The initial weekend of spring training baseball has come to a close, as teams are getting settled into their first full week of nine-inning baseball games.
The Cincinnati Reds welcomed the Seattle Mariners to Goodyear and traveled to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale to play the Arizona Diamondbacks in this week’s slate.
Game 4 – Wednesday, Feb. 26
The Reds trumpeted on social media “here comes the Son” in reference to Sonny Gray’s first spring training outing. After giving up a leadoff single to Seattle’s Jake Fraley, Gray was able to get two batters out on called strikes and finish the first inning, something that the previous two Reds starters did not do.
Josh VanMeter topped the lineup for the Reds while playing third base in the absence of a rehabbing Eugenio Suarez. Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, and Mike Moustakas were the 2-3-4 hitters that Cincinnati may well get used to when the regular season begins.
Tucker Barnhart was the starting catcher and Phillip Ervin was the starting designated hitter. Mark Payton played left field, Christian Colon was at shortstop and Travis Jankowski manned center field.
After tossing a scoreless second frame, Gray allowed just two hits on the day and struck out a total of three batters. The Reds offense started the scoring in the following half-inning when Colon hit an RBI double that scored Moustakas.
Michael Lorenzen took the mound for the third inning and got two quick outs before a double from former Colorado Rockie Carlos Gonzalez and RBI single from Daniel Vogelbach evened the score at one apiece.
The Reds scored in the fifth inning when Castellanos hit an RBI single. Castellanos is getting in a nice groove after hitting a double over the weekend and finishing Wednesday with another hit and RBI.
Seattle answered immediately with three runs from three hits against RHP Lucas Sims in the sixth and took a 4-2 lead.
Former Reds prospect outfielder Jose Siri got sweet revenge in the seventh inning against the team who designated him for assignment. Siri took the fourth pitch he saw from lefty Cody Reed over the wall in left-center, extending the Seattle lead 5-2.
Cincinnati only pushed one more run across when outfielder Narciso Crook scored on a groundout by Alfredo Rodriguez. The game ended with the Mariners winning 5-3.
Rule 5 draft pick Mark Payton had a solid day at the plate and went 2-2. The Reds also saw hits from outfielders Ervin, Jankowski and Drew Mount, who also stole a base.
Jose Garcia, a day removed from his impressive two-homer game, played shortstop after Christian Colon and roped a double in one of his two at-bats. Garcia has certainly gained the attention early in spring training and it could not have come at a better time as the Reds are lacking shortstop depth.
Game 5 – Thursday, Feb. 27
For the second time this spring, the Reds hit the road. However, for the first time this spring, right-hander Trevor Bauer took the mound, beginning his 2020 campaign.
Shogo Akiyama returned to the lineup and played center field after seeing action in left field two games prior. Aristedes Aquino hit in the two-hole while playing DH and Curt Casali was the three-hitter and catcher. Scott Schebler played left field while Kyle Farmer continued to see time at shortstop. Derek Dietrich played first base and Matt Davidson manned the hot corner on the opposite side of the infield. Stuart Fairchild, the Reds No. 15 best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, started in right field and Reds No. 17 prospect Alfredo Rodriguez rounded out the lineup at second base.
The Diamondbacks’ prized free-agent pickup Madison Bumgarner started on the mound. Bumgarner struck out the first two Reds hitters swinging and worked a 1-2-3 first half.
Bauer nearly matched his counterpart in his first inning, getting two fly outs and one strikeout. The second time up, the Reds were able to put a run on the board when Derek Dietrich hit a solo home run to right field. Bauer then pitched another 1-2-3 inning for two quick, convincing innings to start his spring.
RHPs Tyler Thornburg, Sal Romano, and Matt Bowman all appeared in relief to compete for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. All three pitched well with scoreless innings, as Bowman was the only one of the trio to allow a base hit.
Third baseman Matt Davidson lined a double in his second at-bat of the day, just the Reds second hit after five innings. It seems he is feeling better after being hit in the first game of the spring.
After six innings of 1-0 play, Cincinnati ripped the game open with three runs in the seventh inning against Diamondbacks RHP Matt Peacock. Tyler Stephenson, who replaced Casali at catcher, began the seventh with a walk and scored following a double from Scott Schebler. Alex Blandino, who was replacing Farmer, drove himself and Schebler in on a two-run shot that put the lead at four.
Cincinnati continued to muzzle Arizona as LHP Brooks Raley, a 31-year-old who has not pitched in the professional ranks since 2014 and played for the Lotte Giants in South Korea, struck out two batters.
A four-run Reds lead was stretched to six in the eighth when pinch-hitting Francisco Pena singled. Tyler Stephenson hit his first home run of the spring immediately after. He will likely begin the regular season in the minors but could be in Cincinnati at some point this season as the heir behind the dish.
Stephenson would not stop there, though. In the top of the ninth Reds outfielder Lorenzo Cedrola singled, second baseman Jonathan India walked and outfielder Mark Payton got a base hit to load the bases. Stephenson came to the plate with two outs and hit a two-run double increasing his RBI total to four.
RHP R.J. Alaniz finished the game with a scoreless bottom half of the ninth and sealed the 8-0 Cincinnati victory. Reds pitchers held the Diamondbacks to just three hits and issued only one walk while striking out 10 batters.
Three home runs and a stellar octet of arms showcased the dominance that Cincinnati could put on display in the following months. A lot of damage done Thursday came from players competing for roster spots and looking to put their names in conversation. Jose Garcia and now Tyler Stephenson are among two of the players who have had great starts to their weeks in place of the regular big-leaguers.
Cincinnati heads back to Goodyear to host the Oakland Athletics on Friday and San Diego Padres on Saturday before wrapping up the weekend in Phoenix against the Milwaukee Brewers.