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Bell says Reds have the talent to contend

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — So, what will the Cincinnati Reds lineup be this year in the franchise’s 150th anniversary season?
Speaking at the Reds Caravan on Friday, first-year manager David Bell isn’t revealing much information but it’s not because he is trying to be secretive, but he’s keeping an open mind and an open eye.
“I don’t have a number (on open spots). Track record speaks for itself with players, but it’s almost unfair to make decisions on such a short period,” Bell said referring to spring training.
“Everyone in this camp will get an opportunity. It takes more than nine to make a championship team.”
When Bell was hired as the Reds’ manager last October, he said the team he had inherited was very talented and close to becoming a contender.
But the Reds front office recently made a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought to the team outfielder’s Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and pitcher Alex Wood.
The Reds let speedy centerfielder Billy Hamilton and his stellar defensive skills walk as he signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals.
With the opening in center — especially from a defensive standpoint — the trade with the Dodgers made for a crowded list of candidates that include returning right fielder Scott Schebler, left fielder Jesse Winker and top minor league prospect Nick Senzel who is being converted from third base to centerfield.
Kemp has been a leftfielder and Puig a rightfielder. Schebler has good speed and has played some in centerfield in the past and could move there.
Kemp, 34, hit .390 with 21 home runs and 85 runs batted in. Puig, 28, hit .263 with 23 HR and 63 RBI.
Kemp is set to make $21.5 million this year but the Dodgers will pay $7 million of the salary which could make his desirable in a trade.
Ervin, 26, hit .252 with seven HR and 31 RBI. Winker, 25, was one of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year honors when his shoulder injury forced him to have surgery but is considered to be fully recovered.
Winker was hitting .299 with a .405 on-base percentage with seven HR and 43 RBI.
Bell doesn’t see a problem.
“One of those guys or a combination will be able to pull it off for us,” said Bell.
The biggest question mark for the Reds has been pitching, especially the starting rotation. The Reds acquired veteran Tanner Roark in a trade with the Washington Nationals and also added Wood.
Anthony DeSclafani is considered the ace although he has been injured in each of the past two seasons. Luis Castillo has great potential and other contenders are Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, Brandon Finnegan, Lucas Sims, Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen who has been in the bullpen the past few seasons.
The front office has said there is still more to come. There are rumors the Reds are talking to the New York Yankees about Sonny Gray as well as a three-team trade between the Reds, San Diego and Cleveland.
The Yankees are asking about second base prospect Shed Long and catcher Tyler Stephenson. San Diego is reportedly looking to make a deal with the Indians for Kluber and then flip him to the Reds for Nick Senzel.
Another possibility is Houston Astros free agent Dallas Keuchel.
“If they acquire one of those guys, you are now a bonafide contender to win the division,” said Reds’ TV announcer Thom Brennaman.
Bell said the team is not ready to give up on the younger pitchers whom he believes are close to becoming major league caliber.
“We’re really right on the brink (of success) and we’ve added a lot since then. The guys we’ve brought in will take some pressure off the younger guys. We’re really going to be surprised. I think some of the younger (pitchers) are going to surprise. They’re right on the cusp,” said Bell.
“We’re deep and some of them are going to surprise us. If there is one characteristic of a pitching staff it’s deep. I think it’ll get deeper throughout the season.”
The infield is set with Joey Votto at first base, Scooter Gennett at second, Jose Peraza at shortstop and Eugenio Suarez at third base. The catcher will be Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart.
Bell is glad to have some veterans who can help lead the team and help the younger players.
“(Votto) is extremely driven. He’s a perfectionist. The thing that impresses me is he’s a great teammate. He’s grown every year in that. He can make any team better,” said Bell.
“Suarez is taking on a role of him making his team better. Great hands at third base. He hits for power. We haven’t see the best from him.”
Bell is excited to be managing in his hometown and a team where his father Buddy Bell and grandfather Gus Bell both played.
“If there was one team that was my hometown team was the Reds. I think the thing that made it that way was my grandpa. I really developed a love of the game because of him. You could see how much it meant to him. I used to listen to his stories. That was really where the love of the game and the Reds happened for me,” said Bell.