John Fay says that Eric Milton “is becoming (a) PR nightmare for the Reds.” Further:

Matt Belisle has a 2.08 ERA; Bobby Livingston has a 1.23 ERA and one of them is going to start the year in Triple-A. Milton is 16-23 with 5.89 ERA in two years with the Reds and he’s getting a spot on track record.

This after Milton gave up five home runs in six innings…versus the Pirates. And not just the Pirates. It was the Pirates’ Class A players. The Lynchburg Pirates. Ugh.

Plenty of talk about Milton today. Jeff says Milton Must Go. Red Hot Mama has a photo and some comments on Milton’s performance yesterday.

Meanwhile, the local papers are all over the story, but there really isn’t a story here. Milton will get about a hundred starts before he’s removed from the rotation, regardless of performance. Anyway…

John Fay notes that Bobby Livingston completely outshined Milton yesterday:

The juxtaposition was made in sports-talk heaven.

While Bobby Livingston was dealing with the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium, Eric Milton was getting beat up by the Lynchburg Pirates on a back field.

Livingston threw five shutout innings, allowing one hit, in the Reds’ 5-0 win over Boston. He walked one and struck out four to lower his ERA to 1.23.

Milton went six innings, allowing 11 hits – five of which were home runs – and six runs.

Livingston is battling Matt Belisle and Kirk Saarloos for the fifth spot in the Reds’ rotation.

Milton has been penciled into the third spot since spring started.

Any way that changes?

“That’s what we’ve planned all along,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said.

Further, Fay pounds the PR drum:

When you factor in the way Livingston and Belisle have pitched, the Reds could have a public relations disaster on their hands.

Belisle is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Livingston, a waiver pickup from Seattle, has pitched as well or better.

One of them is likely to start the year at Triple-A Louisville.

“From my standpoint, I can’t do much more than I’ve done,” Livingston said. “All I can try to do is make the decision hard for them.”

Livingston, a 24-year-old left-hander, and Belisle, a 26-year-old right-hander, both have minor-league options, so the Reds can send them to Triple-A and then call them up if a starter like Milton falters.

Meanwhile, Josh Katzowitz in the Post and Kyle Nagel in the DDN focus on the fact that Livingston and Belisle have made the decision difficult, especially in terms of the fifth spot in the rotation.

Of course, everyone here is in danger of reading too much into spring stats. Livingston may well be the second coming of Greg Maddux, but I’d rather have more evidence than a spring training performance before I make that call.

Milton and Belisle are different cases, however. We’ve watched Milton for years, and he just ain’t very good anymore, if he ever was.

Belisle, on the other hand, is an interesting case. In my opinion, the choice for a fifth starter comes down to Belisle and Kirk Saarloos, and I’m just not sure how that’s going to play out. But Belisle has had some success in the major leagues, he’s still young, and I like his chances of succeeding as a fifth starter. I’d like to see him get the shot, with Saarloos beginning the season in the bullpen.

How do you think it’s all going to work out?

23 Responses

  1. RagTag

    Milton is a complete disaster. This organization would be so much better off had he never been signed.

    Thank you, Dan O’Brien.

  2. preach

    Yes, the wind was blowing out. Yes, the kids were swinging for the fences at everything. Still, it’s the LYNCHBURG PIRATES. I’m curious how many K’s he had. If these guys were over swinging yesterday, those should be very high I would think. If not, then Uncle Milty was throwing batting practice and nothing more really needs to be said.

  3. CeeKeR

    Trade Milton for Kearns?
    -oh wait, only the other GM could make a deal like that for us…

  4. Mr. Redlegs

    Indeed, Livingston looks promising but before everyone gets all frothy, take a closer look at the lineups Livingston has faced in his spring starts. In fact, yesterday’s start wasn’t exactly against the ’04 Sawks.

  5. Justin

    Graves was rightfully discharged for his actions on the field, if he did not show the bird he would not have been degsinated. Milton is a waste for the reds at 9 million. But looking at what pitchers who are equal to he is he is cheaper then Gil Meche and Ted Lilly. Who knows perhaps yar 3 at GABP will show some better results and he may even benefit from the improved defence of Alex Gonzalez.

  6. Jay

    Dump Milton, eat the salary and hand the ball to the youngsters … PERIOD.

    Milton has never gotten it done in Cincy – well, he has served up a “few” long balls.

  7. Bill

    Richard Skinner on Homer this morning made the point that if they do keep Milton in the rotation (God save us), then why not make him the #5 guy in the rotation?

    Also, on it being ST, etc and Milton “working on things”…Jeff Brantley said on the radio the other day that Milton was throwing everything in his arsenal and still couldn’t get anyone out.

  8. Dave Massey

    I’m not too worried about Milton, because I think Krivsky proved last year that he would eat some salary if it meant getting rid of a crappy starter (Dave Williams). Granted, Milton’s already had a decent shot to prove himself, but I think if he continues to give up 6+ runs an outing, he’ll be gone by mid-May.

  9. Mr. Redlegs

    Well, dumping Milton altogether would be silly because you have still got to pay him. But Bill makes an excellent point about the 5-slot.

    Why does Milton have to be in the top four? And who’s to say he’s not fully recovered from his surgery? He’s not exactly been forthright with his injuries over the years and has also proven to be a slow healer.

    So let him pitch from the 5-slot in April and see how things go. Can always DL him and send out to Lullville for getting back into shape.

    Then (or otherwise), if he still sux propane by the end of June or the All-Star break, you can cut him loose and the salary bite isn’t so bad.

    The point? You gotta pay him anyhow, so give him some time to see if he works out the kinks and becomes productive, or perhaps he actually has some trade value near the deadline. Cut him lose now you get nothing for your dead money.

    I know, I know: You’re going to say he has proven he sux and he’ll continue to prove he sux and he’s taking up a roster slot. But when you are about to throw that much cash, you give it one last shot to pay off–either being effective or having some market value.

  10. David

    I’m no Milton apologist so don’t take this that way. However, it’s not as if Milton doesn’t pull his weight some of the time.

    In 30% of his starts last year he gave up 5 runs or more.

    In 34% of his starts last year he gave up 2 runs or less.

    The other 36% of the time he went for about league average for a number 3.

    Why not go with 6 starters on the active roster, and spot start Milton and either Belisle or Livingston?

  11. Bill

    He also pitched less than 6 1/3 in 15 of his 26 starts…so the amount of runs he gave us is misleading.

  12. Mr. Redlegs

    Six-man? Sure, let’s take the two best starters–two of the best in the league–and keep them off the mound even longer.

  13. Y-City Jim

    Milton gets a chance to start the season but after three starts the Reds have to make the decision to let him go if he is not getting the job done.

  14. Glenn

    I just don’t see the Reds eating a 9 million $ salary. Either Livingston or Belisle will start the season in AAA.

  15. preach

    We have had some outstanding performances by Burton, Livingston, Santos, et al. this spring. I am also pretty confident in some of the people who have not had sterling numbers (top or our rotation, Saarloos). Our bullpen has not been terrible (glowing appraisal considering where I thought they would be right now). I just hate to think of someone with potential and coming into their own to lose out to Uncle Milty. With that being said, you can’t base a pitching staff on numbers in March. There is something to be said about, Oh Lord I’m about to say it: a veteran who knows how to play the game (Don’t throw anything at me). I want to see our guys excel, but can we really be any more confident in Burton than Milton? How about Livingston? At least Saarloos and Santos have some big league innings under their belt (yeah, not always the best innings, but enough to have a reasonable idea what they can do). I don’t know what the solution is. I guess it’s a situation of the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t. Milton can be successful. I’m not convinced he’s healthy, and I think that’s part of the problem. I am glad to see the success of some of the younger guys, but I know that a lot of it is against guys who won’t be on big league clubs themselves soon. It’s not a pretty picture, that’s for sure. I guess the lesson is not to spend tons of money on someone unless they are an ace already. Pardon the ramble.

  16. Chris

    The reds front office will lose credibility if they don’t field the best team they can field. That being said, I think they will cut Milton loose and keep Saarloos, Burton and Belisle. There are too many young pitchers that have pitched well this spring. You can’t keep just one.

  17. Chris

    There is something to be said about, Oh Lord I’m about to say it: a veteran who knows how to play the game (Don’t throw anything at me).

    Only this: What gives you the idea that Milton knows how to play the game?

    Santos is the guy I like, and not based on his spring numbers (though those are reinforcing what I thought). His strikeout rates are pretty decent (as far as Reds go): 5.9, 5.2, 5.6 over the past 3 years; as have his walk rates: 2.9, 3.4, 2.8. Best, he gives up less than 1 HR per 9 IP over his career.

    Milton’s walk rate is pretty comparable, but his K-rate and HR-rate (as we know) are much, much worse.

    Santos actually walks fewer, strikes out more, and gives up fewer HR than Milton, Belisle, and Saarloos.

  18. brublejr

    I have been saying it for awhile now, Milton has to go and let the young guys pitch. I much rather take some lumps with a young promising player such as Livingston rather than an older pitcher who can’t induce a groundball if his life depended on it.

  19. Glenn

    Guys, I’m 100% with you. Best players play. Milton should go. He’s going to kill this team. (BTW, I’m not too thrilled with Lohse either) I’m just having trouble believing that the Reds are going to eat his salary.

  20. preach

    I like Santos as well as Saarloos. I said here that I think Saar was a good addition and I still think that will prove to be accurate. Santos has done everything that has been asked of him this spring. I suppose that if we do give Milton the boot, we need to keep those guys as well as Livingston. At least we will have some of a known quantity. If Bray and Majic start out on the DL, it gives us a couple of options to consider, but any of those considerations depend on what we do with Milty, and maybe Lohse.

  21. preach

    I also find myself in agreement with Mr. Redlegs (will wonders never cease) and think that the plan he outlined regarding Milton’s future is about as solid of one that I have heard.

  22. David

    Mr. Redleg…

    I wasn’t suggesting going with a six man rotation. I suggested platooning that 5th spot in the rotation with Milton and either Belisle or Livingston. Similar to what Doc Scott suggested on the front page. It’s not a bad idea to have 6 starters on a roster.