Reds open spring training with hope for solid rotation

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 3:25 PM


            Reds manager Bryan Price goes into spring training with a competitive group of starting pitchers. DAVID JABLONSKI / STAFF
Reds manager Bryan Price goes into spring training with a competitive group of starting pitchers. DAVID JABLONSKI / STAFF

Bryan Price finished his annual spring training physical Tuesday and handicapped the Reds’ starting rotation for the 2018 season.

“The good thing is that it is not open tryouts,” the manager said. “But it’s not a get-your-arm-ready-for-the-season spring training either. This is a competitive group. Lack of preparedness will not bode well for anyone who wants to make the rotation.”

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Price listed the candidates as Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen and Tyler Mahle.

The top four are penciled into the rotation. The rest are competing for the fifth and final spot.

“There are too many pitchers in camp to get regular starts,” Price said. “Amir (Garrett) and Jackson (Stephens) will get some starts. Cody Reed will be competing more for the bullpen but that does not reflect the opinion of the organization that he is just a bullpen pitcher. We still believe he can be a major-league starter.”

Bailey and DeSclafani are coming off multiple injury years.

Bailey hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. He had bone spurs removed Feb. 8 and joined the rotation June 24, making 18 starts. Bailey finished 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA. DeSclafani was limited to 20 starts in 2016, joining the team in June after recovering from a strained left oblique. He missed the entire 2017 season with a stubborn sprained elbow that set him back on several occasions.

Finnegan, the only left-hander of the group, made four starts. He made three starts to open the season before a strained left lat put him on the disabled list until June 26. Finnegan pitched four innings and was placed on the DL again with a strained teres major muscle. He had surgery in July to repair a separated shoulder that was not baseball-related.

The Reds will be cautious with Finnegan.

“We want to see him pitch some bullpens and live batting practice before we slot him,” Price said. “I’m confident he will make the rotation.”

Castillo impressed the Reds with his live fastball and change-up in spring training last year but started the season in Double A.

“We were impressed with him last spring but his breaking pitch was a distant third pitch,” Price said. “He worked hard at it. He came up and was better than the league.”

Castillo was promoted June 23 and made a start against Washington. He had a 3-7 record but a healthy 3.12 ERA, lowest among National League rookies. Castillo also led rookie pitchers with a .202 opponent batting average. From July 8 to the end of the season, Castillo turned in a 2.84 ERA, which ranked eighth behind Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and Robbie Ray for the lowest ERA among pitchers with at least 12 starts.

Velocity and good stuff were just part of what impressed Price and the Reds.

“His velocity sets him apart,” Price said. “You don’t see a lot of guys throw 95-97 for seven innings and the stuff to pitch in the big leagues, but it is rare for a young pitcher to have the presence and the comfortability that he showed last year. He fields his position, and he’s quick to the plate to control the running game. There is a lot to like.

“In his first start against Washington, which is truly one of the best teams in the National League, he got into trouble with command and trying to throw perfect pitches but he managed that environment pretty darn well for a debut and settled in.”

Those top four will be in the rotation barring something unforeseen.

Lorenzen will be trying to move back into the rotation from the bullpen. Romano was 5-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 16 starts. Stephenson was 5-6 with a 4.68 ERA in 11 starts but finished strong after returning from Triple-A Louisville, going 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA in his last eight starts. Mahle made his debut against Pittsburgh on Aug. 27. He made three starts with a 1-2 record and a 2.70 ERA.

Only Rookie Davis starts camp hurt. He had hip surgery but is throwing on the side.

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Nick Saban’s secret weapon to making Alabama even better in 2018

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 6:09 AM

Welcome to SEC Country’s daily  Alabama Crimson Tide podcast  with Ryan Fowler. In this edition, we talk with National CFB Analyst, Bruce Feldman from Sports Illustrated on how Nick Saban is improving his team this off-season.

  • Quick preview on Alabama and Auburn basketball
  • National CFB Analyst and Writer, Bruce Feldman from Sports Illustrated shares thoughts on Alabama’s latest coaching hires including the story he broke about Craig Kuligowski as the new defensive line coach
  • Bruce Feldman also discusses some thoughts on the Tide’s championship season and what he sees happening in 2018
  • How much will the coaching changes influence Alabama’s defense in 2018
  • Feldman shares some thoughts on the QB conversation in Tuscaloosa with Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts
  • Bruce Feldman also shares some thoughts and a prediction on Josh Gattis
  • Nick Saban is reloading in more ways than just players in Tuscaloosa
  • Is Nick Saban is staying one step ahead of complacency with these coaching changes?

Miss a previous edition? Find every episode of SEC Country’s daily Alabama Crimson Tide podcast  right here .

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WVU DE Adam Shuler announces decision to transfer

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 6:06 AM

Adam Shuler-West Virginia-WVU-WVU football

West Virginia starting defensive end Adam Shuler is leaving the program, he announced Wednesday.

Shuler said that he will transfer at the end of the spring semester and has received permission to contact other schools. He played in 13 games with 10 starts for West Virginia last season, recording 26 tackles with 8 tackles for loss and 3 sacks.

This story will be updated.

The post WVU DE Adam Shuler announces decision to transfer appeared first on Diehards.

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LOOK: Former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu supports Donte Jackson before NFL combine with cool Twitter message

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 6:06 AM

Tyrann Mathieu is full of LSU pride before the NFL combine.

The former Tigers cornerback used Twitter on Wednesday to offer his support for former LSU cornerback Donte Jackson. Jackson, whose speed has been well-documented, is expected to threaten John Ross’ record time of 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, which runs from Feb. 27-March 5.

Earlier Wednesday, the NFL’s Twitter account published a graphic asking readers to pick which player has the best chance to break Ross’ record time: Alabama cornerback Tony Brown, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward or Jackson.

Mathieu made his rooting interests clear.

It’s cool to see Mathieu, taken in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 NFL Draft, supporting Jackson in such a public way. It stands to reason that Jackson, given his speed, will be allowed a chance to thrive at the next level in much the same way Mathieu has done so. Speed, after all, is currency for NFL teams.

Mathieu was named to the Pro Bowl during the 2015 season. He also became a first-team All-Pro that season. He has 307 tackles with 11 interceptions throughout his NFL career.

If Jackson has a similar start to his journey at the next level, he likely will be happy — with or without the record time in the 40-yard dash.

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2018 NFL Draft: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. gives significant boost to SEC prospects in Mock Draft 2.0

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 6:04 AM

Mel Kiper Jr. is coming around on the SEC’s chances of another big day during the opening round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The ESPN draft expert released his Mock Draft 2.0 on Wednesday, and the league is clearly trending up as the combine approaches.

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The second version of his first-round predictions included a noticeable uptick in SEC talent include in the first 32 picks. Kiper placed 10 former SEC players in the first round after including just seven during his first attempt at a mock draft.

Auburn’s Carlton Davis dropped out of the first round, but LSU’s Derrius Guice and Donte Jackson, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn and South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst were all new additions.

Here’s a quick rundown of the SEC players he included and an change in his opinion on those prospects:

4. Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive back, Alabama

Kiper bumped Fitzpatrick up the board from No. 6 to No. 4 in the latest mock draft.

“Fitzpatrick is a big-time playmaker as a deep safety, outside corner and in the slot — he really has it all. He is a defensive coordinator’s dream,” Kiper wrote.

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia

Kiper stuck with his projection of Smith to the Raiders, calling it a “perfect fit” and indicating that Smith could be the centerpiece of a Jon Gruden defense.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama

Ridley fell seven spots in Kiper’s projections, going from No. 8 to No. 15. But he still believes in the Crimson Tide product, and wouldn’t it be fun to see him line up alongside future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald?

“Ridley is far and away the best wideout in this draft class, and getting him at No. 15 is good value,” Kiper explained.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, defensive tackle, Alabama

Kiper stuck with his choice of Payne to the Chargers at No. 17, citing Los Angeles’ dire need for run stoppers.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Rashaan Evans, linebacker, Alabama

Here’s a rising stock in Kiper’s eyes. Evans moved from No. 28 to No. 19 in one of the biggest jumps from Mock Draft 1.0 to Mock Draft 2.0.

“He’s smart and battle-tested after playing under Nick Saban. I really like this pick for the Cowboys,” Kiper wrote.

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, running back, LSU

The missing piece for former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford? Kiper thinks so, which is why he jumped the former Tigers running into the Top 20 after leaving him off the first round board altogether in Mock Draft 1.0.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Isaiah Wynn, guard, Georgia

Wynn is another newcomer to Kiper’s first round board thanks to a big performance at the Senior Bowl.

“He was one of the best offensive linemen there,” Kiper explained. “And he neutralized pass-rushers on almost every one-on-one rep.”

27. New Orleans Saints: Hayden Hurst, tight end, South Carolina

Hurst jumped into the first round of Kiper’s projections, and was even mentioned as a potential pick at No. 19 before Kiper settled on No. 27 to New Orleans. He expects the Gamecocks star to be the first tight end off the board in this draft class.

31. New England Patriots: Donte Jackson, cornerback, LSU

Kiper moved Jackson into the back end of his first round after predicting a big combine performance from the speedster. He mentioned that Bill Belichick could see him as a solution for the Patriots return game.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Christian Kirk, wide receiver, Texas A&M

Kiper dropped Kirk six spots from No. 26 to No. 32, but he may have found a nice fit with the defending Super Bowl champs.

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