Luis Castillo sports a fastball that can hit 100 mph and a devastating change-up, making him one of the more tantalizing young pitchers the Cincinnati Reds have had around in some time. Anthony DeSclafani, when healthy, has shown he’s a plenty capable big league starter, with a 3 fWAR and near 3 bWAR season already under his belt, respectively. Add-in that each of Tanner Roark, Sonny Gray, and Alex Wood were brought in from outside the organization in an effort to #GetThePitching this winter, and it’s no surprise that those five names form the makings of the Reds starting rotation.
That was confirmed as much by manager David Bell earlier today, as the Reds themselves announced on Twitter.
It's the first week of camp, but David Bell has already named who will be in the starting rotation:— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) February 15, 2019
⚾️ Luis Castillo
⚾️ Anthony DeSclafani
⚾️ Sonny Gray
⚾️ Tanner Roark
⚾️ Alex Wood
More ➡️ https://t.co/DkKYxgCkDN #RedsST pic.twitter.com/pT29wXK3BV
That was just one of many pitching clues Bell gave to the media in Goodyear today. As The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans relayed, Bell intends to carry 13 pitchers on the staff this season, a sign that he’ll be actively using relievers early and often - something that’s clearly a trend among big league teams these days. Of course, with 8 starting position players also obviously on the roster, that means Bell will be playing with a short bench everyday, one that will include whichever catcher isn’t starting that day, two of Matt Kemp, Jesse Winker, Yasiel Puig, and Scott Schebler (once Nick Senzel is up and in CF), and one infielder that will likely need to be extremely versatile and a capable defensive SS (likely Alex Blandino, if he’s fully recovered from his ACL/MCL tear, or perhaps former Dodger Kyle Farmer).
It’s worth noting that while that does seem like a short bench, Bell has also made it known that he’s willing to use Michael Lorenzen in more offensive ways, too, meaning the Reds do have a bit more added flexibility than it would otherwise seem on paper.
Bell wasn’t done outlining his plan, either. He also revealed that he intends to use Raisel Iglesias “in the most important spots in the game,” and not just in the 9th inning as his “closer,” as Rosecrans also detailed.
David Bell was asked if Raisel Iglesias was his closer, it wasn't an automatic answer... 'He is a guy in our bullpen that's going to pitch in the most important spots of the game. I say that because he's that good. That's how we want to use him.'— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) February 15, 2019
That’s certainly something that Dick Williams implied when Iglesias restructured his contract to guarantee 3 years and some $24 million earlier this winter, as it was clear that using Iglesias in high-leverage situations in lieu of just ‘save’ situations might impact his potential arbitration cases down the road, and the team was willing to work that in to how he was compensated before that ever became an issue. And given how we’ve seen other teams use their most lethal relievers in such fashion - a la Andrew Miller in recent seasons - that’s also a step in the right direction in terms of bullpen management based on how traditional the roles have been in the Cincinnati bullpen for years.
All told, there were few surprises here, but definitely some reassurance that Bell is a forward-thinker as manager, something that’s refreshing as all hell. Now, we just have to cross our fingers for good health and that new pitching coach Derek Johnson can help each of these arms figure out how to keep the ball in the ballpark more often.