CINCINNATI — Anybody who even follows the Cincinnati Reds on a cursory basis, or even a quick glance, knows where the Achilles heel is.
It is spelled b-u-l-l-p-e-n, but it is pronounced pigpen. The Reds by far, statistically, have the worst bullpen in the world. It is at the bottom of nearly every category they keep on bullpens, everything but hygiene.
Slowly, though, very slowly, there appears to be help on the horizon, especially since it is obvious manager Bryan Price right now trusts only three guys — Blake Wood, Ross Ohlendorf and a resurgent Tony Cingrani after a miserable first two months of the season.
LIKE THE CAVALRY, though, help seems just a bugle blow away. Alfredo Simon has been plopped back into the bullpen where he has had success and where Price hopes he can re-discover the art of getting batters out.
Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen are out on rehab assignments and after two or three minor-league appearances they are expected to come off the disabled list soon. And both are expected to land in the bullpen.
DAN STRAILY, BRANDON FINNEGAN and John Lamb have stabilized the starting rotation since June arrived and Anthony DeSclafani held the Oakland A’s to one run, eight hits, three walks and a hit batsman in his six-inning 2016 debut Friday, a 2-1 Reds win. It wasn’t a spot-on performance, but not bad for a guy shaking off the rust of not pitching competitively since late last season.
Homer Bailey? He is probably a month away before the rotation will be complete and, perhaps, the bullpen fixed. And don’t forget, starters Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed are one telephone call away.
“Anything our young pitchers do has to be done with some consistency,” said manager Bryan Price. “Finnegan is beginning to show a real maturity and consistency. Lamb has had a couple of real nice ballgames recently in a row. We’re seeing the improvement we want to see from those guys. Finnegan has taken the opportunity and run with it. He is not a project guy. Straitly is a breath of fresh air because we didn’t know what we were getting when we signed him late in spring training.
“We know what we’re going to get from Disco (DeSclafani), at least a pretty good expectation,” Price added. “Those kids in Triple-A (Stephenson, Reed) are getting very close and Homer will be an option in July, and we’re confident he will.”
SO THE ROTATION IS not only fixable, but the toolbox is out and the tinkering is on-going.
Then what? Price, like everybody on Planet Earth who follows baseball, knows what is really needed
“Our next step is that we need to find that next tier of relief pitchers because we are leaning so heavily on Wood, Cingrani and Ohlendorf,” he said. “We can’t do that for six months, there is no way we can do that for six months. Simon (2-6, 9.11 as a starter) will be in the bullpen. He was very successful for two years in our bullpen and I think this will give him a little bit of a lift, sort of a start-over. He can help us get to the back end.
“By the end of June we can seriously talk about Iglesias and Lorenzen and all of a sudden you are looking at a bullpen that can really shut teams down,” Price added. “It might take a little time for those guys to learn how to pitch out of the bullpen again, but I don’t think it will take much time.”
PRICE EQUATES THE return of the starting rotation and the rearrangement in the bullpen as part of the Reds rebuilding process.
“I’ve alluded to the deconstruction of our team (because of all the injuries), you know, but the construction is every time we add one of these guys and they come out and perform. Even when they don’t perform well, just getting the chance to get their feet wet — when we see Reed and we see Stephenson. And we’ll see Jose Peraza and Jesse Winker, all the kids in Double-A. That’s the reconstrution. Right now we’re at at the states quo and we’re not the Reconstructed Reds yet, but we’re heading in that direction.