Reds relievers Sims, Garrett looking healthy as Opening Day nears

Sims returns from injury to make his spring debut nine days before season opener

Lucas Sims just wants to win. His role with the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff, whether he’s working as a closer or not, is not as important.

“Whatever is going to put us in the best position to win ballgames, however the game plays out, that’s what I want to do,” Sims said earlier this month. “I believe that I’m suited to go in any situation. I’d love to lock (the closer’s role) down. I believe I could be dominant in doing so. But I’m not really all that concerned about it right now. I’m here to win, and whatever we’ve got to do to throw guys out there and plug and chug, fill those roles, sign me up. I want the best person out there.”

When spring training began, Sims and Amir Garrett were competing for the closer’s role, even teasing each other on social media about the competition. Both have battled injuries in Goodyear, Ariz., but both pitched Tuesday in a 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres.

Garrett threw a scoreless sixth inning in his second appearance of the spring. Sims made his spring debut in the seventh inning and allowed two earned runs on three hits.

“I was around the zone a lot,” Sims said. “That’s always a plus, especially for the first outing. Being around the zone and being able to expand is a lot easier than spreading it all over the place and having to rein that back in. I was happy about the way I attacked the zone. I think I probably could have picked some spots for a few different pitches.”

Sims was dealing with right elbow tightness when he arrived at spring training. He worked his way back to the mound in recent weeks and pitched in an intrasquad game without issues Saturday.

The Reds need Sims in the bullpen — whatever his role turns out to be — because he was one of their best relievers a year ago. He had a 2.45 ERA in 20 appearances. A season earlier, in his first full season with the Reds after they acquired him from the Atlanta Braves in the Adam Duvall trade in July 2018, he had a 4.60 ERA in 24 appearances.

Garrett had the same ERA (2.45) as Sims last season but made two fewer appearances and pitched seven fewer innings. He was sidelined by left forearm tightness earlier in spring training. In his first two appearances of the spring, he has struck out the side in his only two innings of work.

Manager David Bell said Sims and Garrett are both important for the bullpen. As a group, the bullpen has a 5.78 ERA in spring training. That ranks 26th out of 30 big-league teams.

“Lucas is coming off a breakthrough season,” Bell said. “We’ve seen Amir get better and better over the years. It’s great to see them out pitching in a game with plenty of time to get ready for the season and to be pitching at the level they’re at. It gives us confidence they’re healthy and will be out there and ready to start the season.”

NOTES: Nick Castellanos hit his team-best third home run of the spring on Tuesday. He also leads the Reds with eight RBIs. Jeff Hoffman made his fourth start of the spring. He allowed three earned runs on four hits in five innings. He has made the most starts of any Red and has a 6.75 ERA in 17 1/3 innings.

• The Reds fell to 6-15 (.286) in the Cactus League. They’re one of two teams in spring training with a winner percentage below .300. The Houston Astros are 4-12 .250) in the Grapefruit League in Florida.

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