Reds in no hurry to make final roster
Citing competition, team has 34 healthy players left in camp
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reds players on the roster bubble awaiting news about their futures can only hurry up and wait.
The slow twist in the wind continued for many Thursday, as just one cut -- the reassignment of infielder Andy Green to Minor League camp after the game -- was announced. Cincinnati has 34 healthy players, plus two that are injured, remaining on its Spring Training roster. With two days left in camp, nine more have to go to reach the 25-man limit.
"We will have 25 when Opening Day starts," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "It speaks to how good the competition has been in Spring Training. We've got some very close competition among non-roster players and in the bullpen and in the rotation."
Having this high a roster count this late in camp isn't usually a common occurrence. A couple of veteran Reds players are stunned the team isn't closer to its Opening Day roster.
Comparatively, Thursday's visiting Twins have 28 players in their camp but are believed to already know who their final 25 are. The Tigers are also at 28. But the Reds aren't alone in having a bloated roster. The Yankees entered the day with 41, the Dodgers had 40 and the Royals were with 36 healthy players.
When it comes to the Opening Day roster attention, Krivsky doesn't see the big deal.
"There's such a build up to it that is grossly, grossly overrated," Krivsky said. "It's going to change often during the course of a season. Everybody gets all excited about the Opening Day roster. It might change in a week. It might change in two days if somebody gets hurt. It's going to get settled eventually. I'm sure these [players] would like to know. At the appropriate time, they're going to be told."
At this point, the biggest mystery for the Reds is who will get the final left-handed spot in the bullpen. Mike Stanton is under contact for $3 million this season, plus a $500,000 buyout for his 2009 option. Coming off a rough 2007, Stanton has been decent (4.50 ERA, six innings pitched) but he's already cleared waivers. A trade or release is always a possibility.
Non-roster invite Kent Mercker (1-0, 2.57 ERA, seven innings pitched) has looked mostly good. So has Bill Bray, who didn't allow a run until his sixth appearance of the spring on Wednesday vs. Toronto.
Bray, who missed the first half of camp with shoulder soreness, gave up three earned runs and three hits in one-third of an inning against the Blue Jays. Manager Dusty Baker expressed concern that Bray has logged just 65 innings over the past three seasons. The 24-year-old also has Minor League options left.
"He has been doing well," Baker said. "The only drawback Bray might be is sometimes he's come up kind of hurt. There's still a question mark on his durability and availability. That's a big issue in the big leagues because we have a lot of games."
Now that catcher David Ross has returned from a back injury, Baker is also determining whether he's healthy enough to start the season. The manager must also decide whether he wants non-roster invite Paul Bako as a third catcher or to go with a different position player as the 25th man.
"That has to do with Ross' readiness," Baker said. "If he's ready, there's a possibility [of carrying three catchers]. If he's not ready, there won't be. Three catchers does kind of limit the things that you can do. I've had three catchers but then you're expecting one of your catchers [to] play another position."
While the Reds haven't carried this many players this late in recent memory, last-minute decisions are nothing new. Last year, reliever Dustin Hermanson went north with the club and struggled in the final exhibition game at Dayton, Ohio. Hermanson was cut the day before Opening Day.
In 2006, outfielder Chris Denorfia was sent to Triple-A early on only to be brought back in the final week of camp because of an injury. Infielder Andy Abad didn't learn he was chosen as the 25th man until after he got to Cincinnati.
"We're giving everybody as good of an opportunity as we can," Krivsky said. "Dusty is being diligent and making sure he sees everything he needs to see to make the best decision."