GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Cody Reed is the only of the three players the Reds got in the Johnny Cueto who didn’t pitch for the big league club last season.
But Reed, a 22-year-old left-hander, may have the biggest impact of the three; he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, possibly even a No. 1.
“I’d say him as one of the our top guys in the stop who has that ability to be a 1, 2 or 3," pitching coach Mark Riggins said. "A lot guys have the ability. They just don’t have the makeup to take that pride in being that 1 or 2, or 3. Cody’s got that ability and the makeup to do that.”
Developing a No. 1 is one of the most difficult things to do in baseball. After all, the Reds went 35 years between aces. Cueto was first ace the organization developed since Mario Soto.
Reed wasn’t on that career path until last year -- the Royals drafted him in the second round out of Northwest Mississippi Community College in 2013.
His results the first two years as professional were so-so.
He went 0-1 with a 6.07 ERA in Rookie Ball in ’13. He went 3-9 with a 5.46 ERA at low-A Lexington in ’14. He gave up more than a hits an inning and struggled with shoulder issues.
But things clicked for him last season.
He went a combined 13-9 with a 2.41 ERA in Single-A and Double-A. He did his best work after the trade. He was 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA for Pensacola.
“It all came down to spring training and coming in really good shape,” he said. “My arm strength was really high. Having success right away in those spring training games carried into the season.
“I had bad starts last year, but I didn’t let those get to me as much as I did in previous years. I had a shot memory with those," Reed said. "Having a little bit of success gives you a little bit of confidence. Once your confidence is high enough, you try not to lose it.”
Riggins, who the Reds’ minor league pitching coordinator, saw Reed throw a complete game for the Blue Wahoos after the trade.
“He’s really a fierce competitor on the mound,” Riggins said. “Fastball command. He’s a got a hard slider that really has late break. His change-up was the pitch he had to work on in the winter. Since he came to camp here, it’s dramatically improved.”
Reds manager Bryan Price says one of the key to being a starting pitcher is having three pitches you can throw for strikes.
“We want guys who are having success against both right-handed and left-handed pitching, who have a three-pitch mix,” Price said. “A change-up plays a rather large role as a starter.”
If Reed get that change-up working with his mid-90s fastball and that wicked slider, he may be ready to for big leagues sooner than expected. The Reds have said they’ll give him a full look.
“All can I can do is give it all I got when I’m out there,” he said. “It’s up to me where I go, but it’s also up to front office guys. Wherever they want to send me, that’s where I’ll be. Whether I got to Pensacola, Louisville, I’ve just got to give my all.”
The Reds can afford to be patient with Reed. He’s not on the 40-man and he’s only made 13 starts above Single-A. This is his first big league camp, in fact.
“It’s more of just a learning experience,” he said. “I’m trying to sit back and see how everyone reacts and responds to one another. It’s all the same game. From a pitcher’s stand point, you’re still 60 feet away. It’s all the same.”
Reed was one of 15 prospects invited to the Reds’ Pitching Summit in January. That gave him a head start.
“I got to meet a lot of those guys,” he said. “It was good getting to meet the guys I hadn’t met. I knew the guys from the Pensacola team. Picking their brains a little bit. Homer Bailey was here, listening to him talk and picking his brain a little bit was awesome. It was a really good experience. A couple days, just enough to meet the guys. It wasn’t all baseball. We went to an (Arizona State) basketball game. It was good time. It was great.”
Reed said he was shocked by the trade, but he sees now that it was probably for the best -- the Reds are going young.
“I didn’t expect it,” he said. “I supposed to pitch that day. I woke up that day thinking 'No way it could be me. I’m pitching.' And it ended up being me. There was initial shock. But I feel like I’m a greater spot for myself. I think it’s all going to work out for the better.”