CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds continue to use the rules to their advantage, rules that show that baseball clearly is a business and the players are hanging meat.
Rookie pitcher Amir Garrett, impressive in his first six major league starts, was optioned back to Class AAA Louisville after his start Saturday, a win over the San Francisco Giants.
Garrett is 3-and-2 with a 4.25 earned run average. He has pitched 32 innings and therein lies the rub. The Reds want to control his innings, don’t want him pitching more than 150 innings this year.
He pitched 144 2/3 innings between Class AA Pensacola and Class AAA Louisville last season, the most in his professional career.
BECAUSE THE REDS HAVE an off day Wednesday and next Monday, they won’t need five starters a couple of times through the rotation. So they are skipping Garrett. When a fifth starter is needed, he’ll be back. And to preserve his arm and save innings, Garrett won’t pitch much and hardly any innings during his exile to Louisville. He’ll just sit and wait and stew.
“We can cut Amir back a couple of times this year with this scenario,” said manager Bryan Price. “We can manage it better in September when we have the extra bodies (via call-ups to an expanded roster), but we had to make a smart decision here and now.
“I think we made the right decision and he’ll be back in short order,” Price added. “It is innings-management. We want him to pitch the entire month of September as a starter and not say on September 1, ‘He is at 165 innings so we have to pitch him as a reliever the rest of the year.’ We don’t want to do that.
“We don’t have to put a magic number on innings, but we are not going to take him from 145 to 200 or 210,” said Price.
What isn’t talked about is the elephant in the clubhouse. It is called service time. By having Garrett, or any other young player, spend time in the minors he doesn’t accumulate credited days in the majors, meaning the big club can limit the days before he is eligible for arbitration and free agency. It is legal, within the rules, but it smells.
TO REPLACE GARRETT, THE Reds recalled pitcher Barrett Astin from Class AAA Louisvile and as Price said, “This allows us an extra relief pitcher. Amir, I’m sure, isn’t happy about this, but he knows it, knows he’ll be back.
“We tried to prepare all of our young guys about this scenario before we left Goodyear,” Price added. “It is part of the process for this group of young pitchers. Amir has had six starts and he looks like a major league pitcher. If it had been two or three weeks ago we still wouldn’t know. You can’t anticipate a young pitcher coming up and pitching like he has for six starts and be your most consistent starter.
“That’s what put us in this situation because he looks like a guy who could be here all year and if that’s the case we would have to shut him down in September,” said Price. “We don’t want that. We want him starting in September. It’s the day-and-age we are in. We pay attention to how many innings these guys throw. I don’t know if it is right or wrong, but it is an industry-wide deal and we’re paying attention to it.”
AS THE REDS TOOK THE field Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, they had scored 27 runs on 33 hits in the first two games, a full-scale run explosion.
“You have runs like this where you have everyboduy in the lineup swinging the bats pretty well,” said Price. “We’ve had that for a couple of games. When we left spring training I really felt confident with this group. We have a nice lineup.”
But, still? Twenty-seven runs and 33 hits in two games?
“The great thing about baseball is that it is filled with a lot of anomalies,” said Price. “It is way more common to have those long periods when you are not scoring as opposed to scoring with this type of abundance. You just enjoy it while it is happening because nobody is this prolific where you are scoring runs in double digits with any regularity. Right now most of the guys in the lineup, including the bench players, are swinging the bat.
LOST IN THE BARRAGE of hits and runs the Reds scored Saturday in a 14-2 dismantling of the Giants was the fact that troubled pitcher Robert Stephenson came in and pitched three scoreless innings (he issued a walk with two outs in the ninth, but retired the other nine) and earned a save. It is true the Reds led, 12-2, when Stephenson entered and isn’t it easy to pitch with a 10-run lead?
Maybe so, but Price was ecstatic to see what Stephenson did.
“It was a three-inning save where he was sharp all the way,” said Price. “He walked the next to last hitter of the game, but beyond that he was pumping strikes with velocity and a really good slider and the split. He managed that situation really well.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Anybody smiling today after the Kentucky Derby? What was that horse’s name from Dubai that reared up out of the starting gate and didn’t finish (Thunder Snow)? Guess who had him?”
Obviously, San Franisco manager Bruce Bochy, who asked the question, had an investment on Thunder Snow.