On Wednesday afternoon the Cincinnati Reds announced their rotation to begin the season, saying that Tyler Mahle, Reiver Sanmartin, Vladimir Gutierrez, and Hunter Greene would start the first five games of the year – with Mahle getting the 5th start after an off day following Greene. That still left a spot open in the rotation that would be needed on April 13th. The Reds only have five healthy starters in spring training right now and that fifth guy is Nick Lodolo.
That leaves us asking the question: Why wasn’t Lodolo also announced as being in the rotation? There are more than a few potential answers here. Let’s look at some of them.
Manager David Bell has said that the timeline for a return for Luis Castillo and Mike Minor could be “mid-April”. Is April 13th considered mid-April? Possibly. But there’s a tiny snag here – while players can be retroactively placed on the injured list, for pitchers this year that number is 15 days on the injured list and no longer 10. Had it still been 10 days, the Reds may have been able to make this happen. But with a player needing to spend 15 days on the injured list the timing simply doesn’t work and the team would have to keep one of them on the active roster while also hoping they would be able to make the start. The gamble there would be huge, particularly with teams knowing that every starter on the staff isn’t built up like they normally would be and will need to utilize every spot on the bullpen to help fill some of those “missing” innings.
Less than two hours after this was published Major League Baseball announced new rule additions and one of them was that for April the injured list time for pitchers would be 10 days. That could make a difference in this scenario where the team could be hoping for the fastest recovery timeline.
Figuring out the roster
Nick Lodolo is not on the 40-man roster. Currently the 40-man roster is full. Even if Lodolo does make the opening day roster, the team is going to likely need to add several other players to the 40-man roster for opening day, which is going to mean figuring out who to try and trade, place on waivers, place on the 60-day injured list, etc. to open up the required number of spots.
This one doesn’t quite feel like it’s the answer. But maybe…..
Delaying the roster move
As noted above, Nick Lodolo is not on the 40-man roster. By committing to him now you would have to add him to the 40-man roster for opening day. If you wait, even if it’s just a week to make the move to add him to the roster, that gives you a little more time to figure out the roster dynamics and maybe buy a little extra time to make other moves to clear a spot up.
Browsing the waiver wire
If the Reds have some belief that at least one of Luis Castillo or Mike Minor will be ready by mid-April, that means that someone in the current rotation, and maybe two of them, will be out of the rotation when those two return. Is it possible that the Reds don’t want to make a 40-man move to add Nick Lodolo, use an option on him for one or maybe two starts if they don’t have to, if someone hits the waiver wire at the end of the spring that they could get a look at and potentially cut loose in mid-to-late April if needed?