The Cincinnati Reds rotation is going to be missing two regulars when the season begins. Sonny Gray and Michael Lorenzen are not going to be ready to begin the season. That leaves two spots open in the rotation for now. Derek Johnson, pitching coach extraordinaire, said that Luis Castillo will get the start on Opening Day and that Tyler Mahle will start game number two. After that he wasn’t quite sure of what the order would be, but that the other three starters would be Jeff Hoffman, Wade Miley, and José De León.

Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo were locks for the rotation unless they weren’t healthy. Wade Miley was competing for a spot, partially based on the fact that he wasn’t quite able to stay healthy in recent years. But he’s healthy now and his stuff seems to be back. Jeff Hoffman came into camp competing for a spot, and for now, he’s got one in the rotation.

“I’ve seen some really good things,” said Johnson. “I’ve seen some things that obviously need to become a little more consistent. That’s what we talk a lot about in spring training – gaining that consistency as we go. Jeff is one of those guys that it’s going to be a learning year for him. That’s not to say I don’t think he’ll pitch well, I do, but I also think he’s the guy who is going to learn on the fly. He’s already show me there’s some aptitude there, some acumen there. Really then it’s about getting him in our system and seeing what happens and making adjustments as we go. I’m happy with where he is right now, we’ve got his pitch count up, so at the end of the day we know he’s built up properly and so just getting to the next step.”

This spring it’s been a mix of good outings and so-so outings for Jeff Hoffman. In 17.1 innings he’s posted a 6.75 ERA. That’s not so good. But ERA aside, he’s got good numbers in his limited action. His WHIP is 1.27, he’s allowed just two home runs, he’s walked just five batters, and he’s struck out 15.

José De León is in a similar boat. His outings have been hit-and-miss. Even within the same outing he’s been hit-and-miss. His ERA is 8.64 this spring in 16.2 innings. His WHIP, unlike Hoffman, isn’t low – De León’s WHIP is 1.62 thanks to nine walks on top of 18 hits allowed. Where he’s stood out is his 24 strikeouts – easily the best on the team this spring. When he’s been on, he’s really been on. But when he’s been off, he’s also been really off.

“Yeah, he really does,” said Johnson when asked if De León was in that same camp as Hoffman when it comes to being more consistent. “When you’re talking about guys like that, I don’t see it as being scary, I see it as being almost normal. I think if you look at some of the pitching staffs we’ve had here that last couple of years, that’s happened a lot. Whether it was in the starting five, in the bullpen. You saw Lucas Sims develop in front of your eyes, you saw DeSclafani do similar things as the season progressed. I look at it like it’s normal. I look at it like it’s par for the course, and excited about what these guys can be and hopeful at the same time.”

When Michael Lorenzen returns from his shoulder injury, which isn’t expected to take much time at all, it sounds like he’ll jump into the rotation. He only made three appearances in Arizona and threw just 7.2 innings. But he did pick up a new curveball that he is very happy about and is feeling good about where his stuff is this spring compared to where it’s been in the past.

“(We) talked about him a little bit earlier today, internally, he’s done great,” said Johnson. “The trainers are amazed at the progress he’s made in a short amount of time. He feels really good, he’s already throwing. I don’t expect there to be too much time between. On the same side I don’t want to rush into something thinking everything’s ok. I think if we did that and something bad happened we would regret it. So certainly being conservative, at least on this part of it early on is the way to do it. I just don’t expect a ton of time before he’s ready to go.”

Some teams around Major League Baseball will be going with a 6-man rotation to begin the year. The New York Yankees just announced that they would be doing so. For the Reds, that won’t be happening. Johnson noted that they weren’t considering it because it would get guys off of their routine. Five guys it is for Cincinnati. And those five guys are likely going to be changing soon enough when Sonny Gray and Michael Lorenzen return.

30 Responses

  1. MK

    I’m really not sold on Lorenzen as a starter. He was not able to stay physically healthy as a starter the first time and here again he is struggling to stay on the mound with a starting routine.

    • VaRedsFan

      He was better as a starter than as a RP, but he only had a small bar to get over on that point. I didn’t care for his approach coming into Spring, then stunk it up, and now will be handed a starting role.

  2. James

    I was surprised when I saw that Jeff Hoffmam made the team. He has a 6.75 era! I don’t feel like he ever really gets the job done and gives up quite a few hits. Thankfully Wade Miley or Tejay Antone will probably beat him out of the starter pitcher spot but if Jeff Hoffman performs well he could keep his rotation has a starter.

    • James

      I would have to say too is that at the start of the 60 game season last year Micheal Lorenzen was absolute trash! Then later in the season he actually got to be a decent-trust worthy pitcher, starter or relief. I think this season he’s gonna perform about the same from last year.

      • Slicc50

        I could possibly be mis-remembering, but it seems to me that Michael starts each season that way. He gets absolutely hammered his first few outings. Then he seems to settle down and really become a dependable pitcher.

    • 2020ball

      I’m fine with keeping Hoffman, he seemed destined to make the team anyway at least as a reliever. ST stats aren’t very important to me, for example I think Hoffman was a way better keep than Biddle, obviously their spring stats look a lot different. If anything I’m confused why Antone isn’t being given a rotation spot, but he’s been slowed by an injury. I think Antone is our best rotation option outside of the top 3, just my personal opinion though.

  3. RedBaron

    Looks like we will be 1-4 to start off the season.

  4. Klugo

    I’m sure there is a good reason Antone didn’t get one of those.

  5. Steven Ross

    Let’s be honest, after Castillo and a healthy Sonny, this staff doesn’t scare anyone. I don’t understand why Antone isn’t starting. My guess is he will be in a month or two.

    • Shawn

      Mahle deserves more respect. He is probably one of the top 10 #3 starters in baseball. Better than a lot of teams #2 pitchers.

    • Steven Scheonbaechler

      Let’s be honest, what #3 guy is going to scare anyone? You just hope they are quality pitchers who can have their share of success.

      • Moses

        There’s a #3 in Los Angeles named Kershaw who might scare some people. And, whoever San Diego is running out there won’t be chopped liver (unless you like chopped liver)…

  6. MBS

    I think we’ll all feel a lot better when Gray and Lorenzen are back, but it will be nice to see how effective De Leon and Hoffman can be in a regular season start.

    • TheCoastMan

      Can you say 8. ERA? Get used to it because that’s what those 2 are going to give us. It’s going to be a long year boys and girls.

  7. Tom Mitsoff

    The move to cut Ramirez may give some insight into how the Reds will handle all of their pitching. After Castillo, Gray, Antone, Mahle, Garrett, Sims and maybe Lorenzen, there isn’t much separating the rest. If Hoffman gets lit up his first start or two, I’m not looking for him to be around very long. There are a lot of interchangeable parts. I don’t believe Hoffman has months or even weeks to display effectiveness. You can say the same for Carson Fulmer and the rest of the back of the bullpen.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      And today did not help him one bit.

      • MBS

        We will have the luxury of using an option on De Leon, but yes, Hoffman will be on thin ice if he doesn’t start strong.

    • 2020ball

      I have the least confidence in Fulmer, but hopefully they find that driveline magic for him. Little wary of Doolittle and Bedrosian as well, but past success is nice since there isn’t a lot of that from the fringe pitchers still in camp. I am very cautiously optimistic on Hoffman.

  8. Jack

    Hopefully we won’t have to see more than one start from De Leon and Hoffman based on their spring it is a case of winning a spot by being healthy

  9. James

    If I was David Bell (which I’m not) this would be my starting rotation. With the injuries, then later, without the injuries.
    Luis Castillo
    Tyler Mahle
    Jose de Leon
    Michael Lorenzen
    Wade Miley
    Now without the injuries
    Sonny Gray
    Luis Castillo
    Tejay Antone
    Wade Miley
    Jose De Leon

    • Tomn

      What about Lodoza (sp?). He actually looked good this spring. He can’t be any worse than DeLeon or Hoffman. And probably significantly better.

      I know he’s green, but he’s looked good.

      • JayTheRed

        I feel like if the season starts going bad after say 2 or 3 months then Lodolo and Greene will get a chance.

        Another way this happens is once the minor leagues start if these two are just tearing down AAA hitters then we might see them soon. Dream rotation to me at this point.


        Maybe in 2022 but here is to hoping for sooner rather than later.

    • JB

      No Mahle in the rotation without the injuries? Man that dude gets no respect from the home crowd.

  10. Steve Schoenbaechler

    With Antone, I believe they were talking about using him as a long man out of the pen. Sorry, but I can’t see that. Either make Antone a starter, or I believe the coaches are expecting to operate the #3-5 guys on shorter leashes, expecting to get Antone opportunities once every 5 days to get significant innings in, aka like a starter.