For the second consecutive season, it looks as if the Cincinnati Reds will have to do without Anthony DeSclafani until the middle of the year. Last year, it was an oblique injury that popped up initially in Spring Training and took until June to full dissipate; this year, it’s a ‘sprain’ of his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, one that will keep him shelved for at least four weeks.
By ‘shelved,’ I don’t mean ‘will be back in the rotation’ in four weeks. In (hopefully just) four weeks, he’ll get taken back out of the package and have his cellophane removed, but it’ll take a long time of thawing and microwaving from that point forward until Disco the Hot Pocket is ready to melt faces once again. Pair that with Homer Bailey’s
second third most recent elbow surgery, and the Reds will once again reach mid-March with a shredded starting rotation that - for the second consecutive year - looked half decent on paper just weeks before.
This time 13 months ago, you'll recall, the Reds were looking at the prospect of a starting rotation that would feature DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Homer Bailey (by late April, we were first told), Michael Lorenzen, and John Lamb. Heck, Jon Moscot was in that mix, too. Fast-forward to right now, and not a single one of those folks will open the season in Cincinnati's rotation, which is an amazing amount of attrition for any team, let alone one in the middle of a rebuild that's been largely designed at revamping the starting rotation. This isn't a case of having Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Mat Latos, and Alfredo Simon one year but not the next because they were traded away, this is a case of having pieces in place tied to long-term hopes get wiped by the wayside en masse.
Fortunately for the Reds, there are at least some seemingly capable reinforcements they can turn to for now. Behind Brandon Finnegan and Scott Feldman sit Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson, both still-young hurlers who have peaked as Top 40 overall prospects in all of baseball in recent seasons. Washed-up Paul Wilson and Elizardo Ramirez, they are not.
At this moment, it's hard to envision Amir Garrett being anywhere other than in the Reds' rotation come Opening Day, as the lefty continues to mow through opposing hitters in Cactus League play akin to how he's carved up minor league hitters the last two seasons. In fact, I've come around on Garrett opening the season in the big leagues, saving service time be damned. The more I look at Garrett, I see a guy who'll be 25 years old in his rookie season - the same age that late-blooming Todd Frazier was in his rookie year - and the idea of manipulating service time to gain an effective seventh year of team control becomes a too-far-down-the-road pipe dream that's not worth chasing. For guys like Jose Peraza, for instance, to reach the big leagues as position players at age 21 or 22, manipulating service clocks makes perfect sense, since we're talking about an age 28ish season for a player whose elbows likely will always be safe and sound. With a pitcher, however, there's so much less guarantee that they'll be healthy in year two or three as is that not using your best when they're ready seems silly, especially since the only byproduct would be ensuring you'll have them when they're 31 years old, too.
With Garrett, who dazzled in his outing yesterday afternoon, the time appears to be now, and the timing of the injuries around him have only spotlighted that even more. He's a full year older than each of Finnegan, Reed, and Stephenson, has burned one additional option than each of them, and while he lacks the cup of coffee experience they've all had, he's reached the point of need that now more than ever. Frankly, I'd be disappointed if any other scenario develops.
In other pitching news, FanGraphs' Chris Mitchell highlights the rise of Sal Romano among his pitching peers, and how that may well be a cause for optimism despite the crumbling staff around him. It's a quite stat-heavy piece based on many regressions and comparables, but even if you're not into that sort of thing, what Romano has done from mid-year last year through the first half of Cactus League play should've caught your eye enough to know he's got a heck of an arsenal. Romano, who posted a 1.93 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP over his final 70 innings in AA Pensacola last year, is certainly on a path to the big leagues, and appears set to be the first arm called up at this point - assuming nobody else gets hurt, which...well, whatever.
Next to Romano, pitchers Rookie Davis and Luis Castillo have also impressed the team brass and coaching staff this spring, as MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reported yesterday. There has actually been solid results to match the electric stuff each obviously possesses, and that's been an encouraging trend in camp so far. Each owns a spot on the team's 40-man roster, and it looks as if they'll form the core of a damn intriguing AAA Louisville rotation to start the season, one that will likely feature Jackson Stephens, Adleman, and (eventually) Nick Travieso in the mix, as well.
In other news, FanGraphs' David Laurila caught up with Reds GM Dick Williams on the heels of comments Williams had made earlier in a previous discussion, and they give great insight on how he's trying to navigate the franchise through this particular rebuild.
Finally, we had the great opportunity to talk with FS-Ohio's Chris Welsh about many things last night while recording the latest edition of the RR Podcast (which will drop soon), one of which is the Baseball Rules Academy site he's put together with several collaborators. Functioning almost as a clearinghouse for all baseball quirks, rules, oddities, questions, and odd scenarios, it's looks to be a great resource for both learning the basics of the game and for having the precise answer when unique situations arise in-game.