Reds can see the future in trio of young pitchers Soto progresses in Padres camp with optimism for WBC trip
Last season, the Cincinnati Reds brought in their top three pitchers to revive a starting rotation hurt by cost cuts.
right-handers Hunter Green And Graham Ashcraftand lefty Nick Lodolo survived rookie struggles – with stunning flashes of brilliance, mixed – as the rebuilding Reds lost 100 games for the first time in 40 years.
“We’ve already seen the progress you want to see,” manager David Bell said at a practice session in Goodyear, Arizona, in early spring. “I hope they have many, many more years ahead of them. This is just the very beginning. They must keep working to get better. You still haven’t figured it out. That’s what I see this spring.”
Pitching coach Derek Johnson told them about their chance to be a foundation like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavin and John Smoltz for the 1990s Atlanta Braves.
“The three of us talk about being the core – every day,” Green, 23, said. “Looking at us in this light is something special. Having friendship but also rivalry is exciting. The chemistry couldn’t be better.”
Green was selected with the second overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft. He joined the Day One roster in 2022, threw 100 mph fastballs and led the Reds in starts, innings and strikeouts. He was late on the injured list with a strained shoulder, finishing 5-13 with a 4.44 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings.
In the opening game against Tampa Bay in July, Green threw 38 shots at 100 mph or more. When Green returned from the injured list in September, he threw 33 innings of 101 mph or better in six innings against the Cardinals, striking out 11.
Relying on a four-seam fastball and a slider, Green worked to develop a shift — last year he threw it just 5% of the time, at an average speed of 90 mph.
“An extra tool for me to become an even better pitcher,” he said.
25-year-old 6ft 6in (4-7, 3.66 ERA in 19 starts) Lodolo doesn’t have that speed, but looks intimidating with a high strikeout percentage and low walking speed. The stocky 25-year-old Ashcraft (5-6, 4.89) averaged 97 mph with his fastball and cutter.
“I mean, we have good friendships across the team, but the three of us are pretty close,” Lodolo said. “It’s a good internal competition between all of us and I know all three are pulling on the same side of the rope.”
Juan Soto ran sprints in the outfield, made some big rotations in practice and signed some autographs at the San Diego Padres spring training facility on Wednesday after an early practice to test the left calf that kept him in Arizona.
Soto, who is dealing with calf tightness, could still join the Dominican Republic team in Miami before it starts group play at the World Baseball Classic on Saturday against Venezuela. He even did some field work during training.
Padres manager Bob Melvin said the team has increased Soto’s progress and that the outfielder could play in Game B against Cleveland on Thursday.
“If he plays in this, hopefully we can clean him up … and we’re optimistic that he can take the field on Friday,” Melvin said.
Soto stayed in Peoria, Arizona for treatment when Manny MachadoLuis Garcia and Nelson Cruz left the Padres camp on Monday to join the Dominican Republic. Cruz, 42, who is trying to make the San Diego roster as a designated hitter/outfielder, is his country’s WBC general manager.
Melvin said he spoke to Cruz, who was trying to understand Soto’s status. Cruz was also expected to speak with the Padres CEO. AJ Preller.
After the cleanup, there should be no restrictions for Soto in the WBC.
“The plan is to get him on the field and let him play and hopefully he can play on the field,” Melvin said. “But I think the back-up plan would probably be DH.”
San Diego acquired 24-year-old Soto in a deadline deal last season. The Washington Nationals traded the two-time All-Star and 2019 World Series champion after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract.
HARM TO TRADE
Frankie Montaz said Wednesday that his shoulder wasn’t completely healthy when he was acquired by the New York Yankees at last season’s trade deadline, but the right-hander said he was trying to “push through” after joining his new team.
Montas went 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in eight starts last season after getting out of Oakland. He is recovering from shoulder surgery that will keep him from throwing until at least the end of May.
“I was trying to survive,” Montas told reporters in his first post-op comment two weeks earlier. “I was traded to a new team and I wanted to show what I can do. Things didn’t go the way I expected.”
The Yankees placed Montas on the injured list in late September after his second cortisone injection of the year, eliminating him from the AL Division Series. He was on the roster for the AL Championship Series but only pitched one inning in the opening game against Houston.
Montaz said he continued to feel uncomfortable trying to start a shooting program in the offseason. Although he tried to avoid surgery, he said it was the best option and that he was confident he would play for the Yankees this season.
“Trust me, I’m one of those people who wants to get on the field right now and show what I can do,” he said. “But it all went wrong, so I’m just trying to recover and come back so I can help with what they want me to do.”
New York acquires Montas and pitcher Lou Trivino from Athletics on August 1 in exchange for four runs.
Aaron Judge played his first game in left field since he was a minor leaguer nearly seven years earlier. The record-breaking hitter could play quite a few games there this season for the New York Yankees.
Judge was in left field for the first five innings of the Yankees’ 4-0 exhibition loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, though he was undefeated.
Manager Aaron Boon said he would like to use Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield for 40-60 games this season if the slugger is healthy. This would mean shifting the judge to the left from time to time because the winner of the Golden Glove Harrison Baderacquired at the end of last year, is expected to receive most of the starts in the center.
En route to setting an AL record with his 62 home runs last season, Judge started 74 games in center field, 54 in right field and 25 more as a DH. During the off-season, he signed a nine-year, $360 million contract.
The last time Judge played in left field before Wednesday was a Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game against Syracuse on August 7, 2016.
Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob de Grom closes in on his first game fight with the Texas Rangers after hitting hitters for the first time in Surprise, Arizona.
The Rangers suspended deGrom from his first scheduled practice three weeks ago after he reported a strain in his left side. They’re still being cautious, but the right-hander threw regularly and was at 98-99 mph on Wednesday with his fastball. He hit 100 mph on the last of his 35 innings, the equivalent of two innings during BP.
“I feel very good. It’s a big step forward for the hitters,” deGrom said.
Asked if he felt he was ready to reopen, deGrom replied, “I think so.”
Manager Bruce Bochi said before practice that he believed deGrom had changed his preparation for the season.
In December, Texas signed deGrom to a five-year, $185 million contract. DeGrom, 34, spent the first nine years of his major league career with the New York Mets, but injuries have kept him in 156 1/3 innings in 26 games over the past two seasons.
In the Rangers exhibition game in Arizona, the starting lineup John Gray threw three scoreless innings five days after being late from a scheduled start due to back strain. The right-hander is entering the second year of a four-year, $56 million contract.
WBC JANSEN WAITING
Kenley Jansen could still be part of his fourth WBC with the Netherlands if they reach the semi-finals in Miami.
“So hopefully we get to Miami so he can join us from Fort Myers in the final round,” Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said before the team started playing pool in Taiwan on Wednesday. The games of the second round will be played in Japan.
Jansen is having his first spring training session with the Boston Red Sox after a longtime close relationship last season with the Atlanta Braves.
“At the time we were supposed to submit the list on Feb. 7, Kenley wasn’t ready for the throw at the time,” Meulens said. “He decided to get himself in shape first and then join us if we get there. So we honor this decision. He also changed teams, but the last two times he never came here, so he always joined us in the last round.”
When Jansen first represented the Netherlands at the WBC in 2009, before becoming a full-time pitcher, he was the team’s starting catcher. He threw out speedy Willie Taveras trying to steal third base in the ninth inning as the Netherlands upset the beloved Dominican Republic team. He did not appear in the 2013 semi-final after joining the Netherlands squad late, but served in the 2017 semi-final.
Gregory SotoThe strong southpaw reliever that the Philadelphia Phillies acquired in a January deal with Detroit finally reported Wednesday to the Tigers’ camp in Clearwater, Florida.
Soto skipped the first three weeks of camp while dealing with visa issues at home in the Dominican Republic. Due to a delay in spring training, Soto will not travel to the WBC. He played at the Phillies Academy in the Dominican Republic.
Last season, the two-time All-Star had 30 saves and a 3.28 ERA in 64 games for the Tigers. His fastball speed averaged 98.7 mph, the best among major league left-handers.