GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — The Reds opened camp on Wednesday with one unclaimed spot in the rotation, a major improvement over last year. The question is whether their three veteran starters can make it to opening day without any setbacks.
Cincinnati is counting on Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey and left-hander Brandon Finnegan to stay healthy for a change, anchoring a rotation that has little experience beyond those three. Luis Castillo impressed as a rookie and is expected to get the fourth spot, leaving one open to competition.
“The good thing is that it’s not open tryouts,” manager Bryan Price said. “But it’s not a get-your-arm-ready-for-the-season spring training, either.”
DeSclafani, Bailey and Finnegan are in camp and appear to be fully recovered from injuries that limited them to a combined 22 starts.
DeSclafani missed the entire season with a sore elbow, a year after being limited to 20 starts because of a strained left oblique. Bailey had elbow surgery before the start of spring training last year, his third straight season limited by injuries, and wound up making 18 starts. Finnegan separated his shoulder midway through the season.
“I’ve been ready since I left for the offseason,” Finnegan said before the first workout. “Last year was tough. I’m not saying I’m the key, but it was rough watching the team lose and wanting to help.”
The Reds allowed the most homers in the majors and were last in the NL in runs, walks and ERA at 5.17. With all the injuries, they called up rookies before they were ready, a major factor in their third straight 90-loss season.
Finnegan is the only left-hander in the rotation. Price isn’t sure which spot he’ll get, waiting to see how he looks while pitching batting practice this month.
“I’m confident he will make the rotation,” Price said.
Finnegan went 10-11 with a 3.98 ERA in 31 starts in 2016, one season after joining the Reds as part of the trade that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City. His goal is to get through spring training without a medical issue.
“I’ve never had a good spring training,” Finnegan said. “In the past, that’s just how it went. I’m concentrating on staying healthy.”
Castillo was called up in June and impressed with his consistent fastball. He went 3-7 in 15 starts with a 3.12 ERA that was the best by an NL rookie. His eight quality starts were second on the staff. He’s been working on adding a breaking pitch.
“His velocity sets him apart,” Price said. “You don’t see a lot of guys throw 95-97 mph for seven innings. It’s rare for a young pitcher to have the presence and comfort that he showed last year.”
Michael Lorenzen, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson and Tyler Mahle are competing for the fifth spot. Lorenzen pitched out of the bullpen last season.
Rookie Davis is the only starter from last season who is still limited by an injury. He had hip surgery.
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