New faces, greater expectations as Reds open spring training camp

Harry and George Wright started the concept of professional baseball in Cincinnati 150 years ago.

On Tuesday the Reds’ pitchers and catchers reported to spring training camp for the 2019 seasonwith a new manager, a nearly new coaching staff, three new competitors for the starting pitching rotation and perhaps a new concept to player utilization.

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Rookie manager David Bell is new to the organization at the Major League level. He had previously managed the Louisville Bats in 2011, continuing his families’ involvement with the franchise for over 50 years. Bell’s grandfather Gus, father Buddy and younger brother Mike have all performed in a Reds’ uniform.

Delino Deshields, who managed in Dayton, Pensacola and Louisville in the Reds’ organization joins Freddie Benavides, who moves up to bench coach. J. R. House will be the third base coach and handle the catchers. Derek Johnson is the new pitching coach and Turner Ward is the new hitting coach.

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Baseball is tradition rich and Bell believes in that but also has an open mind and is willing to use his players in novel ways.

Those novel approaches could include using an opener, a short reliever to start a game for an inning, or using versatile pitcher Michael Lorenzen in center field when he is not pitching.

“I would say we will probably not use an opener to start. We view are starting rotation as our strength, but I haven’t completely ruled it out. Maybe with one of our rotation spots at some point,” Bell said.

The Reds added Tanner Roark, Alex Wood and Sonny Gray to the roster in offseason trades. Each are proven starters. They will likely join Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo, the incumbents from last season, to make up the Reds’ rotation.

“We haven’t set the schedule yet, but we will have it set up fairly quickly,” Bell said.

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Bell said Lorenzen, Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle could challenge for a rotation role or perform in long relief or a swing role.

It is Lorenzen’s role on the team that is one of the most intriguing.

The 27-year-old, who already has four seasons in the big leagues, could be a starting pitcher, a reliever, a center fielder or any combination of these roles. The right-hander was 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 45 games last season. At the plate, he hit .290 and cracked four home runs, including three in one week last June.

“I can tell you what I told him,” Bell said. “We need him to prioritize pitching, especially early. He is preparing himself to help our team in any capacity. He is a great option to have.”

Lorenzen will likely get time in the outfield during the second half of spring training.

“What I like is that they don’t feel they need to put me in bubble wrap,” Lorenzen said. “It is something that I’ve done all my life.”

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Lorenzen plans to chat with the new coaching staff about his expanded role.

“I have been working out in the outfield in addition to my throwing. I get to stay out on the field longer which I love. It is something that I haven’t been able to do since I’ve been in pro ball,” Lorenzen said. “Being limited to one role isn’t normal. Playing center field is one of the best things I do on the baseball field. Defense has been my strength since I was nine or 10.”

A potential new role for Lorenzen is part of the new excitement around camp and among fans in Cincinnati.

“There is new energy in the organization and in the city. We can’t underestimate the importance of that,” Bell said. “We want to get people excited about our team. There is a difference, I think about being excited and feeling that there is something special. I think we are in the early stages of that. Things are moving in the right direction. Lorenzen is at the top of the list that. We have a lot of work to do.”

Lorenzen echoed his new manager’s assesment.

“There is a lot more expecting to win and a lot less hoping to win,” Lorenzen said.

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