GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The offseason vacations, fishing trips and golf outings are over. The lower-impact winter workouts are done, and any lingering enjoyment about the Reds being division champions is finished. "It's time to go to work," Reds reliever Nick Masset said. The business of trying to repeat as National League Central champions formally began on Wednesday morning as Reds pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. A workout was scheduled for later in the day.
"It's the start of the race," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "When the plane left Sacramento [Tuesday], that was the start of baseball season for me. You wonder when the plane comes back home and the smoke clears where you're going to be. It's a long race, a lot of things can happen, a lot of changes. We think a lot of positive things are about to happen." A total of 28 pitchers and six catchers were accounted for, with just one pitcher absent. Starter Edinson Volquez was expected to arrive later in the day. Dontrelle Willis, who has been in a fixture at the complex for several days, missed the first official workout because his wife was having a baby.
However, a large majority of the pitching staff has been on site for several days. Many have been working out informally on the grounds and throwing in the bullpen. "Guys are ready to start on Day 1 instead of working into it. It's always good to see that," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. On Wednesday morning, several portions of the Reds' player development complex looked more like a medical triage as the pitchers and catchers underwent physicals. "They're about to take my blood," pitcher Bronson Arroyo said. After the blood pressure, blood taking and other poking and prodding was complete, Baker held a clubhouse meeting before the team took the field for stretching, running and drills. There were pitchers practicing fielding, throwing to different bases and bunting, and catchers working on blocking balls. Several pitchers also threw in the bullpen on the first day, including Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Travis Wood and Logan Ondrusek. This is the second year that the Reds are holding Spring Training in Arizona and playing in the Cactus League. Their first exhibition game is on Feb. 27 vs. the Indians. Champions of the NL Central with 91 wins in 2010, Cincinnati returns a roster largely unchanged this season. The two biggest departures, both via free agency, were shortstop Orlando Cabrera and lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes. The additions made were mainly complementary with the signings of backup shortstop Edgar Renteria and lefty-hitting outfielder Fred Lewis. Lefty hurler Willis and lefty-hitting outfielder Jeremy Hermida were signed to Minor League deals and will be in camp as non-roster invitees. Otherwise, most of the offseason transactions involved locking in players to long-term deals. A total of $151 million was spent on contracts for Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Arroyo and Johnny Cueto. The stability of the team only serves to intensify the few roster battles that will be the largest story lines in Reds camp this year. Behind Arroyo, Cueto and Volquez, there are two open spots in the rotation. The three leading contenders are Leake, Homer Bailey and Wood, and Matt Maloney and Sam LeCure are seeking to wedge their way in. In the bullpen, most of the jobs are filled. Lefty Chapman and his 100-plus-mph fastball are expected to fill Rhodes' role. But Willis, Jose Arredondo, Jared Burton, Daniel Ray Herrera and Jordan Smith will be fighting for one of the last spots. In the outfield, Jonny Gomes will be trying to retain his place in left field as Lewis, Hermida and returning young player Chris Heisey try to secure spots on the bench as extra outfielders. Paul Janish enters camp as the regular shortstop for the first time with Cabrera's departure and will be looking to have a solid spring. Not content with just reaching the playoffs and being swept in the first round by the Phillies, the Reds are looking to get better and go farther in 2011. "The hard part is doing it the first time," Baker said. "You think you can do it. But until you do it, you don't know if you can do it or not. Success breeds success. And success breeds confidence."
The full 54-man spring roster is scheduled to report on Saturday, with the first full-squad workout also that day.