CINCINNATI -- The Reds got a little bit of a jump on spring training by holding what manager Bryan Price dubbed a “three-day pitching summit” last week in Arizona.
The idea was to bring the 15 top prospects together with the coaching staff and veteran starter Homer Bailey to work out, talk pitching and do a little throwing.
“The idea is to start to really build the foundation with some of the young pitchers,” Price said, “use Homer as kind of a veteran overseer to get these guys together and start to really build a foundation and an expectation of what we need to do to get back to what we did in 2012, 2013 as far as performance.”
The Reds have a lot of young arms in the fold, so they set some criteria for an invitation:
a) You had to at least pitch part of the season at Double-A;
b) you had to be considered a good major league prospect; and
c) you had to have a chance to make it to the big leagues in 2016, whether it be in April or September.
“That’s the only way we could keep it to 15 guys,” Price said.
Pitchers who pitched for the Reds last year -- Michael Lorenzen, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Jon Moscot, Keyvius Sampson -- were there. Top prospects Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed were there, along with Rookie Davis, Matt Magill, Chris O'Grady, Sal Romano and Zack Weiss. Some other highly rated prospects, like Keury Mella and Amir Garrett, were not because they didn’t meet the criteria.
“It was outstanding,” Price said. “What an impressive group of young guys.”
The Reds set records for starts by rookies last year. A rookie made every start after July 29. Everyone invited has the stuff to be good. It’s learning how to use that stuff and prepare between starts that leads to success.
That’s where Bailey comes in.
“He volunteered to come out,” Price said. “There’s a benefit to having a veteran player there to make sure, in the clubhouse, that we’re following the commitments that we made in January. It’s different nowadays than it was years ago. Coaches don’t live in the clubhouse with the players.
“The value of veteran players so much is they do -- they all live together. From an accountability standard, you have a guy, Homer, holding those guys accountable in preparation, how they compete, how they conduct themselves as professionals. It was a very valuable tool.”
The summit focused on preparation. Mid-January is too early to throw off the mound, so pitchers stuck to throwing routines and long toss.
Bailey, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, threw all three days.
“He looks terrific,” Price said. “There’s nothing standing in the way of him satisfying his rehab along the timeline we set. I think the one thing that is encouraging [is that] he’s throwing so well that we don’t want to start to compromise when we want him back because he looks so good in January. He’s had two elbow surgeries. He’s going to need a full spring training and innings in addition to spring training.
“But he’s right on time. We don’t anticipate any setbacks.”
The hope is Bailey will be back in May.
John Fay is freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.