Reds starting eight is set, but batting order still needs to be figured out

Posted at 12:39 PM, Feb 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-17 12:39:44-05

GOODYEAR, Arizona -- Joey Votto will bat third. Billy Hamilton will lead off. And Adam Duvall will almost certainly hit clean-up.

Other than that, it’s TBD -- to be determined.

The Reds starting eight is set. Jose Peraza, Zack Cozart, Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler and Devin Mesoraco or Tucker Barnhart will occupy the other spots.

Where they bat will be worked out during spring.

“I have some general ideas as far as what I'd like to see, knowing with Hamilton leading off, Joey hitting third,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “Duvall probably hitting fourth. I think the real question is figuring out the best slots for Peraza, Devin when he's in there, Suarez. Is Cozart best at two or hitting down in the lineup?

“It's just that there's a lot of question marks. It's just not as clear cut as it was last year with what we had to work with on the field.”

The problem is starters only play four or five innings early in the spring.

“I can move guys around and see where they settle in,” Price said.

Hitting Hamilton and Peraza first and second would give the Reds a dimension few teams have. Price will consider that.

“Do you want to go for the throat with those two guys one-and-two?” he said. “Is it better to divide up the speed components and have someone like Peraza hitting in front of a guy like Suarez or Cozart or someone further down the lineup that can drive them in? Or Mesoraco? Those are the real questions that I've got to define over the course of spring.”

If Hamilton can hit like he did after the All-Star break -- .293 with a .369 on-base percentage -- it helps in the lineup tremendously.

“Regardless of what anybody else thinks, the most important thing is that Billy sees himself as a leadoff hitter and has the results that continue to build his confidence that he can continue to do that job," Price said. "I’m confident that he can and he can for some time.

"However, he needed to have the numbers to represent that he belonged up there. That’s what we finally began to see last year -- an on-base that was indicative of a guy who should get the most at-bats on a ball club and set the table for the middle-of-the-order guys to drive him in. I’m confident he’ll recapture that and exceed that."

Hamilton is healthy this spring after rehabbing from right shoulder surgery that curtailed his work last spring. Price says repetition will be important for Hamilton, particularly since he's a switch hitter, and being healthy will allow that.

“He’s trying to get comfortable from both sides of the plate," Price said. "I felt like his strike zone command and his two-strike approach was so vastly improved before he went on the DL. I think that was a big learning time for him and was something he could take right into this season. Sometimes it’s more mental than physical.”

RAIN PLAN: The forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of rain Saturday in Goodyear.

“We’ve worked on our rainy-day schedule,” Price said. “I was trying to figure out where are the gaps in between and what fields can we have available to utilize, and what can we use in a full-squad situation if we’ve only got two fields that are usable. If we can get to that place, we’ve got the six covered batting cages, the six tunnels, the six bullpen mounds, potentially two fields... It’s a good complex.”

JENNINGS MISSING: Free agent outfielder Desmond Jennings is the only player not in camp. He had a family matter to attend to. He’s expected to be in camp Sunday.