By Marc Lancaster
Post staff reporter
Reds pitchers and catchers are due to report to the City of Sarasota Sports Complex one month from today, but a few will get a head start on their preparations for 2006 this week.
Because a number of players - mostly those who live in Florida during the offseason - expressed an interest in reporting early, the Reds will make the facility available for voluntary workouts for the next few weeks.
Among those who probably will be on hand with some frequency are pitchers Eric Milton, Brandon Claussen and Ben Kozlowski, according to general manager Dan O'Brien. Right-hander Paul Wilson, who is recovering from shoulder surgery that ended his 2005 season in June, also will be at the complex to work with the medical staff. He is expected to begin throwing off the mound soon, possibly this week.
"The situation with Paul is considerably different because he's still in rehab and it's somewhat of a structured thing," O'Brien said. "The other guys will obviously on their own volition decide to come and there will be some sort of workout schedule they like and we'll try and have the complex open."
It helps that the Reds have been able to establish a year-round base of operations in Sarasota. Members of the minor league training staff are on hand there, and several of the organization's coaches live in the area. Reds pitching coach Vern Ruhle, minor league pitching coordinator Mack Jenkins and special instructor Ed Napoleon live in Sarasota, and minor league field coordinator Bob Miscik and bullpen coach Tom Hume are nearby.
A handful of big-league teams hold more organized early camps that mainly focus on pitching.
Pitching coach Leo Mazzone's annual "Camp Leo" gatherings during his time with the Atlanta Braves were well-attended, and the Braves reportedly will continue the tradition even though Mazzone has moved on to Baltimore.
The Pittsburgh Pirates last week held a voluntary minicamp at their Grapefruit League facility in Bradenton, Fla., the sixth consecutive year they have done so. Most of the Pirates' frontline pitchers were on hand as new manager Jim Tracy and his staff got a look at what they'll have to work with full-time beginning next month.
"Maybe we can accomplish the same thing, just do it a little bit differently," O'Brien said.