Crowded Reds bullpen promises heated competition

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The battles in Reds camp are few as open spots are far between. No area will likely be more competitive than the bullpen -- assuming the club carries 12 pitchers, that leaves seven spots for relievers.

"That's the toughest thing of every camp. It's the toughest job I have," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Monday. "They know there's only a few jobs here. Bench players, that's another tough area. Catching? Another tough area. Most good teams have tough areas. Bad teams are searching for quality. Something always works out and takes care of itself."

The list of pitchers on Baker's dry-erase board is lengthy. Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall have big contracts and are locks, while Nick Masset, Jose Arredondo and Alfredo Simon are out of options. Sam LeCure has established himself the past couple of seasons. Manny Parra was signed as a free agent to a one-year, $1 million contract to be a second left-hander. Logan Ondrusek, recently signed to a two-year deal that avoided arbitration, is highly regarded. The issue could really compound if Aroldis Chapman doesn't wind up starting and returns to the bullpen.

Also look for a big push from power right-hander J.J. Hoover, who had a strong rookie debut in the middle of 2012. Hoover was 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA in 28 games, including 13 walks and 31 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.

"He was very impressive," Baker said of Hoover. "You can pitch your way on to the [bullpen]. That's what he did last year. That's what it's all about anyway. All I can do is give you the opportunity to pitch or play. This is a performance-based job. Sometimes, you're a little more patient because of the potential and ceiling you see in a player."