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Reds looking to make their fans’ patience worthwhile

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Remember the prayer, “Dear God, I pray for patience and I want it right now.”
After several years of being patient, Cincinnati Reds’ fans are ready for their prayers to be answered and manager Bryan Price thinks that could be in the near future.
“We’ve asked our fans to be patient as we go through this transition and what we saw the second half of last year was the performance we wanted to see a couple of years ago with the performances of Luis Casteel, Romano and Stephenson,” Price said during the annual Reds’ Caravan stop.
“That group of young pitchers came up and performed extremely well. We still have a great deal of confidence in Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Jackson Stevens, Tyler Mahle and any numbers of young pitchers who will come up and influence the staff.”
The Reds had one of the best offenses and defenses last season in baseball. The bullpen pitched well but was overworked because the starting pitching sometimes even had trouble getting past the third inning.
Price is hoping that getting the main three starters are now healthy and that the younger starters gained valuable experience last that translates into a solid starting rotation.
“And now having a fully healthy Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Anthony DeSclafani there’s an awful lot of reason to believe we’ve finally got there and the young guys are going to work hard and with confidence and consistency at this level having the stabilizing factor of some of our more experienced pitchers.
Romano, 24, went 4-6 with a 4.42 earned run average in 13 starts. However, after the All-Star break he was 3-2 with a 2.95 ERA in his final seven appearances.
“I know I’ve shown a lot of improvement since I first got back up (to the major leagues). I think for myself. I know I’m ready to have an everyday role every five days up here. I’ll be ready to help out the team,” said Romano.
“I think all of us young guys got our feet wet up there last year. We really got some experience and we can take that into the 2018 season. Everything we’ve learned, a lot of hitters’ tendencies, we all learned a lot up there about the type of pitchers we are and what we need to do to get people out up there.”
Reed began 2016 in the Reds’ starting rotation and was a disaster. In 10 games as a starter, he was 0-7 with a 7.36 ERA and allowed 12 homer runs in 47.2 innings. He struck out 43 and walked 19.
He was exiled to Class AAA Louisville for the rest of the season but given a second chance last year as a reliever.
In 12 games and 17.2 innings, he was 1-1 with a .5.09 ERA and 17 strikeouts and 19 walks. Again, Reed was shipped back to the minors.
Reed regained some confidence at Louisville. In 21 games including 20 as a starter, he was 4-9 but with a 3.55 ERA. He had 102 strikeouts and 61 walks in 106.1 innings.
However, the Reds plan to start Reed at Louisville again this season.
The second overall pick in the 2016 draft, Nick Senzel has been ranked as the Reds’ No.1 prospect and second among all minor league third basemen.
But the Reds have Eugenio Suarez at third base and are not sure they like the idea of moving him to shortstop to make room for Senzel.
Scooter Gennett is at second base and Jose Peraza is expected to get the first shot at taking over at shortstop for Zack Cozart who signed a free agent deal with Anaheim.
The Reds have had Senzel working out at second base and for the first time-ever in the outfield. He also played some shortstop in college.
“I’ve put myself in a pretty good position with the work I’ve put in. I’m just going to continue to work and wherever I am just help them win and keep getting better,” said Senzel who was part of the caravan.
“You can always get better. I know it’s kind of cliché, but there’s things you can work on. I was a little banged up at the end (of last season) but I feel good now.”
Gennett was picked up off waivers the final day of spring training from the Brewers and surprised everyone as he batted .295 with 27 home runs and 97 runs batted in and unseated Peraza as the full-time second baseman.
Suarez — another Gold Glove finalist — hit .260 with 26 HRs and 82 RBIs in a breakout season.
The idea of Senzel playing in the outfield creates more of a logjam.
The Reds have speedy defensive wizard Billy Hamilton in centerfield although the San Francisco Giants have talked to the Reds about a trade for the player who stole 59 bases last season and was a Gold Glove finalist.
Adam Duval is the incumbent in left field while Scott Schebler is in right. The Reds also have Jesse Winker who can play right field with Schebler capable of playing center.
Another player in the mix to play centerfield is Phillip Ervin who was impressive in his late call-up last season.
Duvall hit .249 last season but with 31 home runs and 99 runs batted in. Schebler — who has excellent speed — hit .233 but with 30 homers and 67 RBI in the sixth spot of the order.
Ervin played in 58 games and batted .259 with three HRs and 10 RBIs while displaying strong defensive skills. Winker played in 47 games and hit .298 with seven homers, 15 RBIs and a .375 on-base percentage.
Although he has 243 career stolen bases, Hamilton had 582 at-bats and hit just .247 with only a .299 on-base percentage which knocked him out of the lead-off spot.