It’s easy to associate spring training with sunny skies and warm temperatures, but neither of those conditions greeted the Reds for the first full squad workout on Monday.
The valley of the sun was covered with gray clouds and a little bit of rain, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of a team trying to dig out of the National League Central Division cellar for the first time since 2014.
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Rookie manager David Bell was anxious to get the full squad together for the first time with the clock ticking down to the season opener March 28 at Great American Ball Park against the Pirates.
This time of year it’s easy to be optimistic, even for a team that’s finished last four years in a row, but several players said there is a different feel this spring ever since the front office started making some moves in the offseason.
The Reds acquired three starting pitchers — Tanner Roark (Nationals), Alex Wood (Dodgers) and Sonny Gray (Yankees) in trades. They also beefed up an already potent offense with the addition of outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in the deal with the Dodgers.
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“You can’t ask for anything more than to play postseason baseball and I fell we all think we can play it,” Reds right-handed starter Anthony DeSclafani said. “I think we’re going to play postseason baseball this year and I think we’ll surprise a lot of teams.”
Gray, a right-hander, is no stranger to the playoffs — first in Oakland and then the last couple of seasons with the Yankees. He likes what he sees in the clubhouse.
“That group of position players in there can rival any group that we will play this season,” Gray said. “Watching guys compete, that’s what I’m excited about.”
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A year ago, first baseman Joey Votto told reporters he was looking to win a couple of World Series titles before he left Cincinnati. The Reds leader was much more subdued, but still optimistic, when he sat down in front of the microphones Monday morning.
“I feel very strongly and I think as a group we feel strongly that we can win the division and be competitive this year,” Votto said. “That’s really all you can ask for going into camp.”
The Reds have four more workouts before they open Cactus League play against the Indians on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark.