Cincinnati Reds: 4 rising young guns aim to win roster spots

GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 08: Amir Garrett #50 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels during the spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark on March 8, 2017 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

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GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 08: Amir Garrett #50 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels during the spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark on March 8, 2017 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Quartet share ‘House of Opportunity’

Former Reds manager Jack McKeon used to talk about “Mr. Opportunity” knocking on your door: “Open the door and say come on in.”

There is a house in the Goodyear, Arizona, area in which Mr. Opportunity is living with four young pitchers that are on the Major League doorstep, the House of the Rising Guns.

Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett and Sal Romano live together in that house. The quartet envisions the four of them in the starting rotation for the Reds for good reason, all have pitched well in Goodyear. With three spots open in the Reds’ starting rotation — now that Anthony DeSclafani will not be active Opening Day — there is a chance that three of them could be in the starting rotation. It is their dream to pitch together in the big leagues.

Reds manager Bryan Price calls it the “House of Opportunity. “To have a starter like DeSclafani go down and have immediately in the aftermath to have some of our guys who are competing for spots to step up is a good thing,” Price said. “Somebody’s got to win those jobs and it’s nice that it looks like it’s going to be a competition.”

Garrett demonstrated the group’s promise against Oakland on Monday in the Reds’ 3-1 win. He was the first Reds’ pitcher to make it through four hitless innings with three strikeouts. Afterwards, the former basketball player at St. John’s University went to the bullpen to throw an extra 15 pitches to reach his pitch count.

Romano believes he and his roommates make each other better.

“We compete with each other,” Romano said. “This guy this amount of innings with this amount of runs, well this day I’m going to do better. But we all root for each other. It’s not like I just want to do better than him. We all want to do better as a team. The ultimate goal is to be in the big leagues together and win a championship, so why root against each other now, when eventually all of us will be there together.”

“I’ve played with Sal for awhile. It’s amazing to see what we all could do. It’s fun. We’re all good friends. Us pitching good makes everyone better,” Garrett said. “We play a lot of video games. Talk a lot of trash. We just call it the house, the crib, that’s it.”

They root for each other.

“I don’t think we think of it as competition. We just go put in the work,” Reed said. “If Amir makes it and Rob makes it and me and Sal are gone of vice versa, I’ll be checking the box scores. We are eventually all going to play together someday.”

Their mothers will be happy to know they do their own housekeeping.

“We’re all pretty neat,” Reed said. “It’s not like college guys.”

“There’s not a lot of dishes to do. We eat out a lot,” Romano said.

The group have been all business on the mound too.

Romano made his case on Sunday, striking out seven Milwaukee Brewers batters in 3 2/3 innings, allowing a run on two hits and a walk.

“He was outstanding, not just the pitch quality, but he’s changing and learning so quickly here, about not overthrowing,” said pitching coach Mack Jenkins. “We saw a few today where he was up and man, he went down right away. That was exceptional. That was the best outing we’ve had from anyone all spring. It was very good.”

Romano leads the staff with 10 2/3 innings with two earned runs with three walks and 16 strikeouts.

“I think being more relaxed and trusting my stuff has made a difference,” Romano said. “I try to be too fine sometimes. That doesn’t work for me. I just have to be confident. act like I belong.”

Reed got experience last year, but after pitching so well at Triple A Louisville, he was 0-7 after reaching the Reds. This spring Reed’s allowed four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings.

Stephenson gave up four runs in his first spring outing, but has put together five scoreless innings since then. He pitches again today. “Robert has been better at working down in the zone,” Price said.

Notes:

  • Two other pitchers competing for a spot pitched on Sunday. Luis Castillo allowed one hit in two scoreless innings on Sunday. The 24-year-old right-hander came from the Miami Marlins in the Dan Straily trade. "We made our team stronger for the long run," general manager Dick Williams said. Castillo, who made it to Double A last year, is working on a breaking pitch to go with a good fastball and change up. "He has a big, big fastball and a plus change," Price said. "He needed polish on his breaking ball. He showed improvement with that yesterday."
  • Rookie Davis rolled his ankle when he hit a double, the first Reds' pitcher to hit in a game, against Colorado. He tweaked it again covering first on a slow roller to the base. Unable to push off on his right foot, Davis hit Rockies' first baseman Ian Desmond with a pitch that broke Desmond's hand. "It was stiff last night but it will be fine," Davis said. "I felt like I was throwing the ball real well." Davis said he felt bad for Desmond. "I'm glad its nothing serious," he said. "I wanted to reach out to him on twitter. He tweeted me back. There's no hard feelings." Davis should be available to pitch again.

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