Thursday afternoon in Goodyear was a big day for Cincinnati Reds left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo. He pitched to hitters in a live batting practice session. That was the next step for him as he continues to work his way back to the mound and possibly into games this spring.

Lodolo, who last pitched for Cincinnati on May 6th against the Chicago White Sox, was initially diagnosed with calf tendonitis but later was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his tibia. He attempted to come back later in the year, but he was shut down while on rehab with Triple-A Louisville when his stress reaction came back.

The lefty faced “five or six” batters and was supposed to throw 25 pitches, but he told reporters that he wasn’t exactly sure how many pitches he threw.

“Felt good,” Lodolo said. “I think we hit that progression, at least for now. I’ll see how I feel in the morning, when I get here in the morning.”

Can he be ready for the start of the season given that he’s not yet pitching in games and March begins tomorrow?

“I think so. I might not be as built up as other guys, I might be like a week behind them. But I feel we can work with that. We haven’t even talked about that part yet. But I’m thinking going forward, if we can get built up enough to be manageable we’ll be alright.”

In today’s game, with 8-man bullpens, it’s a little bit easier to cover a short start. From that standpoint, Lodolo is absolutely correct. If he’s just a week or so behind others, then it’s not a big deal at all for him to head to the mound for his first big league start and be tasked with a 65-75 pitch count. Early in the year, the bullpen guys aren’t tired or worn down like they could be in September and a short start could cause a real impact.

Of course, Lodolo still has to show what he can get done on the mound. The Reds have more options than they’ve got rotation spots. Hunter Greene, Frankie Montas, Andrew Abbott, Graham Ashcraft, Brandon Williamson, and Nick Martinez all represent options that Cincinnati could put into the rotation without thinking much about it. That gives Cincinnati some wiggle room on what they want to do with Lodolo, too. They don’t necessarily have to have him ready that first time through the rotation. Whether that means they push him to Triple-A to “rehab” or even just to a situation where he could “piggyback” with a Nick Martinez to cover some innings that first week or two – the club can take several routes if his return is going to be “close” to that first week.

15 Responses

  1. MK

    Wasn’t it diagnosed as a stress reaction, which is slightly different.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s been reported both ways. I can’t say that I know which one was right/wrong. It’s possible both are since he dealt with it twice.

  2. Rut

    Would be shocked if he is ready for opening day.

    That said, given the likely limitations on innings, would rather have him late April/start of May and then for rest of season than have him start with a full workload right away and then get shut down in September regardless

  3. Melvin

    Here’s to hoping he wakes up tomorrow feeling good and continues to progress.

  4. Old-school

    Seems easy to me

    Lodolo starts in AAA and Martinez starts in the rotation . Give it 4 weeks and Martinez moves to the bullpen if Lodolo is dominant and healthy

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      I believe Lodolo could be the best pitcher on the team so keeping him in AAA for the first month of the season does not seem easy to me. If he is not ready then send him there to get a rehab start if needed but after that unless he looks bad all spring he needs to be in a Reds uniform.

    • Redsvol

      My way of thinking too old school. Pennants aren’t won in April. All of montas, Greene, ashcraft, abbot and Martinez are not going to be ready to throw 180 innings. So we will need a really good pitcher to come up and be able to spell these guys a “maintenance” stint to the IL so they can be ready for a September push. Lodolo provides that.

      Let him build up his strength and prove he can pitch 6 innings and 100 pitches in Louisville. I see no rush.

      • Luke J

        I believe every inning Lodolo pitches in Louisville is a wasted inning. If he is healthy enough to pitch in a game, he should be getting those innings for the Reds. He is an elite pitcher. Even if his workload is lighter as he comes back, he should build up length in Cincinnati. Every pitcher only has so many innings they can pitch in a year. No reason to waste some from possibly your best starter in the minor leagues.

      • DaveCT

        Lodolo has pitched more than 100 innings just twice between three years of college and three years of full season professional ball.

        He has to demonstrate that he can handle pitching every fifth day in the ML season. As such, he is unreliable. To become reliable, for the present and for the remaining years of team control, of which two have been burned, he has to build innings.

        The path to 125 innings for him this year is narrow. If allowed to go 5 plus innings from the get-go, he’d be limited to around twenty starts, effectively ending his season in July. See above, Stephen Strasberg.

        To buffer that, he may need 12 or 14 starts where he is limited to 4 innings, which would tax the ML bullpen, repeating a problem from 2023 (he might then ramp up for the remainder of the year at GABP).

        And piggybacking him out of the ML bullpen unnecessarily limits middle relief choices for the manager in innings 5-7.

        So, having him build innings at AAA is a benefit not a deficit.

        It’s a bummer, but this is a transition year for Lodolo, meaning he is still making the transition from a college workload to a professional full season workload.

        He may be more talented than, say, Williamson, but he may not be better suited to being a ML starter or more reliable.

      • old-school

        Its March 1 and Lodolo hasnt pitched yet or thrown a single inning in a game. Its going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to get him to 5 innings and 80+ pitches by the last weekend in March. As Dave points out, he doesnt have 180 innings in him either this year.

        With the AAA season having an off day every Monday, the Reds could let Lodolo build up his innings in AAA with effectively an extended ST, by getting him 4 innings a start for a few weeks, then 5 innings for a few weeks while preserve his overall load by pitching once a week instead of every 5th day in April. He could then move into the Reds SP rotation once his arm is built up to 100 pitches and 6 innings when he is ready or the need arises.

  5. DaveCT

    One of the primary concerns, and one that doesn’t get enough attention, is that Nick has yet to demonstrate he can handle a full professional season in his four seasons of pro ball.

    It does not get mentioned almost ever, but prior to the rush to get him in the ML’s in 2022, he had only thrown 68 or so professional (innings during his first and second year). This followed college, where Nick threw 78, 77 and 103 innings, pitching once a week.

    To me, it was and remains a huge concern. In 2022, he threw 115 innings; last year, 41, for a grand total of 137 professional innings over four seasons.

    I really like Lodolo and absolutely love watching him pitch. I just can’t see him as a reliable starter until he proves he can handle the professional workload. In fact, I would not be surprised if his college teammate surpasses him in the rotation, at least shorter term.

  6. TR

    The opening of the season is four weeks away. Recovering from an injury should be a gradual process to get back to, so-called, normal. The Reds are loaded and could be a surprise team. No rush, take the necessary time to recover.

  7. CFD3000

    The Reds will need him at 100%. Whatever the path is to get there, and however long it takes it will be worth the wait. But I can see Luke Jo’s point about not wasting competitive innings in AAA, especially from a guy who may not be ready for 200 strong innings in a year.

    I’m also excited that the Reds options to cover the rotation until Lodolo is at full strength are better than ever in recent memory. One month – can’t wait to start finding out how good the Reds will be in 2024.