Over the weekend Sonny Gray took his final step on his return to the Cincinnati Reds rotation. The right-handed pitcher threw a simulated game at Chase Field in Arizona – he’s on the road trip with the team – and came out the other side feeling fine. Gray last pitched in early March during a game in spring training before he began to experience back spasms. A brief shut down period allowed the team to diagnose what they believed the problem was and address it. Since then Gray’s been rebuilding his innings workload. He even started “opening day” at the Reds alternate site in Louisville last week.

But now he’s ready to go. Manager David Bell noted yesterday that he would return to the rotation when the team returned home from their current road trip. He wasn’t specific with which game that would be, but earlier in the week he noted the plan was that Gray would throw his simulated game and then pitch five days later – which would be that first game back against Cleveland on Friday.

That game on Friday would be Jeff Hoffman’s turn if he remained on a 5-day schedule. But it wouldn’t be much to ask for him to take an extra day and pitch Saturday, either. That spot would be the normal place for José De León. It is probably not a coincidence at all that the two of them are lined up as the #3 and #4 in the rotation. It feels that those two guys were both sort of “spot holders” for when Gray returns, and if one of them pitched significantly better than the other, whoever that was would stick around in the rotation and the other one wouldn’t.

Each pitcher has now made two starts and thrown exactly the same number of innings. Jeff Hoffman has allowed four runs with a WHIP of 1.29 and allowed one home run to go with an ERA of 3.86. José De León has allowed eight runs with a WHIP of 1.71 and given up four home runs to go with an ERA of 7.71. Hoffman has clearly been the better pitcher between the two guys.

It’s been the home run more than anything that’s crushed José De León so far. He’s walked five of the 45 batters that he’s faced, and that’s not great – but it’s also not something that will absolutely crush a pitcher, especially when he’s also struck out 18 of them. But giving up a home run nearly every other inning will crush a pitcher’s stat line and that’s exactly what’s happened.

With Gray returning for Friday or Saturday, we may know the answer as to who is being pushed out of the rotation sooner than that. The team doesn’t need to make a roster move until the day that Gray is returning, and they’d be silly to do it before hand. Whether it’s going to be Hoffman or De León pushed out, that pitcher could be used out of the bullpen at some point in the Giants series on what would normally be their “bullpen day” between starts. That could give us a clue as to who it will be.

If Jeff Hoffman heads out of the rotation then he will wind up in the Reds bullpen. He has no options remaining and can’t be sent out to the alternate site without risking another team picking him up on waivers. But for José De León things could be different. While he could be moved to the bullpen and someone else from the bullpen be sent down or designated for assignment to make room for him there, De León has an option available and could be sent to the alternate site where he could continue starting and be rotation depth if the team wants to go about things in that manner.

If the Reds decide that the strikeout potential of José De León out of the bullpen is too tempting and push him there rather than option him to the minors, that means a bullpen roster move would need to be made. Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims, Tejay Antone, and Sean Doolittle aren’t going anywhere. Sal Romano and Carson Fulmer are out of options, and Cam Bedrosian has too much service time to be optioned without his permission (he could be optioned, but that would leave him with the ability to choose to become a free agent). That leaves only Cionel Pérez in the bullpen with an option among the players who don’t seem to be locks to not be sent down.

If the team were to make a bullpen move it feels like it would come down to Romano, Fulmer, Pérez, and Bedrosian. It’s still pretty early to look at the stats to say that so-and-so should be designated for assignment, or optioned in the case of Pérez because of them, but Cam Bedrosian’s stats stick out like a sore thumb among the group with an ERA of 12.27 and a WHIP of 2.73 so far.

It seems that the likely scenario would just be to option José De León down and see how the bullpen shapes out a little more in the next few weeks and go from there. But you could understand keeping him around in the bullpen and seeing how maybe shorter stints could work for him with all of those strikeouts, too. It could be an interesting weekend for a roster move analysis breakdown depending on exactly which way the Cincinnati Reds go.

33 Responses

  1. Will

    What do you think happens when Lorenzen comes back?

    • Doug Gray

      He’s not close to returning yet, so guessing right now would be a bit foolish IMO. If he’s truly going to be coming back to the rotation he’s probably at least 4-5 weeks away. A lot can (and probably will) happen in that time period. How whoever is left in the rotation pitches matters. How the guys in the bullpen pitch between now and then matters. Does everyone currently in the rotation stay healthy until then? Just far too much to wonder about that could change in that time period.

    • LDS

      Maybe the right move is to shop him. I’m ambivalent on the likelihood of him being successful this year. Last year was down vs. 2019. Certainly, I’m skeptical about his ability to be an impact starter. Still think he’s better suited to the bullpen. But who knows. Maybe he’ll surprise us.

  2. docproc

    Would love to see both Hoffman and DeLeon in the bullpen and Antone back in the rotation where he belongs. He’s collecting dust in his current role of “long reliever when we have a close lead to protect.” What a waste.

    • Jonathan Linn

      @ docproc – everything I have read on here and @ the Athletic is saying Antone is getting stretched to be back in the rotation at some point. Last outing he threw 2 innings…maybe he will through 3+ tonight if Miley struggles

  3. jim walker

    I’m not sure the Reds pen can handle another guy (DeLeon) who mostly pitches very well but has a proclivity for allowing untimely HRs since Garrett and Sims already have 3 among them in 6 combined appearances with 30 batters faced. It might be more productive for the both the player and the team in the long term to send DeLeon down for some focused work on the pitches that are getting him burned.

  4. BK

    I would option DeLeon, today and recall Art Warren (currently on the taxi squad with the team). Warren adds another arm to the pen for the Giants series. On Friday, Warren is optioned to make room for Sonny Gray. Hoffman should be in the pen until 25 April when the Reds will need a fifth starter again.

  5. D Ball

    I’m not sure what the upside is to Bedrosian long-term. His career numbers say he is better than what we’ve seen so far, but De León’s strikeout rate is a premium for the bullpen right now. We can’t keep walking in runs. Given that he has started, I also like the idea of slotting him into the rotation in case one of the other starters starts to slide. While the stats say Hoffman has done better through 2 starts, I think overall De León has been more impressive because he hadn’t really pitched since 2019. The upside is pretty obvious if he can locate pitches. On the other hand, optioning out Bedrosian seems like we’re not necessarily losing that much. Is someone going to really sign him as a FA when he’s pitching like this? I think we need to win now, and De León gives us a better option than most of the bullpen.

    • Indy Red Man

      IDK? That 0-2 pitch by DeLeon to Escobar yesterday was one of the worst 0-2s I’ve ever seen. He couldn’t have centered it up for him any better. The only surprise was that it was only hit for a double. DeLeon hasn’t pitched much and could improve, but Hoffman has a career era away from Coors at 4.66. Thats not that bad. I’d go with him over DeLeon at this point. I suspect Miley is nearing the end, but we’ll know more tonight.

      • D Ball

        Just to clarify- I agree with you: right now Hoffman is the better pitcher. I’m just saying if I had to option someone I would take the risk with Bedrosian. He’s going to have to start pitch better before someone takes a risk on him out of their bullpen.

        And I’m not so sure that the nervous energy and location issues we’re seeing from De León are long-term as much as they are rust. I’ll take 18 strikeouts in 9.1 innings out of the bullpen any day of the week.

        Cam’s issues with location are frankly a lot more concerning to me given his fastball is low 90s. He walked a run in the other day. I’m less comfortable with him improving than De León improving. De León to me at least has the strikeouts which tell me he can get a lot better. Cam’s 4 K’s in 3.2 innings leaves a lot to be desired.

  6. wutinthehail

    In my OOTP 22 game, I send Perez down and put Deleon in the bullpen.

  7. D Ball

    Just to clarify- I agree with you: right now Hoffman is the better pitcher. I’m just saying if I had to option someone I would take the risk with Bedrosian. He’s going to have to start pitch better before someone takes a risk on him out of their bullpen.

    And I’m not so sure that the nervous energy and location issues we’re seeing from De León are long-term as much as they are rust. I’ll take 18 strikeouts in 9.1 innings out of the bullpen any day of the week.

    Cam’s issues with location are frankly a lot more concerning to me given his fastball is low 90s. He walked a run in the other day. I’m less comfortable with him improving than De León improving. De León to me at least has the strikeouts which tell me he can get a lot better. Cam’s 4 K’s in 3.2 innings leaves a lot to be desired.

  8. Redsvol

    The problem is that neither Hoffman or Deleon deserve to be in the rotation yet. They were put there due to option issues, injuries, and other issues that had little to do with their own performance. They simply haven’t had the development time to prove they have reached a stage where they can be trusted as starters on a playoff-caliber team. They either need to be in the bullpen or optioned to the alternative site for further development time. Antone needs to be stretched out and put in rotation soon and Gray needs to be healthy. When Lorenzen comes back maybe then you move Antone back to bullpen for the stretch run and plug Lorenzen into his place. It looks like Lorenzen is going to be gone till June.

    • VaRedsFan

      So you think a healthy Lorenzen is better than Antone?

    • sixpack

      Because of the late start and the number of starters we have, Lorenzen goes to the pen. That gets him back sooner and we know what we have.

  9. Hotto4Votto

    If they want to keep DeLeon on a starter’s schedule it makes sense to option him. If they decide they want his strike out ability in the bullpen then the guys mentioned in the article will have to be sorted through. I like keeping Perez as another lefty, though I realize that way of thinking is trending toward obsolete due to the new 3 batter rule. He is the only guy that can get sent down on options so I’d probably pick between Bedrosian and Perez from the bullpen.
    If it were my decision, I’d give the bullpen guys a little more time, and option DeLeon.

  10. Chris

    Personally, I think De Leon stays and Hoffman goes to the bullpen. Much has been made about Hoffman being a “work in progress,” as far as his mechanics and repertoire go – so my guess is he heads to the pen to continue the work. JDL has been with the team for over a year and should be considered more of a finished product – if such a thing exists in the realm of mediocre starting pitchers. He misses bats – it seems like his wildness in the zone and the HRs may be more a matter of focus, or even pitch-tipping. His stuff is pretty good.

    Ultimately, it’s Antone’s spot. Also – I’m for keeping Lorenzen in the pen. He’s been a much better pitcher there throughout his career. I doubt that’s an accident. We need some help out there anyway.

    As for who goes down when Gray comes back? Cam Bedrosian. Option him if he’ll accept and if not, allow him to pursue other interests. He’s not fooling anyone at this point – and there are probably 10 dudes sitting at home right now with similar pedigrees and stuff.

    • VaRedsFan

      Lorenzen was not a good reliever. He did fave slightly better results as a starter last year.

      • Doug Gray

        Is there a different Michael Lorenzen than the one on the Reds that you’re talking about? Because that Michael Lorenzen has a 3.48 ERA in the last five seasons with 235 games pitched in relief.

      • VaRedsFan

        I’m talking about the one that would come into games with runners on and routinely would allow those guys to score.

  11. IndyRedsFan

    DeLeon is also a work in progress. Seems to me that the best thing, both for the long term and the short term would be to put him the Alternate Site/AAA rotation and allow him to continue to hone his craft. This is the last year that option is available.
    If he can be developed as a starter, he’ll be needed in the future.

  12. TR

    A rotation of Gray, Castillo, Miley, Mahle and Antone with Hoffman as a backup, if needed. Deleon needs more work in the minors to avoid homeruns in relief with the short right field porch at GABP. A decision in June when Lorenzen returns.

  13. JB

    Fullmer isnt going anywhere. He has been a bright spot in the pen.

  14. MBS

    Option Romano, move De Leon to the pen. No one will pick up Romano, he’s just long relief at this point. De Leon would be an upgrade in that role, not quite the Antone level, but another good option in a tight game. Romano is only an option in a game with a big lead, or deficit.

  15. Armo 21

    Doug–Wade Miley reminds me of Tom Browning (soft tossing lefty, that the opposition does not barrel up very much). In this day and age of power pitchers, I understand why so many here don’t get what Miley can bring. He goes out works quick, seems to get a lot of ground balls, keeps his team in the game and eats innings. After watching JDL last night, I will take WM shutting out the opposition through 5. I get that he had a rough patch at the end of 2019 and then a tough year in 2020 with injuries, but seems to me too many are dismissing what he can do and does when he is on. Curious if he reminds you of TB as well. Thanks.

    • Doug Gray

      I barely remember Tom Browning. He made 8 starts after my 9th birthday.

      • Armo21

        LOL…my bad. You are an old soul and I mean that in the best way possible. Go back an watch the 90 World Series game, you will see what I mean. I should have asked Jim Walker. He will remember Browning

        Go Reds.

      • sixpack

        Watched his whole career and was a solid starter. I agree pitches like him.

    • Scott C

      Armo 2. I believe you are right. Browning also worked fast on the mound. Miley may not be in the same league of ability or results as Browning but now that you mention it, he has similarities.

  16. Armo 21

    W. Miley 10YRS
    SUMMARY War W L ERA G GS IP SV SO WHIP AVG IP
    Career 11.1 86 85 4.22 256 250 1424 0 1133 1.382 196
    T.Browning 12YRS
    SUMMARY War W L ERA G GS IP SV SO WHIP AVG IP
    19.8 123 90 3.94 302 300 1921 0 1000 1.27 217
    Epitome of what is a 5th starter. Great change of pace for a rotation in a series gives opposition a different look.

    Also, based on tonight, looks like they are stretching out Antone, might mean that Lorenzen, JH and JDL are out as starters?

  17. DDRedsfan

    With an option left I believe it will be DeLeon sent down to continue as a starter. The Reds may need him back as a starter if an injury happens. Sonny has already had a back issue this year and that could easily pop back up. Gray, Mahle, Castillo, Miley and Hoffman starting 5. Antone could replace Hoffman if he gets stretched out. DeLeon could slide in if someone gets injured. Lorenzen, I would put back into the bullpen once he’s ready to go. Try to build him up to a starter next offseason again if he’s still with the team.