The Minnesota Twins are just 44-62 at the moment, residing in the basement of the AL Central. They spent last week trading away a cornerstone starter in Jose Berrios, dumped JA Happ and Hansel Robles to whomever would have them, and formally had star CF Byron Buxton rebuff their attempts to sign him long-term while injured. That all happened after they traded away Nelson Cruz to Tampa and lost both Alex Kirilloff and Taylor Rogers to the injured list.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, meanwhile, are just 40-65 at the time of writing, firm occupants of the cellar of the NL Central. They spent the run-up to the trade deadline jettisoning bullpenners Richard Rodriguez, Clay Holmes, and Austin Davis in a trio of deals, dealt starter Tyler Anderson away, and shipped All Star Adam Frazier to a playoff race they declined to even register for.
Six games split between those two franchises are what sits on the docket for the Cincinnati Reds this week. Six games for the Reds, who sit six games over the .500 mark at the moment, seven games back of the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers and four games back of San Diego for the NL’s final Wild Card spot. Six games that frankly need to feature a lot of smashing and fanning by Reds hitters and pitchers, respectively, if they’re truly going to make the kind of climb up the ladder that will make this season special after all.
Fortunately, it’s coinciding with the pending returns of a couple incredibly key contributors in Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. Castellanos took batting practice over the weekend and appeared to be socking the ball all over the park the way you’d expect to see him do, hopefully a sign that the small fracture in his wrist is a thing of the past. Moustakas, meanwhile, has gone 4 for 9 with a double and a walk while on rehab assignment (again) with AAA Louisville, doing his best to put the foot troubles he’s dealt with all season on the backburner. Both are expected back at some point early this week, with Nick Senzel - also rehabbing at AAA Louisville - due back at some point shortly thereafter, the kind of mid-season boost that will hopefully get the Reds as close to 100% as they have been in quite some time.
That’s a big pile of roster uncertainty created by roster certainty, admittedly, assuming that makes any sense after typing it. Those returns are obviously fabulous, but they’ll create a ripple effect that will make for some very interesting decisions for manager David Bell to begin making. Will he have the gumption to correctly install Moose at 3B at the expense of Eugenio Suarez, keeping Kyle Farmer in the lineup at SS while he’s knocking the cover off the ball? How will the CF playing time get divvied up once Senzel is back in the mix and Castellanos pilfers the RF starts?
The reality is, though, that the Reds are about to get their full complement of players back at a time concurrent with what should be a soft spot on their schedule, one that also just so happens to come on a homestand in GABP. They’ll have their strongest bench options in quite some time regardless of how their starting lineups unfold, especially with Superstar Max Schrock [TM] in that mix again, too. And maybe, just maybe, that’ll allow them to begin to correct what’s been one of the more odd, unpredictable aspects of their otherwise solid season so far - they’ve played just .500 ball at home (26-26) while being six games over .500 on the road (30-24).
Let’s just hope they put the hammer down on that accelerator this week when the road in front of them is in perfect shape for some speeding. If they’re gonna catch the teams they’re chasing, after all, this is how they’re going to need to do it.