Heading into Spring Training, everyone knew that one of the Cincinnati Reds‘ biggest questions for 2015 would be their starting rotation, where only three of five members were returning from 2014, and one of those was injured. One of the players who was supposed to step into the breach was Tony Cingrani, injured last year but immensely talented and, at just 25 year of age, having already logged three partial seasons as a Major League starter. On Monday, though, the Reds essentially locked in their Opening Day starting rotation with an unexciting set of veteran, “professional pitchers” when they demoted Cingrani to the bullpen, as per John Fay:
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This doesn’t seem to be a short-term move, either, as Reds manager Bryan Price gave Cingrani the “you’re more like a friend” vote of no confidence when addressing media members on Monday:
"We’re looking at Tony as more of a relief option than a starting option."
Price went on to say that Cincinnati plans to “stretch out” Raisel Iglesias to prepare him for a rotation spot, and then the skipper really laid his cards on the table regarding the Reds’ starting plans for April:
"The thing is, we’ve got veteran guys like Marquis and Maholm and we don’t want to use them one start. If they’re going to be on our team, the hope is they’re on our team for the entire season if not longer. That’s how we have to look at it. You can back-and-forth a young guy. He can start a game or two, go down the minor leagues or go into the bullpen and help as a long guy.Marquis and Maholm are looking more like long-term, start-to-finish options for us."
So, with Homer Bailey unlikely to make it back to the mound before Opening Day, the Reds’ rotation is shaping up to be:
- Johnny Cueto
- Mike Leake
- Jason Marquis
- Paul Maholm
- Raisel Iglesias
Considering that Iglesias has never thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues and that Marquis and Maholm were claimed off the pitching scrapheap late this winter, that lineup of arms is fairly uninspiring and paints the Reds as a mud-bound organization not willing to try something radical, like fast-tracking prospect Robert Stephenson to the Majors.
To Price’s credit, he at least alludes to the fact that the Reds are trying to maintain control over their young players for as long as possible when he speaks of minor league options and one-game rotation trials. Maybe he’s on board with that strategy, or maybe his comments are a jab at general manager Walt Jocketty for sending mixed signals.
The story all winter has been that the Reds are preparing to compete at the highest levels in 2015, that all they need are healthy returns by Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and, yes, Tony Cingrani. But can Cincinnati, or any club, nab a playoff berth with two aging, recently injured pitchers in the middle of their rotation?
We’re about to find out on the Riverfront.