Evaluation begins in earnest for Baker, Reds

Evaluation begins in earnest for Baker, Reds

Evaluation begins in earnest for Baker, Reds
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Although the daily workouts are useful for players -- and their evaluators -- at Spring Training, the first real tangible results aren't as visible until exhibition games get going.

For the Reds, that day is Sunday when they play the Indians at their shared home of Goodyear Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET and the Reds will be the visiting team.

On Saturday, Reds players were matched against each other in an intrasquad scrimmage.

"We're ready to start playing," Reds shortstop Paul Janish said. "The stuff we've done so far gets kind of monotonous. After the first week, we may not feel we're quite there in terms of playing games and ready for live pitching, but we're definitely anxious to get going."

The Reds currently have 54 players in camp and since camp opened on Feb. 16, the workouts have spread over multiple practice fields, batting cages and bullpens. Coaches are split up to run the varying drills and manager Dusty Baker tries to roam from field to field to see what he can.

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Once the games begin, Baker will have a chance to evaluate performances that simply can't be seen during workouts on the back fields.

"You get to see who is a game player and who is a practice player," Baker said. "Sometimes you've got guys hitting the ball a mile in practice and is a totally different player when the games start. Or a pitcher is throwing strike after strike in practice and when the game starts, he can't find the plate. You also have to realize that it's Feb. 26, not March 26."

Edinson Volquez, who will also be Cincinnati's Opening Day starter on March 31, was scratched from pitching against Cleveland because he was unable to get a work visa. Left-hander Matt Maloney, who is seeking a bullpen spot, will pitch instead and work two innings.

Pitchers Sam LeCure, Jared Burton and Carlos Fisher -- all of whom are also trying to earn bullpen spots on the 25-man roster -- are scheduled to follow Maloney. Pitchers Daryl Thompson and Donnie Joseph are also available. The Indians are opposing Maloney with right-hander and fifth-starter candidate Josh Tomlin.

The Reds are planning on starting the majority of their regular lineup against the Indians, including reigning National League MVP Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.

In the early portions of the exhibition season, regular players who see action are often pulled after a couple of at-bats and rarely are around for the late innings. Games often end with prospects on the field wearing high numbers and having little chance of going north on the 25-man roster.

"You can get fooled at Spring Training," Baker said. "That's why a lot of times you bring your closer in the fourth [inning] so he can face the guys he'll most likely face [in the regular season]. Early in the spring, the breaking ball, offspeed pitchers have more success because the guys' timing is not ready. On the other hand, young kids that are fastball hitters tend to have more success because they don't have to hit breaking balls. Because guys aren't ready to throw breaking balls for strikes."

The workouts will still continue early each morning before the game as players will keep performing drills and their extra work.

"But we'll start mixing in some games," center fielder Drew Stubbs said. "We'll start seeing some new faces on the other side. It keeps everything fresh for us."

The Reds, coming off of an NL Central Division championship, have precious few spots open on their 25-man roster. Three starters -- Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Travis Wood -- are competing for the last two rotation spots. Fred Lewis, Chris Heisey and Jeremy Hermida are seeking the extra outfielder's role and one or two spots may be open in the bullpen.

"You just can't dial it in the way you can when you're playing in a game," Janish said. "That's just the way it is."

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.