Cincinnati Reds right-hander Tejay Antone’s performance in San Francisco on Monday jump started a conversation online, even more than it already had. The 27-year-old dazzled against the Giants for 3.2 innings and it left fans asking why he’s not in the rotation. During spring training, he was definitely in contention, but the Reds went with Jeff Hoffman and José De León instead.

This decision couldn’t have been based on what he did in his rookie season of 2020 nor what he did in spring training this year. Last season, Antone pitched in 13 games, starting four of them. He had 45 strikeouts and walked 16 in 35.1 innings. Both his FIP and his xFIP were under 4.00 and his WHIP was a sparkling 1.02. During spring training, he allowed only one earned run in 7.2 innings while walking three and striking out 13.

Despite not making the rotation, Antone has carried over his 2020 performance into 2021, and although it’s a small sample size, he looks even better now. He’s only pitched 6.2 innings, but has nine strikeouts and has yet to give up a run while walking two.


Antone never had a standout minor league season. As a fifth-round draft pick in 2014, it’s safe to say that Antone would have been considered a fringe minor league pitcher as he was making his way through the ranks. And aside from 2015 where he recorded a 2.91 ERA in 158.1 innings at Single-A Dayton, he really did pitch like a player who may or not make the big leagues. In 2019 at Double-A and Triple-A, his ERA was well over 4.00 and his FIP and xFIP were also roughly the same: over 4.00. Enter Derek Johnson, Kyle Boddy, and the Reds’ new pitching philosophy. The coaching staff must have seen something in him because he went to work trying to improve his pitches, notably his breaking stuff.

Antone has three pitches in his arsenal, but can also throw a change up. He rarely uses his change up, however, and threw it just 17 times in 2020, all to left-handed batters. He has yet to throw the change up in 2021. So, Antone sticks to three pitches: a sinker, a slider, and a curve ball. In 2020, he threw his fastball 40.6% of the time, his slider 39.8%, and his curve ball 16.8%. This season, he’s still throwing his sinker and slider at about the same rate, but his curve ball is up to a 30.2% usage rate, and all mostly to left-handed hitters. Antone will throw his slider mostly to right-handers and his curve mostly to left-handers.

Pitch Location and Pitch Spinning

Like so many other pitchers in this organization, he’s a high spin rate guy. He worked on his spin metrics in the off season, especially with the slider and the curve. In 2020, his fastball averaged 95.6 mph with a spin rate of 2625 rpm and an active spin of 85%. Already in 2021, he’s averaging 97.0 mph on his fastball with a spin rate of 2658 rpm. He’s spinning it only a little more, but throwing it harder. Antone’s velocity has increased, but his fastball isn’t his best pitch.

He admitted in an article written by Mark Sheldon at the start of spring training in February that his slider wasn’t the best last season, but he’s been working on it and thinks it’s the best it’s ever been at this point. His spin rate on his slider in 2020 was 2674 rpm. This year, even though it’s a small sample size, the spin rate for his slider is 2863 rpm. It’s a big reason for why his whiff% and K% are so high right now. Both last year and so far this season, he’s had a 40% whiff percentage on his slider. It’s currently at 46.2 percent.

Why is Antone having so much success striking out batters? Not only has Antone increased his spin rate, but he also paints the edge of the strike zone very well. It was impressive to watch him find the edges of the zone on Monday night. His highest whiff percentages come on the outside or inside of the zone, depending on the batter. According to Statcast and Baseball Savant, that’s where most of his strikeouts come from too. He has been excellent at locating his pitches.

Rotation or Bullpen?

If there’s anything the last two series has shown the fans, it’s that the bullpen might end up being this team’s biggest weakness. Sonny Gray is returning to the rotation Saturday. That leaves one spot open. As of right now, the Reds are sticking with Jeff Hoffman until they find out more about Michael Lorenzen, who was placed on the 60-day injured list yesterday. With only one spot in the rotation open and the bullpen being how it is right now, it appears the coaching staff might find Antone more useful in the later innings rather than the first.

I do think Antone will get a chance to start at some point this season. Unfortunately, injuries happen, which is why depth is key. He’s already pitched four innings, and if he continues to pitch that long during a game, it will be easy for him to move into a starting role. It should be an easy transition for him, if he would ever be asked to do that.

Whichever direction the Reds go, we know they are going to be able to count on him. He can and will help the team win, whether that’s in the bullpen or in the rotation. 2020 was a weird year–and maybe we are still dealing with small sample sizes here (42 innings in his major league career), but with his mid-90s velocity and his nasty breaking pitches, I think he’s here to stay. It really doesn’t matter where he pitches. What matters to David Bell and the rest of the coaching staff is winning, and they will do everything they can to make sure the Reds win.

45 Responses

  1. Klugo

    Yeah, I think he’s definitely starter; but until Lorenzen gets back, the team may be best served with him in the pen.

  2. Grand Salami

    He will generated more impact (IE WAR) pitching 5 – 7 innings every five days over 3 – 5 innings in the same span.

    An argument could be made that his 3-5 are likely to be higher leverage but that’s not guaranteed.

    Get him in the rotation ASAP and move DeLeon back. Baseballs still requires your best pitchers on the mound for an many innings as possible to maximize the teams odds of success.

    • AllTheHype

      “Every 5 days” as a starter is often every 6th day (with off days), and 3-5 innings is not a given role as a reliever. It might be the case (3-5) if that the situation presents itself. But the role could also be 2 innings or less of high leverage in the 7th, in which case he will be available on day 3 again most likely.

      Reds don’t have that Josh Hader type guy, and that type of guy is invaluable.

  3. Daytonnati

    Never underestimate the Reds mismanaging a unique talent. We turned the next Randy Johnson into a closer and traded him for Rookie Davis.

    • DaveCT

      Still one of the greater misuses of talent in memory. It wasn’t as if he failed as a starter. That was when Dusty lost me.

      • David

        Aroldis Chapman did not have the mental make-up, self-discipline and inner drive to be a starter. Dusty figured that out, and put him in the bull pen. Yes, with his incredible talent (stuff, velocity), he could have been a great starter, but he did not want to do it. You can’t put that attitude into a pitcher. Amir Garrett doesn’t want to start either, after being groomed to be a starter in his minor league career. That may be different, because he might not believe he had the “stuff” to be a good starter.
        Lorenzen is a tiger and WANTS to start, regardless of what we may think of his talent. Ditto Tejay Antone. You want a tiger to go out there on the mound starting every game

      • Doug Gray

        It took YEARS of being the closer in the big leagues for Chapman to stop saying he wanted to start and actually preferred to be a closer.

      • DaveCT

        Lorenzen is a paper tiger. He’d like to be that guy but cannot do it. His arm prohibits it. TeJay on the other hand is more balanced, physically and mentally. I’ve watched Lorenzen come unglued time and again. Very little seems to rattle Antone.

      • jazzmanbbfan

        Chapman was put in the closer role because Ryan Madson blew out his elbow in spring training and the Reds had no one else with the physical ability of Chapman to put in there. Whether they should have groomed him to be a starter again after that season is a question no one knows the answer to.

      • AllTheHype

        Indy Red Man: Likewise, the Tigers are still talking about the Alfredo Simon/Suarez trade, the Yankees are talking about the Sonny Gray to Reds trade, and the Marlins would definitely like a do-over on the Dan Straily/Luis Castillo trade.

        With young players involved you can’t win them all, but the Reds have been on the good side of their fair share.

    • AllTheHype

      Most folks either forgot or were not aware, but Chapman was ramped up as a starter a couple times in Spring Training, and both times he had velo breakdown. He had only slightly above average velo, not electric, as a starter. As I recall he would sit between 94-96. Coupled with the fact that he was basically a two pitch pitcher, he just didn’t profile as a starter.

      Facts ruin a good story though, sometimes.

      • DaveCT

        Two or three occasions do not equate to truth. So sorry. Here are some facts. It was spring training and otherwise in the infancy of his career. He was a young man. He was a young man adjusting to a highly industrialized country and culture after moving from a third world country. Those are what we call facts. The big kind, that matter. What the club, on Dusty’s extremely short sided ‘how does this benefit ME’ reasoning, did was flub this guy’s development like a Joey Votto logger head error. Dusty’s advocacy effectively submarined the organization’s plan. And cost a once in a generation talent millions of salary as a starter. Facts. Stubborn aren’t they.

      • AllTheHype

        It was Spring Training plus 17 minor league starts. That is a small sample size for results, bot NOT a small sample size to see where his velo is at. And it wasn’t where it needed to be, as a starter.
        Thankfully, the Reds realized that early on and didn’t waste years of development and then convert him to a reliever.

      • Indy Red Man

        Yeah Dusty made the kid spend half his first year salary on 2 Lamborghinis with 104 and 105 license plates. He was only interested in throwing as hard as he could. That doesn’t sound like a starter to me? Dusty didn’t make him tie a woman to his bed in a Pittsburgh hotel or whatever that was? Domestic abuse too. He was never going to be a dominant starter.

        Billion dollar arm 10 cent head. End of story

      • Indy Red Man

        The one that got me that is rarely mentioned was when we traded Josh Hamilton for Volquez. I saw what Hamilton could do. How could they miss it? Hamilton put the Rangers in the WS and hit the HR that should’ve won it. That could’ve been us. I liked Volquez, but Hamilton went 32/130 the next year. Hit .359 with 32/100 in 2010 and 42/128 in 2012. I think we could’ve found a spot for him. Bottom line I think we would’ve went to atleast 1 WS with him.

        Once again if I’m going to crack Chapman then Josh wasn’t/isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer either

      • AllTheHype

        Indy Red Man: Likewise, the Tigers are still talking about the Alfredo Simon/Suarez trade, the Yankees are talking about the Sonny Gray to Reds trade, and the Marlins would definitely like a do-over on the Dan Straily/Luis Castillo trade.

        With young players involved you can’t win them all, but the Reds have been on the good side of their fair share.

      • DaveCT

        All Hype, like I said, and as you now prove, they totally blew it with his development. He needed to build innings and polish his pitches, and they rushed him instead. He obviously needed to mature and adjust to the norms of the American culture. And they crowned him without a full season in the minors, courtesy of Dusty treating him like Ralph Sampson when he wanted to be a 7′ 4″ point guard. His behaviors are facts of this. They do not define who he is (was) so much as what he needed. How does he survive in NYC? You know, the place that never sleeps? That’s a shade different than Ohio? That’s right. The Yankees know how to develop players. The player’s guy, Dusty, and the old school characters running the show, i.e. Jockey, blew it. They had a talent and squandered it. Then gave it away. We’re not talking about Ryan Freel here, who also tangled with the courts. We’re talking Randy Johnson throwing BB’s, and needing the proper pathway to get to an elite status. The only thing elite in Chapman’s case was his mismanagement by the Reds.

      • DaveCT

        IndyRedMan, not AllThe Hype. My mistake.

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        I believe that the Reds saw what you saw with Hamilton in terms of the talent.

        They also saw that he needed a personal babysitter 24-7. So did the Rangers. It is likely that they just did not trust him to stay in the league long enough and took a calculated gamble to try to trade him while they could.

    • Matt WI

      I just want to thank Daytonnati for bringing this back up… we haven’t had a good “Chapman as a starter” argument in a long time. This one has gone exactly according to script. I love it. I was in the pro starter camp, but mostly just enjoy the Dusty bashing on this particular point anymore.

      • DaveCT

        Haha, Yep, that’s me. Decaf tomorrow. But bashing Dusty today is glorious, TBH

  4. TR

    Bullpen for this season and rotation after that.

  5. Fanman

    Pitch him, Antone, in high leverage situations out of pen until starters, aka Sonny Gray, get their pitch counts up then drop him in rotation permanently! Our next Cy Young winner. Happy belated birthday April 14th to Pete Rose! #14! Same wishes to my sister April 14th!

    • Rex

      PeterEdwardRose is my wifi password Shhhhhhhh!

  6. BK

    It’s an interesting debate for sure. Antone appears to have the best stuff on the team right now and we should want to put our best pitchers in the position to log the most innings. That said, I think there is an open question on whether Antone can maintain the high quality of his pitches over 5 plus innings. He only made it through 5 innings as a starter once last year–pitching exactly 5. He didn’t have the opportunity to stretch out in ST this year, and as we saw on Monday, he hit a wall around the 50-pitch mark when Jeff Brantley pointed out changes in mechanics likely due to fatigue.

    We know he can go 3 innings and be lights out. For now, I’d like to see him pitch at least 3 innings (one outing) every series preferably in game 1. It’s very close to the same workload as a starter over a full season and could really maximize our chances to win the first game of each series. Middle innings will be hugely important this year as most believe few starters will pitch deep into games.

    Moving forward, if he can maintain his pitch quality for 5+ innings, he should absolutely start. But if he’s a 4-5 inning starter, he can be more effectively used in the pen.

  7. west larry

    Having Antone in the pen is a waste of talent. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to build Antone, Miley and Mahle to five innings each, Castillo to six and Gray to seven once he is given an outing or two to get his strength and timing back. The middle of the bullpen is a challenge. Maybe DeLeon, Kelly and ?? can hold it down for Perez or Lorenzen (when ready) and??? to close it out.

    • west larry

      And Garrett to go short relief.

    • greenmtred

      The difference between starters and relievers may not be as stark now as it has been: starters rarely go deep in games, often covering only a little more than half of the innings. That may be due to poor conditioning, but probably not; it seems much more likely that it is because of more maximum effort pitches and a general trend toward using more pitchers to avoid the third-time-through-the-order jinx. Maybe the game, right now, is in the middle of an evolutionary change in pitching usage.

  8. Earmbrister

    Having Antone in the bullpen is hardly a waste of talent. It’s useless to have quality starting pitching turn over a lead to a bullpen and watch them give it away. A 5-0 lead vs Arizona turned into a loss because of a lousy pen. Take Antone out of the BP and we are going to see a lot more blown leads. He needs to be pitching in high leverage situations with the game on the line. If the bullpen solidifies later in the season, or a reliever or two are acquired, then he can be moved to the rotation.

  9. DaveCT

    TeJay has pitched a pretty fair amount of minor league innings as a starter, and even as an innings eater (as projected earlier in his career), had pretty good value. If memory serves, he was a higher ground ball guy who didn’t give up a lot of HR’s. In GABP, that’s a plus right there. Now that his stuff has gone from average to nuclear grade plutonium, his value is only increased. So sure, let’s commit him to middle relief, even if in a Cleveland era Andrew Miller role instead of developing him as a starter, an overarching organizational need, of particular urgency right now. IMO, Deleon, Hoffman, Fulmer, Romano, Bedrosian, Embree, Warren, and if ever seen again in a Reds uniform, Lorenzen are decent enough arms that middle relievers aren’t in short supply. Or, one or more of Santillan, O’Brian, Hendrix, or Lodolo will force the issue. Out of 14 spots for pitching, there will be enough pitching for effective innings en route to the back end of the pen.

  10. Indy Red Man

    Starter. If you’re not trying to stretch him out to start then why are they pulling Miley after 5 shutout innings on 73 pitches? If you have a great arm then you start him until he proves otherwise. I’d go with Antone and Miley and try to trade for a decent setup man.

    Now if he can only go 3-4 innings and your middle relief continues to suck then maybe reconsider it. They could do worse then Miley 4th and Hoffman 5th I guess?

    Step 1….get rid of Romano for good. Don’t want him back unless its selling peanuts in the upper deck. Perez has potential, but he’d be on a short leash. Who knows on Hoffman or DeLeon in the pen? Bedrosian might improve, but he’d be on a short leash too.

    • Doug Gray

      They are pulling Miley after 5 because he’s been a 5-inning pitcher for years and he gets crushed the 3rd time through the lineup.

      • Indy Red Man

        Well if you’re not chaining them together every time then its Miley the 3rd time thru or Bedrosian & crew and the Lap Party! SF has like 2 guys over .200. I’d roll with Miley there.

      • Doug Gray

        I’ll trust Derek Johnson on this one given that he’s basically been responsible for helping turn Wade Miley’s career around since the two got together in Milwaukee.

      • Indy Red Man

        All I know is this. Castillo has had 5 days off twice and now it will be 6 days off before Arizona on Tuesday. Why not pitch Sonny tomorrow and then chain Miley/Antone on Saturday with Luis on Sunday. They’d had chances to skip their scrubs, but Bell refuses to do it? Plus it gets Luis on a rhythm that he needs.

      • Doug Gray

        Bell, Derek Johnson, and the rest of the organization made this decision together. They have never considered pitching guys out of turn or going with a 4-man rotation when they could have because of off days because there’s no play book for how guys are going to pitch this year after what they all went through last year.

        As for Sonny pitching on Saturday – it was stated so that everyone could stay on their normal schedule for pitching. So there ya go.

      • Indy Red Man

        Oh I know. I don’t claim to know what they know, but some of it is common sense. Phillies had Wheeler at 108 pitches or whatever last night. Different guys have different approaches.

  11. Redsfan4life

    Can we get a 3rd choice? How about let Antone be a opener twice a week. Every time Miley starts. Teams would either load there lineups with LHB vs. Antone for his 3 innings or load with RHB knowing Miley would be coming into the game at some point.

  12. Hotto4Votto

    He belongs in the rotation, in my opinion. He’s always been a starter in his career until he reached the majors, he’s got nasty stuff and enough variety in his pitches to get through the order 3 times. There’s more value to glean from Antone by getting as many innings as you can from him, and that’s going to be in the rotation.

  13. Roger Garrett

    I tend to want him as a starter but it appears we will have a bunch of 5 inning starts for awhile so maybe he is more valuable as a reliever.I think the Reds need as many multiple inning guys they can get in the pen.He appeared in one game in the last series but it was almost 4 innings then he wasn’t available.Is a 5 or 6 inning start more important every 5th day and sometimes 6 days then pitching 2 or 3 times out of the pen in the same time frame.I don’t know but the more innings you can get out of your best pitchers is the right way to go.I guess I still cringe when I watch us lose games in the 6th or 7th while our best watch in the pen.Reds just have to get away from 1 inning pitchers some how.Sims and Garrett need to be used more then one inning at a time and I know its off the subject but they haven’t pitched much at all.

  14. CFD3000

    Starter. Give your best pitchers the most innings – simply as that.

    Some will say “use him as a high leverage reliever”. Unfortunately those situations aren’t consistent or predictable. So he ends up not pitching because high leverage never happened, or high leverage does happen, but he’s not available because you had to use him yesterday and the day before.

    Some will say “piggyback him with Miley”. But if you save him for that, what happens when Miley is terrible? Or when Miley is good and so is the offense and they’re up by 6?

    Some will say “use him as an opener”. That’s the same as saying let him start, only for fewer innings.

    Best use for your best pitchers, assuming they can handle the innings load and have more than one or two effective pitches, is to start. There’s a reason the hall of fame is full of starters with only a smattering of relievers. The best pitchers have been, are, and should be used in the rotation. Including Tejay Antone.

    • docproc

      Couldn’t have written that better.

  15. doofus

    Wow, the comments went from a discussion about whether Tejay should be in the rotation or pen to how E.T. (El Toothpick) wanted to turn Ralph Sampson into a point guard.


    Who said we are not an eclectic bunch here on the ‘Nation!’