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Johnny Bench
Reds Opening Day starting pitcher Sonny Gray and catcher Curt Casali played college baseball together at Vanderbilt, both live in Nashville, Tenn., and they worked out together during baseball’s pandemic-induced shutdown. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the two will form the pitcher-catcher battery regularly -- or even in Friday’s season opener vs. the Tigers. Reds manager David Bell has yet to determine if Casali or Tucker Barnhart will catch for Gray against Detroit. “If there is a preference at some point, I can factor that in. Going into the season, I don’t think we need to be limited by that,” Bell said on Sunday. “I believe in both of our catchers’ ability to catch all of our pitchers, and the familiarity between all combinations is really good. It’s strong right now. That would not be the first priority when making the lineup out.”As Gray went 11-8 with a 2.87 ERA in 31 starts during his first season in Cincinnati, Barnhart started behind the plate in 16 games, Casali in 13 and former catcher Juan Graterol in two games. Over his career, the right-handed-hitting Casali is a .261 hitter vs. lefties and a .215 hitter against righties. A switch-hitter his entire career, Barnhart will be batting exclusively left-handed for the first time in 2020 Chris Sabo Jersey. Detroit announced Sunday that lefty Matthew Boyd would start opposite Gray on Opening Day.“With the catching, it has a lot to do with day-night and the opposing starting pitcher and properly resting them,” Bell said. “All three of those are ahead of matching any of our combinations up consistently.”Raley in, Schebler out Following Sunday’s scrimmage, the Reds selected the contract of left-handed reliever Brooks Raley, a possible signal that he has made the Opening Day roster. To make room on the 40-man roster for Raley, outfielder Scott Schebler was designated for assignment. This is a feel-good moment for Raley, who last pitched in the Major Leagues for the Cubs in 2013 and spent the last five seasons as a starter for Lotte in South Korea’s KBO. From 2015-19, he was ranked third in WAR (19.45) among all KBO pitchers. Raley gave up three runs (two earned) and four hits on Sunday but has pitched well during Summer Camp overall. Schebler was the Opening Day center fielder for Cincinnati last season and on the roster the last four seasons. But he struggled while batting .123/.253/.222 in 30 games before being demoted to Triple-A Louisville. Schebler hit a career-high 30 homers for the Reds in 2017. Casali feels ready During the quarantine, Casali, Gray and Reds outfielder Phillip Ervin were among a group of Major Leaguers who worked out together in Nashville. For Casali, that experience helped him prepare for the three-week Summer Camp and the upcoming 60-game regular season.“I was really lucky to be able to work out with Sonny,” Casali said on Sunday. “I caught him at least seven or eight times over the course of quarantine, and one of my best friends, Mike Yastrzemski with the Giants, I got to hit with him a few times a week Dave Concepcion Jersey. I think it definitely helped shorten the curve coming back into camp here, but it’s been going pretty well. I’m healthy: hips feel good, legs feel good, arm feels good. I’m ready to go.”During camp, Casali has also been able to see Reds pitchers from a different perspective by facing them as a hitter.“It’s been pretty miserable because they’re really good,” he said. “It has been helpful to see, from my perspective as a right-hander, where I think their pitch should start, where it should finish, to see how much life it actually has on it. I faced [Luis] Castillo last week and I think he did me a favor by just throwing me two fastballs. I was so late on the first one; I think he just grooved one in for me because we’re boys.”Right fielder Nick Castellanos was out again from Sunday’s scrimmage after he suffered a bruise on his upper back when hit by a Tyler Mahle pitch on Friday. “It’s definitely day to day, but it’s just a bad spot that he got hit in,” Bell said “He’s having trouble getting it loose. It hit him right on the neck and spine area. We’re being cautious because of the area it’s in, but it’s just a bruise and a matter of getting that swelling and soreness out of there.”Reliever Michael Lorenzen has been missing from the last three scrimmages because of a sore right forearm.“It’s not in any concerning areas. It’s just a muscle in his forearm that came from working -- or maybe overworking -- a certain pitch he was throwing,” Bell said. “He’s developing a new grip on a pitch. He’ll be fine. We just want to make sure that soreness is out of there so it doesn’t lead to anything that would be long term.” Outfielder Travis Jankowski was scratched from Saturday’s scrimmage because of a sore left hamstring -- the same muscle he injured during Spring Training.“He went in and got readjusted. It was more of an alignment thing,” Bell said. “As soon as he had that worked on Eugenio Suarez Jersey, it released. We could have played him today, but we wanted to be sure it wasn’t the hamstring issue from Spring Training.” Barnhart vs. Casali Because the Cincy Ballers took the first two games of the three-game “Summer Series” to earn a day off Monday, the teams were adjusted for Sunday. This time it was Tuck’s Claws vs. Team Turnup. Barnhart and Casali served as player-managers and selected their coaching staffs and lineups. In the seven-inning contest, Casali’s squad combined for a no-hitter and a 4-0 victory. Gray pitched four hitless innings in the victory. I know. I know! The wait between the end of one baseball season and the beginning of the next always feels endless, but wow, has it ever felt that way this year? It is a scary, disorienting, unprecedented time, and every day, it can feel like the ground is constantly shifting underneath us. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and neither have you Joey Votto Jersey. Every day is a new struggle. We can rejoice in the simplicity of a baseball game, a salve, a temporary balm: It does not end our problems, or even distract us from them, but it does bring us something good, something lasting: Something familiar and warm. It allows us to see these incredible players -- each and every one of them with their own fears and risks and personal journeys -- do incredible things during an incredible time. This has been so hard. This is so hard. But this can help. I know it will help me. So, to celebrate the glorious frivolity, the perpetual wonder, of baseball returning this week, today at the Thirty, we make team-by-team predictions for what is unquestionably going to be a crazy year. Will most of these come true? Will none of them? I do not know, and honestly, even though I will do my best, I do not care. There is baseball this week. AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST Blue Jays: Hyun-Jin Ryu finishes in the top five of Cy Young voting again He was second in the National League last year while with the Dodgers, and he might have finished first had he not run out of gas late. He won’t have time to run out of gas this year: He might be the platonic ideal of a 60-game starter. Orioles: They’ll finish with the worst record in baseball … but there will still be some hope The new Orioles brass hasn’t worried much about the on-field performance of the big club Johnny Bench Jersey, and all told, that’s not any more of an issue this year than it was last year. But there’s a lot of young talent starting to percolate in the Minors, and we might even get to see some of it this year. Just a little bit longer, O’s fans. Rays: Nick Anderson will be the best reliever in baseball That might seem like a bold projection, except he was absolutely one of the best relievers last year and has even more of an opportunity to shine this year. He’s a quietly dominating pitcher, and one suspects you might be seeing him deep into October. To be fair, I’ve been predicting this for several years now, and he’s already 30. But he was smoking the ball in Spring Training, and he has reportedly done the same at Summer Camp. I’m going to give him one more year to make me look smart. Yankees: Their top MVP vote-getter will be Giancarlo Stanton He hasn’t had the best start to his Yankees career, but he’s still Giancarlo freaking Stanton, and he only has 60 games to stay healthy through rather than 162. And we know what happens when Stanton is healthy.AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL Indians: Francisco Lindor doesn’t go anywhere In a full season, maybe we spend the whole time talking about Lindor getting traded. But with this sprint, he almost doesn’t have time to, and besides: This Indians team, in a short season, very well could win this thing. Royals: Mike Matheny will be the right manager for this team -- for now Matheny wore out his welcome in St. Louis after a while, but this is exactly the job that brings out his strengths (helping players deal with difficult exterior circumstances, making a good first impression) rather than his weaknesses (managing the bullpen, postseason decision-making). Tigers: Matthew Boyd gets traded at the Deadline It may be tough to find teams who think they’re out of it after only one month, which could drive up Boyd’s value beyond what it might have been last year, as the Tigers could be one of the only Deadline sellers. As a bonus, Boyd is under club control through 2022, so he would not be a “rental.” Twins: Josh Donaldson wins the AL MVP Doesn’t it feel like he is exactly the sort of player who further electrifies this already-electrifying lineup? For what it’s worth, if Donaldson wins a second MVP, we might start putting his career in a little bit more of a rarified air, historically.

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