02/16/2006 3:17 PM ET
Reds pitchers, catchers prepared
Many worked out in Florida before offical reporting day
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Feb. 16 may have been circled on many fans' calendars as the date Reds pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
But indications are that several Reds pitchers were working from a different calendar with a different circle this past offseason.
Still, those players shared one common agenda -- arrive early and be ready to work well ahead of the 16th.
Reliever Todd Coffey said he got to the team's complex at Ed Smith Stadium on Jan. 15. Starting pitchers Paul Wilson, Aaron Harang and Eric Milton were also among those who hunkered down at camp well ahead of schedule.
"I believe everybody has already done their workouts at home and are ready to go at Spring Training," Coffey said. "I'll bet everybody in this locker room is ready to go, game ready within a week."
Harang departed his San Diego area home and made it down to Florida last week.
"When you see guys start showing up, you know it's getting close to that time," said Harang, the only Reds starter to surpass 200 innings in 2005. "It gets exciting."
In his first Spring Training as Reds manager, Jerry Narron was impressed.
"It's nice to see the guys that have been here early," Narron said. [Pitching coach] Vern Ruhle lives down here, and it was a big plus having him live here and come out here with guys going to throw. I think the biggest difference is they're not only throwing on the side, but the [pitchers' fielding drills] and that type of thing."
They may have been large numbers in early turnouts, but some pitchers might have to take a number in order to get ample amounts of work in now that Spring Training is officially underway.
Cincinnati has 32 pitchers, including 10 non-roster invites, among a total of 63 players in camp this year. For the first official workout on Saturday, Narron expects 30-31 pitchers to be throwing, and he admitted it wasn't an ideal situation.
"I would have liked to have 25-26 pitchers," Narron said. "Just the situation we're in this winter made it a little different than most places. We're going to have to do everything we can to make sure everybody gets their work and at least gets out there and gets into the games.
"There's probably going to be some guys that won't get out there as much as they'd like, I'm sure. That's part of baseball and part of Spring Training when you have those kinds of numbers."
The heavy volume should bring increased competition for precious roster spots. Cincinnati ranked at the bottom of the National League in several pitching categories in 2005, but made few significant changes to the 2006 staff.
Cincinnati traded first baseman Sean Casey to the Pirates to get lefty Dave Williams. Veterans Chris Hammond and Rick White were added to a bullpen that still lacks an established closer.
Narron was asked who was in the mix to close games for him this spring.
"Every one of them," the skipper wryly replied.
David Weathers, Kent Mercker, Coffey, Ryan Wagner and others are among those believed to be in contention for the job.
"Basically, I'm coming to camp with the mindset that I'm not on this team," Coffey said. "I have to earn this spot."
Among the starters, Wilson is trying to come back from rotator cuff shoulder surgery that wiped out most of his 2005 season. Milton is seeking a reversal of fortune following a rough first year in Cincinnati. Harang and Brandon Claussen are looking to build off solid seasons.
"The biggest thing is everybody has to be consistent," Harang said. "We had some ups and downs last year. Guys are coming in early, getting ready for the season. We've got some veteran guys to fill in the bullpen. Starters have to step up and get us through six or seven innings and give our bullpen a chance to finish it."
The Reds' full squad is scheduled to report Feb. 21, with the first full-squad workout set for Feb. 22. Grapefruit League play commences March 2, when Cincinnati plays Detroit at Lakeland, Fla. The home opener at Ed Smith Stadium is March 3, with a split-squad facing the Tigers.
It all leads up to the forming of the 25-man roster and the opening of the regular season, April 3 vs. the Cubs, at Great American Ball Park.