The rush to get the Major League Baseball season up and going in the midst of a pandemic was always going to feature some odd quirks. While many of the in-game rule changes have been more obvious - 7 inning doubleheaders, runners starting on 2B in extra innings - one of the somewhat mundane changes had been the expansion of rosters to a full 30 players, in part to provide additional resources to teams prepping on short notice, and in part due to there being no Minor League season to keep non-regulars in form.
Well, today marked the deadline for teams to shrink rosters from 30 down to 28, a mark that will remain for the rest of the season. And to make that work, the Cincinnati Reds optioned RHP Tejay Antone and IF Josh VanMeter today.
The #Reds today optioned to the alternate site RHP Tejay Antone and IF Josh VanMeter to reduce the roster to the new maximum size of 28. pic.twitter.com/nMa9cnZFcT— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 6, 2020
Antone, of course, just pitched last night for the Reds, spot-starting against Cleveland in largely impressive fashion. Despite never truly being regarded as an elite prospect during his development, Antone has been something of a revelation for the Reds pitching staff in the early goings this year, as the righty has excelled both as a swing-man and spot-starter. He owns a fastball that can run up to 97 mph, and pairs it with a biting breaking ball, and most importantly he’s actually been able to parlay that combo into outs this year - something many of his peers in the Reds bullpen have been unable to do.
All told, he’s logged 8.2 IP of 2 ER ball so far, with a 9/5 K/BB and minuscule 0.92 WHIP. So, it’s worth wondering why he got optioned instead of some of the other arms that have struggled so far, but that’s where the administrative aspect of this all comes in. For one, since he pitched into the 5th inning last night, he wouldn’t have been available for a few days anyway, and that gave the Reds a chance to option an arm they couldn’t use immediately anyway. Pair that with the litany of fringe players on the roster that are out of options, and he became a natural choice to send down - for now.
As for VanMeter, last year’s AAA breakout star simply hasn’t been able to parlay that success into 2020 so far. Despite getting ample opportunity to play with Mike Moustakas and Joey Votto out (for varying reasons multiple times), VanMeter simply hasn’t gotten the job done. At all. He’s 0 for 14 on the season, and while he clearly showed the tools to suggest he’ll break out of that slump at some point, it’s hard to envision the Reds giving him enough time to sort that out in big league games in this, a season shortened to the point where every single PA matters.
Hopefully, the option of VanMeter suggests that regular 2B Moustakas, who has been sidelined this time with a bruised quad, is ready to return, as it would be hard to envision the Reds sending VanMeter down if Moose was set to be sidelined for an extended period.
Odds are, we’ll see both Antone and VanMeter back with the big league Reds at some point in the near future, as both have shown that they’re capable big leaguers.