The Reds have never been a franchise known for it’s starting pitching. The only Hall of Fame hurler to sport the wishbone C on their Cooperstown plaque is the late Eppa Rixey, who last threw a pitch in anger before the invention of Social Security. Maybe it’s bad luck, the stresses of managing a tight budget for a mid market team or the hitters parks the team has inhabited, but the Cincinnati Reds enter 2018 once again scrabbling to assemble a major league rotation.
Central to that effort will be two home grown arms that are no strangers to the disabled list, Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani. Together their struggles to stay healthy bookend the struggles of the Reds franchise over the last decade to cultivate that most valuable of major league assets, home grown starting pitching.
Homer Bailey hasn’t been named the Opening Day starter by a cagey Bryan Price, but you can probably pencil the big Texan in to take the ball on March 29th based on the spring training schedule. Amazingly this will be the first Opening Day start in Homer’s 10 year career as a Red, having opened the last three years on the disabled list getting his right elbow glued back together. After throwing 91 serviceable innings at the tail end of last season, Homer Bailey has shown that he can take the ball every 5 games. That’s a big step down from the guy with the two no hitters bobblehead, but it’s a huge step up for a guy whose elbow is held together with hope and faith.
Don’t underestimate the value a veteran innings muncher can have for this rotation. The 160 frames that the Reds’ best pitcher from 2017, new daddy Luis Castillo, are the most he’s ever thrown. Homer is the only starter on the 40 man roster to ever reach the 200 inning mark at any level. It’s a different role for the one time ace in waiting, but if the Reds have any chance to surprise this season they need Homer Bailey healthy more than they need him to be what he was in 2012.
Anthony DeSclafani definitely won’t be the Opening Day starter. After finishing 2016 looking like the next big thing on the mound at Great American Ballpark, Tony Disco missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with his own elbow ouchies. Going into Spring Training this year, hopes were high that the former Marlin (Tony was swiped from Miami in 2014 for an amazingly lifelike wax duplicate of Mat Latos.) But once again the not so young righty is on the shelf with a strained oblique. The Reds don’t expect him back until June.
Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA wasn’t exactly optimistic about DeSclafani’s 2018, projecting a pedestrian 90 innings with an ERA north of 5.00. Suffice to say that isn’t going to get it done, and now we have to wait until summer to see if Tony Disco can beat that projection and recapture the magic he flashed in his rookie debut.
Say a prayer for lefty too…
Reds fans are unfortunately used to this song. For every Johnny Cueto who rockets through, there are a dozen Jack Armstrongs, Chris Reitsma’s or Scott Scudder’s there to help us remember that we can’t have nice things. In an era of power pitching facing off against power hitting, the eternal arms race is more important than ever. Growing your own is always cheaper than buying off the shelf, something the penny pinching Reds need to figure out if they want another shot at postseason success.
“From our Haus to Yours”