Monday, February 19, 2001

Reyes will prep for starting role

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SARASOTA, Fla. — Dennys Reyes arrived at training camp Sunday. Where he goes from here could tell the story of the Reds' pitching staff.

        Manager Bob Boone plans to prepare Reyes as a starter to help the left-hander reach his full potential. Boone figures that Reyes will more easily gain command of his assortment of pitches by working multiple innings with each outing and throwing between appearances, as starters do.

        According to this logic, if Reyes returns to the bullpen — “I don't think he's going to be a starter,” Boone said Sunday — he'll be better-equipped to fulfill his role as a situational reliever when he faces premier left-handed hitters such as San Francisco's Barry Bonds, St. Louis' Jim Edmonds or Colorado's Todd Helton.

        “He has the ability to dominate the best left-handers,” Boone said of Reyes, who relieved in all but one of his 127 appearances in 1999-2000, limiting lefties to a .233 batting average. “We have to get him back to that (point) for him to be a real factor on the club.”

        But if Reyes excels this spring as a starter, Boone's ready to change his mind and keep him in the front five: “I don't know. If he comes out and starts dominating ... I don't have a lefty in the (projected) starting rotation.”

        Thus, Reyes' fate might serve as a barometer:

        • If he reaches Opening Day as a starter, this will have been a spring of surprises — including, perhaps, poor efforts from some starting candidates.

        • If Reyes begins the year in Triple-A, then he will have spent the spring struggling with his control — a frequent occurrence — amid a scramble for an adequate replacement. “If that's going to happen, I'd rather have somebody else here,” Boone said.

        At 23, Reyes still has plenty of time to establish himself as a pitcher. If he had his way, it would be as a starter.

        “That's what I'd like to be. That's what I was all my life (until 1999),” Reyes said. “If I don't make it and I'm in the bullpen, I just want to help the team.”

        Reyes seems ready to accomplish that. He instantly allayed fears about his conditioning, which has been a constant concern.

        Delays in obtaining a visa and a military-service waiver forced Reyes to miss Cincinnati's first three workouts. But he reported to camp weighing 243 pounds, three under his listed figure and well under the 272 he tipped the scales at in 1999.

        Bothered by back spasms in training camp of '99 and tendinitis in his shoulder last spring, Reyes primed himself with a brief but effective offseason stint in the Mexican League. He was 1-1 with a 2.41 ERA in four starts for the Los Mochis Sugarcane Growers, striking out 32 while walking 13 in only 18 2/3 innings. The walks were alarming, but the strikeouts were overwhelming.

        “Everything,” Reyes said when asked which of his pitches worked best. “I felt very strong this winter. I've been working out and following the exercise program they gave me.”

        Staying healthy could hasten success for Reyes, who was 2-1 with a 4.53 ERA in 62 appearances last season. He has struck out 152 batters in 144 innings in his three-year Reds tenure, reflecting how effective he can be. He also has walked 95 batters in that span, indicating his lack of command.

        “We're going to bend over backwards trying to get him as right as we can coming out of spring training,” Boone said.

        If Reyes forces his way into the rotation, Boone won't search for another left-handed reliever just for the sake of having one. He pointed out that right-handers Danny Graves, Scott Sullivan, John Riedling and Mark Wohlers have proven capable of neutralizing left-handed batters. Sullivan, who held lefties to a .214 average last year, and Wohlers (.205) were especially tough.

        “I'll take stuff over just having a left-hander,” Boone said.

        In Reyes, he ideally has both.


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