Today is technically the first day of spring training. The Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catchers are due to report today. The first workout will be held tomorrow. With that said, there’s already some interesting news coming out of Goodyear.

While talking with the media, Bryan Price discussed the rotation and who would be vying for jobs. Mark Sheldon wrote about it for Reds.com earlier this afternoon. Price laid out the groups of possible starting pitchers in a 3-1-2-2 setting, as noted by John Fay on twitter..

The first three pitchers, who seem to be ahead of the others, are Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, and Luis Castillo. Assuming health, that probably doesn’t surprise anyone. What was interesting is that Brandon Finnegan wasn’t included in that group. The lefty is in that “1” in the next tier.

It is the final two groups that are most intriguing. Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson make up the 3rd tier, who seem to be vying for the 5th spot in the rotation. Both guys performed well down the stretch for the Reds in 2017. Behind those two is the last tier and it’s made up of Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen.

That is eight guys competing for five spots. Realistically, though, it’s more likely four guys competing for one spot – the #5 spot. The two guys that were there last year, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson, have the edge going into the spring. Romano threw 87.0 innings with a 4.45 ERA, 37 walks and 73 strikeouts last season in 16 starts. It was his final eight starts that really cemented things, though. In 48.1 innings he posted a 3.17 ERA with 17 walks and 39 strikeouts. Opposing hitters were held to a .701 OPS in that stretch.

Robert Stephenson posted a 4.68 ERA in 2017. There’s nothing special about that, it was a little bit below the league average when we adjust it to the ballparks he pitched in. But, as a starter, he posted a 3.41 ERA in 11 starts during the season. In 58.0 innings as a starter he had 36 walks and 56 strikeouts. The walk rate will need to come down, but he performed well as a starter during the 2017 season.

The next group has Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen. Mahle made four starts for the Reds last season. Lorenzen hasn’t made a start since the 2015 season – spending the last two years in the bullpen. Mahle is the second rated pitching prospect in the organization. He posted a 2.70 ERA in his four Major League starts last season, but uncharacteristically walked 11 batters in 20.0 innings. The righty also struck out 14 batters. Between Double-A and Triple-A he posted a 2.06 ERA in 144.1 innings with just 30 walks and 138 strikeouts.

With Michael Lorenzen things are far more complicated. He last made a start on September 16th of 2015. He had been a rotation candidate in 2016, but suffered a slightly torn UCL and missed the first half before returning. When he did come back he slid into the bullpen and that’s where he’s been ever since. Last year as a reliever he threw 83.0 innings with 34 walks (five intentional) and 80 strikeouts. The peripherals were strong, especially if we account that the intentional walks weren’t his fault.

When it comes to the Reds spring training stories, the rotation is one of the biggest. Not only is it a question of “who is healthy?”, but also “who will get a spot in the rotation?” The manager seems to have his order of how things look going into the spring. The performance, and how guys look could certainly change that.

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50 Responses

  1. Stock

    I think Finnegan is better suited for the bullpen.

    I think Romano and Stephenson pitched better in the final 2 months than Finnegan did in 2016 as a SP. Therefore, it does not surprise me that Finnegan has his own line. In prep for 2019 they should go with (assuming healthy)

    Bailey, Disco, Castillo, Stephenson, Romano with Mahle replacing Romano sometime during the season or if Bailey is pitching well trade him for a can of nuts after the break and bring up Mahle then.

    • Josh

      I agree I just don’t see the ceiling being as high for Finnegan as some of the younger guys.

    • AllTheHype

      Bailey is owed $49M for the remaining 2 years, and $38M for 1.5 years at the deadline. He won’t be going anywhere.

    • MuddyCleats

      Finnegan turned the corner when he started using his change-up more; he was pitching instead of throwing. Nevertheless, he keeps coming up injured and still throws with a Max effort motion; it may be why he can’t stay healthy? He’s had periods of several good starts in a row, then seems to “fall apart” and come up injured? Some guys have a hard time bouncing back; Finnegan appears to be one of them? He also has a pushing throwing motion which places more pressure on the shoulder and makes it hard for him to stay on top of the ball. All things considered, I think he’d be better an inning or two at a time? My guess is he’d be more successful and come up lame less often??

  2. Jer-B

    Does this mean Amir is destined for the bullpen? He pitched well before the hip issues last year. I would have thought he would have been ahead of Lorenzen or Mahle (service time) at least out of camp.

    • Jordan

      In Sheldon’s piece, he mentioned that Price said AG might get a few starts, but wasn’t guaranteeing anything. That sounds an awful lot like he’ll be sent to AAA after ST, barring injury to any of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart.

  3. Nick

    I was shocked that Garrett wasn’t included in this group. Maybe they don’t feel that his struggles were primarily caused by his injury. Or maybe they just feel better about Lorenzen as a starter going forward (that would surprise me a little). Either way, I expected his name to show up.

  4. Hoyce

    How many innings are finnegan/ Romano/and Stephenson gonna log this year? Best case scenario- 120-150?
    Why not match one of them with finnegan. And given good health 33 starts at 4-5 innings per start. Equals somewhere around 130-150. So essentaially 6 starters. In a 5 man rotation.

    • Doug Gray

      There’s no reason to think that any of those guys couldn’t handle a full season of starting.

      • MuddyCleats

        U R right, they could do it this year? However, they haven’t accomplished it thus far in their careers, so for many of us, we see it as highly unlikely?

    • Stock

      I would love to see this. In fact do it with the whole rotation

      Disco/Garrett
      Bailey/Lorenzen
      Castillo/Finnegan
      Stephenson/Romano

      Bullpen
      Iglesias
      Peralta
      Hughes
      D Hernandez

      Waiting in the minors: Mahle, Cody Reed and a lot of RP.
      go to a 4 man rotation. Everyone pitches 160/175 innings

      Pitchers would be better knowing they are only going 4-5 innings (usually 4). Limiting their innings reduces injury risk.

      I really don’t see much difference between pitchers 3 and 8 and the projection systems don’t see much difference between 1 and 8. Another benefit of this is we see 8 starting pitchers and are better equipped for 2019.

      I really don’t see a downside other than Bailey’s ego taking a hit.

      • MuddyCleats

        Agree, I’ve been suggesting that for years now. Considering the unreliable status of Reds SP most years, I think it would be as good a plan as any? It would allow the young guys to learn to pitch in short stints at ML level. Most of them are AAAA quality who need ML experience to move forward. W/ Reds unwillingness to field a competitive ML team, might as well let the young guys get ML experience and hope a few of them emerge. Reds aren’t going anywhere in the standings until they do! If SP has a good night, let him go. Next time through rotation, start the other guy and let the other be a short guy that week. It could be difficult to manage, bit it would keep innings down and options from being burned

  5. Optimist

    Getting into the weeds and details here, but why is Mahle at the end of these discussions? Were his 4 late season starts considered less relevant given the competition – i.e. less meaningful end of season? Where is the blip or hiccup, or even injury, in his progress thru the entire system?

    He seems to be the likeliest candidate to pitch until he falters. What am I missing?

    • Doug Gray

      I’m guessing because he’s the youngest, least experienced of the bunch.

    • Wes

      I always put an asterisk by a good end of season performance. A lot of teams don’t have their best out there everyday. With mahle though, he’s just behind them anyway and makes sense to save service time.

  6. Wes

    I’m ready to see Garrett in the pen. I disagree he’s got a lot to prove. He was Doug’s pitcher of year in 2016 and faired very well when healthy last year. Let him be that power lefty out of the pen and groom him to replace ilglasis

    • Mike

      I think the organization destroyed Garrett last year. He was arguably our best starter in April, then they sent him down I can’t remember why. When he returned, he was never the same….You don’t mess with the head of a starter who is going good.

      • Colorado Red

        Hip injury.
        Also his peripherals where not that good.
        He did not tell the team he was hurt.
        Not the Reads fault, this time

      • Bill

        Amir Garrett has publically dismissed the notion that the Reds sending him to the minors affected his performance mentally.

  7. Hod Eller

    I agree with the surprise about Garrett. Ranking Lorenzen ahead of him doesn’t make sense. He adjusted faster at each level of the minors than any of the others and had some successful starts in April before the injury. There were many complaints on this blog and others when the Reds sent him down in May. Just don’t understand why he’s always ranked so low in the pecking order.

    • Alex

      Lorenzen was better than any of these guys in the minors besides maybe mahle. Lorenzen lost his opportunity because of injury. I think he deserves another chance nd the kid works his butt off for sure. I hope he really impresses in spring training I’m rooting for lorenzen .

      • Hod Eller

        I’m fine with giving Lorenzen a chance. Just don’t see him higher in the pecking order than Garrett, who was the org’s Pitcher of the Year twice. Came to the majors and had immediate success, unlike any of the others, including Lorenzen. He, too, was derailed by injury.

  8. Klugo

    Finnegans a bullpen arm IMO.
    Garrett needs more seasoning. Not quite ready yet, but I do thin k he’ll be a good one.

  9. Krozley

    It was also mentioned that Reed is competing for a bullpen role only, but may return to starting down the road. Sounds like he may be the front runner for the 2nd lefty in the pen.

    • citizen54

      It would be disappointing if it were true. A lot of his control problems are probably due to him working on new mechanics so as to not tip his pitches.

  10. AirborneJayJay

    Interesting tiering. Castillo, Romano, and Stephenson all deserve a rotation spot. I think that is why Finnegan is on a rail by himself. At least they are giving him a chance to decide his own fate by performance.
    I am disappointed for Reed, but it might be his chance for the 35 man roster.

  11. Gilbert Keith Chesterton

    Can we assume that the lack of Garrett mention is because his hip isn’t 100% yet?

    Presumably if his struggles coincided with the injury, then the guy who was lights-out when healthy would have to be in the mix – assuming he’s healthy.

    If Mr 6.43 ERA Homer Bailey and his negative WAR is a lock, then Garrett should be in consideration, regardless of how much they are paying Bailey. If it’s a rebuild, then let’s put the pieces of the rebuild on the field – not the old, falling apart veterans who won’t be around when the rebuild is rebuilt.

    • Colorado Red

      Homer did pitch better in his last few starts.
      He was feast or famine
      I hope he has a short leash

      • Gilbert Keith Chesterton

        I think it’s the famine part that worries me w/Homer.

        With so many young pitchers, one has to assume they are going to be feast or famine, and those famines can eat up a bullpen.

        So the hope is that your veteran starting pitching will provide a stable 5~7 IP each outing to save the bullpen for when the kids pitch.

        But when your veteran isn’t providing any benefit over the youth, and is just as likely to give up 6 runs before getting to the 3rd inning, then starting him really doesn’t make any sense in a rebuild other than trying to justify his salary.

      • jim t

        If healthy Homer will be fine. As you said he really pitched well to close out the year. The best part was he was healthy. Very excited to see him pitch this year. It seemed he had to learn to pitch and locate because of a small decrease in his velocity. If he regains that speed and adds that to the knowledge he gained he could be very interesting.

      • RedsinWashSt

        Homer is always feast or famine. He would throw a no hitter one week and then get knocked out in 4 innings the next.

  12. Jim Delaney

    Don’t wish or root for injuries but I wouldn’t be shocked or surprised if someone besides those 8 wind up in the initial 5 man rotation out of Spring training… just going to throw Jackson Stephens and Vance Worleys names out there as guys that could be long shots now but be in the discussion at end of March…

    • Billy

      I agree with this. Veteran pitchers with injury histories who go into spring training healthy often emerge from spring training injured or delayed as a precaution. Out of Bailey, DeSclafani, and Finnegan, if more than one enter the season in the rotation, we should be elated. Throw in an injury to one of the other contenders, and suddenly we’re down to five starters. What if Stephenson, Romano, or Mahle is healthy but struggling? What if they really want to control Mahle’s service time? What if the bullpen looks awful and they feel like they really need Lorenzen back there? I could definitely see Garrett, Stephens, or Worley get a look in those cases, and I think the likelihood of that occurring is closer to 50% than to, say, 10%.

  13. Cguy

    Not sure if the Reds are in the process of falling off-or jumping off.

  14. Sandheel

    Fans of the Bats should see some fine home-team pitching when they go to the ballpark this summer.

  15. AirborneJayJay

    The Cardinals have DFA’d an interesting pitcher to make room for the recently signed Bud Norris. RHP Rowan Wick, just turned 25, listed at 6’3″ and 220, and is a converted C/OF into a reliever. They say he has a lively arm but as usual has control issues with BB’s. Big arm that misses bats, but with those dreaded control issues. Four BB’s per 9 is a bit too much. He has a handful of saves and late inning experience too.
    Might be a good get to start out in Louisville.

    • Colorado Red

      NO,
      He have plenty players like this.
      Would have to DFA someone off the 40 man to do it.
      Never pitcher in the bigs.

  16. Michael B. Green

    Thought about Wick right away too but if you look at his AA and AAA SwStr% rates, they are pretty low.