CINCINNATI — The sharks are swirling, the feeding frenzy has begun. And it is all about Johnny Cueto.
With Cueto on the mound Thursday night, 20 scouts showed up to watch, knowing that the Cincinnati Reds either are going to trade him or he will become a free agent after the season.
And they weren’t the ordinary advance scouts on hand. There were some heavy hitters like Randy Smith, special advisor with the San Diego Padres, and Ed Lynch, professional scout for the Toronto Blue Jays, among others.
They know Cueto and his agent refuse to negotiate a new contract with the Reds since the season began, they know the Reds are over a fish barrel as to what to do, so the fins are circling.
BECAUSE THE REDS have four off days over the next two weeks, the bullpen is getting what it needs most — strong, fresh, young arms.
Both Michael Lorezen and Raisel Iglesias will work out of the bullpen for the next couple of weeks because the Reds only need four starters and manager Bryan Price doesn’t want his starters to get too much rest.
That doesn’t mean it is permanent. Lorenzen definitely will return to the rotation when five starters are needed and manager Bryan Price hinted that they’ll be looking for a spot for Iglesias.
THE PLAN IS A double-edged positive sword for Lorernzen and Iglesias. The Reds want to limit their inning and bullpen work does that, plus they can contribute while getting experience.
“We’re concerned about the innings of Iglesias and Lorenzen, so they’ll both serve a certain period of time in our bullpen,” said Price. “Because we’ll have Lorenzen in the bullpen we’ll also have the luxury of not having to send Iglesias back to Triple-A. He’ll be in the ‘pen until we make a decision that he might be better served in our rotation, the bullpen or Triple A.”
Iglesias pitched an eight-inning two-hitter Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves, so his services out of the bullpen can’t be used until at least Sunday or perhaps Tuesday when the Reds begin a series in Kansas City.
“His start in St. Louis (the first week of the season) wasn’t a bad one,” said Price. “He gave up some runs in his last inning when he got fatigued. He has shown that in a short look that he has the repertoire and the feel to control a game three and four times through a lineup. I know it is a short sample (two starts), but when we signed him our commitment was for him to be a starter with the bullpen as a fallback.
“IT’S THE SAME with Lorenzen,” Price added. “He has history as a relief pitcher so it isn’t foreign territory for him to get loose and get ready. It also gives us a chance to limit innings until he comes back into our rotation.”
BRANDON PHILLIPS, diagnosed with turf toe, was out of the lineup Thursday for the second straight night.
“It could be something that might be exacerbated if he played nine innings,” said Price. “He could pinch-hit or in an emergency play defense. But it makes more sense as a possible starter in Friday’s game, just being conservative. If he had to play, he could.”
There is no doubt Phillips will return sooner rather than later because of his history of playing hurt.
“Over the last two seasons he has played with hand and wrist injuries,” said Price. “And he had wrist surgery and was back in 5 ½ weeks without complaint. The year before he was hit by a pitch and had ligament damage in his wrist. It wasn’t attended to until after the season, but he was out there playing and his numbers were definitely affected by it.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: TV stations have a habit of asking manager Bryan Price what he expects from that night’s starting pitcher and one wonders what they think he expects. After he was asked what he expected from Cueto Thursday night (he answered politely), when most of the media left his office he laughed and said, “What do they expect me to say, that I expect my pitcher that night to be backing up third base and home plate a lot.”