Tony Santillan hasn’t pitched in a big league game in over a year. The right-handed reliever pitched last on June 13th of 2022 and then he went on the injured list with a back injury and he did not return during the season. That same injury kept him from starting spring training on time. He recovered from the low-back stress fracture, but before he was able to get all of the necessary work in to return to the big leagues both his knee and his hamstring began to cause him issue, delaying his return.

The Cincinnati Reds sent him out on his second rehab assignment – he was on one for a week in early April before the other injuries popped up and he was shut down for two months – on June 13th. Essentially, he’s been using his rehab stint as spring training. There have been some ups and downs along the way, but last night was the best outing he’s had.

Santillan has been on his rehab assignment for 18 days – including today. Last night saw him throw a scoreless inning while allowing a hit and striking out three of the four hitters he faced. It was the first game on rehab that he didn’t walk a batter since his first one in June when he only recorded one out while giving up three hits.

He’s been working with his fastball often, throwing it 60% of the time during his most recent rehab stint. It’s been working in the 95-98 MPH range, averaging 96.4 MPH. His slider has been used 35% of the time, and he’s mixed in a few change ups along the way, too. This is a rehab assignment, so we shouldn’t place too much on what’s happening, but the fastball usage is higher than it’s been in his big league career, and his slider usage is down.

Pitchers can remain on a rehab assignment for up to 30 days. With Santillan entering Friday as his 18th day, he’s less than two weeks from returning, if not sooner as long as he can remain healthy.

Antone and Gutierrez

Tony Santillan isn’t the only Reds pitcher on the rehab path after missing more than the last year. Tejay Antone and Vladimir Gutierrez are both recovering from Tommy John surgery. Both pitchers are out in Arizona working on their rehab, but both have recently progressed to throwing off of the mound. Both are further out from a return, but both also seem to be on the right track.

43 Responses

  1. BK

    Good to hear. We can use all of them if their rehabs go well.

  2. RedlegScott

    It’s probably not likely, but might any of these returning guys fill a starting role? Santillan, Law, etc. If not now (still working on their return to form), then later? And when they do arrive, who goes down?

    • Doug Gray

      I mean the only one who has started in the last several years is Gutierrez, so I wouldn’t expect any of them to start except him. And even with him, maybe not until 2023 (we’ll see what his timeline looks like when things get closer to his return).

      • Chris

        I personally would like to see them push to have Gutierrez starting. Not sure he’s beneficial to this team unless he is starting.

      • old-school

        I think I read from C Trent that Gutierrez would be a reliever in 2023.

      • MBS

        @Old, so you’re confirming he’ll be a starter. C Trent stinks at predictions, and I can’t believe there’s been a plan laid out to him on Gutierrez.

      • old-school

        @ MBS, I just re-read his article from Monday, sort of a news and notes review of last week. He states..”He will pitch out of the bullpen in hopes of returning to the Reds this season.”

      • MBS

        @old, that does make sense, easing him back in off the TJ,

  3. The Duke

    Those three could be key bullpen additions in the second half as I can’t see our bullpen throwing this many innings and be both lasting and effective for the whole year.

    • jmb

      Absolutely! Diaz is tired. Gibaut is giving up runs. Some more rest days is in order for both.

  4. LDS

    Maybe the Reds will get lucky, but right now I’m not convinced that any of the three will ever be major factors in the Reds’ future.

    • Optimist

      “Major factor”? Not likely, unless Antone really bounces back. Important factor soon? Perhaps if any two of them can come up for effective 2 inning appearances. The July schedule is difficult and important (all those Brewer games), but their chances this year really rely on lots of the pitching returning in August – if it does, they good be in surprisingly good shape.

    • JB WV

      Have to agree with that, especially Antone. Isn’t this his second TJ?

      • Harry Stoner

        I know some folks have been frustrated with the pussyfoot use of Sims since he’s come back from back troubles.

        But Sims has been pretty effective.

        Maybe a strategery to try with Santillan as he regains strength and stamina.

        Don’t force feed him. (Pun intended…now that he’s apparently losing weight.)

  5. Rednat

    you could almost construct a team with strictly relievers these days. maybe have one or 2 starters that can go five innings but then have 3-4 “openers” that can go 2-3 innings then 6-7 middle relievers to fill the rest of the innings.

    • Nick in NKY

      I can’t help but wonder if this is the inevitable direction that analytics will lead to. People talk about how starters don’t go 7 and 300 innings a year anymore; can the trend continue to the point where 200 is almost unheard of? In a way it seems like a reasonable argument where you get more different looks in a game and perhaps allow pitchers to put more effort into a single hitter or inning. It will be interesting to see how pitching evolves in the near future.

    • Old Big Ed

      I could see where somebody would try to have guys go through the lineup one time each, then turn it over to Pitchers B and C for the next times through.

      Nowadays, though, there aren’t many “long relievers.” Guys are either starters, or else they pretty much throw one inning. To do something like this, they’d need a few guys capable of throwing 3 innings effectively. That is like a mid-range jump shot now — nobody really knows how to do that anymore.

  6. tim

    when is the team going to try an “opener” game, with five or six relievers pitching the entire game? maybe when law and santillan are back, law can open with two innings, then santillan for two, then gibaut, farmer, cruz/young, sims, diaz. would this be impractical? have a negative effect on any of them pitching the next day? maybe too, take weaver out of the rotation and put him into an opener mix.

    • Doug Gray

      That’s not an opener game, that’s a bullpen game.

      Openers are just a reliever pitching an inning or two, then giving way to an actual starting pitcher.

  7. Jim Walker

    I saw Santillan’s inning Thursday night. He looks closer to his former playing weight than he did in his prior rehab earlier in the season when he looked more like Jumbo Diaz than the Santillan I recalled. Hopefully, this speaks well of his durability if he makes it back otherwise.

    • Melvin

      Maybe they need to update his weight. 😉

      • Jim Walker

        He still looks like he hasn’t been late for dinner in quite a while. But then he is full bodied in build. If he was “only” 285 before, I’d guess he is 260 or so now. I believe his official playing weight last year was mid 240’s.

  8. Harry Stoner

    Tony is only 26. A lot of promise there as a starter at one time, pressed into service in the BP.

    Would like to see him given another shot at starting, but that’s not likely given the injury, time of year and his now basically 2 pitch repertoire.

    Maybe in ‘24 if he stays healthy.

    Mercy, he’d be welcome in the bullpen, too.

    From Seguin, TX. Good bbq town.

    • AC

      He wasn’t pressed into service in the BP as much as he wasn’t very good as a starter.

      • Harry Stoner

        He did well at it in MiLB.

        Only 4 starts in 2021 before the switch over.

        Double check his stats from that year.

        Had a 3.78 era in those 4 starts.

        Would look pretty good this year, wouldn’t it?

      • greenmtred

        It would look good. I agreed with your thought about easing him back, though. It has been quite a while since he pitched in MLB.

      • Jim Walker

        June 13, 2022 was Santillan’s last MLB appearance per BBRef

      • DaveCT

        I’ve always liked Santillan’s attitude. He’s got some Gossage and Dibble in him, and I thought that worked well in the bullpen. That said, he was one of the big bodied arms we drafted in hopes of finding a big, durable starter. We got the big part right — Traveiso, Santillan, Howard, but not the durability. If Santillan wants to try starting again next year, I’d give it a look.

  9. Old-school

    Lineup is out and it looks strong. EDLC is in the DH, first time I believe. Don’t shoot the messenger, but to the call up CES crowd, the Reds are using the DH as a release valve for team chemistry so everyone stays happy and is willing to sit a positional game every 10th while still gets hitting reps and sit the bench 1/10 as well so India/EDLC/McLain play 5 days a week at 2/SS/3b and Votto plays 1b 4-5 days at first and Steer flexes to LF/3b/1b/DH and Stephenson DH’s 30-40% of the time. The rotational DH is allowing (2) fundamental things to continue to happen-balancing the infielders who all need reps(crucial) and balancing the 3 catcher commitment Krall made.( not crucial but apparently important to Krall. If CES is called up, then the Steer/EDLC/McLain/India infield rotation flops and the Votto/Steer 1b rotation flops and the 60% non-Stephenson catcher flops and the Senzel/Steer outfield fill in and Newman rotation for playing time flops.

    • Melvin

      As I’ve been saying, calling CES up only strengthens our team by resting our guys, giving us more options in the lineup, and making our bench stronger. Making Stephenson a full time catcher then sitting him on his days off instead of DH, then using the other nine guys in a rotation each one getting a day off from starting every 8/9 days solves most everything. Just have to figure who goes off of the 26 man roster. A need for a 2nd backup catcher and a utility infielder is becoming less and less.

    • DaveCT

      CES wouldn’t be the first guy to have to wait longer than he’d like to get the call. Given that many, if not most, of these guys know their flaws very well and much better than anyone else, I’d say he understands it due to his defensive limitations. If Steer, Senzel, Votto, hit the IL, he’s like to make his debut this year. Otherwise, he has to wait out a hall of fame until 2024. He could even use his time to learn the outfield, not to mention get better at 3B/1B.

      • Melvin

        I wouldn’t be so sure he would get the call up even with injuries. Not surprised if Reynolds gets it instead. Besides, it’s about making the team stronger not about CES.

      • Beaufort Red

        Like I said, I’d bet anything if nothing else he’ll get called up in September.

      • Melvin

        Be terrible if we found out in September he could have helped us make the playoffs by coming up in June. 🙂

      • Harry Stoner

        Where does the shibboleth that CES is a defensive liability come from?

        Those RLN folks watching him in AAA report him making solid plays at 1B, 3B and OF.

        Bell plays Newman at 1B. Stephenson at C. Votto at 1B, Senzel and Fraley in the OF, Barrero in CF.

        We’re not talking an elite benchmark of D.

      • Melvin

        I’ve not seen him play bad defense in AAA. The reports I’ve heard said he’s been pretty good actually. It’s to the point that excuses are just baloney in my view.

    • Harry Stoner

      Angels decide to gift Trout to the Reds.

      Reds say “No, I don’t want to mess up my finely tuned rotational sorting.”

      I know it’s an absurd comparison, but I don’t know what’s so magical about the current shuffle…it’s changed multiple times over the season so far.

      Maintaining and increasing run production is the only key to getting through the SP collapse until folks get healthy or an innings nibbler comes on board.

      Both are a minimum of 4-5 weeks away.

      • Melvin

        Yep Harry. We’re not awesome offensively. We can and should be trying to get better.

    • Bigbill

      How long until we can say that Votto looks pretty overmatched at the plate? Hope he bounces back but right now he just looks bad. Started back with a couple of good at bats but now we just looks old and slow. It’s a shame.

  10. Rick

    We need a healthy & effective Santillan and Derek Law too.
    Maybe Vlad & Antone in Sept. or October.

  11. MBS

    Rumor has it Lively will be back before the all star break. I can’t believe that I’d be so relieved to hear that.

    Still thinking an India for Bieber trade is exactly what both teams need.

    • jmb

      Once the Guardians get Mackenzie back, they should be able to trade a starter, being that they’ve brought up several youngsters who are doing well (though they are restricted by innings limits). Bieber’s having a bit of an off-year, and he only has one more year of control, whereas Civale and Quantrill (who’s having a bad year) both have 2.