Reds weighing merits of eight-man bullpen

In five days, the Reds will be ending the Arizona portion of spring training. They finish Wednesday at noon against Cleveland.

Manager Bryan Price hopes to have the starting rotation and the bullpen decided by the time the Reds play the Louisville Bats on March 31 in Louisville, a day before they play at Fifth Third Field in the Futures Game against their prospects.

The choices will be difficult and will involve meetings with the front office. Price has to figure out whether he wants to put seven pitchers in the bullpen with a five-man bench or eight in the pen with a four-man bench.

“We are kind of frozen on the front end of the season,” Price said Friday before the Reds outlasted the Milwaukee Brewers 12-11. “After the day off on April 4, we play 12 straight. I don’t think it would be unusual to see an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench. I feel a lot better typically having that fifth bench player, especially when it’s an extra catcher and an important utility player.”

Around the diamond: The starting eight is solid with the exception of catcher Devin Mesoraco, who may not be ready by opening day. Either Rob Brantly or Stuart Turner would hold a place for Mesoraco until he builds his workload.

Although the decision is not final, Arismendy Alcantara is at the top of Price’s mind. The 25-year old switch-hitter and utility player is out of options and provides versatility. He hit a walk-off, bases-loaded double to win Friday’s game.

“He can play so many different positions,” Price said. “He can do a lot of things later in the game to help us. He has speed. That group of components would serve us well. I’d like to see this kid play a full season in the big leagues. He has some untapped potential. However, he has to learn how to be a contributor as a bench player.

“For young guys used to playing every day at Triple A, it’s a challenge. I don’t think at 25 he’s cornered himself as only being a bench player. He could someday be a regular.”

Desmond Jennings had a setback in his quest to win a job as an extra outfielder. He has been bothered a few days with stiffness in his right hip flexor. Ryan Raburn and Patrick Kivlehan are also in the running for outfield spots. Tony Renda and Hernan Iribarren have played the infield and corner outfield.

“Jennings was better recently,” Price said. “He got off to a slow start. He started to turn it on. He has been putting the ball in play with authority. He’s been playing a nice outfield, not just in center. He’s played in both corners as well and done a nice job. He has a lot to offer if he ends up making the team.”

Raburn has an out in his contract if he doesn’t make the roster by the 28th.

“If Raburn makes the team, you have a late-inning big at-bat type guy,” Price said. “Kivlehan’s had a great camp. He has great athleticism, throws well and has cut down on his strikeouts.

Kivlehan is batting .381 with two home runs and six RBIs. He has struck out six times in 42 at-bats.

Raburn is hitting .207 with a team-leading three home runs and five RBIs. Jenning is hitting .208 with a home run and eight RBIs.

Romano rocked: Sal Romano had his first bad outing, allowing seven runs (five earned) and nine hits against Milwaukee in 4 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out six.

Romano, who entered with a 1.17 ERA over 15 1/3 innings, struck out the side in the first inning but a botched double play led to a five-run second.

“I made the pitch to get the double play but not all plays are made,” Romano said. “I need to do my job and get the next guy out. I fell behind a lot of hitters today. A fastball is going to get hit no matter how hard it is if you don’t locate it. I wasn’t able to get the first-pitch curveball over the way I have been lately.”

The spring has been good for Romano overall.

“I thought Sal had really good stuff,” Price said. “If you make enough starts, you’re going to have a game or innings like that. He maintained his composure. I’m looking at more than the linescore. He competed throughout. Everyone gets beat up every now and again but how you deal with it. He fought to stay in the game.”

Odds and ends: Zack Cozart had three hits, including his third home run. … Kivlehan had two hits. … Third baseman Nick Senzel, the Reds' first pick in last year's draft, hit an RBI double in his first Cactus League at-bat. … Outfielder Jesse Winker, one of the team's top prospects, was optioned to Louisville despite a good spring. Winker, 23, hit .273 in 22 games with one home run and five RBIs. His path to playing time is blocked by Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler and he needs to play every day.

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