Tejay Antone took the mound for the first time in the spring on Wednesday night. If it was a preview of what was to come then it’s going to be a fantastic year for the second-year pitcher. Antone struck out five batters in 2.0 shutout innings as he came out throwing 98-99 MPH and dropping breaking balls in on hitters left-and-right and leaving them looking absolutely befuddled.

The Cincinnati Reds tweeted out some video of his outing, and why don’t you just prop your feet up, sit back, and click the play button and enjoy.

Until last season Tejay Antone had always been a starting pitcher. Throughout his time in the minors he made over 100 starts, and his only two relief appearances were in special circumstances – one was in relief of a rehabbing player and the other was right before the All-Star break that just kept him from not pitching for a long period of time because of where his spot in the rotation fell. That’s it. The guy has always started.

In 2020 the Reds didn’t really have much of a choice but to get Tejay Antone on the roster as a reliever – with a full rotation, but Antone bursting onto the scene in spring training throwing in the upper 90’s out of nowhere with a plus slider, they found a way to get him on the mound and that was by placing hm in the bullpen. Before the year was over he had a chance to make a few starts, but spent most of the year making the National and American League Central Division hitters look silly as a reliever. In his 35.1 innings thrown he posted a 2.80 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP with 45 strikeouts.

Cincinnati appears to have two spots open in the rotation behind Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle. Tejay Antone is in the running for one of those spots, though manager David Bell recently stated that his gut tells him that Antone will wind up in the bullpen. The Reds manager was impressed with what he saw on the night.

“He looks very locked in,” said Bell of Antone. “It could have been the best fastball I’ve seen, that’s saying a lot – it was so good last year – but his fastball looked really good. He was throwing it right where he wanted it, upper 90’s, it just looked locked in. That’s what we’ve kind of grown accustomed to with Tejay, being very focused and determined. Even though it’s early in the spring it doesn’t surprise me that that’s how he’s approaching it.”

Tyler Stephenson was behind the plate early in the game and got a chance to catch Tejay Antone for the first time since they were both in Double-A together in the first half of the 2019 season.

“His stuff is that good,” said Stephenson. “I mean there’s no other way to put it. His stuff is plus-plus.”

The guy that Stephenson saw on Wednesday night was a lot different than the guy he was catching in Double-A two seasons ago.

“Seriously, he was a sinker ball pitcher, 90 MPH, good command,” said Stephenson. “Tonight he was 97-99 consistently, electric fastball, sliders about as good as it’s ever been.”

The approach in spring training, the stuff he’s showing – Tejay Antone is out there to get it. What is he trying to get? A spot in the rotation.

“Yeah, I want to start,” Antone said. “But wherever this team needs me, I’ll be.”

While tonight did see Tejay Antone come out of the bullpen, it’s important to note that he did throw two innings. It’s also important to note that he’s scheduled to start for the Reds on Monday against the Colorado Rockies.

With two spots seemingly open in the rotation it seems that Tejay Antone fits in better than just about anyone. Only Wade Miley has a better big league resume as a starting pitcher, and Miley’s a guy that is coming back from an injury-plagued season and the team is still speaking about trying to find ways to keep him healthy. Michael Lorenzen made fewer starts for the Reds last year than Antone did, and he’s only made five total starts since 2016 began. Jeff Hoffman, who actually did start the game for the Reds on Wednesday night, has a career ERA of 6.40 in the Major Leagues across five seasons. José De León is in a similar boat as Antone – a guy who has long been a starting pitcher in the minors, saw his stuff take a step forward last year and perhaps this offseason, and is looking for an opportunity to start – but unlike Antone, he doesn’t have a big league season of success like Antone did in 2020.

While Tejay Antone certainly threw hard last year in the big leagues – he averaged 96 MPH and topped out at 99 – he spent the offseason working on his stuff, including his fastball to try and improve the spin efficiency on the pitch to allow it to play even better.

“My fastball last season wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be in terms of just the way it was spinning,” said Antone. “I had pretty poor spin efficiency last year. I was getting away with it because I was throwing a little harder, but I was getting hit pretty good in the zone and I wanted to improve, just kind of the spin metrics in terms of spin efficiency, not really increasing spin or anything but just spinning it more true. I was just like cutting it off, just getting around the fastball a lot last year. So this year, that was my whole focus this offseason, staying through the ball and allowing the spin to work for me and kind of ride through the zone a little better.”

As was written two weeks ago about the improvements that Tejay Antone had been working on, he already had one of the best sliders and best curveballs in baseball during the 2020 season. And he believes he has improved both his fastball and his curveball in the offseason.

The breaking ball and fastball combination for Tejay Antone can be a serious weapon. David Bell spoke about the fastball he showed, the command of it, and how it works with the secondary stuff.

“Yeah, if there’s another level, a next level for Tejay it’s just being able to command his fastball,” said Bell. “He did do that last year, but I think there’s probably some room for improvement there. Tonight we saw him do that very effectively. I think the velo is there, but when he’s commanding it like that it makes it tough because he’s got an excellent breaking ball and you pair those up and it’s a tough at-bat.”

If Tejay Antone wants to start, the Cincinnati Reds need to let him start. Don’t carve his name in stone in the rotation just yet, but give him every single opportunity to show something as a starter this spring. He has the starting pitchers background. He’s got four pitches. And from a pure stuff standpoint, he’s right there with just about anyone on the pitching staff – and that’s saying a lot when it’s got Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo on the same pitching staff.

48 Responses

  1. doofus

    All pitches…up, down, inside, outside. Lefthanded, righthanded batters.

  2. Mark

    Pitching is not the problem with this team the question remains can we hit? I like Heineman he gets a spot I think.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree Mark. Don’t know much about Heineman, but he looks good – plays w/ a lot of heart and shows a really good approach at the plate. Not sure about his D though – should have / could have thrown home last night on the tag play?

      • Tomn

        I think Payton should be on the roster. He can hit and play D. I’d look to trade Aquino and other prospects for a good reliever. It pains me a bit cause I like Aquino but just don’t see him contributing on a regular basis.

      • Redsvol

        I think Heinemann is nice to have as a fall back but doesn’t he have options? I agree on Payton – that dude can play and needs to be on the roster as a 5th outfielder. He gives a quality at bat even if he doesn’t have ability to hit 20 HR’s. If Senzel doesn’t start to dominate like he should then he may have to marinate in the minors a bit more. He either needs to seize the opportunity or we need to realize he can’t hit major league pitching.

    • Rob

      Totally agree Mark! He looks good thus far. Not sure why he didn’t make the throw home last night, but nice looking player.

  3. AllTheHype

    Impressive story. This is in large part due to the genius of Dick Williams, investing in technology and recruiting and obtaining in THE BEST technology driven instruction in the pitching department. Sure Antone would have achieved some level of success without all that. But I have to believe a large part of his success, and he states it himself, is due to the Reds investment in tech driven analysis and instruction.
    Just one player’s drastic improvement can make that investment a success. And of course it is more than just one player that is benefitting from this investment.

    • SultanofSwaff

      No doubt, the investment has already paid for itself. Unlocking the potential of just one or two guys per year would add depth and preserve dollars to invest in areas of need…..all for the cost of a replacement level player.

    • Stock

      i think that is part of it. But if that were the sole reason why wouldn’t there be more Antone’s across baseball. What separates Antone is his work ethic. He has to be driven to have this much improvement in 2 years. You see this on occasion. Josh James and Framber Valdez with Houston stick out to me.

  4. DataDumpster

    Absolutely. He was the unexpected jewel of last year and there is no reason to believe his success will not continue. I can’t believe that David Bell is seemingly against him starting. If Mickey Biceps is upset because he can’t start, pinch run, pinch hit and play outfield, so be it. With Antone, there could be another top notch starting rotation while Lorenzen could cover DL events.
    I also have more respect for a player who says I would like to do this (and has done it consistently) but will fit in with whatever role is given than someone whose unequivocal goal is to be a starting pitcher and be in the lineup 60% of the games. Find another team that will put up with that…It’s time for Bell to find some backbone and put Lorenzen on the yoga regimen like he did with the minor leaguers in San Francisco.

  5. CFD3000

    Every bit of this is really encouraging, except Bell’s take. The best pitchers should pitch the most innings. We’ve seen nothing to think that Antone isn’t one of the five best Reds pitchers, and unless he struggles, he absolutely should start. So far – in 2020 and two innings last night – he has done the opposite of struggle. Let Miley, Lorenzen, DeLeon and a few others compete for the 5th starter’s spot. Antone to the rotation please!

    • SultanofSwaff

      Yeah, no doubt Antone is one of the 5 best starting pitchers. That said, is it what’s best for the team? I’m thinking of a scenario where he can cover 5 high leverage innings over multiple games rather than 6 innings in one game. For lack of a better term let’s call it the Brewer’s model in the way they use Williams and Hader……basically you try and lock down every game you have a lead after 5 innings. So in that sense maybe Lorenzen and Miley starting would paradoxically lead to more wins. I dunno, just spitballing this AM.

      • JB

        I agree with you. Antone should be a starter but can Antone,Lorenzen,Deleon,Miley keep their pitch counts down to stay in the game longer than 5 innings. I’ve always believed in the theory let’s win this game before we worry about tomorrow. I would use Antone as a starter and have a good solid 4 starters. I think Antone has a bulldog mentality and would push through that 5 inning barrier.

      • Stock

        Hader (FB, Slider) and Williams (FB Changup) are two pitch pitchers. These pitchers tend to move to the bullpen. I don’t think the Reds considered moving Bauer to the bullpen to shut things down late in games.

  6. MuddyCleats

    Like Antone’s comment on “staying thru the baseball” it was obvious he was doing that last night. He was really attacking the hitter and making pitcher’s pitches on every pitch. Hoffman, on the other hand, was not. He seemed to be flying open a bit which made his arm late. Every pitch was up, and he showed little command of any pitch? It’s early, but I expect more from a vet even at this stage

    • JB

      I agree on Hoffman. Yeah it was only his first start but he needed 40 pitches in 2 innings and one inning I believe was rolled over. I’ve watched to many Reds pitchers in the past few years throw that many pitches and be out of the game by the 4th inning. Hoffman needs to attack the zone and if he nitpicks at the corners he needs to go to bullpen. Whst I liked about Antone is he threw strikes and attacked the hitter. Give me more of that.

  7. Roger Garrett

    I watched him pitch to his last 2 batters and they didn’t have a chance.Yes its 1st outing but his stuff plays big time.I can’t imagine anybody thinking he is a bullpen piece but well we are the Reds and we did it with Chatman,Iggy and others.Just dumb on Bell’s part to even mention he will be in the pen.Just tells me they have already decided on him just like they have on so many other players without giving them a chance.He should be given every chance to start.

  8. Scott C

    If he comes out of spring training as one of our top 5 options then he should get the opportunity to start at the start of the season. I don’t care if Miley has a better, longer resume. We need to pitch our best 5 pitchers. Runs will be hard to come by, so put your best run preventers out there. The Reds cannot afford to continue the Dusty mentality of the veterans have earned the right to start. You only earn the right by pitching or playing well.

  9. Stock

    Last year the Reds SP had an ERA of 3.50. I stated last week that in spite of losing Bauer the Reds SP ERA would be better this year. Here is exhibit A on why I said that.

    Last year 8 pitchers other than Antone had at least two offspeed pitches that Fangraphs rated as 3.9 or above. These 8 pitchers (Bieber, Darvish, Maeda, Plesac, Burnes, Ryu, Keuchel and Greinke)combined for an ERA of 2.42. Antone’s FB last year was rated neutral and received a rating of 0. This year it should be better. However if you eliminate the 4 pitchers from above with a below average fastball you have only Bieber, Darvish, Maeda and Burnes left and they had an accumulated ERA of 2.09 last year.

  10. SteveLV

    Impressive. If he looks anything like that on a regular basis it’s hard to keep him out of the rotation.

    I’d also like to see Lorenzen start, partially because I’d like to see his bat in the lineup. I don’t know, though, how valuable that really is. Anyone have a take on how much difference 50 or so at bats from Lorenzen, while he’s the starting pitcher, would make?

  11. Hotto4Votto

    I think Antone and DeLeon have the most upside as starters of the group competing for the last two spots. Antone looked real good last night, completely in command.

    • JayTheRed

      With you too. I honestly feel like Lorenzen is good in the bullpen and if someone gets hurt then stretch him out to be in line next. Similar to what they did last year.

  12. GP

    Sheesh…that pitch to Chris Taylor was GROSS…

  13. Redsvol

    Mark it down, Antone will be our best pitcher this year. Not because the others aren’t good but because he is outworking everyone in the craft of pitching in the major leagues. Great problem to have. Hopefully the young pitchers are watching what Antone does when he’s not on the mound. It would be genius to go ahead and lock him up to a contract that buys out his 1st years of arbitration.

    Now it comes down to Mahle, Lorenzen and Miley for the last 2 spots. I’m hoping Lorenzen and Miley for last 2 spots. Mahle will get plenty of work due to pitching injuries & fatigue. Great to see some home-grown pitching starting to develop.

    • Stock

      I really like your idea of locking Antone up the next 5 years plus two team options would be nice at the end of the contract.

      Mahle has already locked up one of the 3 SP positions. Very worthy considering his performance last year after adding the cutter.

    • JayTheRed

      I feel like the rotation is going to be this. Especially if Antone continues to dominate.


      They are paying Miley too much for him not to be at least given a shot in the rotation. There has not been much info about Miley out of camp yet and I don’t think he has even pitched in games yet. If Miley is still having injury issues then I think Lorenzen has a chance to make the rotation.

      Can you imagine our rotation next year. Oh man.

      Yikes if those guys all turn out to be what they are supposed to be that is a sick rotation.

  14. RedsFan11

    Gray will be #1
    Castillo will mature and become solid #2 maybe take the next step
    Im very bullish on Mahle this year, he will be #3
    Antone #4 with much much upside
    Chalk up an L every #5th day

    • JayTheRed

      I think our pitching will be fine both rotation and in the bullpen. The hitting is what we have to see what’s going to happen this season. If the hitting can’t score other than on a homerun, it’s going to be a long season.

  15. JoshG

    I said it before and I’ll stand by it Antone and/or Lorenzen will have similar if not better ( park adjusted ) numbers than Bauer this year.

    • Stock

      That is even bolder than my prediction of the Reds SP ERA will be better than last year. By numbers do you mean Antone will have an ERA lower than Bauer’s 1.73 from last year or a lower FIP (2.88) than what Bauer had in 2020?

      • Stock

        I am not sure the change in ball will have an impact on runs. In a simplistic model if 50% of your runs come from HR and the new ball reduces HR by 5% that means a 2.5% decrease in Runs. A 3.00 ERA now becomes a 2.925 ERA.

        But this assumes all non-HR become outs. a double off the wall will probably still bring someone home if on base.

        Players/teams will adjust. Maybe players will start using the whole field because now they no longer are HR hitters. The hit against Richardson on Tuesday was a bunt vs. the shift. Will we see more of this by specific players which thereby eliminates the shift and builds their BA and hence creates runs?

        Will teams run more?

        So many unknowns. I think runs will be down 1% – 2%. but that just means a 3.00 ERA becomes a 2.95 ERA. Not enough to make Josh’s prediction any less bold. I kind of love that Josh made this prediction. Very bold.

      • greenmtred

        Good points, Stock, and I hope that you’re right. If it does work out that way, the game will be more varied and entertaining.

  16. Kevin Patrick

    The increased workload of available innings from last year to this year will necessitate that a lot of these Reds pitchers will see multiple inning stretches. Dwelling on who makes the rotation will probably only have psychological consequences. As the season unfolds, the Reds will certainly know who is more or less effective. DeLeon, Antone, Lorenzen et al…. are all going to pitch more than several innings. Not only will the Reds need all of their starting pitcher candidates to reliably give them 3-5 innings for awhile, they’ll need another pitcher or two to step up and do the same. I just don’t see the Reds gambling by overtaxing anyone’s endurance. I still think the Reds are a reliable starter short…in order to make it through 162 under those constraints. For instance, lets imagine something similar is done as was last year, where you see a starter being given multiple innings AFTER another starter has gone 3, 4, or 5. If that is the plan, then you do probably put in Lorenzen at the start of a game for the bat. Is Lorenzen better than some of the other guys? Maybe…Maybe not…Regardless, what is going to be hard to watch this year, is an awesome pitcher coming out of the game early only to see his replacement tank…I hope those instances are few…and I hope that the array of pinch hitters that you’ll see in the 3rd and 4th innings are effective…and that is why you see the Reds watching a guy like Cespedes work out. Without a DH, I think we’ll see a ton of pinch hitters this year who don’t stay in for defense…and I think we’ll also be spending a lot of keystrokes arguing about who should have been the pinch hitter and when.

    • MBS

      Mahle, Lorenzen, Antone, Miley, De Leon, and Hoffman will probably be 4 – 5 inning guys this year, lots of piggy backing, mix and matching. I think that Castillo and Gray might be in the range of 5 – 6 innings. We can only speculate now, but it will be interesting to see how they try to reduce stress on the arms.

      • Kevin Patrick

        …who knows…maybe even Finnegan! …but if they have to count on a guy like say Romano too much…put me in the sweepstakes for Odorizzi.

      • MBS

        I forgot about Finnegan, he could definitely be in the mix. His velocity was good the other night.

  17. Stock

    Earlier in the week all the discussion was on Brandon Finnegan and I mentioned that one should not overlook the HR by ARod. Sure enough Doug did not miss it and shortly after that had something up on RML.

    Today all the attention is on Antone, and rightly so. However, Cionel Perez followed Antone with his second quality inning of the spring. Personally I would like to see him groomed as a SP and bring him up in 2022 after trading Castillo and/or Gray. The Reds need to start thinking like the Rays.

    I have no problem with a 2023 rotation of: Antone, Perez, Lodolo, Greene and a fifth pitcher if Gray, Castillo, Miley and Mahle can be traded for a boatload of quality prospects.

  18. jr53

    Pitches in the zone broke hard out of the zone . Out of the zone broke into the zone. High fastball blew right past. Painted the low outside corner. If that continues, its Cy Young candidate stuff. Looks like last year was no fluke.

  19. CallowayPost

    I understand the team knows more about baseball than I could ever forget, but what I’m reading in this article is the about the same thing I feel like I read in every Reds article…

    Lavish praise of stuff, lavish praise of velo and movement, and a true minors career of starting…even the rookie catcher whom has dealt with him before…just blown away by him as a pitcher…

    Enter David Bell, and the long line of Reds FO and managers, talking about how they’re already eyeing him in the bullpen.

    So my BIGGEST annoyance with this team over the past 10+ years, is stepping on the toes of the passion of their players and pidgeon-holing them and their careers.

    Maybe…this FO needs to focus on uplifting the passions and goals of its players, and get out of the way.

    MLB should ONLY be the arbiter of the interests of the game, and the players ARE the game, and the fans are the direct connection to our national identity.

    Just like politicians…just because they’re in charge, it doesn’t mean they are infallible. Let the players take charge of their own game, especially if FO’s insist on inserting themselves, and manipulating careers, and eventually the finances, of these young guys.

    If baseball is willing to not pay 95% of players over 30 based on their talents and abilities to save a buck, then the players need to say enough.

    Manage, pay the bills, and handle transportation logistics…and leave the game to the players and what best sets them up for personal success. Maybe contracts will actually be a boost to players morale, rather than instill fear of living up to the numbers.

    In any team setting, sports/business/military/etc…show me an empowered employee, and I’ll show you how leaders are born.

    • DataDumpster

      Powerful post, one of the best and very well said. Ignite their passions, get out of the way and let them play. Some old school wisdom for David Bell and his ilk.

      • Woodrow Thedaug

        What if his passion was only pitching in the ninth with a lead?

    • Kim Henry

      EMPOWERMENT…………LOVE IT……..BUT………having managed people in different settings for nearly 40 years, MANY IF NOT MOST people do not take advantage and ultimately need direction and managed. I agree FO need to get out of the way, but I feel you need a GOOD manager. Maybe I’m not a good manager and maybe ball players are different, but I haven’t seen empowering a team leads to success. It usually leads to one or two taking advantage of empowerment while the others follow or not.

  20. DataDumpster

    There have been several comments about the lack of work last year impacting pitchers this year with shorter starts and so on. Seems to me that the pitchers were predicted to have all kinds of problems last year but it was clearly the hitters who suffered. Don’t know but I would say it is easier for a pitcher to throw than a batter to get a “structured” batting practice within last year’s conditions. (These guys did practice their craft in the offseason, right?)
    Does anyone see any evidence that the Red’s have prepared for the shorter innings scenario? If that is the path forward, there may not be enough good arms in the bullpen and there are almost certainly not enough good pinch hitters and defenders for the substitutions. I hope each starter pitches as many innings as possible in a good start unless conditions show otherwise. All baseball needs now is for the 100 pitch rule to become the 85 pitch rule but someone already decided to move in that direction with the 20 pitch inning and the “roll”.

    • Doug Gray

      Derek Johnson has talked about how things are probably going to be different this year because of last year’s lack of innings, but he wasn’t sure how they were going to handle it and it may be different for each pitcher.

      • JayTheRed

        Doesn’t David Bell have a short leash anyway with his starting pitchers. At least he did the past two seasons it seems like. I am thinking starters at least at the start of the season are probably only get 4 maybe 5 innings at most if they have decent pitch counts which we have seen this club pays close attention to already. I would be shocked it anyone pitches 6 innings the first 2 months.

      • DataDumpster

        Good honest answer from Derek. If he makes the decisions based upon his real time observations, I am not concerned about this working out. But, as noted elsewhere, if David Bell makes the decision based upon X number of pitches thrown or other nonsense, this could make a manageable problem much larger.

  21. Kenny Thompson

    Apparently Bell hasn’t figured out that he’s going to take the fall for the front office’s lack of effort to improve this team. Otherwise there’s no explanation for being stubborn about Antone. If I’m going down, I’m going to do it relying on my best players.