That dreadful feeling that many Cincinnati Reds fans had on Opening Day was quickly erased over the weekend as the Reds returned the favor on both Saturday and Sunday to take the series two games to one over St. Louis. Things really got rolling when Nick Castellanos scored on a wild pitch in Saturday’s game and got up screaming LET’S GO while standing over the Cardinals pitcher. The benches emptied and some tempers flared up, but Cincinnati never looked back from that point forward.

Three games into the season doesn’t tell us much. There’s a reason that baseball seasons are 162 games long – it takes a whole lot of baseball games to truly separate the good teams from the bad ones. Still, there were some things worth talking about from the opening series win over the Cardinals.

Jeff Hoffman

At least on Sunday, everything that the Reds said they saw from Jeff Hoffman when they acquired him showed up. His breaking stuff generated six swings-and-misses in five innings. His fastball got another five, and he added two more on a change up. His 13 swings-and-misses generated on Sunday were tied for the most in Major League Baseball for the day. The raw stuff shown by Hoffman was impressive. The lone run that he allowed came on a soft single by Yadier Molina.

Nick Castellanos

“I’m want to win.”

“I care about winning ballgames. That’s pretty much it.”

Those are two quotes from Nick Castellanos after the game on Saturday. During the series it was Castellanos who put the Reds on his back. He went 6-11 with four extra-base hits, five RBI, and his OPS is 1.947.

But it wasn’t just what he did. It was how he did it. He brought the emotion, he brought the swagger.

Speaking of things that Nick Castellanos said over the weekend….

“I don’t know if I’m a leader. I (bleep) sure ain’t a follower. But that’s not for me to say, it’s for those guys to say what I am.”

They may not have expressly said it, but they certainly followed. Ashley Davis asked on Opening Day if Nick Castellanos was poised to have a big season in 2021 on the digital pages here at Redleg Nation. She looks like she can see the future through the first series of the year.

Jonathan India

The guy hit in spring training. He is battling Alex Blandino for the best lettuce on the team. And in the first three games of the regular season he showed that he belonged. India went 5-11 with a double and made some nice defensive plays at second base. He looked poised and like he wasn’t pressing. His approach to each at-bat was patient and he didn’t seem to expand the zone much.

The offense as a whole

27 runs in three games will get it done. For an offense that struggled at so many different points in 2020 it seemed that nearly everything was going right in the first series of the year. When things are going your way, all feels right with the world.

It’s more fun when you win

As the article began – Opening Day was dreadful. It was 6-0 before the Reds even came to the plate and much of Redleg Nation was already thinking of ways to fire anyone and everyone who even applied for a job with the Cincinnati Reds at some point in their lifetime. But just as over-reactive those feelings on Opening Day were, the opposite feelings that were felt on Saturday and Sunday are probably over-reactive. But the feelings are much better, too – and it really helped that it took place against a big divisional rival instead of the Kansas City Royals.

Sal Romano is going to pitch in every game

So this isn’t actually going to happen, but it was an interesting thing to see. Sal Romano pitched in all three games in the series, giving up two runs in 4.2 innings with a walk and two strikeouts in the series.

At the end of spring training Sal Romano talked with the media about making the team. One of the things he noted was that he felt he was a different pitcher than he had been in the past. His slider was different than it used to be and he was looking forward to showing people just how different he was.

Small sample size of just three games, but the early returns are that the slider is indeed different. He didn’t pitch much for the Reds in 2020, but we can look back to 2019 when he threw 16.1 innings – still a small sample size, but more than the 1.1 he threw in 2020. The velocity of the slider is about the same. But he’s gotten 4.5 inches less “drop” on the pitch than he had in 2019, going from 38.6 inches to 34.1 inches. The amount of horizontal break is also quite different, going from 3.5 inches to 1.3 inches, giving it a little more cutting action. Just something worth keeping an eye on as the sample size grows.

Tejay Antone still brings the heat

After not pitching in the first two games of the season, David Bell called on Tejay Antone on Sunday. The right-handed pitcher threw the five fastest pitches of the game, topping out at 99.1 MPH. Interestingly, too, was that his spin rate was a bit higher in the game than his average was last season – though it can deviate a little bit from day to day.

Last season Tejay Antone averaged 95.6 MPH with his fastball. He topped out at 98.1 MPH and according to Baseball Savant only threw two pitches that were 98.0 or higher all season. Sunday afternoon saw him throw five pitches between 98.2 and 99.1 MPH. Will he reach triple digits at some point this season? As Samuel L. Jackson’s famous line in Jurassic Park goes: Hold onto your butts.

52 Responses

  1. Gonzo Reds

    Always nice to take down the hated and division favorite Cardinals! They appear to not be very deep at SP although Micholas and Kim are still on the shelf so will get stronger as the season goes on.

    India not only didn’t expand the strike zone but hit as well as he did despite multiple questionable strike calls outside the zone, rookies get no respect in that regard so kudos to him for keeping his head together and making the most of his at bats anyway. I told you this kid could hit and glad the Reds didn’t throw him into a trade as so many of you on this site were clamoring for. Suarez better be solid at SS because Moose isn’t playing 2B much this year, 1B maybe, but not 2B.

  2. MFG

    The Reds have been missing an emotional, fired up leader for a long,long time!

    • David Everson

      It’s great to see some emotions, bring this team together, and makes for a great year. I love to see a team with a little swagger, especially when they play hard, and can back it up!

    • David Everson

      Love to see emotions out of our players, maybe this team will get a little swagger going,back it up with hard play, and let’s have a great year!

    • jim walker

      It was said of the 1999 Reds team which finished 96-67 losing a play in tie breaker game for wild card spot that Greg Vaughn the take no prisoners clubhouse leader actually frightened some guys. From what we’ve seen of Castellanos so far, I could see the same becoming true of him.

      • RojoBenjy

        Some people need some frightening.

        Hope the team gels like this for the entire season!

    • TR

      Yes, a longtime since 1999 with Greg Vaughn for one season.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree! It’s what makes Senzel, Sony, Nick, Garrett and a few others so appealing. It’s what they gave up losing Detrick, Bauer and SS Iglesias. Hard to know what’s in a guys heart, but clearly the will to win and playing w/ the right edge can not be over estimated.

  3. Jonathan Linn

    A sweep of the Pirates would be huge to start the season…

    • Mark Moore

      I’d settle for 2 of 3 … but a sweep would be sweet indeed.

    • TR

      A sweep of the Pirates would be nice but, if not, I’ll settle for a series win. As Barry Larkin said recently about offense, in baseball 7 of 10 chances are usually a failure.

  4. CFD3000

    Except for the first top of the first, that was fun. And although everyone is excited by the offense, rightly so, I’m excited by who’s NOT hitting (and pitching) yet. Suarez, Moustakas, Votto, Akiyama and Senzel haven’t made a ton of noise – yet. Gray, Lorenzen and Garrett haven’t even pitched and Antone has one encouraging but game outcome irrelevant outing. And one stud, Castillo, struggled. Which is a long way around saying I’m excited because I think these Reds could be even better. 9 runs a game is not sustainable, obviously, but this lineup, rotation and bullpen could all get deeper and more imposing. That’s the exciting part to me. Go Reds!

    • Broseph

      Agreed. It’s veeeery early of course, but with the young guys coming out hot, if the trend continues for a week, how long do you give an aging Votto more ABs. If things continue for two weeks or three, is Bell manager enough to put Votto 6th or 7th where he probably should be?

      Suarez is historically streaky so we know he can hit 4th when on fire. Moose is fine at no. 5 or 6.

  5. Klugo

    If the Reds win this season, Driveline is gonna blow up. It’ll be the talk of baseball. Buy stock now, if you can.

    • Jonathan Linn

      Where can you buy it? I didn’t even know they were a publicly traded company.

      • Klugo

        I don’t know. I was half kidding about that part.
        But if you can and you know how, I’d consider it.

  6. SultanofSwaff

    What I learned:

    –It’s better to not start a Latin pitcher in 37 degree weather.
    –there are no gimme outs at the bottom of the lineup….finally!
    –Naquin, Hoffman, Cionel Perez are solid depth acquisitions, another thing we’ve been historically lacking.
    –the announcers are INTENSE. Guys, we’ve 159 to go, chiiiilllllllll……
    –from what I’ve seen of the other teams in the Central, except for defense, it’s plausible that the Reds will be the best in the division in every other aspect of the game.

    • Joey D

      I said the same thing in regards to your first point about the weather and I was thought it was interesting no one brought that up before I saw this. I understand Castillo is your best pitcher with Gray hurt. But he’s been in the DR all winter, then goes to AZ where it’s still warm then fly him out here where its 50 degrees colder than what he’s been used to for the past 5 months with no adjustment time. That is a pretty monumental task for anyone, especially a pitcher to have to overcome. He didn’t look comfortable and the broadcast team pointed out a few times of how much he was blowing on his fingers. The shaky defense and weak base hits didn’t help him but when your ace pitcher gets 0 strikeouts over multiple innings that tells you something. Hindsight is 20/20 but I was wondering if Bell would make an adjustment on the rotation to allow Luis to get a little more acclimated to the weather once it became clear it was going to be freezing that day.

      • Doug Gray

        There was no chance they were going with anyone else. It took a month of leadup time to get the rotation order where you wanted it to be for opening day unless you were going to in turn start Wade Miley on Opening Day. Everyone else would have been going on short rest or you were turning the day into a bullpen day.

    • RojoBenjy

      “ the announcers are INTENSE”

      But thank God none of them are THom

  7. Scott C

    “Looking good Billy Ray.” Let’s feel good as long as we can.

  8. jr53

    Finally the team looks to have changed their hitting approach. The Reds have good hitting, but not good enough for the power launch angle approach. They are good enough to get the home runs, but everything else goes to pot. The only rallys they have had the last couple of years were gifted walk rallys. So nice to see line drives and balls hit through the holes in the shift. I hope this means the team can beat good pitching at a decent rate this season. Maybe no more horrible outcomes like the series with Atlanta.

    • TR

      Meet the ball, hit opposite field to beat the shift, homeruns will happen occasionally.

  9. Steven Schoenbaechler

    The only two things I could say I would have rathered see was:

    – a better first inning, first game, of course
    – I would have liked to see Garrett and Sims get at least an inning of work in.

    Past that, I don’t think I could have asked for much more.

    • SultanofSwaff

      If Garrett and Sim’s first appearances are trash, then I agree lol. Otherwise, with such lopsided scores I kinda liked that Bell held them out. Save their 80 IP for high leverage situations, and at the same time don’t expose them to the Cardinals which should help their effectiveness.

      • Steven Schoenbaechler

        The thing is, if relievers don’t get some regular work, they grow cold.

        What I stated isn’t major at all. So, I’m not worried. I would just have rathered see Garrett and Sims get an inning in.

      • MBS

        I thought they should have had Sims pitch the 9th Sunday. Neither Sims or Garrett got much work in ST. Hopefully both will get into tonight game.

  10. jim walker

    Who would have thunk that 3 games into the season Tucker Barnhart and Tyler Stephenson both would have an OPS>1 with PAs virtually equal? Yeah, the OPS for both will normalize over time; but, I am going to be watching how the Reds handle the transition at catcher.

    Stephenson helped Hoffman get through 5 tight innings prior to the game being broken open. There is no reason not to show him some trust with Castillo and Gray both of who threw better to Casali than Barnhart in 2020 anyway.

    • RojoBenjy

      How much freedom are they giving to Stephenson to call pitches?

      • jim walker

        As long as he can get pitch calls from the bench, I don’t see this as a big issue.

        I noticed during the series, that even Molina was looking to his bench a lot before hanging the signs. The number of times he looked and the length of some of the looks, I have to believe he was getting (or checking for) more than typical pitchout/ throw to 1st signs.

        My guess they had somebody on the bench working with an iPad etc. to check situational pitch calls to specific hitters. I would not be surprised if they were passing location as well as pitch types to him.

        In the Reds situation, they could actually have Barnhart aided by a tablet calling the game from the bench.

      • RojoBenjy

        Thanks for the info. That makes sense

    • Tom Reeves

      Agreed. Tyler Stephenson performed well behind and at the plate. And, he showed good speed on the base path and I think he surprised Arenado a bit on the bunt.

      My guess is that his OPS will outpace Tucker’s by .200 or more. And if he’s handles the pitching staff and catching duties well, Tucker moves to backup catcher. I’m fine with Tucker as the second catcher.

      Of course, there’s a lot of chickens left to hatch so I’ll stop counting now.

    • Roger Garrett

      Great points Jim and it should be interesting.I understand our guys have thrown to Tucker for years now and I also understand he is a fan favorite and I like him as well.Tucker just can’t hit and at some point in time you have to go to the young guy who is big enough and strong enough to hit.Tucker is or will be 30 this year and well it is what it is so we shall see.

  11. Bred

    No Wink again for today’s game. Any news on him that I might have missed?

    • Doug Gray

      Nothing yet. The daily meeting with David Bell hasn’t happened yet, so until then we’re all just waiting around.

  12. Optimist

    Per the comments on Sal. I wonder if he’s under orders to avoid walks and care less about ERA. IOW, his role is multi innings, lots of appearances when the game is NOT on the line? Not a mop up guy, not a one inning guy, but always gets 2 +/- runs to work with. Would be impressive if it’s analytics creating a new role for the 12-13th pitcher as a second starter who couldn’t make it as the first starter or end of bullpen RP.

    Should be lots of games with 2-3 run differential in the 5th or 6th. Is the multi-inning hold a stat yet (MIH)?

  13. James

    We sure learned that Castellanos aggressiveness is getting more and more real. Home runs and hits thats how he rolls.
    India: is not playing like a rookie. He’s playing like a true vetrean leader. Keep up the great work!
    The Cincinnati Reds: Hitting and pitching is a true phenomenon. Amazing all around….. i really do think we have a good playoff chance if we keep playing well!

  14. James

    Not to mention Tejay Antone can still pitch! ( and bunt)?

  15. James

    Not to mention Tejay Antone can still pitch! ( and bunt)?

  16. Fanman

    This team definitey has swagger. Ex. Castellanos and pitchers. Nice mix of veterans and younger players. Pitching staff has alot of talent. Let’s see DeLeon gift fans a free LaRosa’s pizza!

  17. Old Big Ed

    We also learned that Nick Senzel is on pace to play in 162 games this season, and confirmed that the Reds need to extend Derek Johnson’s contract for many more years, if they haven’t already.

  18. MBS

    We also learned that Aquino hasn’t got the new hitting style memo. That was a towering shot he had the other day. Hopefully he locks in soon, or he might be out of time as a Cincinnati Red. If that power was directed into line drives I’d be afraid to play 3B when Aquino was up to bat.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t know how you learned that at all because a guy hit a home run?

      • MBS

        It was kinda a joke, the meat of what I was saying is he needs to lock in soon. When Shogo makes it back someone is going. Assuming everyone else is healthy, it would Aquino or Naquin.

  19. donny

    Agree and have belief for every part of this article.
    Except the belief of Sal Romano part. Sure that is what Sal said.; but big Sal is not a swing and miss guy. I guess he will just have to prove me wrong with that low spin sinker.

  20. Indy Red Man

    I have a habit (bad?) of trying to compare everyone to a past player. Antone reminds me of the big guy that started the AS game once and pitched for the Dodgers and several other teams. Name escapes me, but big guy with a beard that threw hard. He’s been gone about 7 years I think

  21. Matt McWax

    Biggest surprise for me was Hoffman. I honestly wasn’t very familiar with him but the Cards have a talented lineup. India looks legit and seems to be the type of player that will contribute regularly and not slump too deeply, i.e. a good fit with the rest of the team.

    Castellanos was very hot early last year too (1.214 ops in his first 7 games). But then .840 in August and .604 in September. I think that the coaching staff can be a factor in keeping him more consistent this year.