GOODYEAR, Arizona — This is my eighth annual visit to Cincinnati Reds spring training in the desert.
I always drive the nearly 2000 miles and seek out new experiences along the way. This year I altered my path at Amarillo and headed southwest through numerous towns in Texas and New Mexico en route to my initial Arizona stop in Tucson, where big-time college basketball was on the agenda.
This past Saturday night I was on press row for the premium Pac-12 matchup between California and Arizona, which is coached by Sean Miller, brother of Dayton head coach Archie Miller.
During warmups, the size and athleticism of both squads were apparent. The game and atmosphere were special with the home team leading throughout and hanging on to win by five.
I went to the postgame press conference and got to meet Sean Miller at its conclusion. He saw my UD shirt and immediately commented on his brother’s big win at Rhode island a night earlier. There’s no doubt that both Millers are again heading to the NCAA tourney.
On Tuesday morning I drove the final two hours to Goodyear and the Reds first pitchers/catchers workout. I’d heard a few days earlier that second baseman Brandon Phillips had finally approved a trade to Atlanta, which should be good for all parties. The Reds need to utilize newly acquired players as their rebuild continues. Despite his amazing defense and still decent bat, it’s time for “BP” to move on. Since trade rumors first surfaced in 2014, he’s been tough to deal with and once called the owner “a liar.”
Also during the journey, it was announced that high-priced starting pitcher Homer Bailey underwent “cleanup” elbow surgery and will start the season on the disabled list. It’s time for one or two prospects to step up and possibly join the rotation.
A sentimental possibility is former ace Bronson Arroyo, who is on the comeback trail. The 40-year-old did a lengthy media interview after he threw a Wednesday bullpen session. It was easy to see why so many folks both inside and outside the ball club are rooting for this great guy.
These early workouts got me back in touch with new reliever and potential closer Drew Storen, who had some great years with Washington. The Indianapolis area native was in Versailles a few years back for Craig Stammen’s Diamond Club fund raiser where I serve as MC. Speaking of which…..
Though the Reds have been my ongoing spring training focus since 1991, there’s a bonus to being here in 2017 as three locals from back home are all in this immediate area hoping to get back to the big leagues.
Stammen, Storen’s previous Washington teammate, hopes to hook on with the San Diego bullpen after forearm surgery and a long rehab. Fort Loramie’s Jared Hoying seeks to remain in the Texas outfield picture after three trips to the bigs last season. And former San Diego lefty starter Cory Luebke (Marion Local) looks to land some role with the White Sox after two elbow surgeries and a stint with the Pirates.
Reds bench coach Jim Riggleman recognized me from being with Stammen and John Lannan out here last year. Both pitched for Washington when Riggleman was the skipper. He asked about both guys. I updated Stammen’s situation and indicated that Lannan was still unsigned and looking for an opportunity. “John competed well for me, and we need a veteran lefty in the bullpen. I’d like to see us bring him in for a look,” he said.
My Tuesday ended with what’s become a tradition for Dayton-area media assigned here. I hooked up with TV anchors Mike Hartsock and Jack Pohl to watch UD basketball at Augie’s in Goodyear, my favorite sports bar/grill on the planet.
I went to my first spring training game 50 years ago and I’ll write about that next month. 2017 exhibition games begin next weekend.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will also be in the area, including Minster pitcher Adam Niemeyer. As always, I’m thrilled to be here.
Dave Ross is in Arizona through late March and will file weekly Friday reports. This is his 27th consecutive spring training with the Cincinnati Reds.