If Mercker gets the final nod over Bray then this organization defies the odds again.
Tough decisions looming for Reds
Competition for bullpen, bench spots remains as season nears
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- For Reds players on the roster bubble and front-office management alike, this is one of the toughest weeks.
Players who have made it to the last week of Spring Training didn't make it that long by accident. And there's a good chance some deserving players will have to be cut.
"The cuts are getting tougher," manager Dusty Baker said.
No one was sent out on Monday, but with 37 healthy players in camp, it means 12 of them have to go before the 25-man Opening Day roster is set.
"It'll be an interesting few days," said infielder/outfielder Andy Phillips, who is trying to make the team. "Certainly, everybody is aware some decisions are coming. But you have to keep working, keep going out plugging away and trying to get yourself ready for the season."
Baker expected some more cuts to happen on Tuesday. Although exhibition games will be played through Saturday, the freight truck with players' belongings heads north to Cincinnati on Wednesday.
"We have to do something before the truck leaves," Baker said Monday. "I've done that, too, [as a player]. I sent my car north, and I went south."
Several decisions -- like center field and the rotation -- seem to have been made even though no announcements have been issued. Other battles -- like the bullpen, the 25th-man bench spot and possibly first base -- remain in flux.
Here is how Cincinnati's roster is shaping up so far:
Expected starting rotation: Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Josh Fogg and Edinson Volquez.
Bullpen locks: Francisco Cordero, David Weathers, Jeremy Affeldt and Mike Stanton.
Infielders: Brandon Phillips, Edwin Encarnacion, Jeff Keppinger, Juan Castro, Joey Votto and Scott Hatteberg.
Outfielders: Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Corey Patterson, Norris Hopper and Ryan Freel.
Catchers: Javier Valentin and Paul Bako.
Disabled list: Catcher David Ross (likely), shortstop Alex Gonzalez and pitcher Bobby Livingston.
If Votto makes the team, he almost certainly would start at first base. If it's Hatteberg, Votto should go to Triple-A Louisville to play every day. While Hatteberg is having a much better spring, expect Votto to get the nod.
In the bullpen, Jared Burton hasn't pitched well this spring, but he still appears to be a good bet. Todd Coffey seems an almost certainty because he's pitched great. It leaves one relief spot up for grabs.
It will come down to lefties Kent Mercker and Bill Bray and right-hander Mike Lincoln. The prediction here is it will be Mercker, because Bray has Minor League options left. Mercker is a non-roster invitee, and he could sign elsewhere or retire if he doesn't make it. Both lefties have pitched well, however.
As for the battle for the final bench spot, Jolbert Cabrera, Andy Phillips, Andy Green, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jerry Gil remain in the mix. Cabrera and Phillips seem to have the best shot, but this battle is too close to call.
Cabrera, a 35-year-old veteran of five big league seasons, isn't sweating the final days. He entered the day batting .311 this spring (14-for-45) with 12 RBIs.
"I'm enjoying myself. I'm not the one who has to try and make the decision," Cabrera said. "A lot of guys had a tremendous Spring Training. It's unfair to say one guy did better than the other."
If Cabrera makes it, it will be his first time in the big leagues since 2004 with the Mariners. He spent two seasons playing in Japan and 2007 back in the Minors with the Cardinals organization.
"I can't ask for anything better," Cabrera said of his spring. "I had a rough time last year with the Cardinals in my first year back from Japan. I got used to the Japanese way of pitching. Then I got [appendicitis]. I'm happy to be 100 percent healthy."
Andy Phillips, the only Reds player to play in every game this spring, entered Monday's game against the Blue Jays batting .262 (11-for-42) with one home run and eight RBIs. Both Cabrera and Phillips have played multiple positions around the infield and outfield.
"You always stay positive," Phillips said of the final week. "You have to keep a positive frame of mind."