GOODYEAR, Ariz. –– Before Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Chase Anderson made his spring training debut on Monday, Reds manager David Bell didn’t want to tell him that he planned to call Anderson up to big league camp following the game.
Anderson, who the Reds signed as a minor league free agent last August and immediately put into the rotation, signed a minor league contract with the Reds last month and wasn’t on the initial roster at big league camp. That didn’t mean that he was out of the mix for a spot on the Reds’ roster, and Anderson pitched two scoreless innings against the Colorado Rockies on Monday.
As a part of a series of transactions on Tuesday, the Reds formally moved Anderson over to big league spring training. Anderson, 35 years old with nine years of experience in MLB, is in the mix for a spot in the Reds’ starting rotation.
“It was a situation where it made the most sense for us for him to start in minor league camp, but we did have an interest in bringing him to big league camp,” Bell said. “It really didn’t have a lot to do with what he did (on Monday) even though he pitched really well. We were going to do that anyway. We just didn’t want to tell him before he pitched last night. He looked like the same guy that finished strong for us and pitched well at the end of last season.”
Anderson started the 2022 season as a relief pitcher who spent time in the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays’ organizations. In August, when the Reds’ starting rotation was decimated by injuries, they signed Anderson and immediately put him in the starting rotation. Anderson had experience working with Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson when they both were with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Anderson gave the Reds some consistent starts in September.
It wasn’t enough for Anderson to earn an MLB contract, but now he’ll get the chance to officially compete for a spot on the team.
“He’ll be stretched out (to start), but he could be a reliever as well,” Bell said. “He’s in our camp for a reason. He’s in the mix to make the team.”
The Reds also reassigned seven non-roster invitees to minor league camp: starting pitcher Andrew Abbott, starting pitcher Ben Lively, starting pitcher Connor Phillips, reliever Alan Busenitz, infielder Alex McGarry, catcher Jhonny Pereda and outfielder Allan Cerda.
Phillips and Abbott are two of the top pitching prospects in the Reds’ organization, and they both exceeded expectations during their time in big league camp. Neither pitcher has appeared in a Triple-A game yet, but Bell said that they both showed that they “belong” in MLB.
“What stood out is that they’re Major Leaguers,” Bell said. “They’re not just yet, and a lot of that has to do with age and inexperience, but the way they compete shows that they just have that presence about them. They have really good stuff to go with it. It could happen really fast. Now wasn’t the time, but that can change in a short period of time for two guys who are talented and with the way they handle themselves.”
RUNNING FORWARD: Reds center fielder Nick Senzel is continuing with his running program as he recovers from a broken toe, but he’s still not running at 100% speed yet. Senzel is hitting and taking defensive reps in both the outfield and the infield, but he hasn’t progressed to the point that he can play in games.
Last week, Senzel hit in a simulated game against minor leaguers, but he wasn’t able to run the bases or play defense. The Reds haven’t had a minor league game since then, so Senzel hasn’t had another chance to get game-like at-bats. It’s looking more and more unlikely that Senzel will be ready for Opening Day.
“He’s still progressing,” Bell said. “He’s having mostly all good days. No date set for when he’ll play in a game.”
ANOTHER YOUNG STANDOUT: Last year, the Reds’ player development staff pushed shortstop prospect Matt McLain as hard as they’ve pushed any prospect in recent memory. In the 2021 first round pick’s first full year of professional baseball, McLain spent the entire season in Double-A.
He battled a wrist injury and physically wore down late in the longest season of his career, but McLain’s experience is already paying off. Entering Tuesday, McLain has reached base in 11 of his 16 plate appearances with two extra-base hits.
“You can tell he has made improvements going through the struggles he went through,” Bell said. “It looks like he really belongs here. The time may not be now. But he’s still here. He has a shot to make the team. If it doesn’t happen now, you can tell it’s getting closer and closer.”
McLain, 23, is showing a combination of power, plate discipline and feel for the game that have him looking like a big part of the Reds’ future.
“He’s just a baseball player,” Bell said. “You can see how he’s going to help a team win.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: The Cincinnati Reds make their first roster moves of the spring