With a revamped— and hopefully better- starting rotation for the 2019 season, who do you think will be the Opening Day starter for the Cincinnati Reds when they take on Pittsburgh on March 28?

Let’s face it. Opening Day is still huge in Cincinnati. It used to belong solely to Reds fans—it was the first game of the year. So to be named the starter pitcher was a big honor.

In Reds history, Mario Soto leads the way with six Opening Days starts. Jose Rijo started four in a row. But there were also starts made by Joey Hamilton, Jimmy Haynes, Cory Lidle, Scott Feldman, and Mike Remlinger.

Homer Bailey got the nod last season. He called it “cool” when he was selected but his aloofness, which Bailey was known for, showed. And, as most of you know, 2018 was a disastrous season for Bailey.

But there was one other Red Opening Day starter that suffered an ugly season comparable to Bailey’s in modern Reds history and that was Woodie Fryman.

Fryman was a moderately successful left-handed starting pitcher for the Montreal Expos in the 1976 season. He was named their Player of the Year after posting a 13-13 record, pitching 216.0 innings and a 3.13 ERA for a last-place team. The then-37-year-old southpaw had been in the majors for 10 years. In a disastrous trade, Reds General Manager Bob Howsam sent Tony Perez and relief pitcher Will McEnaney to the Expos for Fryman and reliever Dale Murray.

The trade paved the way for Dan Driessen to start at first base with Perez gone. Many felt Driessen had the potential to win a batting title. And while Driessen played well for the next several years, the Reds loss of Perez was devastating in terms of his clubhouse presence and leadership. Howsam later deemed the trade a big mistake.

And so it was that Woodie Fryman, the much traveled veteran, started Opening Day for the two-time defending World Champion Reds in 1977. But Fryman, who was a Kentucky native, and Manager Sparky Anderson, never got along. By the end of May, Fryman was banished to the bullpen.

And then in June, with a 5-5 record and an earned run average of 5.38, Fryman pulled a Carson Palmer-stunt decades before the Bengals quarterback quit on his team.

Fryman did the same thing and retired. He essentially quit the Reds. Howsam then traded for Tom Seaver, a true #1 pitcher if there ever was one, but with the defection of Don Gullett to the Yankees by free agency and the trades of Gary Nolan and Jack Billingham, Anderson was left mostly with a rotation of Seaver, Fred Norman, Paul Moskau and Doug Capilla.

But in 2019, new Manager David Bell has some options for his 2019 Opening Day starter. I selfishly hope that Luis Castillo gets the nod. He pitched very well in the second half of 2018. But what if Wood or Gray or Disco pitches lights out in spring training?

It’s a nice problem to have.

But please: not Scott Feldman.

49 Responses

  1. JERRY

    Just on pure stuff I say Luis Castillo. This is the year he makes a leap and becomes the ace of the Cincinnati Reds rotation.

    • Michael Smith

      I look ike Jerry’s idea or wood.

  2. Matt Hendley

    Gosh….the options are endless…..actually there are just 3. If Dallas is signed its obviously him, however, i could see arguements for gray, wood and castillo. I can see arguments against all 3 as well. Will be interesting spring training. Obviously someone will need to start.

  3. Steven Offenbaker

    Dick Williams was on Sportstalk with Lance and was saying that the Reds were going to try and eliminate some of the pressure on Castillo. I think one of the ways they do that is by slotting him onto the #2 or #3 spot in the rotation. Look for one of Sonny Gray or Alex Wood to get the opening day start

    • wkuchad

      Completely agree with this. I’m fine with Gray or Wood.

      • B-town Fan

        Yes I’d almost bet money that it’s either Gray or Wood. The Reds brought in the veterans for a reason.

    • VaRedsFan

      Heavens NO…Let’s not put any pressure, on who we all hope is the future ace of the Reds. Any pitcher with any medal would treasure the role and accept any and all pressures associated with being he #1 guy on the staff.
      Are still in a mindset of not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings if they fail? Come on folks…this is major league baseball

      • earmbrister

        It’s not about hurting anybody’s feelings if they fail. It’s putting your players in the best position to succeed. Castillo has all of 46 career starts over a year and a half. Wood has 129 GS. Gray has 146 GS. Castillo would be one helluva #3 starter with an anticipated increase in production. Let Castillo learn from the vets, and then be ready to take over in the next year or so. Experience matters.

        And the word is “mettle”. Sorry for “meddling” in your spelling/dictation. 😉

      • greenmtred

        Yes. My truck may be suffering from metal fatigue, and I’m suffering from mettle fatigue.

    • VaRedsFan

      Heavens NO…Let’s not put any pressure, on who we all hope is the future ace of the Reds. Any pitcher with any medal would treasure the role and accept any and all pressures associated with being he #1 guy on the staff.
      Are still in a mindset of not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings if they fail? Come on folks…this is major league baseball.

      • ToBeDetermined

        I guess, I’m tired. It took me to the 3rd sentence to realize that you just repeated yourself. I assume that was not for emphasis but rather by accident. 🙂

  4. Mike Adams

    Without spring training to see how these guys are doing, this is a “who do you want to see start”?
    I don’t have a personal preference.
    I want to see one of the starters that develop out of spring training make it obvious and indisputable that he is the man. I want him to not only show that to the Reds but to our opponent!
    I agree the most probable starter will come from Castillo, Wood or Gray but I would not mind at all if another says, “Wait a minute, what about me?” and wins the job. Whoever it is: pitch lights out and win that opener!

  5. Colorado Red

    As of today, I am saying Gray will start.
    But ST will change all of that.

  6. SteveLV

    My guess would be Wood as he is a solid veteran without additional pressure of performance or health issues.

  7. Bill J

    Steve, I agree with you, don’t put pressure on Castillo by making him the opening day starter. I think Gray then Wood then Castillo.

  8. CFD3000

    I’m not sure it matters much who starts Opening Day. It’s just a nice recognition with its own little note in the record books. I think the more interesting question is “Who will be the ace of the 2019 Reds staff?” And I’m not sure it matters so long as someone steps up to make the answer clear. It could easily be Wood or Castillo, and it would be great if either Sonny Gray or Anthony DeSclafani bounces back to have an “ace” year. For my money I’m hoping that Cody Reed or Tyler Mahle surprises us and blossoms into the new ace, for two reasons. That would be great production from a pitcher that we aren’t really looking to for another year, and it would mean the Reds have several more years of control of their ace. Both would be a huge boost to the Reds for 2019 and beyond. So I’ll say I hope Castillo or Disco gets the Opening Day start for sentiment / loyalty reasons, I expect Alex Wood to be the ace this year (and I hope he gets extended), and I’d love it if Cody Reed became the next Reds stopper.

    • Reaganspad

      I agree CFD that I want Alex Wood to be the opening day starter this year AND in 2020 as well. Our best chance with free agents is to sign our own, those who have a connection to Cincy. We cannot get Dallas to sign and there is a lesson there. Coco Cordero anyone?

      The dodger trade was huge not for 2019, but for the 2020 opportunity. I think Puig has a chance to blow up and hit 40 hrs and fall in love with our fans.

      But resigning Wood is job 1. The rebuild stalls without him. I would begin his free agent negotiations with an opening day start. I would want him signed by the All Star Break, announce his contract extension before he is named the starter in the ASG. I would spend whatever it takes to sign him before he hits the market. LH starters who win 25 games are very expensive on the open market.

      I would then begin negotiations with Puig.

      As for Mahle, I want him as #1 starter for the bats. He was rushed last year and knows what he needs to work on, a third pitch so they do not sit dead red. We need him ready to take a spot in 2020

      My overachiever is Stephenson. I really like his stuff and hope that DJ can straighten out his approach.

      I would then be

      • Reaganspad

        Begin negotiations with Puig on an extension between August and the end of the season

      • LWBlogger2

        In all fairness, Dallas hasn’t signed anywhere yet. Nobody has gotten him to sign. I’m guessing it has to do with nobody really wanting to give him 5 years and probably very few teams wanting to go 4.

  9. WVRedlegs

    Right now it seems like it will be Sonny Gray. They didn’t sign him to an extension to be the #3 pitcher. That makes Wood #2, Castillo #3, and Roark #4. That is OK. That is a pretty decent 4 to go with to start out. Who gets that #5 spot is a big question. Stephenson, Reed, Romano and possibly Lorenzen all have an opportunity to claim that spot.
    However it all shakes out in spring training, the Reds will probably have about the best #6 through #9 starters in the League. And that isn’t something to overlook either. It is something the Reds haven’t had in the last 3 or 4 seasons, depth with the starters. Injuries and lackluster performance always pop up.

    • CI3J

      I personally believe the #5 spot will come down to Reed and Mahle.

    • LWBlogger2

      What about DeSclafani? I’m not counting on him because he hasn’t been ready to go out of the gate come Opening Day the last couple seasons. That said, if the guy is has a healthy spring, I have to think he’s in the rotation.

  10. 315erRedsfan

    Didn’t Castillo start game #2 last year vs the Nationals?

  11. JB WV

    In prior years I would say it doesn’t make much difference. But this is a different year. This team needs to win early and often to gain confidence and put fannies in the seats. Last year it was over before May. Can’t happen again. Have to inspire the fan base. Gray should get it for reasons already stated.

  12. matthew hendley

    After reading the comments, I am eliminating Castillo as the Opening Day starter, the pressure is off of him, but he does have to produce. Could understand Gray from the “we already signed him” standpoint. Could understand Wood from the “we want to sign him” standpoint. What about this idea, what if we go out, and get a guy, who has already been DFA’ed so we can spend the minimum on him, and have him to randomly start opening day. This guy would have to have pitched opening days before. It would be nice for this guy to have had some credit as a good pitcher, either a playoff appearance or a couple no hitters. I wonder if there is such a guy.

    Seriously though, we should start work on extending Puig and Wood right now.

    • WVRedlegs

      Bartolo Colon?
      They could get Julio Franco to play CF, too.

      • LWBlogger2

        I’d pay money to watch Julio Franco shag flies during BP in CF.

    • CI3J

      What about this idea, what if we go out, and get a guy, who has already been DFA’ed so we can spend the minimum on him, and have him to randomly start opening day. This guy would have to have pitched opening days before.

      I…. Don’t understand the “logic” behind this at all. If someone is DFA’ed, that means they aren’t good enough for the starting 5 of another team. And you want this guy to be the Reds OPENING DAY starter?

      Umm… Ok.

      • Matt Hendley

        Its a joke guy, think about who it actually discribes for a minute.

      • CI3J

        Ah, yes, I too enjoy writing moderately long, detailed posts and then when people call me out, say “It was just joke, bro!”.

        Maybe it would help if there was something even mildly amusing about it?

      • matthew hendley

        seriously, if you read it and think of who it describes, it describes Homer Bailey. really don’t understand why it took so long for someone to pick up on it. Obviously I am not advocating that as an actual course of action.

      • CI3J

        Of course. I was referring to Homer in my post as well. But I’m failing to see where the “joke” part comes in, unless the “joke” is supposed to come from people realizing “Aha! He’s talking about Homer Bailey!” Otherwise, what’s amusing about suggesting the Reds sign and start him again?

        Either way, no real point in further discussing what you did or didn’t mean.

  13. Charlie Waffles

    Anthony “Disco” DeSclafani. He’ll do it the old fashioned way, he’ll earn it (in spring training). He was poised twice to make that start only to be toppled by an injury.
    Will this speak as to how far DeSclafani has returned to form, or how mediocre the 3 traded for pitchers do in spring training??

    • Reaganspad

      What will speak to Disco’s return is the long ball and how well he can get lefties out. Without improvements, he almost becomes a “roogie”

      I think he will but I am a masochist and have been watching 2018 while on the treadmill and the last one was a September start where he had given up 3 hits, 2 hrs to lefties and was losing 3-2 in the 4th

      Our 2019 starters have to be better than that. A return to form from Disco would go a long way to fixing this team

      • ToBeDetermined

        A “roogie” , I’ll have to remember that one:)
        – very good Reagan

  14. BK

    Wood looked the best last year, so I’m going with Wood–like others suggested, use it as a recruiting tool. I would expect them to go with one of the vets over Castillo, though I believe he is our highest potential pitcher.

  15. Steven Ross

    Who is going to pitch the first game of the playoffs? That’s all I care about.

  16. Gonzo Reds

    Looking at the Pirates projected lineup they have quite a few lefties. I’d like to see us throw Wood out there in the first game due to those match ups.

    Plus of the 4 starters we have locked in as starters in 2019 I think Wood is going to be the best one. I’m really hoping we can extend him early with a Grey like deal.

  17. Michael B. Green

    If CIN is able to slot Castillo at #4 or #5 in the rotation, he could win 20 games. The beauty of adding Gray, Roark and Wood is that they can match up (well) against other team’s stronger SP’s.

    The CIN rotation went from a weakness to full of potential to a strength without losing any of its young potential.

    It is too early to start pimping Krall and Williams as co-GM’s of the Year but they might want to start looking for zoot suits.

  18. ToBeDetermined

    Zoot suits. There are some real good red ones.
    Unfortunately, they can’t wear them on the west coast road trip.

    “In Los Angeles, it is illegal to wear a zoot suit. This law doesn’t make much sense today, but back in the 1930s and ’40s, good fabric was hard to come by because of the war effort. Zoot suits, because of their excessive fabric, were seen as unpatriotic.” apparently this law is still on the books.


    Wow! This thread suddenly took a left turn into the land of weird!

    I appreciate the stroll down memory lane…especially regarding one Paul Moskau, who on reflection, was a whole lot like Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, et al. He and the forgettable Doug Capilla are reminders that ‘prospects’ frequently do not pan out the way we might hope them to.

    It is important to keep this in mind as trades for actual proven commodities present themselves. I am not suggesting that we should ship a package of guys like Senzel, Trammel, Greene, etc. to either the Pads, Tribe or Marlins…but as front office guys, well you have to face the fact that sometimes you will make mistakes. Bob Howsam was a great guy (in my opinion), but clearly the Big Dog trade was a big mistake. So far, our new brain trust is off to a good start. Or are they? Time will tell.

    All I can say, is if we can land Realmuto, do it! What a formidable lineup we could field if he were added to what we currently have!
    At the risk of coming off like Doris Day, perhaps we could actually contend for a playoff spot!

    • ToBeDetermined

      interesting that you mention Howsam.
      According to Wikipedia:
      “Howsam reportedly had considerably more authority than most general managers of the time. The team’s owners during his tenure (first Dale, then Louis Nippert) largely left the team’s day-to-day operations in his hands, and he added the title of team president in 1973. He even represented the Reds at owners’ meetings.”

      • Oldtimer

        Howsam earned it. His Reds tenure from 1967-1978 is unmatched in team history. Best Reds GM ever.

  20. Oldtimer

    Sonny Gray (my guess).

    PS Woodie Fryman was NL All-Star in 1976 and pitched reasonably well after being traded by Reds. Just like Milt Pappas did after being traded by Reds in 1968.