10:28 PM EDT, September 29, 2014
MLB Team Report - Cincinnati Reds - INSIDE PITCH
Bryan Price's first season as Cincinnati Reds manager was fraught with injuries, which continued through the final weekend.
The Reds began the season with eight players on the disabled list and finished with four on the shelf, including starting pitcher Homer Bailey, who had surgery to repair a partially torn flexor mass tendon in his right elbow and could miss his first couple starts of next season.
Starter Mat Latos was shut down in early September due to a bone bruise on his right elbow. Center fielder and leadoff batter Billy Hamilton missed the final weekend with a concussion.
Additionally, first baseman Joey Votto played in just 62 games around two stints on the DL with a quad injury, and closer Aroldis Chapman missed the first two months after being struck by a line drive during spring training.
"Never have I seen a team with so few options, even in September," Price said.
But, Price refused to make any excuses for his club's 76-86 record and fourth-place finish, referencing advice he received from Rich Morales, his manager at Double-A while in the Seattle Mariners organization.
"He said, 'You deal the cards and I'll play 'em,'" Price said. "What I took from that is ... I'll manage whoever I have on the roster. Complaining about it doesn't make anything better."
For a while it seemed Cincinnati was going to overcome the maladies and make a run in the National League Central. The Reds were 51-44 at the All-Star break and within 1 1/2 games of first place, before the wheels came off.
The Reds went 25-42 down the stretch and fell out of postseason contention.
There were some bright spots:
Third baseman Todd Frazier had a career year, hitting 29 home runs with 80 RBIs while playing a steady third and first base and evolving into a vocal leader on the club.
Devin Mesoraco had the finest season by a Reds catcher since Johnny Bench.
Had it not been for the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto might have won the NL Cy Young Award. Cueto finished 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA. His 242 strikeouts were tied with Stephen Strasburg for most in the National League.
There is stability within the organization with Price expected to return in 2015, along with general manager Walt Jocketty, who in late September signed a two-year contract extension through 2016.
The Reds will look to shore up left field and middle relief in the offseason. Assuming health, all other fielding positions appear to be solidified. The bench could be strengthened internally with the return of catcher Brayan Pena and promising prospect Kristopher Negron.
MLB Team Report - Cincinnati Reds - NOTES, QUOTES
TEAM MVP: Third baseman Todd Frazier's numbers speak for themselves, but it's his impact in the dugout and clubhouse that helped keep the club from fracturing during even the toughest of times. Frazier hit 29 homers, had 80 RBIs, and switched to a first baseman's glove to help fill a void while Joey Votto was injured.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Injuries prevented first baseman Joey Votto from returning to MVP form this season. Votto batted a pedestrian .255 in 62 games with six homers and 23 RBIs. The recurring quad injury was no fault of Votto's, but his absence from the field and clubhouse for the better part of this season had a far-reaching impact.
TOP PROSPECT: Kristopher Negron was promoted from Triple-A Louisville on July 10 when second baseman Brandon Phillips suffered a thumb injury. Since then, Negron made 36 starts, including 13 at second base and 22 at third base. The 28-year old Negron isn't a typical "prospect" with 943 minor league games. After nearly making the Opening Day roster last spring, Negron is expected to get a closer look next year with the Reds needing to shore up their bench.
--C Devin Mesoraco was given full-time catching duties after the Reds traded Ryan Hanigan in the offseason. Mesoraco didn't disappoint. He was named to the National League All-Star team and finished with 25 homers and 80 RBIs. He and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench are the only Reds catchers to produce those totals. The 26-year-old Mesoraco gives the Reds a power-hitting presence behind the plate who's made great strides on the defensive end.
--LHP Aroldis Chapman didn't know if he'd ever pitch again after being struck in the forehead by a line drive in spring training. Following reconstructive surgery, Chapman endured extensive rehab before returning to the Reds on May 10. He saved 36 games, including 12 of Johnny Cueto's 20 wins. Chapman reached 100 mph in 53 of 54 appearances, including a 104.53-mph pitch to Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt on July 28.
--CF Billy Hamilton missed the last four games of the season after suffering a concussion while robbing the Brewers' Ryan Braun of a home run on Sept. 24. After arriving in the major leagues late in the 2013 season, Hamilton had the reputation of being a slap hitter and speedy base-stealer. But he quickly evolved into an adept center fielder and more complete offensive player, leading all National League rookies in several offensive categories, including steals (56).
--RHP Johnny Cueto became the first Reds pitcher to win 20 games since Danny Jackson won 23 in 1988, and the first Reds right-hander to reach the 20-win plateau since Sammy Ellis and Jim Maloney each did it in 1965. Cueto's 242 strikeouts and 243 2/3 innings led the National League. A healthy Cueto should anchor Cincinnati's rotation for years to come.
--C Brayan Pena was the Reds' best offseason addition. He was a key cog in Johnny Cueto's pursuit of 20 wins. Pena also filled in admirably at first base for injured Joey Votto. Pena was a breath of fresh air in the clubhouse, a positive force for his teammates and the media. He also helped accelerate the development of Devin Mesoraco into one of the NL's top backstops.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's been a tough one. But we've grown together. We've battled through adversity this year. None of us ever put our head down. Bryan Price has done a tremendous job. The way he handled our situation this year, being a first-year manager, in my humble opinion he was great. It's not easy to manage a team where you're biggest players have been hurt ... and you've never had that lineup 100 percent healthy" -- Reds catcher Brayan Pena on the 2014 season.
MLB Team Report - Cincinnati Reds - ROSTER REPORT
Cincinnati likely will hinge its hopes in 2015 on first baseman Joey Votto being healthy and on right fielder Jay Bruce and defensive shortstop Zack Cozart producing offensive numbers closer to their career stats. The starting rotation is a strength, but also provides a couple trading chips that could fill needs in left field and middle relief.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Reds are so bereft of offense and deep in pitching that trading an arm to provide some punch in the lineup remains a possibility. Left field will be a focus with an aging Ryan Ludwick likely not returning. The bench can be strengthened from within the organization, but middle relief needs some help as well.
FREE AGENTS: INF Ramon Santiago, LF Ryan Ludwick, RHP Johnny Cueto
Ramon Santiago was among the Reds' least-used players until injuries got him more playing time. Santiago played well to put himself in consideration to resign, but the Reds' bench can be strengthened with prospects. Ludwick's career in Cincinnati is likely over with the Reds looking to pursue a more permanent and productive option in left field. The 36-year old Ludwick has a $9 million mutual option with a $4.5 million buyout. Cueto won 20 games and led the National League in strikeouts and innings. It's a virtual lock that the club will pick up his $10 million club option.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Mat Latos, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Mike Leake, RHP Alfredo Simon
Latos began the season on the disabled list following offseason knee and elbow surgeries and after 16 starts (5-5, 3.25 ERA) was shut down in mid-September with a bone bruise in his elbow. When healthy, Latos is a productive and fiery young starting pitcher. Bailey had season-ending surgery to repair a flexor mass tendon in his right elbow. Prior to the injury, he went 9-5 with a 3.71 ERA in 23 starts after signing a $105-million contract extension last February. Leake went 11-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts, logging 214 1/3 innings. He's among the Reds' most dependable starters with a fluid delivery not conducive to injury, making him a valuable commodity and/or trading chip. Simon moved into the starting rotation when Latos began the season on the disabled list. He went 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA prior to the All-Star break to earn a spot on the National League All-Star team. Despite a poorer second half, Simon is projected to return to the rotation in 2015.
IN LIMBO: It's been speculated that the Reds will shop a starting pitcher to fill needs this offseason, and the most likely candidates could be right-handers Mat Latos and Mike Leake, both relatively young, productive starters who'll command top dollar as free agents following the 2015 season.
--CF Billy Hamilton (concussion) left the Sept. 24 game and missed the rest of the season.
--RHP Dylan Axelrod (strained right oblique) was hurt Sept. 8. He returned to pitch on Sept. 27.
--RHP Mat Latos (bone bruise in right elbow) last pitched Sept. 7. He missed the rest of the season.
--2B Skip Schumaker (torn labrum in left shoulder) underwent season-ending shoulder surgery Sept. 11.
--1B Joey Votto (strained left distal quadriceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 6, was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 16 and missed the remainder of the season.
--RHP Homer Bailey (strained flexor mass in right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 1. He underwent season-ending surgery Sept. 5. Bailey could miss one or two starts at the start of the 2015 season. He will begin throwing in late Dec.
--LHP Sean Marshall (left shoulder soreness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 11, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 20. He underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery June 24.
--RHP Trevor Bell (right elbow inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list April 8, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 20. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville on June 6, but he was shut down after that one outing. He underwent season-ending surgery July 16.
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