By HAL McCOY
Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price says his dance card is nearly filled when it comes to this year’s starting rotation.
Entering spring training, Price said four of the first five spots are occupado: Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and Luis Castillo.
That, of course, depends on health — will all four come out of spring training in one piece. And that’s a big if when three of the four, Bailey, DeSclafani and Finnegan, were mostly absent last season due to surgeries and injuries.
And the Reds have a recent history of losing pitchers during the course of spring training.
The Reds, of course, have a long line of candidates behind those four to fill the fifth spot or to step in if one of the other four don’t survive.
Three of those candidates appeared Friday afternoon in the spring exhibition opener in Goodyear, Ariz., against the Cleveland Indians on a gray, chilly day.
Sal Romano, all 270 pounds of him, started for the Reds and gave up a run and two hits in two innings as the Reds posted a 6-4 victory.
He gave up a one-out single to Yan Gomes in the first inning and a first-pitch home run in the second to former Reds No. 1 draft pick Yonder Alonso, signed by the Indians in the off-season to play first base.
Romano was followed by Tyler Mahle in the third and the first two Indians reached base on an infield hit and a walk.
Mahle buckled it down from there, getting a double play and an inning-ending ground ball. In the fourth inning he went 1-2-3 and he struck out the final two.
Jackson Stephens followed Mahle and gave up a solo home run in his two innings.
There were some good things that came out of Day One.
It wasn’t good, though, for Billy Hamilton’s first at bat. He opened the game with a high fly ball to center field, just the thing the Reds don’t want to see from him this year.
But on his second at bat he dropped an outstanding bunt, what the Reds do want to see. Only because Indians catcher Yan Gomes made a superb play was Hamilton nipped at first base.
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan is in camp working exclusively with Hamilton on the fine art of bunting and the first effort didn’t work for a base hit, but Hamilton’s technique and the placement of the bunt was better than most anything he dropped down last year.
Jose Peraza, the designated replacement at shortstop for departed Zack Cozart, singled on his first at bat in the third inning. That hit was followed by a first-pitch home run by Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart, who would like to add a Silver Slugger Award to that Gold Glove.
That home run gave the Reds a 2-1 lead that was stretched to 4-1 when Brandon Dixon unloaded a cloud-scraping two-run home run to left field.
Brandon Dixon? He came to the Reds with Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the trade that sent Todd Frazier packing. As broadcaster Chris Welsh said, “Dixon is a first baseman and that’s a problem,” referring to Joey Votto’s position. Votto, by the way, went 0 for 2 with a strikeout.
There was some familiarity with the guys wearing Cleveland uniforms, which still contained Chief Wahoo on the sleeves of their jerseys. Former Reds players Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion and Ryan Hanigan made appearances for the Tribe.
On a downer, outfielder Jose Siri ran into the center field wall in the eighth inning and had to leave the game with an apparent wrist injury. Siri, playing last season at Class A Dayton, set a Midwest League record with a 39-game hitting streak.