Reed and Stephenson and Rookie Davis. We’ll see a lot of those other kids who have been in our system throughout the year.
“This is kind of what we’ve been waiting for. I’m excited.”
A lot of people are giving the Reds a pass until Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco get healthy. Price isn’t.
“Most important is to take that step forward,” Price said. “The second half of last year was a great step forward. But (we have) to be able to maintain the momentum and not have to be waiting for DeSclafani and Bailey to be back.
“I look at our ball club, and I love our lineup. I think we have the catching with (Tucker) Barnhart and (Stuart) Turner and eventually Mesoraco that is going to create a really good catcher-pitcher environment. These guys are going to develop quickly.
“Everything is tempered. We understand we’re introducing a lot of guys to the big leagues. But the environment is very positive. I expect these guys to go out and perform and certainly at higher level than we did at the beginning of last year. We have a better group.”
All of the young pitchers have big potential and upsides, but we saw last year that doesn’t necessarily mean big league success. Reed went 0-7 with 7.36 ERA, and Stephenson went 2-3 with a 6.08 ERA.
That is all part of the rebuilding process. But Williams feels like the most of the heavy lifting is done and the team is on the upslope.
“It feels like we’re coming out of it,” Williams said. “There was a tear-down phase when we trading away some of the players who have time left on their deals. Now, I feel like we’re moving into that phase, where allowing these guys to come in and compete. Fortunately, they did that this spring. They showed well. Now, we get to see what’s going to become of that. Now, there’s a chance for the fans to see our young players.
“There will be growing pains. But we feel like these players have positioned themselves well to go out and learn their next lesson at the big-league level.
“I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.