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Reds' NLDS roster to feature four lefty relievers

Reds' NLDS roster to feature four lefty relievers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Reds' National League Division Series 25-man roster isn't set and won't be known until Wednesday morning. Yet, the difference between version A and version B will be one name.

Jim Edmonds or Juan Francisco?

The final bench player will either be a 40-year-old veteran in Edmonds or the rookie, Francisco. Edmonds hasn't played since Sept. 21 because of a tender right Achilles tendon.

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"We're waiting until the last minute when we have to make that decision," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, who guides Cincinnati into Game 1 on Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET on TBS.

The roster is not finalized, but it's expected to look like this:

Catchers (2) -- Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.

Infielders (6) -- Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera, Scott Rolen, Miguel Cairo and Paul Janish.

Outfielders (5) -- Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Jonny Gomes, Chris Heisey and Laynce Nix.

Starting pitchers (3) -- Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.

Bullpen (8) -- Francisco Cordero, Arthur Rhodes, Nick Masset, Aroldis Chapman, Logan Ondrusek, Bill Bray, Homer Bailey and Travis Wood.

Final spot -- Edmonds or Francisco.

The most important portion of the roster could very well end up being the four left-handed pitchers out in the Reds' bullpen -- Rhodes, Chapman, Bray and Wood.

It addresses one of the big keys of the series -- trying to negate the threat posed by the Phillies' lefty-hitting trifecta of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez. Most managers are lucky to have one dependable lefty a phone call away -- and Baker has four.

"It's certainly big," said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price. "More important than anything, we feel confident about our guys in the bullpen because they've had good seasons and they're throwing the ball well collectively. The benefit of having Woody is in case you have a rain delay, rainout, where it forces you to use one more starter. Extra innings against a predominantly left-handed-hitting lineup is certainly a benefit as well. However, you still have to pitch well regardless of using your lefties or righties."

It is not just four situational left-handers -- each has a unique strength. Rhodes gets right-handers (.182 average) out as well as he does left-handers (.214) -- a bit better, in fact. Chapman and his triple-digit velocity, which the Phillies have not seen, have lefty hitters batting .154, vs. .212 for right-handers. Both Rhodes and Chapman are accustomed to pitching an inning at a time.

Bray is the classic situational lefty who likely will be used entirely for one-out situations since lefties bat .106 against him. Wood, a starter all season capable of going multiple innings, is tough enough on lefties (.136 average) to get one out, if necessary, but effective enough vs. right-handers (.240) to be a long man.

"Me, Arthur and Chapman, and now having four, will allow us to match up early and often throughout the whole game," Bray said.

Besides the lefties, there will be four right-handers in the bullpen as part of the 11-man staff -- Cordero and setup man Masset, plus Ondrusek and usual starting pitcher Bailey.

There will be 14 position players carried, with the final bench spot still up for grabs. Regardless, there will be two left-handed hitters coming off the bench -- Nix and either Edmonds or Francisco. Yonder Alonso, another left-handed bat, is not being considered because Francisco has more versatility.

"He can play more positions," Baker said. "It's in case Scotty comes up sore, he could be another bona fide third baseman even though we have Cairo. I've got Janish, but if something happens to Cabrera, you're trying to cover yourself in as many areas as you think you're vulnerable."

Batting .266 (12-for-45) as a pinch-hitter, Nix could become a game-changer late. Look for him to possibly start Game 2 on Friday vs. Phillies starter Roy Oswalt. Nix is 9-for-17 (.529) with two homers in his career against Oswalt.

"The way he hits Oswalt, he might come to play," Baker said. "He's our top guy hitting Oswalt."

On the negative side, Nix is 1-for-16 (.063) lifetime at Citizens Bank Park.

Edmonds did not take batting practice on the field Tuesday and was given numbing medicine to try and play. He already received a cortisone shot last week.

"It's coming along decent," said Edmonds, who was acquired in an Aug. 9 trade from the Brewers. "We numbed it up today and tried to do some stuff. I mostly hit inside today. We're still waiting to make a decision. We'll have a meeting in a little bit."

If Edmonds does make the club, it would be as a pinch-hitter and nothing else, since he can't run. With Nix just back from a sprained ankle and two catchers on the roster, the Reds' ability to pinch-run could be limited.

"That's an area of concern too," Baker said. "We just carried a pinch-hitter in L.A. too with Manny Mota. He could run. Especially considering late in the game, we're going to have to run potentially for Hanigan and Hernandez. Nix is running pretty good right now."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter@m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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