Bryan Price started his third year as the Reds' manager with a lot of roles to define.
So he started right away.
On the first day of camp in Goodyear, Arizona, manager Bryan Price declared that J.J Hoover will make the team and have the luxury of getting ready for the season rather than competing for a job. Not only will he have a roster spot, he has the lone defined role in a bullpen full of mystery.
The Reds traded Chapman to the New York Yankees in December for 3B Eric Jagielo, 2B Tony Renda, RHP Rookie Davis and RHP Caleb Cotham.
Wearing a t-shirt saying, "Train to Reign", Price shed light on the mystery of who will replace the Cuban left-hander who clocked triple digits on the radar gun.
Training is a given but the word “learn” should replace the word “reign” for the sake of accuracy.
It is no secret the Reds are trying to rebuild with young players, mostly young pitchers with Homer Bailey the elder of the group competing for the starting rotation at 29.
“We’re not going to talk about being a last place club, where losing is o.k.,” Price said. “We’re going to talk about getting incrementally better on a daily basis. We can do that. We’re going to teach to the youngest player, even if there are veterans in the group. You can never hear the fundamentals too many times.”
All 41 pitchers and six catchers reported to take physicals. No workouts were planned and very few players were out on the fields. There was a small group of players in the weight room as workouts are slated to begin Friday morning. The Reds are expecting 62 players in camp and 51 are here including position players Zach Cozart, Billy Hamilton and Ivan De Jesus Jr.
Price expects the competition to be intense with a lot of youthful players knocking on the door.
“The biggest challenge we have is that there are a lot of guys capable of pitching in the big leagues, The downside is there are a lot of guys that have to learn to pitch in the big leagues, “Price said. “There will be a lot of competition and not a lot of defined roles.”
One defined role is Hoover's.
“It is fair to say that he will be the closer,” Price said. “He’s earned it. He is going to make our major league bullpen. There are not a lot of defined roles in our bullpen. Unless we make a roster move to bring in a definitive closer, it is his job to lose.”
Hoover worked to make it his job in the off season once Chapman was traded.
‘I’m honored that it is my job to lose,” Hoover said. “There is a lot of time left in spring training but I’m excited to try and lock that job down. My approach was the same in the offseason. I worked with our strength coach Sean Marhon. We got a little more advanced in our movements. I’m a lot stronger than I was a year ago.”
Hoover doesn’t know who will join him in the bullpen other than Diaz. Sam LeCure, Burke Badenhop, Sean Marshall, Colin Balester, Manny Parra are gone along with Chapman.
Tony Cingrani, Pedro Villarreal, Carlos Contreras, Ryan Mattheus and Michael Lorenzen return but Cingrani and Lorenzen will compete for spots in the starting rotation. Mattheus re-signed to a minor league contract and Villarreal will have to make the roster as non-roster invitees.
Drew Hayes, Davis, Cotham, Zack Weiss and Blake Wood were mentioned by Price as possible bullpen mates for Hoover.
“It’s exciting having the young talent around,” Hoover said.