3/23/2014 3:14 P.M. ET
Versatility is key in battles for final roster spots
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The rash of injuries -- including infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker's dislocated left shoulder on Friday -- has forced the Reds to improvise and contemplate different roster decisions.
That explained why players fighting for roster spots are being used at multiple positions lately. On Sunday vs. the Brewers, outfielder Jason Bourgeois started at second base. On Saturday vs. the Cubs, Chris Nelson played both third and first base and Kristopher Negron was used at both third base and center field.
Bourgeois played a lot at second base in Minors, but has not played there much in the Majors.
"When you lose one of your most versatile players, well actually you could say two because [Jack] Hannahan is a guy that can play all of infield positions and left field … versatility takes on a completely different importance," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "That's where you look at [Neftali] Soto and [Ramon] Santiago and Nelson and …. Negron, there's a lot of versatility in those guys. I think the good thing is that they've had that opportunity, or if they haven't -- they're getting it now."
Injuries to starters delay Reds' Opening Day plans
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey -- who is recovering from a strained right groin -- was originally slated to throw in a Minor League game Sunday. That was pushed back to Monday, however.
"He threw on the side. It felt good," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He played his game of catch. It's kind of like that whole protocol. He said he felt good. I guess we felt one day was better."
Bailey has not pitched in a game since March 10 and he suffered the injury while playing catch March 14. His start the following day was scratched.
The Reds are being extra cautious with Bailey but are hopeful he can begin the season without needing to go on the disabled list. The same is true for Mat Latos, who is also expected to pitch a Minor League game Monday. That would be his second outing since returning from Feb. 14 left-knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto is expected to work a Minor League game Tuesday. Cueto missed his last big league game start because of irritation in his right scapula.
"In all of these situations, we are really trying to avoid a recurrence," Price said. "You have no idea if you're going to have a recurrence until you throw these guys out there to perform, even if they feel 100 percent. You can't simulate game speed in the bullpen or in [fielding drills]. We're just trying to do the best that we can to make sure that he's as ready as possible."
Price is still trying to determine who can start on Opening Day. Before the recent string of injuries, it was between Cueto and Bailey. Now, it's totally up in the air.
"We'll have someone show up to pitch Opening Day. We just don't know who that guy is yet," Price said. "Hopefully if we can get through the middle of this coming week here, we should be able to set our rotation. It's unbelievable that it won't be until the 26th that we actually know who our 1-2-3 starters are going to be."
Mesoraco unsure if he'll be ready by Opening Day
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who strained his left oblique in the batting cage Wednesday, has not played a game for the Reds since March 17. While Mesoraco has been undergoing therapy, he has not been permitted to resume swinging a bat.
With Opening Day a week away was Mesoraco nervous about the timing?
"It's definitely getting close," Mesoraco said Sunday. "With this being maybe the first Opening Day I would play, I definitely want to be ready. I think right now I'm just focused on getting better and trying to improve that oblique every day."
Even as he is taking it slow under medical advice, Mesoraco felt like if he could return to games this week, that it would be enough time to get his swing ready for the regular season.
"I feel like when I did it, I was really close to being where I want to be," Mesoraco said. "As far as catching, I was ready to go within the first week or two. Swing-wise, maybe after I see a couple of at-bats, I feel like I will be ready. But we'll see. I'm all for the plan."
If Mesoraco, the Reds regular catcher must open the season on the disabled list, backup Brayan Pena would play more regularly. The club could recall prospect Tucker Barnhart from Triple-A to be the backup. Veteran Corky Miller is also an option but he is not on the 40-man roster. Manager Bryan Price wants to see Mesoraco get into an exhibition game before he clears him for the season.
"I'd like to see him in a game, yes. I think if it's here, Pensacola, Louisville or wherever it is, there has to be some verification that he's OK," Price said. "He's missing some time. It's hard at this time of year to miss five or seven days without seeing live pitching and expect the guy to be right on time to start the season with his swing."
• Third baseman Todd Frazier returned to the club Saturday night and started Sunday morning. Frazier had been at home in New Jersey to be present for the birth of his first baby. Son Blake, who weighed 10 pounds, seven ounces, and Frazier's wife Jacquelyn are both in good condition.