Depending on where you look for your baseball information you will see conflicting reports on whether or not Wade Miley is penciled into the Cincinnati Reds rotation. Those who did have him penciled in must have missed the words of Reds General Manager Nick Krall in early February when he said this when asked about who was coming into camp prepared to be a starting pitcher:

Right now it’s Luis (Castillo), Sonny (Gray), and Tyler Mahle are probably the first three starters. Then you’ve got Wade Miley who’s been a starter his whole career, Michael Lorenzen, Tejay Antone, José De León, Jeff Hoffman are probably the guys you’re looking at that come in to compete for those last couple of spots. That’s probably where we are right now.

To compete for those last couple of spots. In many years in the past, Miley would have likely been penciled in given the moderate amount of money he’s owed and his past performance. In 2020 he pitched just 14.1 innings, and he was injured – but the previous two seasons he had a combined ERA of 3.52 over 248.0 innings between Milwaukee and Houston. Miley turned his career around in Milwaukee when he was working with Derek Johnson and developed a cutter.

This spring we haven’t seen Wade Miley in an official game yet for the Reds. Before the game on Wednesday, manager David Bell was asked about Miley and if he was competing for a spot in the rotation along with guys like Tejay Antone, Jeff Hoffman, Michael Lorenzen, and José De León.

“I think given Wade’s track record and who he is as a pitcher he certainly has the inside track on one of those positions,” Bell said. “The big thing with Wade is just making sure he’s healthy, able to stand up to the season. We want him to not only be one of our starters, but to be able to know he’s going to go out and compete, go deep into games, and all indications are that he is healthy. If he’s healthy, this guy can pitch. There’s no question there. Zero question about what kind of pitcher he is. So he’s working really hard to make sure he can pitch the entire season, which is what we want him to do. If it keeps going that direction then yeah, he has the inside track on one of those spots for sure.”

There’s a few things to take away here. First is that how many times health is mentioned when it comes to Wade Miley. Last season he missed time with a groin injury and a shoulder strain. Second is that Bell did indicate that he believes Miley is healthy. That’s good news. Still, despite that, he continued to bring up keeping him healthy.

“My main concern with him is to keep him healthy and try to figure out how we can get him to a point where he can get into the season staying healthy,” said pitching coach Derek Johnson at the end of February of Miley. “The one thing I know for sure is Wade can pitch. When he pitches and he is able, he’s very successful. I had him in 2018 with the Brewers, so I do have a history with him and I know what he’s capable of. Really, for me, health is the main concern, trying to keep him going until we get into the season.”

Spring games had not yet begun when Johnson made that statement, but he spoke about Miley being healthy, too. Getting him to the season healthy. But it wasn’t just the coaching staff talking about the left-handed pitchers health. Wade Miley himself spoke about it in late February, too.

“It was a little different this offseason,” said Miley. “I didn’t throw quite as much as I normally would. I took it a lot easier on my lower half, just to try to let everything kind of heal and get ready. But I feel like I’m in a good spot, so I’m just excited.”

“The groin is something I’ve dealt with since 2018. Why it’s not healing completely, or whatever is going on with it, I’m not really sure. I spent a lot of time with a physical therapist in the offseason, more than I would in the past and hopefully we’ve corrected some issues.”

We know that Miley threw on the backfields on March 6th. He is scheduled to pitch tonight at some point after Tyler Mahle makes the start. Don’t read into the fact that Miley’s coming out of the bullpen tonight – there’s plenty of time to adjust things if he winds up in the rotation and get him lined up for the regular season.

It seems that everyone in the decision making role of the organization believes that Wade Miley can be a quality pitcher when he’s healthy. There’s a reason to believe that – he has been. But it also seems that those same people all seem to be worrying about Miley being and or staying healthy. The 34-year-old has started 249 of 255 games in his big league career. Prior to coming out of the bullpen twice down the stretch last season, you have to go back to 2012 to find the last time he pitched out of the bullpen when he made three relief appearances for Arizona in his lone season that he made an All-Star team. Those three relief appearances were the first three games he pitched in that season, joining the rotation on April 23rd and then not pitching out of the bullpen again for the next decade.

Tonight is the first real look that the public is going to get at where Wade Miley is at. His B-Game that he pitched in last week was not open to the public. While the game won’t be televised, it will be on the radio, and the duo of Tommy Thrall and Jeff Brantley have been pretty good this spring at mentioning the velocity for each of the pitchers in the game. That could give us some insight into where his health is.

While a healthy Miley may have the “inside track” to a spot in the rotation, he has some competition – some of which has pitched better than others. Tejay Antone has looked outstanding and the numbers back it up so far. Jeff Hoffman had a strong outing in his last outing. Yesterday saw José De León look absolutely dominant until he gave up back-to-back homers in his third inning of work. Michael Lorenzen has been hit-and-miss in his two outings – but you could see the flashes on Wednesday as he got plenty of swings and misses, though the overall results haven’t been great on paper to this point.

Player IP ERA H BB K
Tejay Antone 5.0 0.00 3 0 8
Jeff Hoffman 5.0 3.60 5 1 4
José De León 8.0 5.63 8 6 14
Michael Lorenzen 4.0 13.50 7 1 4

While the team could go with four starters to begin the season thanks to off days, that is not a part of their plan. They will begin the season utilizing all five starters, whoever that happens to be. If Wade Miley isn’t one of them, then he’s going to slide into the bullpen where he doesn’t have much experience in his career. But it could be one way to keep him a bit healthier and on the field. Maybe. Pitching more frequently, but less overall workload could do the trick. But there’s also a chance that pitching more frequently could actually lead to more health issues.

The Reds are going to have to make an interesting decision with Wade Miley. Perhaps the decision will be an easy one, either because he remains healthy and looks good all spring, or because he is simply outperformed by two of the other candidates in a way that it’s just too much to ignore. Tonight really starts the decision making process. Miley will be facing other big leaguers. The environment is going to be a bit different from a B-Game on the backfields in a much more controlled environment. If Miley remains on an every 5th day schedule, he’s only going to pitch in four games this spring. That doesn’t leave the team with a ton of information to work with, but if their main concern is his health, then perhaps it is enough.

27 Responses

  1. Stock

    Miley and Antone are the best options. However, I would not rule out Hoffman.

    De Leon has two pitches and is better set for the bullpen. If he could harness a little more control he would be the perfect closer.

    Lorenzen seems to be more of a health concern than Miley.

    • Doug Gray

      JDL has a slider, change up, and a fastball.

      • Stock

        He threw his slider 5.7% of the time the last two years. That isn’t much. The problem is the results when he threw it.

        80% of his sliders were taken for balls. He has a slider but has shown zero ability to get it across the plate which is plate. 1.1% of his pitches were sliders that were strikes.

        he threw his slider 13 times last year which is enough. But the result was 11 balls, 1 swinging K and one looking K

        He also has a curveball (according to Brooks) which he threw across the plate 0.4% of the time.

        Based upon the last two years his curveball was much more effective than his slider and he threw his curve exactly 1 time in two year.

        Finally, I am thinking the Reds are telegraphing their opinion on the last spot.

        Hoffman and De Leon started their first game. Antone looked very impressive and what has happened in the last week? Antone gets his first start. Hoffman and De Leon get their first relief appearance. De Leon gets his late in the game. Could De Leon be the closer? If he can get any semblance of control he would be a fantastic closer. Fastball nearing 100 MPH in one inning outings and a fantastic change up.

        Hoffman looked really good the other night though.

      • Doug Gray

        You must have missed that he’s changed his slider from the one you have seen previously. He knew it stunk and scrapped it for a different version, and it’s looked a lot better.

  2. Sliotar

    If pitch counts are in play for many SPs in 2021 …

    -More than 2 times through order – Gray, Castillo (or Castillo, Gray) … either one is Opening Day worthy.

    – Miley, Lorenzen, Antone, etc … 2 times through order max as SP / or middle relief, piggyback role

    Mahle’s 3rd time through the order numbers are awful (see his advanced stats at FanGraphs)

    Everyone not Gray/Castillo (and probably Mahle, too) switches back and forth, SP to piggyback, based on injuries, performance, whatever over course of the season.

    How Lucas Sims is utilized is a wild card, too, IMO … great stuff, can play any role.
    (Maybe he ends up as the closer?)

    • Rex

      This sounds very workable and great for the “swing” pitchers development too.

      I doubt they would try it.

      • MBS

        They need to, or they’ll have a lot of dead arms, there is a reason multiple teams are looking at 6 man rotations. I think piggy backing works well with the Reds roster

    • Stock

      Mahle had a 1.93 ERA with 9 K’s and 1 BB the third time through the order last year. Small sample size (9.1 innings) but he took a big step forward with his cutter last year. Split by team (Indians – 4, White Sox – 5, Cardinals – 8 and Cubs 16 (in two outing)).

  3. Daytonian

    Unless he’s injured, Miley is the Number Four or Five. Antone will fill the other spot. Lorenzon, and I love him, is just too unreliable to have a rotation spot.

  4. Rex

    This sounds very workable and great for the “swing” pitchers development too.

    I doubt they would try it.

  5. Justin

    Lorenzen and Miley are a coin toss for me. Lorenzen might bring more strikeouts and at times more dominant starts, but I doubt he’ll bring the consistency that Miley can. But then, Miley doesn’t really have the goods to dominate a game.

    DeLeon and Hoffman look like they could be the multi inning relievers. If they’re only going with 5 starters, this role will be pivotal in 2021.

    If Antone doesn’t get a starting spot, that will prove to me that we’re all living a poorly constructed simulation and I want out.

  6. Frankie Tomatoes

    Miley has been good in the past. I trust Derek Johnson. But Miley makes me nervous and I would rather have Antone for sure. The rest of the group of guys all have big questions.

  7. Old Big Ed

    Miley threw only 14 innings last year and is unlikely as a 34-year-old to hold up under any sort of major workload. He might be useful as a soft-tossing lefty to follow up Lorenzen or Antone in the 5th or 6th for a couple of innings.

    They have about 1440 innings to account for this season, and no pitcher will likely get much more than 160 innings, if any do. It’s going to be interesting how they divide it up, but Miley might be good for 60-75 innings. That’s a lot to pay for $8 million, plus the $1 million buyout for next year.

    • MK

      Bronson Arroyo threw over 200 innings twice older than that. As far as stuff goes I think Miley is very similar to Bronson. A soft throwing lefty is a nice compliment in the middle of hard throwing righties. Put him between Castillo and DeLeon in a three game series and it works.

  8. BK

    I think the Reds are in pretty good shape with their starting pitching. I see the race in tiers:

    Tier 1. (locks, only an injury takes them out of the rotation):
    Of course Gray and Castillo are locks to front the rotation. Both are legit #1s with “ace” potential.

    Tier 2. (body of work says they should start unless we learn something new in ST such as a health concern.):
    Mahle took a nice step forward last year. He’s a lock to make the rotation. Miley will start unless the team feels he needs he’s better served from a health perspective in the pen.

    Tier 3. (top candidates for 1-2 spots):
    Lorenzen has been inconsistent this spring, but spring training results are often very skewed and should be given little weight. From watching him, he still appears to be “ramping up” as his velo is not yet back to 2020 levels. Lorenzen was better as a starter than reliever last year. Moreover, starting allows the team to better tap into his other capabilities: fielding, hitting, baserunning. Fifth spot is probably his to lose).

    Antone looks good this spring and looked good all of last year. However, his numbers were better from the pen than as a starter. Particularly concerning is that he only averaged a shade over 4 innings per start–not ideal. Ideally, he starts in the pen and the Reds put him on a plan to pitch well over 100 innings by making longer, less frequent appearances. Bottom-line: whether starting or relieving, Reds need a plan to get him a lot of innings.

    Hoffman has looked great so far, too. But again, it’s spring training. He doesn’t have a good track record as either a starter or reliever. So, he’s only going to make the team if the Reds believe they’ve helped him unlock some of his untapped potential. He’s out of options, so my guess is he makes the team at least to start the season.

    Tier 4. (Long shots for the rotation):
    Both Perez and DeLeon look good. Both have been top prospects in the past, have options, but have been inconsistent over the last couple of years. It will take multiple pitchers to make it through the season. I believe these two should start in AAA and stay stretched out as starters. That said, given that AAA won’t play games until May so they may earn bullpen roles early.

  9. B-town fan

    If I were the Manager, my starting five would be Gray, Castillo, Mahle, Lorenzen, Antone, and ride those horses as far as they take you.

  10. Mark Moore

    I really hope Miley doesn’t get a gimmee … but I’m not holding my breath. It’s one of those, “We owe it to Wade to …” and that just reeks of mediocrity. Go with a 6-man to start. Do something creative to get it flowing. But don’t do mediocrity over and over again.

    • SultanofSwaff

      Yep. If there’s one thing the Reds are consistent with, it’s bowing to veteran privilege.

      • LDS

        Veteran privilege? Yep. Bell seems partial to vets, sticking with them longer than he should, e.g. Hughes. Sadly, I think we may be there with Votto. I always remember the 71-72 Lakers and the legendary Elgin Baylor. When he was finally replaced, 9 games into the season by Jim McMillan, the Lakers proceeded to win 33 straight. Sometimes, veterans need to step away and let the young guys take over. I think that’s the Votto answer.

      • MK

        I think sometimes to get some free agents to sign they can not offer the money other teams can provide but they can agree that you will play in the majors at least part of the season. Over the years a lot of guys who signed minor league contracts get a couple weeks in majors and you scratch your head and wonder why?

    • Roger Garrett

      I have to agree Mark but the Reds organization is what it is and Miley was signed by somebody that will insist he starts.Rule of thumb especially for small market teams is that the money plays and those guys will play if they can walk to the field.Unlike the big markets who have money to burn and never hesitate to cut players they owe money,the Reds don’t have that luxury and when you over pay for players it makes it even worse.I am not saying Miley isn’t worth 8 mil per year because that may be his market value but the other guys in the running for a starting job don’t make any where close to that.Miley starts and we go from there.

  11. west larry

    This is interesting. If I were making the decision, Grey, Castillo. Mahlr and Antone would be the first four in the rotation. The fifth spot would be between Miley, Hoffman, DeLeon and Lorenzen. Lorenzen and Miley would need to really step it up in their final spring outings to be considered the fifth starter.

  12. Kevin Patrick

    April 1st and April 3rd are 4:00 start times… as long as we are pretending to be manager, I would buck conventional wisdom of beginning the season with my “best” starters (Gray, Castillo), and instead would start my pitchers with the most lateral movement whose pitches will be really problematic to pick up in the changing light from light to shadow. Right now, I think that is Antone and DeLeon. I’m guessing the environmental circumstances might even get you an extra inning out of them each. Then I would pitch Gray on Sunday…Let the Pirates eat Castillo and Mahle and then maybe Lorenzen on the get-away day. Start up again vs the Diamondbacks at what would be typically the best starters with Gray on five days rest. Use Antone and DeLeon responsibly during that stretch as needed. If Miley is right, of course this changes everything, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  13. Ron

    1 Gray
    2 Castillo
    3 Mahle
    4 Antone
    5 Miley or Hoffman

    Lorenzen hasn’t impressed me. Maybe he could play TE for the Bengals!

  14. Hotto4Votto

    Whatever happens, I just want to see Antone in the rotation. I think his season last year along with how he’s looked in ST earns him the spot. Beyond that I don’t care much as I could see any of the remaining candidates find success in either role.

  15. LDS

    I see Miley left the game with an injury. That’s not encouraging. Let’s hope it’s minor.