The Reds face important and difficult decisions regarding their starting pitcher rotation this week.
Current plan: Mon – Cueto, Tue – Leake, Wed – Reynolds, Thu – off, Fri – Latos, Sat – Bailey, Sun – Arroyo.
If Cueto pitches really well tonight, that raises the possibility of him being available on Sunday to pitch instead of Bronson Arroyo. [Side note: Would Baker consider replacing Arroyo given that it would prevent Arroyo from throwing 200 innings and deny him the chance of winning his 15th game?]
The uncertainty with the assignments comes from not yet knowing whether the Reds will be participating in (a) a Division Championship tie-breaker game on Monday, (b) a Wild Card play-in game on Tuesday, (c) both, (d) neither. Any of those scenarios are possible as of today.
A second issue to ponder is: If the Reds participate in the Wild Card play-in game on Tuesday (this is the most likely scenario) is it more important to have home field advantage, or to have your single most-preferred starting pitcher in that game?
The Reds face that exact choice. If they have a stronger preference for choosing the exact pitcher (Latos or Bailey) then that pitcher should be held out of the three-game series against Pittsburgh. If they care more about the home field advantage, then that pitcher should definitely pitch against the Pirates.
Right now, Homer Bailey is next scheduled to pitch on Saturday, so he wouldn’t be available again until a hypothetical NLDS Game One. Mat Latos is currently scheduled to pitch against Pittsburgh on Friday, but would be on normal rest if he pitched on Wednesday in the series finale against the Mets. If the Reds move his start up to Wednesday, then he could pitch next Tuesday in the Wild Card play-in game.
If Cueto pitches well tonight, the Reds might feel fine having him start the play-in game. That would allow them to pitch Latos in the Pittsburgh series as planned. But if Cueto has issues with either his health or performance, that changes the equation. It’s certainly a gamble to count on him for one all-or-nothing game of the season.
Lots of moving parts, though. Suppose the Cardinals drop their first two games against the Nationals and the Reds win tonight and tomorrow. That brings the division into a two-way tie and raises the chances of (a) having to play a tie-breaker game on Monday and/or (b) avoiding the Wild Card play-in game on Tuesday (yay). How would that affect what the Reds should do with their pitchers Wednesday forward?
Too bad Tony Cingrani’s back isn’t cooperating. His availability at full health would help this entire situation tremendously.