ClNCINNATI — As expected, especially with the majority of the starting staff wrapped in swaddling clothes with injuries, the Cincinnati Reds rotation remains in heavy flux.
It was Alfredo Simon’s turn Monday but the Reds moved him back a day to provide him with an some extra rest after he pitched in relief in St. Louis Friday.
So Simon starts Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies. Taking Simon’s place Monday was Dan Straily, coming out of the bullpen. It was Tim Melville’s turn to pitch Tuesday but he has been relegated to the bullpen.
IN ADDITION, TWO DISABLED starters worked out Monday afternoon in Great American Ball Park, first Homer Bailey and then Anthony DeSclafani.
DeSclafani threw 40 pitches of batting practice Monday afternoon and said, “If they’d give me the ball, I’d pitch tomorrow.” They won’t give him the ball and he won’t pitch tomorrow.
The last time he threw batting practice, about a week ago, his oblique acted up that night and set him back. Now they’ll have to see how it responds tonight before making any firm decisions.
If all goes well, DeSclafani will make at least two minor league rehab starts before returning to the Reds rotation.
BAILEY’S RETURN WON’T be so fast, although optimism is rampant about his progress after last season’s Tommy John surgery.
“We started the day wh Homer Bailey throwing a nice 35 to 40-pitch bullpen,” said manager Bryan Price. “He was great. He is adding one inning and 15 to 20 pitches each time he throws in the bullpen. He’ll probably have three more starts to give him four, five and six innings. He’ll probably make those starts for (Class AAA) Louisville or if there is a weather issue or something within proximity he’ll pitch elsewhere. We don’t want to ship him all over the country.”
“Disco (DeSclafani) needs to make a couple of minor league starts to get him stretched out to about 88 pitches,” said Price. “I wanted to see him pitch today without any issues with his oblique. From the beginning when he began throwing again there have not been any structural issues. Even when he threw the simulated game a few days ago he looked good. But he had some stiffness or soreness in the area the next day.”
AS DO MOST PITHERS chomping on their teeth as they await clearance to pitch, DeSclafani talked as if he is ready to stare down the ’27 Yankees or the ’76 Reds.
“I mixed in all my pitches, mixed them all up and I was happy with the way they were breaking and moving,” he said. “I think this is the final little stretch before I start pitching in games. I haven’t felt anything in the oblique for about a week. They shut me down after last week and I think that kind of did it really well.
“I just want to get out there and get back here, whatever route that may be,” he added. “I want to pitch, want to help the team. I could pitch in five days. I already went through spring training and I’ve been doing a lot of throwing. But I have to do the rehab. If it were me, I’d take the ball tomorrow.”
DAN STRAILY HAS BEEN one of the few reliables out of the bullpen so far and gets his chance in the rotation tonight.
“He has had a few number of outings so far out of the bullpen and thrown the ball over the plate with a nice mix of pitches,” said Price. “He has a good fastball, plus a nice slider and a nice change-up. He does a lot of the little things — handles the bat and can bunt. Most importantly, he is around the plate with a good mix of pitches that allows him to be successful against both left handed and right handed hitters. And he has experience.”
Price likes Straily’s style and confidence. When the Reds signed him late in spring training he told Price, “Hey, I have a rubber arm so you can use me every day out of the bullpen. After his last outing in St. Louis, he came in the next day and told me, ‘I’m good to go.’”
SIMON, SIGNED AT THE end of spring training, pitched only two-thirds of an inning Wednesday in Chicago and gave up five runs. Price used him Friday in St. Louis on his normal bullpen throw day and Simon poured kerosene on a conflagration, a 14-3 Cardinals win.
“This is just a chance to give Simon an extra day because we used him in that one inning in St. Louis,” said Price. “His arm is just now at the back end of spring training mode. He had a little bit of fatigue and the key for him is not to try to force his velocity. He knows his velocity is down a little bit and where you get into trouble as a pitcher is when you prioritize the velocity rather than location.”
THE NUMBERS ARE pretty ugly for the Reds bullpen right now, and everybody knows it, but here are some batting averages against the Cincinnati bullpen that explains a lot:
Alfredo Simon (starter/bullpen) .364, J.J. Hoover .353, Keyvius Sampson (now back in Louisville) .308, Jumbo Diaz .301.
Even a couple of the starters have been hit hard — Tim Melville (now in the bullpen) .355, Raisel Iglesias .303, Robert Stephenson (now back in the minors) .286.
Of course, there are good numbers: Brandon Finnegan .129, Dan Straily .107, Tony Cingrani .111 (but he has five walks and a hit batsman in 5 1/3 innings), Ross Ohlander .211 and Caleb Cotham .200.
“We know that once the pitching locks itself in a little bit more we will be able to go out there and compete on a daily basis, go out there every day with a chance to win,” said Price. “We know we have areas in which to improve before we can actually go out there and do that, win consistently.