Vacancies loomed in both the rotation and bullpen heading into Reds Spring Training. As I previously wrote, it seemed Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson were the best bets for the final rotation spot. Those two, along with most of the Reds expected starters have been inconsistent this Spring. Not surprising, as players are tinkering with pitches and just trying to get back into the groove. The one rotation spot battle has become very interesting, however, as an unexpected contender emerged.
Amir Garrett’s Resurgence
Before spring training, Amir Garrett was not considered a candidate for a rotation spot. Outside the first month of his MLB debut last season, Garrett struggled for the rest of the season in both the MLB and Triple A. Rumors surfaced over the offseason that Garrett tried playing through injuries through most of last season. Garrett may just be making the case that he deserves a rotation spot after all.
Amir’s first two appearances of the spring were just downright filthy. His stat line was five innings pitched, ten strikeouts, zero hits, zero walks and zero runs. Scouts have graded Amir’s fastball as an above average pitch, it was just whether his off speed stuff would come around. His slider and changeup were very effective in his first two outings.
Amir’s latest outing was on Wednesday 3/7. He did not look as effective, as he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in two innings. The game ended with a score of Reds 12 and the White Sox 14, with four of the five Reds pitchers giving up at least a run. It is too easy to entirely write off a bad appearance in spring training, but if Amir comes back out guns blazing in his next appearance, Amir may be doing more than enough to secure a MLB rotation spot.
Brandon Finnegan Questions
Brandon Finnegan’s first start of the 2017 season, included seven innings of one hit, one walk, nine strikeout baseball. Reds fans were salivating at the prospect of Finnegan taking the next step and becoming a #2/3 starting pitcher. Alas, the baseball gods laughed at the Reds optimism as Finnegan was shut down for two months with a shoulder injury just two starts later. Finnegan tried to come back in June, but was shut down for the rest of the season after leaving in the fourth inning of that game.
Reds fandom continued to be uneasy as Finnegan was expected to be ready by spring training, yet did not pitch in a spring training game until March 2 (eight games into the spring). Finnegan did look solid in his first appearance, pitching two innings and giving up one hit (a home run) and a walk to go with his one strikeout.
Finnegan will be one to watch this spring, he had a spot in the rotation before spring training started. The emergence of Amir Garrett this spring may mean that Finnegan is duking it out with the slew of starters waiting in the wings for the next spot. Personally, I believe Finnegan would fit better in the bullpen, as his sinker-fastball-changeup combo would do wonders there. All that being said, if Finnegan continues to look decent this spring, the rotation spot should be his.
Veteran Relievers = Hit or Miss
Kevin Quackenbush has been the most effective of the Reds cheap minor league deal. Quackenbush has not given up a run and has six strikeouts in four innings. The problem of looking at relievers in the spring is sample size. Starters go multiple innings each appearance, relievers typically do not.
David Hernandez is right behind Quackenbush, giving up one run in three innings pitched this spring. The lone run was a homerun, which explains why Hernandez’s WHIP is still below one. The other veteran reliever, Jared Hughes, has only given up one run in four innings pitched. Both of them are essentially guaranteed bullpen spots as they both signed two years deals this offseason.
Now for the bad. Oliver Perez was signed to a minor league deal with an opt out if he doesn’t make the MLB roster. He probably will not, with five earned runs in three innings pitched and a WHIP above two. Vance Worley was a longshot bet to make the rotation but could have served as the long reliever/6th man. He has disappointed immensely. Four and one third innings giving up 12 hits and seven earned runs is not going to cut it. Things are not looking good for either Worley or Perez, unlike some of the other veterans.
Hughes, Hernandez, Peralta, Iglesias and Lorenzen are essentially guaranteed bullpen spots. That leaves two or three spots for the likes of Quackenbush, along with the plethora of talent knocking on the door from the minors. Guys like Jimmy Herget, Austin Brice, and Zack Weiss may start in Triple A, but have the talent to contribute in the near future.
Featured image is courtesy of mlb.com
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