Minor League spring training is going to be long this year. It’s going to be long because there’s going to be two different versions of it. The first version is already underway as the pitchers and catchers are in camp alongside the big leaguers, and the position players are reporting for intake testing and will begin workouts this upcoming week. When that camp is completed at the end of March, then it will be time for the other minor league camp set to start which will feature the Double-A, High-A, and Low-A groups.
Tyler Stephenson is in big league camp, but he’s still considered a prospect after having limited action in 2020 at the Major League level. He’s going to be half of the catching tandem when the year begins, alongside Tucker Barnhart. On Friday he spoke about what he learned last season that he felt helped get him prepared for taking over as one of the catchers at this level.
“I think the greatest thing last year was being able to go on the road and be a part of that travel roster,” said Stephenson. “I think I was on just about every trip, so every road trip I was sitting in on the meetings between Tucker (Barnhart) and Curt (Casali) and all the pitchers with DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson), and just kind of experiencing the lifestyle of it – being on the road and stuff – and just being able to catch those guys because I was pretty much a bullpen catcher. So I think that was obviously the most beneficial part, just helping ease my way into it. ”
While Stephenson did get some experience catching most of the guys last season between his limited big league time and then being the bullpen catcher, he didn’t get an opportunity to catch Luis Castillo.
“I haven’t caught (Luis) Castillo yet, so that’s somebody I obviously want to get as much time as possible,” Stephenson said. “My first start was with Sonny (Gray), but still, I want to catch him as many times as possible to get familiar with him. All the other guys, it’s the same thing, it’s not going to be a bad thing – the more time the better.”
Over at Redleg Nation there’s a lot more on Tyler Stephenson and the catching situation from David Bell, and a little from Stephenson, about how the catching split could work out in 2021.
Tucker Barnhart on Hunter Greene
While Reds top prospect Hunter Greene isn’t in big league camp, he is a part of the early minor league camp and at times those guys will be working with the big leaguers. On Friday two-time Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart had his first opportunity to catch Greene.
“I watched a lot of his videos, I’ve seen him on social media and things like that,” said Barnhart. “It’s always different when you get to catch a guy for the first time and you’re comparing it to that stuff. It was impressive – his fastball is electric, and his willingness to learn, his want to to learn was very evident yesterday. Obviously the talent is there. And that’s just going to be continued and get some innings on his arm and hopefully he’s up here sooner rather than later.”
The Reds shared some video of the bullpen session that took place on Thursday with the local media. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer got it out there first.
Today was the 1st workout for #Reds pitchers and catchers. Hunter Greene was one of the pitchers throwing a side session today.
Video via Reds PR. pic.twitter.com/21Mq6c5c1A
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) February 18, 2021
Are 6-man rotations coming in the minors?
Triple-A Baseball is going to start in early April, but the other levels won’t begin until early May. One of the big changes this year across all levels is that each series is going to be a 6-game series, followed by an off day, and then the start of the next series.
In the past it’s been a very rare occasion that a starting pitcher would face the same team two starts in a row – it would require them starting on very short rest, or a team playing back-to-back series against the same team in order for it to line up that way. Now, in a traditional 5-man roster, there would always been one pitcher who would face the same team twice in a week.
At some levels the Cincinnati Reds are considering going with a 6-man rotation this season. There could be more reasons to it than the “don’t face the same team twice in a series” aspect. Getting everyone the organization wants to see as a starter a look, and some innings, comes into play. So does the fact that with how 2020 played out, it’s kind of impossible to know how pitchers will react to the “full season” workload. While everyone did their best to get pitches thrown to try and simulate a workload they would have otherwise seen last year, it’s not quite the same as when the adrenaline is going and you’re facing live hitters in a competitive game environment.
At this point, nothing is set in stone. That includes when the season will begin. While there are schedules out, things are subject to change if there’s a reason to push things back. That isn’t expected to happen – but it certainly could.