Injuries leading to tough decisions for Reds brass

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Roger Bernadina hits a home run off Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson in a spring training game.

Lindsey Foltin/FOX Sports Ohio

MESA, Ariz. — The Reds figure to have five players on the disabled list when they open the regular season in eight days. It’s not exactly the way a first-time manager like Bryan Price wants to start things off on the new job.

The Reds know who basically would be on the Opening Day roster if injuries weren’t a factor. But injuries are a factor. The bright side to all of them is that Price is finding out about all of his players.

The Reds had 17 hits in an 8-3 win against the Chicago Cubs Saturday afternoon. Eight of those hits came from players who are non-roster invitees trying to force their way onto the 25-man roster.

"The negative lately has been the injuries but the positive is that there really are a lot of other guys out there who are really trying to make a push to help us," said Price. "Guys are going out there and competing well and playing well and it looks like there could be some opportunity come the end of the month for some guys in some roles."

Kristopher Negron, Roger Bernadina and Chris Nelson all started and played the full nine innings against the Cubs. Negron started a third base and finished the game in centerfield, going 3-for-5 with an RBI at the plate. Bernadina, playing right field, knocked in the first four runs of the game for Reds with a three-run home run in the first inning and a single in the third off of Chicago starter Edwin Jackson. Nelson was 2-for-4 with a run scored after starting at first base. He moved over to third base before game’s end.

Jason Bourgeois entered the game in the eighth inning, contributing an RBI single. He played left field Saturday but is slated to start Sunday’s game at second base.

"We’ve kind of moved guys all over," said Price. "Negron’s been all over the diamond. We’re going to get Bourgeois, who’s played all of the outfield positions, he’s going to play second base tomorrow. Nelson has been all over the place. It’s been kind of fun to watch."

Price needs something to take his mind off of the dilemma facing him and general manager Walt Jocketty in the next week. Pitchers Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall as well as infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker will start the season on the disabled list. Utility infielder Jack Hannahan could be No. 6 on that list as he attempts to return from right shoulder surgery last October. Even the status of catcher Devin Mesoraco is up in the air at this point as he navigates a slight oblique strain.

The problem the Reds will face is deciding how to manage the 40-man roster, which is at its limit currently. None of the injured players are expected to be placed on the 60-day DL, which could open up 40-man spots. If they decide keeping Negron, Bernadina, Nelson and/or Bourgeois is the best fit for the club, they’re going to have to release someone from the 40-man to do it.

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The issue is less problematic with the injured pitchers than it is the position players but Jeff Francis and Jose Diaz have had good camps as non-roster invitees.

Pitcher Brett Marshall, who started against Kansas City on Friday, could be an option as a long reliever out of the bullpen with Alfredo Simon expected to take Latos’ spot in the rotation. Marshall was claimed on waivers from the Cubs this offseason is on the 40-man roster.

"Whatever they need for me to help the team," said Marshall. "If they need me to go close a game, if they need me to start a game, I don’t care. I just want to help them with whatever they need. I just want the opportunity."