Tuesday, February 13, 2001
Minor-league options may set pitching staff
By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer
SARASOTA, Fla. With the candidates for the starting rotation as evenly matched as they appear to be, minor-league options could determine who stays in the majors.
Conveniently for the Reds, most of their prospective starting pitchers can be optioned to the minors without having to pass through waivers, which would expose them to selection by other clubs.
Pitchers with options remaining include Rob Bell, Jim Brower, Seth Etherton, Osvaldo Fernandez, Dennys Reyes, Scott Williamson and Ed Yarnall. Elmer Dessens, who finished 11-5 last season, is the only significant starter lacking options.
That doesn't include offseason acquisitions Clayton Andrews, Leo Estrella and Jared Fernandez, all rookies who possess minor-league options. They could intensify the competition with a strong spring outing or two.
Pitcher No.11 to pitcher No.19 or 20 are pretty even, manager Bob Boone said. Somebody's probably going to come out of the woodwork and surprise us, because it usually happens, and do something special (to the point) where we're going to have to do some thinking.
GRAVES' TURN: Barring a sudden compromise, reliever Danny Graves will become the second Red to go to a salary arbitration hearing when he and club officials present their cases today in Phoenix.
Graves, a 2000 National League All-Star who has 57 saves in the last two years, asked for $3.075 million, substantially higher than the team's $2.1 million offer.
First baseman Sean Casey prevailed in arbitration last Thursday when a panel of arbitrators awarded him the $3 million he had sought instead of the club's $2.6 million bid.
SEARCHING FOR POP: Boone admitted the Reds could use some added punch from their anticipated reserve corps, particularly a left-handed hitter.
If we have a weakness right now on paper, you'd look down at your bench and we don't have a lot of juice coming off it, he said.
If this is viewed as a glaring deficiency as spring develops, it could give non-roster first baseman D.T. Cromer a chance to win a job. Cromer hit .340 (16-for-47) in 35 games last year with Cincinnati.
It also could give non-roster catcher Matt Walbeck a way onto the team behind Jason LaRue, the probable starting catcher, and Kelly Stinnett, who's expected to be the backup. The switch-hitting Walbeck's stock could soar if he thrives as a left-handed batter.
EARLY ARRIVALS: Boone said he was told that center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. could report to camp as early as Thursday, three days before position players are due to arrive.
Though pitchers and catchers weren't due to report until today, several of them worked out informally at the City of Sarasota Sports Complex, including Etherton, Williamson, reliever John Riedling and non-roster pitchers Justin Atchley and Mike Grace. Catchers LaRue and Walbeck also made appearances.
HAPPY TALK: Boone met with his coaches for three hours to discuss logistics of workout schedules and finalize assignments.
As previously announced, Bill Doran will coach first base, Ron Oester will coach third, Tim Foli will be the bench coach and Ken Griffey Sr. will serve as hitting coach. Pitching coach Don Gullett and bullpen coach Tom Hume return to their previous roles.
Boone also met individually with Gullett and Griffey to discuss their duties in greater detail.
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