McCoy: Spring opener a successful one for Reds

Cincinnati blanks Cleveland 4-0

Spring has arrived, despite the white stuff on the ground all over Reds land this morning. There is nothing on the ground around Goodyear, Ariz., but sand and sagebrush.

And baseballs.

Spring training exhibition games commenced Saturday afternnon for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians in Goodyear Ballpark, a facility shared by Ohio’s two MLB franchises.

And it was a pitch-rich day for the Reds as seven pitchers combined to throw an eight-hit shutout, 4-0, over the Guardians.

Spring games mean nothing to most players, other than to get their arms, legs and brains in shape for the 162-game grind of the regular season.

But it means a lot to guys like Carson Spiers, the pitcher who threw the first pitch of the spring for the Reds.

The 25-year-old right-handed undrafted free agent rookie out of Clemson University is one of 10 candidates trying to squeeze into five rotation spots. If not, he’ll take a bullpen seat if one becomes available.

And he was trying to wipe out memories of his September MLB debut with the Reds last season — four games, two starts, 0-1, 6.97 earned run average, 13 innings, 12 runs, 18 hits, seven walks, 12 strikeouts.

It seemed as if every time Spiers stuck his head out of the dugout, somebody hit a line drive.

His MLB stats were not something to paste in one’s scrapbook and Spiers hopes to show the Reds this spring that last September really wasn’t him, even though he realizes he is a long shot to make the 26-man roster.

He just wants to put some positive thoughts into the minds of the front office folks.

He did just that Saturday with two shutout innings that included four strikeouts.

Cleveland’s Steven Kwan opened the Guardians first with a single, then Spiers struck out the side.

Spiers was followed by:

  • Fernando Cruz: one inning, no runs, one hit, no walks no strikeouts.
  • Buck Farmer: one inning, no runs, no hits, no walks, no strikeouts.
  • Justin Bruihl: one inning, no runs, one hit, no walks, no strikeouts.
  • Brooks Kriske: one inning, no runs, no hits, no walks, two strikeouts.
  • Brett Kennedy: two innings, no runs, two hits, no walks, three strikeouts.
  • Allen Busenitz: one inning, no runs, one hit, no walks, one strikeout.

Those seven combined to strike out 10 Guardians and did not walk a batter. Meanwhile, Cleveland pitchers walked eight, which made for an unhappy afternoon for former Reds pitcher Carl Willis, Cleveland’s pitching coach who emphasizes throwing strikes.

Offensively, Will Benson put the Reds on the scoreboard in the fourth inning with a long stand-and-watch home run for a 1-0 lead.

After five innings, a bunch of minor leaguers wearing uniforms numbered in the 70s, 80s and 90s finished the game.

The Reds final three runs were driven in by 23-year-old infielder Tyler Callihan, a third-round draft pick in 2019 who played last season for the high Class A Dayton Dragons.

In 108 games he hit eight home runs and drove in 47 runs, and it is unlikely any of his home runs traveled as far as the one he launched Saturday.

First, with a runner on third in the sixth inning, he pulled one hard to the first baseman and Bubba Thompson sprinted home from third to make it 2-0.

Callihan came to bat in the eighth with two outs and Thompson on third. Thompson walked, stole second and took third on Michael Trautwein’s grounder to second.

Callihan’s two-run home run crash landed on the concourse behind the right field bleachers to make it 4-0.

T.J. Friedl, batting leadoff, reached base all three times he batted with a walk, a hit by pitch and an infield single.

He led the game off with a walk and Elly De La Cruz dropped a single into left field, putting two on with no outs. Jeimer Candelario’s Reds debut was a first-pitch pop-up and Jake Fraley hit into a first-pitch, inning-ending double play.

The Reds put two on with on with one out in the third. De La Cruz moved the runners to third and second with a ground ball, but Candelario grounded out.

Fraley walked to open the fourth then slipped and fell trying to steal second and was tagged out. With two outs, Benson connected for his home run.

Cincinnati native and non-roster invitee Josh Harrison, trying to grab a utility spot on the club, followed Benson’s home run with a double into the left-field corner and Nick Martini walked. That threat died when Austin Winns struck out.

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