Created on Friday, 14 February 2014 Written by JOE KAY, AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Five things to know about the Cincinnati Reds as they start spring training camp:
PRICE IN CHARGE: Manager Dusty Baker led the Reds to three playoff appearances in four seasons, but Cincinnati couldn't get past the first round. The front office decided to make a change, elevating pitching coach Bryan Price. He has never managed, so it'll be his initiation to being the guy on the spot. Every move will be watched and compared for the first few months. One potential change: Price is thinking about using closer Aroldis Chapman for more than one inning. Baker limited him to one inning because the hard-throwing left-hander needs a lot of time to get warmed up and uses a lot of pitches to get outs.
CLEANING UP: Perhaps the biggest question for the Reds is whether cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick can return to form. He tore up his right shoulder while sliding into base on opening day and didn't return until mid-August. The shoulder still bothered him, and he batted only .240 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 38 games. The Reds need Ludwick, who turns 36 this season, to provide a right-handed threat in their lefty-dominated lineup. If his power is still missing, the Reds will be susceptible to left-handed pitchers, especially late in games.
RUN, BILLY, RUN: Speedy Billy Hamilton will get a lot of attention. Shin-Soo Choo left as a free agent after one of the best seasons by a leadoff hitter. The 23-year-old Hamilton made quite a splash during his September promotion, batting .368 and stealing 13 bases in 14 tries. He'll move into Choo's spot atop the lineup and play center field, a position he's still learning after one season at Triple-A. There are questions about whether he's ready to handle major league pitching on an everyday basis after batting .256 at Louisville last season. "We're all excited about the development of Billy Hamilton," Price said. They're already selling "Run Billy Run" shirts in Cincinnati.
CINGRANI'S SPOT: Right-hander Bronson Arroyo was a fixture in the rotation for the last eight years, counted on for 200 innings per season — he signed with Arizona this week. Left-hander Tony Cingrani moves into the open spot in the rotation. As a rookie, he went 7-4 with a 2.92 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 104 2-3 innings, but missed time because of back spasms. His deceptive delivery helps his fastball, but Cingrani needs to work on his other pitches and stay healthy.
AND WHAT ABOUT CUETO?: Johnny Cueto couldn't stay healthy last season, raising questions about the durability of the Reds' most dominant starting pitcher. He had to leave the opening playoff game against San Francisco in 2012 with a pulled muscle in his right side. He made three trips to the disabled list last season, limiting him to 11 starts. He was good when healthy, going 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA, but strained muscles near his pitching shoulder kept acting up. The Reds are hoping their ace hasn't turned fragile.