What do you do when your starting rotation is the most tattered, disheveled group in the entire major leagues? Well, if you’re the Cincinnati Reds - and since there’s only one most tattered, most disheveled starting rotation out there, you are in this scenario - you do what most sensible folks would try in such a scenario.
You strip it down to its bare bones and try to build it back up again.
That’s exactly what the Reds began doing last week when they optioned Cody Reed back to Louisville. It’s what they continued to do when they optioned Rookie Davis to Louisville today. Both had been given ample chances to solidify spots in the Cincinnati rotation, with Reed’s chances dating all the way back to this time last year. Both repeatedly failed to capitalize on those chances, however, with the two combining to allow 26 earned runs in 33 total innings pitched, doing so even with nearly no competition for their opportunities given the plethora of injured peers falling down around them.
For the season’s first five weeks, the Reds continued to give starts and innings to players who repeatedly underperformed, largely because they were the only options they had healthy and available. As of today, it seems, the first part of that sentence will no longer be the case; however, figuring out who they’ll turn to now becomes increasingly hard to be hopeful about.
Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani are nowhere near ready to make their returns from various elbow ailments. As The Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan noted earlier this week, both Sal Romano and Brandon Finnegan have tossed actual baseballs with their dinged up shoulders, but both are at least weeks away from being capable to eat innings as big league starters. That leaves a starting rotation consisting of:
- Bronson Arroyo, who at 40 years old is fresh off having not pitched at all in 2015 or 2016 after Tommy John surgery
- Tim Adleman, the 29 year old Indy League vet whose 98 ERA+ in 26.1 IP stand out like a godsend compared to his peers
- Opening Day Starter (TM) Scott Feldman, who was (in theory) signed to be a reliever and/or swingman
That’s it, for now, which makes Sunday’s decision to option Amir Garrett to AAA to help limit his year-long total innings that much more puzzling, since they seemingly could have done that at any other point this year when the depth was more flush. Instead, it’ll mean the return of Lisalverto Bonilla for a start or three, despite the fact that he struggled in his Reds’ debut (4 ER in 5 IP) and hasn’t exactly kicked the doors down with his pitching in Loiusville (5.61 ERA, 1.75 WHIP in 25.2 IP). The Reds haven’t technically announced that move, but Tucker Barnhart effectively did by tweeting a picture of the team before their flight to San Francisco with Bonilla in it.
After that, it becomes a complete guess as to where the Reds will turn, given that Robert Stephenson’s season to date has him much more on the same path back to AAA as Reed and Davis than it has him on track to get another chance at a start right now.
The good news, however, is that the Reds can no longer lay claim to having the fewest innings pitched of any team in the majors. The 163.1 IP they’ve logged ranks only 28th out of the the 30 MLB teams at the moment. The bad news, however, is that the two teams below them - Miami at 162.0 and Minnesota at 160.0 - have both played fewer games than the 33 the Reds have logged, the Marlins having played 32 and Minnesota just 30. So, they’re still pretty much dead last, just like they are in HR/9 allowed, ERA, and FIP.
(By the way, that 40.1 IP gap between how many innings Reds starters have logged and the league-leading 203.2 IP thrown by Washington Nationals starters? That’s almost dead-on the 40.2 IP thrown by Feldman alone, who just so happens to lead the Reds in innings pitched.)
In other news, the Reds’ publicity never hurts when they get to play against the biggest team from the biggest market with the most World Series titles under their belt. That was certainly the case when they got to tangle with the New York Yankees to start the week, as even the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner took note of the improving squad.
It’s been 19 days since Tony Cingrani hit the 10-day DL with an oblique strain, but if everything contiues to go well, the bulk of his stint on the sidelines may have already passed. Cingrani threw his first bullpen session yesterday, which lasted 15 pitches and reportedly went well, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Assuming he emerges from it sans issue, that should put him on course for a rehab session running into next week and a possible return in 8-10 more days. Given how worked the bullpen has been of late, he’d be a welcome cavalry.
Finally, Buchanan caught up with Joey Votto prior to last night’s outing to talk about the offensive tear he’s been on of late, and it turns out Votto, at 33, might well be as comfortable crushing meatballs now as he’s ever been. With an early season power binge, 24 walks against just 17 strikeouts, a season OPS that starts with a 1 before the period, and a last-365-days stat line of .336/.444/.597 with 40 doubles, 34 homers, 108 ribbies, and a 112/103 BB/K ratio, I’d say it’s hard to argue with his own assertion.