The Cincinnati Reds had a change in starting pitcher on Tuesday. Sonny Gray was originally listed as the probably starter when the day began, but when the lineup came out it was Vladimir Gutierrez taking the mound to begin the day. Gray was moved to a bullpen side session as he wanted to work on some things. If we simply didn’t tell you that Gutierrez was starting instead of Gray and showed you the line that he put up you would not know the difference. Gutierrez picked up four strikeouts in 2.0 shutout innings where he didn’t allow a hit and walked one batter.
“He looks really good,” said manager David Bell. “His delivery, his presence on the mound, everything looks really smooth and confident. He’s just making pitches, commanding all of his pitches. Yeah, he looks great. It’s been fun to watch him develop the last couple of years. He keeps getting better.”
It was the third outing for Vladimir Gutierrez on the spring and it was a continuation of what he had been doing previously. The right-handed pitcher from Cuba has thrown 4.0 innings while giving up just two hits, no earned runs, he’s walked one batter, and he’s now struck out six of the 16 batters he’s faced.
It’s been a strong spring so far for the right-hander who got his only action on the field last year in the first spring training and then in the Dominican Winter League with Licey (3.71 ERA in five starts) after serving 60 games of an 80-game suspension after testing positive for stanozolol last spring training. Despite not getting much time on the mound in games, Bell has noticed the improvements.
“He really has impressed us in years past, for sure,” said Bell. “He just looks more mature, more confident. I think he’s commanding all of his pitches better. I really think there’s something about his delivery that looks smoother. It’s all working together for him. His body is all working really nicely together and I think that’s helping him command his pitches. He has everything that it takes, really. He has the velocity, he has the offspeed pitches, and when he’s commanding all of them we’re seeing what he can be. He’s definitely close. We’ve said that in the past, too, but I think he’s just taken it to the next level. It’s just a part of the development and maturity for a young pitcher.”
Vladimir Gutierrez signed the same year as the Reds picked up Jose Garcia and Alfredo Rodriguez as a part of their nearly $30,000,000 (signing bonuses plus penalties for going over their “allowed” amount) – with almost all of the money that year going to those three players and penalties. Gutierrez was considered the most advanced of the three players, and he moved one level per year beginning with his debut in 2017 at then Advanced-A Daytona (now the Low-A affiliate of the Reds) before moving up to Double-A Pensacola in 2018, and then Triple-A Louisville in 2019.
His last time on the mound during a season was in 2019 with Louisville, and things didn’t go well. The juiced baseball that was around in the Major Leagues that season was also the same one used in Triple-A and just like the Majors, teams were crushing home run records left and right. Gutierrez wasn’t immune to the damage from opposing hitters as he posted an ERA of 6.04 in 137.0 innings with 26 home runs allowed. Down the stretch he put things together, posting a 2.83 ERA in his last five starts while striking out 39 batters in 28.2 innings. Perhaps that was a sign of things that would come, but that due to the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season and his suspension, we never got an opportunity to see.