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.

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.

10 Responses

  1. James K

    A six-pitcher rotation would mean a starter works once a week. That’s the same schedule as for high-school and college pitchers.

    • MICHAEL E

      Yeah, I wonder if we’ll have a 10 man rotation in my lifetime. It’s getting silly. At some point the time off between starts, filled with unnecessary throwing that could be the pitcher just pitching, is just going to make every pitcher worse. Less chance of injury, but hey, if you only get 90 IP in a season, you probably wont get injured as much as someone that throw 240 IP. It’s probably nearing the point that a pitcher is more likely to be injured between starts, with all the unnecessary throwing, only to baby him on game day.

      Of course, if you never pick up the baseball at all, I can guarantee a VERY low injury rate. I assume at least one pitcher that never picks up a baseball will tear up his arm, maybe throwing the sheets off in morning, or turning on the shower, but other than that…

      I would have loved to had Trevor Bauer. I’d have said, you want to pitch every 4 days, well, I love you man, go for it. I won’t monitor pitch counts, I’ll just trust my eyes and trust you’ll man up and tell me you’re a little fatigued, get someone up in the bullpen coach.

      • Doug Gray

        Trevor Bauer monitors all kinds of stuff about his body in order to prevent injury. He would probably tell you that while he does think guys need to throw more, that they also need to do a lot more stuff, too, in order to know when they should be throwing, how much they should be throwing, when they need to rest – not just “if you feel tired/fatigued”.

  2. DaveCT

    Getting some innings on his arm is one of the more intelligent opinions on Hunter I’ve heard in awhile.

  3. Shawn

    How many players are on a minor league roster? How will the taxi squad effect AAA?

    • Doug Gray

      In normal years, 25 players are on the minor league rosters. I have not seen any rule changes yet this year, but you would have to imagine that at least for Triple-A, because of the taxi squad, things are going to be a little different. Still – we don’t have word on that yet.

      • Shawn

        Thanks. I would think the taxi squad will be mostly older players and not prospects. It wouldn’t make any sense to have them not playing.

      • Doug Gray

        I think it depends on how you want to look at it: Yeah, they won’t be playing some – but they also get experience “on the road”, to work with the big league club, and perhaps most importantly – if a situation does arise, they will actually get a chance to play in the big leagues.

  4. Billy

    With no minor leagues last year, are we anticipating more healthy starting pitchers to begin the year than usual? Presumably, guys who were recovering from TJ surgery suffered during the 2019 season are ready to begin the year now. And is it the case that there were relatively few cases of TJ surgeries among minor leaguers in 2019? As much as there is concern about the ramp up in workload, shouldn’t 2020 provide an interesting data point as to how much wear and tear is due to the season vs. just practice and regular workouts?

    • Doug Gray

      In a few years the gap year is going to provide some real interesting data to look back on with regards to prospects. I hadn’t really thought about looking at it from an injury perspective, but it’s an interesting thought. Of course, as noted, some teams are considering 6-man rotations this year, and that could alter the way we *need* to look at things to compare to the past (and maybe future if teams go back to 5-man rotations), too.