GOODYEAR, Arizona -- Spring training games start Friday for the Reds. They go to Scottsdale to play the San Francisco Giants.
So this is a good time to make my fearless roster predictions. What happens in the games, of course, will affect the final roster greatly. Injuries will impact it as well. This is based largely on daily chats with manager Bryan Price since spring training began. It’s also based on past performances, roster considerations and personal hunches.
Here goes (this, of course, assumes all of the following are healthy for Opening Day):
The locks -- position players
Those are the starting eight, plus Barnhart. If Mesoraco is not ready, my guess is the Reds go with Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner as the backup catcher.
The locks -- starting rotation
Price has been clear about this. Feldman could pitch his way out with a terrible spring, however.
The locks -- bullpen
That leaves eight position to fills. The Reds will likely go with 12 position players and 13 pitches, so it breaks down to spots for two starting pitchers, three relievers and three bench players.
Let’s address the rotation first. I’m going with Bronson Arroyo for one of the spots. It’s a matter of health with him. Arroyo says the test will come in games.
“I’ve got to see if my arm can take that torque,” Arroyo said. If it can, I see the Reds going with him -- even if he’s throwing the mid-80s because he’ll be a good bet to get through six innings in most starts.
I’m going with left-hander Cody Reed for the second open rotation spot. He struggled mightily with the Reds last year (0-7, 7.36 ERA), but chalk that up to a learning experience. He’s got the stuff and the attitude. You could make an argument for Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett or Tim Adleman, and I wouldn’t tell you you’re wrong.
For the relief spots, I think Jumbo Diaz gets one of the them. He ended last year with a 3.14 ERA. He’s throws 99, and he’s out of options.
Right now, I’d say left-hander Wandy Peralta gets a spot. Price singled him out as looking good in camp. And Price wants another left-hander in the bullpen. Another possibility is Garrett, but I think there’s a better chance he starts at Triple-A and is the first call-up should someone falter.
The final spot? Stephenson. Price has said that the odd men out in the rotation race would be considered for bullpen duty. This would be a way to ease Stephenson into the majors. I wouldn't bet a nickel that I’m right on this.
The bench is wide open. It became less so with the signings of Ryan Raburn and Desmond Jennings. I think they both make it. Arismendy Alcantara makes it based on his versatility and the fact he’s on the 40-man. The problem is he’s never hit in the majors.
I see Tony Renda or Herman Iribarren for the final spot. I’ll go with Iribarren based on his bat. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the final spot goes to an infielder who’s picked up after other teams set their rosters.
The problem with the roster roster I predicted is it includes four players not on the 40-man -- Arroyo, Raburn, Jennings and Iribarren -- it would take a lot of shuffling to get all four on.
The bench spots and the final bullpen spots pale in comparison as far importance to the rotation jobs. I’ve said all along that how good -- and how bad -- this team is comes down the starting pitching.
Unless Arroyo finds the fountain of youth and/or one or two of young pitchers steps up, this could be another long year.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org