David Bell wasn’t planning on announcing the rotation until Thursday, but during his press conference on Wednesday he was asked about it and decided that it was as good a time as any and spilled the beans. Sonny Gray will start on opening day against the Detroit Tigers on July 24th at 6:10pm ET.
“To be an opening day starter, especially in this circumstance, I try to put myself in that moment. It’s going to be an important day, it’s going to be a fun game to play,” said Sonny Gray. “Baseball will be back and it will be back in some of the weirdest and craziest circumstances that it’s ever been a part of. I think 2020 is going to be a season that’s remembered forever. When you look back on this in 20 or 30 years everyone’s going to remember 2020, it’s going to be one of those places you’re just going to remember. I think to start opening day in a season like this, it’s going to be something that will be remembered for a long time. I’m very excited about it – it’s a challenge, I haven’t thought about the moment itself, it’s a challenge but it’s an exciting challenge. I know I’m ready for this challenge.”
A 2019 National League All-Star, Gray posted a 2.87 ERA in 31 starts and 175.1 innings pitched for the Cincinnati Reds last season. He allowed just 122 hits and he walked 68 batters with 205 strikeouts – a career high. Following his final start of the season, Gray had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow – but by the time spring training rolled around in February he was good to go.
“It was something I was hoping would happen,” said Gray. “I was preparing myself to pitch in that game because if the opportunity came, I wanted to be ready. I want to be ready mentally, I want to be ready physically – I just want to be ready. It was a challenge that I was hoping to have and something I’m excited to take part in. ”
Manager David Bell had options to go to as the opening day starter. He said he could have gone with anyone and it would have been a good option. The rotation will be as follows:
- Sonny Gray
- Luis Castillo
- Trevor Bauer
- Wade Miley
- Anthony DeSclafani
“There was a lot of strategy. We believe in all of our guys so much, we could have come up with any order and felt great about it,” David Bell said. “Some of it had to do with their readiness and that was kind of the number one factor. The second factor was to the best of our abilities was matching up with our opposition the best we can, at least through stretch of 17 games until the first off day – so doing the best we could with matching guys up. Beyond that it’s pretty easy given the guys we have – like I said we could name any of our guys the opening day starter and felt great about it.”
In a normal year, which 2020 most certainly isn’t, the opening day start tends to be handed to the best pitcher on the staff. For the Reds who that is may be up for debate. Both Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray were All-Stars last season and both had a big-half season, with Castllo dominating in the first half, while Gray was lights out in the second half.
“Luis Castillo was our opening day starter last year and you saw the kind of season he had. So you can imagine that conversation was all about hey this has nothing to do with your performance or our faith or confidence in your ability,” said Bell. “It was more about the other two factors. When I told Sonny Gray he was the opening day starter it was basically the same conversation, but there’s no denying the fact that Sonny’s stepped up and he’s a leader, he sets a great example, he also had a great season last year. Given that it worked out that way, we couldn’t have asked for a better option to set the tone for the season for our rotation.”
Things are going to be different, particularly early on in the season as pitchers aren’t going to be asked to go as deep into games as usual given the shorter “ramp up” time. Tyler Mahle, who was in the rotation last season for Cincinnati, is currently on the outside looking in. But there are plans for him to be utilized if he winds up not making the rotation.
“Tyler Mahle, we have him kind of going on a day 4 schedule just to build his innings up,” Bell said. “He’s kind of set up to piggy back or come in longer relief if needed towards the back end of the rotation if any of those guys need picked up the first or second time through the rotation.”
David Bell mentioned that they wanted to set things up to optimize that first 17-game stretch of the season before there’s an off day on August 10th. Assuming the rotation stays true to what was announced today, here’s how that would play out:
|Friday, July 24||Detroit Tigers||Gray|
|Saturday, July 25||Detroit Tigers||Castillo|
|Sunday, July 26||Detroit Tigers||Bauer|
|Monday, July 27||Chicago Cubs||Miley|
|Tuesday, July 28||Chicago Cubs||DeSclafani|
|Wednesday, July 29||Chicago Cubs||Gray|
|Thursday, July 30||Chicago Cubs||Castillo|
|Friday, July 31||at Detroit Tigers||Bauer|
|Saturday, August 1||at Detroit Tigers||Miley|
|Sunday, August 2||at Detroit Tigers||DeSclafani|
|Monday, August 3||Cleveland Indians||Gray|
|Tuesday, August 4||Cleveland Indians||Castillo|
|Wednesday, August 5||at Cleveland Indians||Bauer|
|Thursday, August 6||at Cleveland Indians||Miley|
|Friday, August 7||at Milwaukee Brewers||DeSclafani|
|Saturday, August 8||at Milwaukee Brewers||Gray|
|Sunday, August 9||at Milwaukee Brewers||Castillo|