Our Reds look to bounce back after their first spring training defeat, losing to the Giants 4-3 yesterday. Today’s game against the Chicago Cubs is the first the Reds will play away from the friendly confines of Goodyear Ballpark. The game in Mesa begins at 3:05 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on WLW-700, with no television coverage. If you’re planning on going and don’t have a ticket, forget it. The Cubs have announced the game is sold out. Must be the buzz surrounding the Reds this year, or something else.

Here is today’s starting lineup for the good guys:

  1. Jake Cave CF
  2. Jose Peraza SS
  3. Joey Votto 1B
  4. Brandon Phillips 2B
  5. Jay Bruce RF
  6. Scott Schebler DH
  7. Ivan De Jesus 3B
  8. Jesse Winker LF
  9. Tucker Barnhart C

The starting pitcher is Brandon Finnegan. Trevor Cahill will start for the Cubs.

Lineup Thoughts

Today reflects a continuation of Bryan Price playing his “starting” lineup (Votto, Phillips, Bruce) every-other day. Jake Cave gets a start in CF and returns to the leadoff spot. In three games, Cave has three hits and a walk in 11 plate appearances. He’s seeing a lot of pitches. Jose Peraza plays shortstop and bats second, which he did yesterday. Ivan De Jesus starts at third base, where he played 9 games for the Reds last season. And Jesse Winker gets the start in left field. /experiences tingling sensation when typing that sentence/

Yet to make an appearance are Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart. Here’s an educated guess about when they’ll see their first playing time: tomorrow (or Monday). I’m not sure this is a reliable guide, but last year Price held Joey Votto out of the first four games of spring training, generating a mini-panic about his health. Sunday and Monday’s games are at home in Goodyear. Price not starting them today avoided the 45 minute bus rides to Mesa. We haven’t seen a single report that Mesoraco and Cozart are anything other than perfectly healthy. See the Rosecrans article about Cozart below. Update: Mark Sheldon with a new report on Mesoraco.

The Reds have a “B” game scheduled this morning against the White Sox. B game lineups are comprised of third or fourth string players. They generally last 5 innings. The main reason to have B games right now is to get more live pitching opportunities. Robert Stephenson will start a B game on Monday. They aren’t the same thing as full split-squad games you’ll see later in March. Here’s the Reds B-game lineup: Alex Blandino SS, Ramon Cabrera DH, Juan Duran RF, Chad Wallach C, Donald Lutz LF, Brandon Dixon 2B , Seth Mejias-Brean 5, Chris O’Grady CF, Ray Chang 1B. Nick Travieso P. In addition to Travieso, Rookie Davis and Zack Wiess will pitch today.

Brandon Dixon was the third player in the Todd Frazier deal. Ray Chang played for Pensacola last year and has an interesting relationship with baseball in China.

News and Reading

• Baseball America finished their list of the top 352 prospects ranked within their positions. The Reds have more players ranked (19) than any other organization. Read Doug Gray’s breakdown of the BA lists:

The Reds stack up well against their National League Central foes. The Cardinals had 15 players ranked, as did the Brewers. The Pirates and Cubs both had 13 players ranked. In total, the National League Central dominated the other five divisions in these rankings. The Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates and Cubs all ranked in the top half of baseball in the total number of players that made the lists, totaling 75 players between the five clubs. The next best division was the National League East, which managed to have just 59 players listed.

• C. Trent Rosecrans (Enquirer) on Zack Cozart’s recovery:

So far this spring, Cozart’s work away from the game field has been mostly indistinguishable from other players.

“I feel amazing, I take my ground balls with (Barry) Larkin on the side after we stretch and that’s my best feedback I can get,” Cozart said. “People can watch me all the time, but I’m taking what Larkin is saying — he’s saying, ‘I”m watching you and I know what to look for as far as being tentative, and you’re not tentative at all. You’re going and getting it. You have that bounce and you’re athletic. That’s the key.’ When I do my stuff, I’m not thinking about my knee at all, I’m just playing. We’ll go from there. So far, I’m really excited where I’m at, no doubt.”

Reminder: Grant Freking post on Cozart rebuilding his trade value.

Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/Enquirer

Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/Enquirer

• Mark Sheldon (MLB.com) on the fast-rising Layne Somsen, a 26-year-old RHP who has a shot at the Reds bullpen this year:

Somsen, 26, has moved quickly through the system. After being taken in the 22nd round of the 2013 Draft by the Reds out of South Dakota State University, the Yankton, S.D., native reached Triple-A Louisville in less than three seasons. Last season at Double-A Pensacola and Louisville, he had a combined 2.74 ERA in 27 games with 62 1/3 innings, 47 hits, 30 walks, 60 strikeouts and a 1.235 WHIP. He missed time in June and July with a broken right toe from being hit by a comebacker.

Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer

Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer

• Zach Buchanan (Enquirer) on Jose Peraza:

The Reds got two other prospects in that trade – including outfielder Scott Schebler and infielder Brandon Dixon – but Peraza was one name who was included in conversations from the beginning. “We never really talked about trying to get somebody else,” pro scouting director Terry Reynolds said. As the Reds worked, ultimately unsuccessfully, to move second baseman Brandon Phillips in the offseason, Peraza seemed to be the heir apparent at second base. Instead, he’ll play all over the field if he makes the club, seeing action at second, short and center field during camp.

Reminder: Here’s our scouting report on Peraza written right after the trade.

Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer

Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer

• In news about former Reds, Andrew Baggerly (Mercury News) writes that Johnny Cueto’s first start with the San Francisco Giants has been pushed back to Wednesday because the Giants feel Cueto is behind in his preparation:

Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that Cueto was behind other pitchers during his throwing sessions and live batting practice, mostly because he did very little throwing after helping to pitch the Kansas City Royals to a World Series title last October. “That’s why we’re doing this,” Bochy said. “Obviously, we think he’s behind.”

Cueto signed a 6-year, $130 million contract with San Francisco this off-season.

Reminder: Here are the tributes we wrote about Cueto after he was traded (Mancuso, Freking). Justin Merry on the Cueto trade. Nick Doran asked if Cueto was the best Reds pitcher ever.

35 Responses

  1. Patrick Jeter

    Seeing Winker bat 8th induced a chuckle! I wonder how often he’ll bat 8th once he gets to the Show.

    • lwblogger2

      Knowing this organization, they’ll bat him 7th or 8th until he “proves himself at the MLB level”

      • lwblogger2

        Probably not a horrible idea. There have been an awful lot of great-hitting prospects that didn’t hit so well in MLB.

  2. Scotly50

    This lineup looks like the Reds A-team minus Suarez. Look forward to seeing this game.

  3. Gaffer

    I bet $$$ that Cueto is DL bound. He has been hurt for awhile now. It looks like the Reds at least lucked out on that one!

  4. sezwhom

    The Giants are holding back about five players, not just Cueto. Reds doing the same. No big deal.

      • Chad Jones

        I hate the Stupid Cubs and their Stupid Fans. I hope they go 50-112 this year.

  5. TR

    I like your comment regarding the sellout in Mesa that “it must be the buzz surrounding the Reds this year….”

  6. Shchi Cossack

    The Old Cossack is still finding himself casually pulling for for the Reds players who were traded over the past season plus, but less so than during the end of last season or during the off season. I guess that’s a normal part of the fan transition in this process. I can remember going through the same process with Robinson, May, Helms, Perez, Rose, et.al., but this seemed different with the entire starting pitching staff jettisoned along with Frazier and Chapman then Cozart and Mesoraco MIA. That just wasn’t normal turnover.

    With the start of spring training, focus has once again shifted to the Cincinnati Reds rather than the ex-Cincinnati Reds. The wait for Mesoraco and Cozart to rejoin the roster as active players remains the last hurdle. I’m not at all concerned about Mesoraco’s physical or mental recovery from his hip surgery. The only issue is his production at the plate and the sooner we see him in the batter’s box hitting behind Votto and in front of Bruce, the sooner we will start to get the naswer to his offensive expectations for 2016 and beyond.

    The injury wo Cozart is another issue entirely. That was about as bad and catastrophic a knee injury as possible with any chance of a near-full recovery. The comments referenced from Larkin, ‘You’re not tentative at all. You’re going and getting it. You have that bounce and you’re athletic.’ speak volumes regarding Cozart’s recovery and expectations about Cozart’s return to form. Cozart provides value if he returns to his defensive level of excellence and approaches league average offensive production as a SS. From 2012-2014, Cozart failed to approach league average performance, but last season he exceeded league average performance as a SS. Cozart has 2 seasons of team control after the 2016 season. If he can demopnstrate that he can still pick it and puts up anything close to a .700 OPS, teams will be clamoring for his services at the trade deadline or durring next off season, but he must get back on the field under game conditions first. The next week could be very important for putting some of the final touches on this transition back to competitiveness.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Cozart has 2 seasons of team control after the 2016 season. DOH!

      Cozart has 1 more full season of team control after the 2016 season.

  7. Shchi Cossack

    Winker HBP and Barnhart cracks a homer to RF. Woo Hoo!!!

  8. Shchi Cossack

    Cave, hitting leadoff, singles to LF in the 1st and and singles again to FL in the 3rd. The guy has simply taken his opportunity seriously during the early spring training games.

    • Patrick Jeter

      It also helps when every ball you put into play turns into a hit. 😉

  9. Shchi Cossack

    Finnegan pitched 2 strong innings today, striking out Bryant and Rizzo in the 1st inning and giving up just 1 hit (single).

  10. Shchi Cossack

    Reported by Sheldon…

    “We had a very small minimal amount of groin and hip flexor tightness, soreness,” said Mesoraco, a 2014 National League All-Star. “The doctor kind of said this was something that would probably happen once I got back into it. We just slowed things down but everything is feeling fine. I feel good now. It shouldn’t be too much longer.”


    • RedAlert

      Don’t worry , Red’s medical staff is all over it !!!! > which means he will probably start the year on the DL

    • Patrick Jeter

      “…very small minimal…” I guess they really, really, really want us to believe this isn’t a problem…

      Ugh is right.

      • ohiojimw

        The talk from Meso in the Sheldon article about the value of video being about as good to learn the pitchers as actually catching them sounded like wishful thinking to me; or, maybe Meso was referring to watching video of future opposition pitchers in lieu of actually facing them in a game as a batter. Either way, not the good.

        Then there was the comment about “volume” of work being the trigger that caused the tightness or soreness in his groin and/ or hip flexor. Two points here. First, how does the daily work volume he has been doing measure up along side catching nine innings say even 5 days a week. Will the volume of work he can handle grow over time? If so how long will it likely take for him to be able to catch 5 days a week, week upon week? Second point, and not to be alarmist here but wasn’t severe groin pain a primary symptom of the original hip issue?

      • greenmtred

        We’re all gun-shy and distrustful concerning injured players, but, clearly, recovery from surgery is an incremental process, and so is increasing workload. There is also no certainty possible, since the stress generated by adrenaline-fueled game performance isn’t the same as that of training.

      • lwblogger2

        Who knows really? The only people who do are Mesoraco and MAYBE the medical staff. I don’t think the pain was in the groin with the original hip issue though.

  11. David

    I think that Mesoraco has been in Arizona working out since early February. For a pro-athlete, a long period away from training, conditioning and playing means some deterioriation of muscles, etc not involved in an injury. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Mes, he’s just sore from working out full time and working at catching again, after being relatively idle for months last summer and into September before he was cleared to start working out again.

    • ohiojimw

      Meso was supposedly working out in Cincy over part, even much of the off season to eliminate/ avoid just the types of issues you cited. I believe I recall reading an article from the Enquirer where he said he was doing about everything including squatting.

      I think the issue is as Meso put it, about “volume”. How much of a workload can he handle and how soon might he be able to catch on something resembling a normal full time MLB work load.

      • lwblogger2

        I was hoping for 120 games. We’ll see. If the Reds don’t get that out of him and they have the other injuries that teams tend to have, they very well might lose 100.

  12. Steve Hanshaw

    Down in AZ, watched the Giants game yesterday and Cubs game today. Some thoughts from what I’ve seen:

    Juan Duran has the single worst swing I’ve seen from a professional baseball hitter. He honestly looks a lot like Pedro Cerrano – he missed a couple of breaking balls in the Giants game by 18″. Despite the obvious power, I don’t see this guy ever making a major league roster.

    Several pitchers have looked very sharp, including both starters (Finnigan and Lorenzon). Drew Hayes was interesting to watch today – looked like a relatively small guy, and doesn’t really engage his lower body with significant drive, but still brings it routinely 92-94 mph. It must take a toll on his arm?

    Despite his excellent BABIP, I like the looks of Jake Cave. He seems to have a solid approach at the plate, and has consistently hit the ball where it is pitched. Small sample size yes, but right now he seems way ahead of Holt for a roster spot.

    Schebler also has impressed me with his approach and hustle. With his ability to play all three OF positions, he seems to be in a good position to make the roster. I think this is one of the interesting parts of spring – I’m assuming no chance of Winker out of camp, so I’d guess right now Duvall/Schebler in LF, Billy and Jay in CF/RF, with Cave, Holt, and Yorman fighting for the last spot. I’d like to see Cave get a shot, but I have a hard time believing we’ll give up on Yorman at this early an age. Given we have no shot to compete this year, it really would be an interesting play to keep Cave (or Holt) and Yorman with Billy getting 1-2 months of “rehabilitation” in Louisville – long enough to get a better sample size on Duvall/Schebler/Cave/Holt/Yorman to see what we really have.

    Acquino looked really fluid at the plate and running the bases. Vargas also looked comfortable out there – young, but someone to potentially look out for.

    Brandon Phillips looks old. He looked awful limping down to 1B on a couple plays today. It will not shock me at all for his hitting to fall off a cliff at some point in the next two years – giving the Reds an opportunity to play Peraza – who does not look good so far at the plate.

    I’d like to see the team at least consider extending Cozart, if they could get him cheap. If you could extend him for 3-4 years at $5M per year — seems like a good price as long as you don’t pay beyond his age 33 or at worst 34 seasons. And at $5M, it would not kill you if he ended up a utility player for the last year or two of that. Normally not for these types of extensions (see Phillips) but if you can keep it a bit younger and can buy low, I’d be in favor of it in this case.

    I may be in the minority, but I’m fine with Tucker Barnhart playing more than once a week. He seems to learn quickly and gets better every year – he may develop to be a better overall player than we have expected.

    Spring Training in Phoenix is awesome – my first time here after several in FLA. I need to get back here soon……..

    • gusnwally

      Nice info Steve, much appreciated. Like you I am a big Jake Cave fan. We desperately need some bat on the ball, get on base guys.Give us more in the near future.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Thanks for the first-hand report. Enjoy the warm weather.

    • lwblogger2

      Thanks for the first-hand update! I need to get out to AZ!

  13. ohiojimw

    Donald Lutz returned to action in the B game today following TJ surgery not quite a year ago on his left (throwing) elbow. He had a hit, a walk, and an OF assist, throwing a man out to complete a DP. Sounds about like the equivalent of a Gordy Howe hat trick or some such!

    Lutz is in camp on a minor league deal; so, there is nom pressure on him to perform immediately. He is fresh off of winning the MVP for the Australian League Championship series. This will be his age 27 year. If he can toil away effectively at AAA and rediscover the promise he once showed, he is a guy who could still help the Reds down the road this year or later on. Worst case he might develop into a useful trade sweetener.


    • lwblogger2

      Would love to see Lutz succeed.

  14. JB WV

    I’m not convinced that Barnhart is a back-up. Reminds me of Hannigan, who was a little slow learning how to hit in the bigs but turned into a solid everyday catcher. If Meso can’t handle the hip stress behind the plate and adequately mans LF (his hitting remaining a big strength), could be a blessing. Barnhart’s a better catcher than Meso already.