If you can’t get fired up, I mean way up, for Nick Senzel and Joey Votto batting back-to-back …

Today, the Reds roster will be split between a home game against Cleveland and an away game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

Our attention will rightly be focused on the pitching mound. Homer Bailey faces the defending AL Central champions at Goodyear Ballpark, while about 10 miles to the northeast, Luis Castillo debuts in Glendale. The respective starters first appeared for the Reds in 2017 on back-to-back nights in June.

It goes without saying, much of the Reds success this year and next depends on those two pitchers. There’s a good chance one will be the Opening Day starter.

Homer Bailey (31), after missing essentially the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons with arm surgeries, made his first appearance for the Reds last year on June 24. He started 18 games (91 innings) for the Reds and an additional 3 games (16.2 innings) in the minors. In 9 of his 18 starts, he gave up 2 or fewer runs. Bailey saved his best for last, shutting out the Brewers over seven innings on Sept. 27. As Chad wrote in the recap:

Homer Bailey delivered his best outing of the season in his final outing of 2017: seven shutout innings, four hits allowed against a club that was technically still in the playoff hunt as the night began. It’s the first time Homer has gone seven innings since 2014.

Joel Luckhapt tweeted:

If Bailey’s done, he’ll have a 3.68 ERA over his last 7 starts with 25 K, 12 BB, & 2 HR. A positive end to his year.

After a major league career that began in 2007 and full of breathtaking highs (two no-hitters, Game Three, a glittering 2013 season) and heartbreaking lows, Homer Bailey takes the mound today as a healthy 31-year-old, hoping to set recent frustrations aside. Bailey is signed through 2019 and the Reds have an option year in 2020. He could provide valuable veteran pitching.

Luis Castillo made his professional debut the night before Bailey’s start last year, on June 23. The Reds acquired Castillo (25) from the Marlins last offseason for Dan Straily. He first made 14 appearances (80.1 innings) for AA-Pensacola before his inaugural professional start, a promotion which signaled a turning point in the Reds rebuilding, a night the Reds rotation turned from futile to future. Castillo followed with 15 consecutive starts for the Reds (89.1 innings) before being shut down to limit his innings. In Castillo’s final start, he pitched 8 against Milwaukee, giving up four hits, no walks and recording 10 strikeouts. From the game recap that day:

Castillo threw 111 pitches over eight innings. His fastball stayed between 97-99 mph throughout and hit 99 in the 8th. Castillo struck out 10 – a career high – and walked none. That’s zero, nada, zilch, zip, nothing, goose egg. For your consideration:

Luis Castillo (24): 3.12 ERA, 3.40 xFIP

Dan Straily (28): 3.91 ERA, 4.70 xFIP

Again, Castillo hit 99 in the 8th.

Among starting pitchers with at least 80 innings in 2017, Luis Castillo finished with the second highest fastball velocity (97.5 mph). He had the 14th best swinging-strike rate. In the vital metric of K%-BB%, Castillo ranked 24 out of 153 starters.

Luis Castillo has been showered with positive scouting reports. For example, Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs dubbed him an ace. Baseball America notes [paywall]Castillo is “widely viewed as the most promising among 2017 rookies.” A few days ago C. Trent Rosecrans wrote an interesting article about Castillo’s development of a two-seam fastball [paywall], “what would become one of the big-league’s best pitches.”

Both games start at 3:05 ET. The home game will be televised on FSO and broadcast on WLW radio. Both games are available on MLB.tv streaming.

REDS lineup in Goodyear vs. Cleveland:

  1. Billy Hamilton CF
  2. Nick Senzel 3B (Dixon)
  3. Joey Votto 1B (Cruz)
  4. Scooter Gennett 2B (R. Herrera)
  5. Devin Mesoraco DH
  6. Tucker Barnhart C (Hudson)
  7. Jose Peraza SS (Blandino)
  8. Phillip Ervin LF
  9. Darnell Sweeney RF

Yes, that’s Nick Senzel (22) starting and batting second ahead of Joey Votto. Be still my heart. In case you missed this FanGrpahs article about Senzel and players moving *up* defensively to play shortstop, it’s well worth the read. 24-year-old Paul DeJong had a terrific season for the Cardinals after moving to SS (wRC+ of 122 and positive defensive metrics). That’s Senzel’s template.

The Reds acquired Darnell Sweeney (27) from the Dodgers last May for “future considerations.” In 81 games, Sweeney hit .281/.355/.420 for Louisville. He stole 18 bases but was thrown out 14 times.

REDS lineup in Glendale vs. Chicago White Sox:

  1. Jesse Winker DH (D Herrera)
  2. Phil Gosselin 2B (Long)
  3. Eugenio Suarez 3B (Kivlehan)
  4. Adam Duvall LF
  5. Scott Schebler RF (Aquino)
  6. Cliff Pennington SS
  7. Sebastian Elizalde 1B
  8. Stuart Turner C (Tromp)
  9. Mason Williams CF

Jesse Winker leads off. /waves small Reds pennant/

The starting CF is Mason Williams, who the Reds signed in November to a minor league contract. Williams (26) played in the Yankee organization, hitting .263/.309/.318 in AAA last year.

I’ll be surprised if Patrick Kivlehan (28) doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. He started at 1B yesterday and is scheduled to play 3B today. He also can play OF, including CF in a pinch. Kivlehan hit 9 homers in 204 plate appearances last year.

From yesterday: Michael Lorenzen campaigning commenting on his 2-inning start: “It felt great. A lot of weak contact, tons of ground balls, ground-ball outs and strikeouts. That’s what I’m looking for, especially at Great American Ball Park. I threw everything that I have to offer. Everything felt crisp, good.” Full video here.