John Fay says that Eric Milton “is becoming (a) PR nightmare for the Reds.” Further:

Matt Belisle has a 2.08 ERA; Bobby Livingston has a 1.23 ERA and one of them is going to start the year in Triple-A. Milton is 16-23 with 5.89 ERA in two years with the Reds and he’s getting a spot on track record.

This after Milton gave up five home runs in six innings…versus the Pirates. And not just the Pirates. It was the Pirates’ Class A players. The Lynchburg Pirates. Ugh.

Plenty of talk about Milton today. Jeff says Milton Must Go. Red Hot Mama has a photo and some comments on Milton’s performance yesterday.

Meanwhile, the local papers are all over the story, but there really isn’t a story here. Milton will get about a hundred starts before he’s removed from the rotation, regardless of performance. Anyway…

John Fay notes that Bobby Livingston completely outshined Milton yesterday:

The juxtaposition was made in sports-talk heaven.

While Bobby Livingston was dealing with the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium, Eric Milton was getting beat up by the Lynchburg Pirates on a back field.

Livingston threw five shutout innings, allowing one hit, in the Reds’ 5-0 win over Boston. He walked one and struck out four to lower his ERA to 1.23.

Milton went six innings, allowing 11 hits – five of which were home runs – and six runs.

Livingston is battling Matt Belisle and Kirk Saarloos for the fifth spot in the Reds’ rotation.

Milton has been penciled into the third spot since spring started.

Any way that changes?

“That’s what we’ve planned all along,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said.

Further, Fay pounds the PR drum:

When you factor in the way Livingston and Belisle have pitched, the Reds could have a public relations disaster on their hands.

Belisle is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Livingston, a waiver pickup from Seattle, has pitched as well or better.

One of them is likely to start the year at Triple-A Louisville.

“From my standpoint, I can’t do much more than I’ve done,” Livingston said. “All I can try to do is make the decision hard for them.”

Livingston, a 24-year-old left-hander, and Belisle, a 26-year-old right-hander, both have minor-league options, so the Reds can send them to Triple-A and then call them up if a starter like Milton falters.

Meanwhile, Josh Katzowitz in the Post and Kyle Nagel in the DDN focus on the fact that Livingston and Belisle have made the decision difficult, especially in terms of the fifth spot in the rotation.

Of course, everyone here is in danger of reading too much into spring stats. Livingston may well be the second coming of Greg Maddux, but I’d rather have more evidence than a spring training performance before I make that call.

Milton and Belisle are different cases, however. We’ve watched Milton for years, and he just ain’t very good anymore, if he ever was.

Belisle, on the other hand, is an interesting case. In my opinion, the choice for a fifth starter comes down to Belisle and Kirk Saarloos, and I’m just not sure how that’s going to play out. But Belisle has had some success in the major leagues, he’s still young, and I like his chances of succeeding as a fifth starter. I’d like to see him get the shot, with Saarloos beginning the season in the bullpen.

How do you think it’s all going to work out?