Lefty pitcher Daniel Norris released, three other players cut from Reds camp

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The Cincinnati Reds moved another step closer toward finalizing their Opening Day roster Monday with another round of roster cuts.

The Reds released lefthanded reliever Daniel Norris, who was a nonroster invitee, and sent outfielder Stuart Fairchild, reliever Silvino Bracho and infielder Alejo Lopez to minor league camp. Fairchild is the only one who is on the 40-man roster.

It was a rough spring for Norris, a nine-year veteran who spent most of his career with the Detroit Tigers. In spring training games, he allowed five earned runs on 12 hits, seven walks and three hit batsmen in 6 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Daniel Norris (30) throws a pitch in the third inning of the MLB Cactus League spring training game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Guardians at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Ariz., on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.

Monday’s roster cuts narrowed a few positional battles. Lefty relievers Alex Young and Bennett Sousa are vying to become the second lefthander in the Reds’ bullpen to pair with Reiver Sanmartin.

Chad Pinder, Henry Ramos and Jason Vosler are likely competing for one bench spot after Fairchild and Lopez were cut from big-league camp, assuming Joey Votto is ready for the start of the season. Pinder has the most experience and brings the most versatility.

Jose Barrero played a few innings in center field during Monday’s spring training game. Barrero remains a favorite to start at shortstop, but the Reds’ top center field candidates, Will Benson and TJ Friedl, are both lefty hitters.

“It’s just another way to get (Barrero) into the lineup,” Reds Manager David Bell said. “One example would be facing a tough lefthander and we want Kevin Newman, Spencer Steer, Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson and one our right-handed hitting catchers. And we want Jose Barrero in the lineup because we’ve seen that. He’s a natural out there. It would be easier to have him go play center than to asking Spencer Steer or Kevin Newman who haven’t done it nearly as much to get them all in the lineup.”

Alexis Díaz returns to Reds after World Baseball Classic

Alexis Diaz reacts after being pulled from Puerto Rico's quarterfinal loss on Friday vs. Mexico.

At one moment, Alexis Díaz was experiencing the highest of highs in the World Baseball Classic after Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic to advance to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The Dominican Republic was viewed as the powerhouse Latin country with arguably the most talented roster in the field, so it felt like a monumental victory. In Puerto Rico, 62% of people who had their TV turned on that night were watching the game, according to Major League Baseball.

Then, in an instant, everything changed. Edwin Díaz, Alexis’ older brother, collapsed in the celebration with a knee injury that could end his 2023 season. Alexis, the Cincinnati Reds closer, took the loss in the quarterfinal after all three batters he faced reached base – a double and two walks – and scored in a 5-4 loss to Mexico.

“In regards to my brother, it was tough because I was there celebrating with him,” Díaz said, according to interpreter Jorge Merlos. “I saw him fall to his knees afterward. It was supposed to be a moment of celebration and then that happened and the next couple of days were tough. We were supposed to have a grand old time but not seeing him at his locker there really put me down.”

Puerto Rico players react after pitcher Edwin Diaz appeared to be injured during postgame celebration after Puerto Rico beat the Dominican Republic 5-2 during a World Baseball Classic game, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Alexis Díaz says he is in a better frame of mind after returning to Reds camp. His brother had surgery on his knee and the family is optimistic he could return at the end of the year.

Still, it was hard to put away all those emotions when Díaz took the mound against Mexico in the quarterfinal.

“I had it in mind, for sure,” Díaz said. “I try to find ways to get those thoughts out of there. I went out there trying to find some type of way, but I still had it in my mind. I couldn't get it out.”

As sad and disappointing as everything ended in the World Baseball Classic, Díaz said it was the best thing he’s done in his career. It was the first time he ever played on the same team as his older brother. Their lockers were next to each other. They threw bullpen sessions next to each other.

The world saw a window into the brothers’ relationship when Alexis was in tears after Edwin’s injury, but Alexis says he’d love to participate in the next World Baseball Classic.

“You're facing teams that have the best players in the world,” Díaz said. “You feel that energy coming off the whole stadium. It's nothing like you've ever experienced before.”

Reds injury updates

• Tony Santillan, who will begin the season on injured list, is making steady progress after he missed most of last season with a back injury. Santillan threw two “innings” in a live batting practice session last Saturday, drawing positive reviews from hitters Nick Senzel and Matt Reynolds.

Santillan said he was tentatively scheduled to make his debut in spring training games Wednesday.

• Luke Weaver (sore forearm) and Lucas Sims (back spasm) are both expected to throw bullpen sessions Wednesday. Weaver is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season because he was shut down from throwing off a mound for about a week. Sims could be ready for Opening Day if he progresses as quickly as hoped.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Reds cut four players from camp, Alexis Diaz returns