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.