Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catchers will report to the team’s spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona on Feb. 12, and catcher Tucker Barnhart said he is excited about getting to work with the revamped starting pitching rotation that includes the newly acquired Tanner Roark, Alex Wood and Sonny Gray.
Barnhart, who is entering his sixth season working behind the plate for the Reds, joined hall of fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman, backup catcher Curt Casali, and top prospect Taylor Trammell during a Reds Caravan stop last Thursday at Reds Radio affiliate WFTG AM 1400/FM 106.9 in London.
Barnhart said he is excited about the team’s potential in 2019, given the upgrades to the starting pitching. In 2018, Reds starting pitching ranked 14 out of 15 National League starting staff.
“Working with the pitching staff takes a little while. It is a little bit of a process,” Barnhart said. “It is just a matter of me learning what they like to do.”
“I pride myself on taking care of pitchers,” Barnhart added.
With the addition of outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers to go along with Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin, the question in Reds Countyr is how does playing time get divided, and who hits leadoff.
In addition, the departure of Billy Hamilton leaves the Reds without a true center fielder. “I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions,” Barnhart said of the leadoff and center field questions.
Schebler and Puig both have experience in center field. While Winker, who hit .299 and posted a .405 on base percentage in a season that had him in the rookie of the year discussion until injuries forced him out of the lineup, showed he was capable of batting in the leadoff spot.
“I’m a big Jessie Winker fan,” Barnhart said. “He could be a heck of a leadoff hitter. We will see what happens.”
Though the talk is about revised starting pitching, Barnhart said the bullpen, front to back, would be solid once again.
Closer Raisel Iglesias will anchor the bullpen that will also include Amir Garrett, Jared Hughes, Michel Lorenzen and Wandy Peralta.
With the new starters coming on board, Barnhart said the bullpen could be augmented by Cody Reed, giving the team yet another lefthander to call upon.
“Cody is a very, very good lefty. There are a lot of situations where you need that extra left hander to come in and get an out against a good left handed hitter,” Barnhart said.
The Reds open Cactus League play Feb. 23 against the Cleveland Indians. The team will leave Arizona and stop in Atlanta for a two-game exhibition series against the Braves on March 25-26.
After leaving Atlanta, the team will arrive in Cincinnati for opening day against the Pittsburgh Pirates March 28.
2019 marks the fifth consecutive season Reds games have been broadcast on WFTG. General Manager Bridget Turner said she is excited to continue the station’s affiliation with the Reds.
“This relationship has been great for us,” Turner said. “We look forward to bringing Reds baseball to the area again in 2019.”