The 2020 season is going to be weird. You know it. I know it. The players know it. And Cincinnati Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson knows it, too. Trevor Bauer noted in the offseason that he was hoping to pitch every four days at some point in the future and that he could possibly use that ask in the future in free agency, potentially using that as a reason to sign with a team. Well, maybe that’s something that we can see this season.
“I’ve got that as being 100% on the table. Especially in a shortened season, it’s something he really wants to do and thinks he’d thrive in that environment,” said Johnson. “I know there’s questions behind that – at the same time I think we’re in a position to do it. I trust Trevor, I trust what kind of work he puts in – invests in himself and I think if he feels like he can do it, I think he can. From what I see and the things he and I have talked about, I think it’s a really cool weapon we have that a lot of teams don’t have. So if we can use that to our advantage, I think we will.”
There’s still a whole lot of unknown between today and the start of the season, much less the end of the season. Being creative, finding new ways or different ways to go about things because of what’s been presented to everyone in 2020 could lead to an interesting set up.
“We’ve talked about the rotation, but I think the good part for us is we have some flexibility barring injury, in who could start, we have flexibility on who could do it on shorter rest and want to,” said Johnson. “If you look at it like that, you come up with 3-4-5 different ways you could slice this thing. You have a couple of guys who won’t be in the starting rotation who could piggy and serve as a long-inning type of guy.”
With the short ramp up period, starters are likely not going to be going out and being asked to throw 5-6-7 innings, especially at the start of the season. With the Reds depth, they may be able to go with a quick hook if a guy doesn’t have it on that day, too. That could really come into play with how the rotation plays out.
“You are making those adjustments really fast in game, so if your starter doesn’t have it that day you go with another guy, even if it’s in the 3rd inning,” said Johnson. “You never have to worry about his spot coming up in the lineup. To me there’s just an infinite number of ways you can chop this up and try to make it work.”
All of that stuff combined – Trevor Bauer wanting to pitch every four days, shorter expected starts, more options in the bullpen due to how the rosters work – it really could lead to an interesting usage situation for Bauer. You can envision a situation where he’s starting every four days with a plan to go 4-5 innings each time out depending on his pitch count/performance, and then turn the game over for 2-3 innings to a Tyler Mahle, Jose De Leon, Sal Romano, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett – someone who was a former starter who could give you some of those longer stretches every so often out of the bullpen before turning things over to a 1-inning guy at the very end.
We’re only two days into team workouts. There’s a whole lot to be decided. But the Cincinnati Reds are certainly talking an interesting game here. It’s been quite a while since a pitcher in Major League Baseball started every four days on a regular basis. 2020 may indeed conspire to make it something else weird come to fruition – this time on the baseball field.