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Series preview: Pirates face Cincinnati Reds in battle of undefeateds

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Here's what to expect in this weekend's three-game set against the Reds.

Game times

Friday, 7:10: Francisco Liriano vs. Alfredo Simon
Saturday, 1:10: Gerrit Cole vs. Raisel Iglesias
Sunday, 1:10: Jeff Locke vs. TBA, probably Anthony DeSclafani

The Reds continue a six-game homestand as they face the Pirates beginning Friday night at 7:10. First up in to pitch for them will be Alfredo Simon, who they signed to a $2 million deal in the middle of Spring Training to round out their rotation. Simon is coming off an ugly year in Detroit in which he posted a 5.05 ERA, 5.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, but he had success in Cincinnati in 2014, and the Reds could use another starter due to a mess of injuries to their pitching staff.

Also pitching will be Raisel Iglesias (recently discussed at Bucs Dugout here) and perhaps Anthony DeSclafani, who's currently on the DL with an oblique strain.

Position players

C Devin Mesoraco, Tucker Barnhart, Jordan Pacheco
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Zack Cozart
3B Eugenio Suarez
IF Ivan De Jesus
LF Adam Duvall
CF Billy Hamilton
RF Jay Bruce
OF Scott Schebler
OF Tyler Holt

As was the case in 2013, a couple of the Reds' best power sources are left-handed (with Votto, Bruce and newcomer Scott Schebler hitting from the left side), so this series could be a pretty good one for Liriano and Locke. Expect to see plenty of the right-handed Adam Duvall in the outfield. The pitching matchups do work out well for the Reds' catchers -- they can start the right-handed Devin Mesoraco on Friday and Sunday, then start the switch-hitting Tucker Barnhart against righty Gerrit Cole in a rare Saturday day game.

Bullpen

CL J.J. Hoover
Tony Cingrani
Jumbo Diaz
Caleb Cotham
Keyvius Sampson
Dan Straily
Ross Ohlendorf
Blake Wood

Like Simon, Straily and Ohlendorf were acquired late in the offseason to provide stability to a pitching staff that's been battered by injury. It's amazing to me that, four and a half years after his released by the Pirates, Ohlendorf's big-league career is still going, but he got a nice velocity bump after heading to the bullpen (he throws in the 93-94 MPH range now) and he got decent results in Texas last season.

Recent performance

The Reds are currently 3-0, although they're highly unlikely to be particularly good this season and compiled that unbeaten record by playing the Phillies in games someone had to win. Yesterday afternoon featured the MLB debut of top prospect Robert Stephenson. Yesterday, Eugenio Suarez hit a grand slam and Jay Bruce homered twice. One of Bruce's home runs came off old friend Charlie Morton, who the Reds tagged for six runs over 3.2 innings.

Relevant links

-P- Three Cincinnati Reds players to watch in 2016

-P- Offseason in review: Cincinnati Reds

-P- Trades executed -- or killed -- by final medical opinion (a fascinating and Reds-centric look at teams' processes for reviewing medical records for trades)