The Cincinnati Reds begin their Cactus League slate on Saturday in Goodyear, Arizona against the Cleveland Guardians, with whom they share the facility. In doing so, they’ll be kicking off the most ‘normal’ slate of spring training games we’ve seen since the 2019 edition thanks to a global pandemic and a lockout.
When play gets underway, it’ll be soon-to-be 25 year old lefty Brandon Williamson on the mound first for the Reds, as was reported today by The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale.
Brandon Williamson was named the Reds’ starter for their Cactus League opener Saturday vs. Cleveland.— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) February 21, 2023
Starting the Cactus League opener might sound novel, and in many ways it is. Odds are that Williamson might only last an inning as he begins his ramp-up to a half-year of regular season work, and it’ll be hard to truly glean much from what he’s capable of doing in that short of a stint.
Still, given his significance in the trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to Seattle almost a year ago and the struggles he went through between Chattanooga and Louisville last season, it’s the kind of endorsement that just might be the start of something special for him. Given that he’s already been turning heads with his velocity since pitchers and catchers reported a week ago, his slide down the prospect rankings amid a season-long spate of wildness might well have been a turning point for him.
That’s certainly something he hinted at in an interview with MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, at least.
The hope is this all ends up sounding familiar - hyped prospect in the Reds system struggles a bit, slides down the pecking order, and then shows up ready to run through camp as a 25 year old from day one. That’s precisely the path followed by Jonathan India prior to his breakout 2021 campaign, and given the other largley unproven starting pitching options in Reds camp at the moment, it might well be Williamson with the best shot of anyone to steal the stage.
We’ll get that first glimpse on Saturday, as the game will be carried by the nearly defunct Bally Sports for all to watch. First pitch is set for 3:05 PM ET.