CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds Starting Staff Shuffle/Shuttle continues on its daily schedule — as in, ‘Who knows day-to-day who will start the next day?’
For the second straight day, scheduled starter Alfredo Simon was shuffled out of the rotation, this time with tendinitis in his shoulder.
To take his place the Reds called up Robert Stephenson for his second ‘emergency start’ of the early season. And to make room for Stephenson on the roster the Reds optioned relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz back to Class AAA Louisville.
SIMON FELT THE shoulder pain the day after his first start against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the season’s opening homestand. And he tried to hide it from the team.
The result was that his next start in Chicago was a batting practice session for the Cubs — two-thirds of an inning and five runs. Then he made a relief appearance in St. Louis and it was the Cardinals turn to take batting practice.
“We didn’t know about it,” said manager Bryan Price of Simon’s shoulder ache. “A lot of pitchers do it. They think they’ll figure it out and it’ll go away on its own. So you do whatever you can in a covert fashion to get yourself into a position to pitch without making it a big deal. None of us understood that he was having issues with his arm.”
PRICE SAID IT BURST onto the scene late Monday night after the Reds lost to Colorado, 5-1, “in a late-night conversations and we responded. We put our heads together and saw that Robert Stephenson was scheduled to pitch today (for Louisville) so we were able to make the move.”
It isn’t surprising that Simon encountered early aches and pains. He was home in the Dominican Republic, unemployed, when the Reds came calling late in spring training because so many starting pitchers were toppling onto the disabled list.
Simon said he had only one bullpen session and pitched only three innings in spring training before making that start against Pittsburgh.
“It’s no big deal, but the manager wants me to take a couple extra days,” said Simon. “I’ll be OK in a couple of days.” Simon took a cortisone shot in the shoulder.
“I just wanted to pitch but the manager didn’t want me to force my arm,” he said. “They told me I should miss only one start. They don’t want it to get worse, which is why they gave me the injection. It happened because I tried to get ready for the season real quick. It caused me to drop my arm down and my ball didn’t move. My two-seamer was not moving and my splitter was flat. That’s why they could hit them. My mechanics were not the same.”
FOR STEPHENSON, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2011, it is most likely a second straight one start and pack your bags and hustle back to Louisville.
“We are not leaning toward keeping Robert up here,” said Price. “It is another one-time event. We want to see him string together some real consistent outings at Triple-A. He still hasn’t outperformed the level (AAA) yet in his limited time there. But these are great learning opportunities for him.”
JUMBO DIAZ RETURNS to Louisville after giving up a couple of big-blow home runs late in games during his relief appearances.
“For Jumbo, it wasn’t velocity,” said Price. “It was pitch execution and pitch usage. The league gets comfortable against you and what to expect from you. The league is aware that Jumbo throws hard and the key for him has to be the quality and the command because the velocity is no longer overwhelming to the hitters. He has to be able to execute the slider and the split with similar quality.
“We get to a point where we can’t use this level of play as a testing ground or a proving ground for extended periods of time,” Price added. “You have to be flexible to use our minor league system to get these guys back to playing to their abilities. That’s what we’re doing with Jumbo because he is a better pitcher than he has shown in his first eight appearances.
EVERYBODY KNOWS BRANDON Finnegan is adept at throwing fastballs and sliders and curveballs. What they probably didn’t know is that the 23-year-old Reds pitcher also knows that a bat is used for something other than to lean on in the on-deck circle.
In his first four at-bats this season he has four hits, including a double, a run scored and an RBI. During spring training he told somebody, “I am going to go deep (hit home runs) at least twice this year.”
Finnegan smiled broadly when asked about his hitting propensity and said, “I was an All-State outfielder in high school in my senior year because I hit .510 with 13 home runs. And as a pitcher I led the state in strikeouts.
“My dad taught me how to hit and how to pitch,” he said. “I was always a stronger hitter until I started throwing 94 miles an hour and then they made me a pitcher. Yeah, I hope to go deep a couple of times, that would be cool. I certainly don’t get cheated in the batter’s box.”