Lots of young pitchers: A good problem to have?

Posted at 12:55 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 15:29:20-05

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Reds manager Bryan Price is looking for a certain type of pitcher to fill his rotation.

“Under general rules, they’re typically guys that have three pitches they can throw over the plate,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to be strong against left-handed and right-handed pitching. You know if they’re deficient against one or the other, the opponent is going to load up against your starters.

“So we want guys who are having success against both right-handed and left-handed pitching, who have a three-pitch mix. A change-up plays a rather large role as a starter. Again, that’s the rule."

By and large, the Reds will fill those spots with young pitchers.

Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias are near locks for the top spots. Right-handers Michael Lorenzen and Jon Moscot and left-hander Brandon Finnegan line up next.

The Reds will also give top prospects — right-hander Robert Stephenson and left-hander Cody Reed — a good look.

The other two pitchers in the mix -- left-hander Jonathan Sanchez and right-hander Tim Melville -- aren’t obvious choices. 

Sanchez, 33, went 39-58 with a 4.70 ERA over eight seasons in the big league. He missed virtually all of the last two years with injuries. The Reds signed him based largely on what he did in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He went 1-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 games.

“He pitched for Pat Kelly in Puerto Rico and Pat was giving us great reviews,” Price said. “We knew that we needed to add starting pitching depth and left-handed pitching. He really is vying for two spots on our club, starter and reliever. I also know his history. I saw him a lot with the Giants and he was a guy who had major-league stuff and just didn’t have the consistency that I think everybody had hoped as far as overall command. He threw a lot of pitches and his walk rates were high. But I think everybody loved his stuff. Teams had a hard time squaring him up. He got in trouble with pitch counts and walks.

“Our feeling was if we can help him bridge that gap, it’s not like he’s got an unbelievable amount of wear and tear on his arm. I think we’re trying to catch lightning in a bottle to a certain degree.”

Melville, 26, went 7-10 with a 4.63 ERA in Triple-A last year with Detroit.

“He’s a stuff guy,” Price said. “You could say the same thing about J.C. Ramirez. They’ve got great arms, great stuff, and now we have to harness what they have. It’s a great starting point. You can look at Alfredo Simon as a stuff guy who never really consistently ran great numbers, even when he was a closer for the Orioles. The numbers weren’t great. Trying to get these guys here and refine them so they can be impact major-league pitchers in whatever role we define is something we’re not only going to try to do but we need to do if we’re going to be able to challenge, especially in putting together a quality bullpen.”

Price thinks the Reds have enough starting depth.

“I think so if we’re healthy,” Price said. “We have to dodge that health bullet. The other part we know even when we break camp that we’re not going to be too far away from Homer and John Lamb being ready to help us. I certainly think we have the depth in camp to get us to that point.”

INNINGS LIMITS: The Reds could break camp with a rotation full of pitchers on some kind of innings limit. As a  general rule, teams don’t like to add more than 35 innings total from the year before.

That would put only DeSclafani on track for 200-plus innings. He threw 184 2.3 last year. Lorenzen threw 156 1/13, Iglesias threw 124 1/3 and Finnegan threw 104 1/3.

“All these young guys we’ll have an idea on what will be their ceiling for the year. I think it would reason to think they’ll be in innings limit we have," Price said. "I doubt that we would have someone exceed them by a surplus of innings. I’m also not a believer of putting these guys in a bubble and thinking if they go two or three or five over their that they’re going to break.

“I probably would stay away from disclosing our innings projections just because it leads to too much discussion about it. I know we’re all aware of it. We want to be responsible with our young pitchers and build them up.

SWING MAN: Right-hander Keyvius Sampson made 12 starts and one relief appearance for the Reds last year.

This year, he’s a bullpen candidate.

“I think he's durable, I think it currently fits his temperament a little better,” Price said. “I feel like he can come in there, I think his stuff plays a little better coming out of the bullpen right now. He has four pitches, he has the fastball, slider, curveball, changeup -- as a starter, he sprayed the ball around the zone for me. We need to pound the zone. We need to pound the zone. I think as a bullpen piece getting acclimated to the big leagues, it's going to be a little bit more of a comfortable situation for Keyvius. I also feels like he can transition back into a starter. At this point in time, I like him as a reliever on this particular club in this particular environment.”

The Reds would like to have someone in the role Alfredo Simon filled in 2013.

“You have to find the right guy that not just wants to pitch, but is capable to have that durability, that throws strikes, that can compete in an up game or down game, that's why some of those seasoned veteran guys are so good at that," Price said. "I think that was a great role for Alfredo. I don't know for sure if we have that type of veteran player in camp right now.”

FULL SQUAD: The position players report Tuesday. The first full-squad workout is Tuesday afternoon. Everyone but Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Brandon Allen had reported by Sunday.

“But it’s just good to get all these guys together," Price said. "It’s kind of that part, too. We’ve had so many position players out here already. I think the pitchers and position players are blending already, getting to know each other.”

“...I think it’s a lot more fun. The first five days are great and then it’s going through the bunt plays, seeing the guys on the field together. It’s a lot of fun for me.”