Another year, another season-opening sweep for the Cincinnati Reds. Two dramatic late-inning wins and a slugfest capstone were the story of the series, as the Reds decided to take it to the other Pennsylvania team this time around. Pitching prospect Robert Stephenson got roughed up a bit yesterday, but pitched well enough to preserve the win and then be promptly sent back down to the farm.
The Pirates come into town tonight coming off a sweep of their own, having outplayed the Cardinals in every way over the three games. With the Cubs also without a loss, three of the five remaining undefeated teams reside in the NL Central, and all three are 3 games ahead of the Cardinals.
All numbers from 2015:
After a year-long hiatus with the Tigers, Alfredo Simon returns to the Reds rotation hoping to duplicate his solid 2014 season. In his only year starting full-time for the Reds, Simon compiled a 15-10 record over 196.1 innings with a 3.44 ERA. Simon had a rough 2015 up north, however, explained in part by a 30 point jump in BABIP.
The Reds signed Simon to a one-year deal in the midst of Spring Training to be a stopgap until the younger guys like Stephenson are ready to stick in the bigs. Best case scenario, Simon recreates his 2014 first half and the Reds can flip him once again for strong prospects.
ZiPS doesn’t project big things for Simon, foreseeing a 9-11 season over 155.7 innings with a 4.90 ERA. His FIP and BABIP are both also expected to creep up, leaving Simon as nothing more than presumable innings-eater.
In his abbreviated Spring Training, Simon made three solid starts, pitching to the tune of a 3.86 ERA (11.2 IP, 5ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 9 K). All the Reds need from Simon this year is a replacement-level player, and the early returns look promising on him reaching that low threshold.
Francisco Liriano, the Pirate’s number two behind Gerrit Cole, takes the mound after earning the win on Opening Day. Over 6.0 innings, Liriano blanked the Cardinals, limiting them to three hits while striking out 10. Liriano also knocked in the first run of the 2016 season, singling home in the second inning. For a minute there, Liriano led the league in both strikeouts and RBIs.
Historically, Liriano has been slow to start the season, starting the 2015 season with a 6-18 record and a 5.29 ERA in March and April. Since joining the Pirates, however, Liriano has a 2.95 ERA with 74 Ks over 64.1 innings in the season’s opening months.
In 12 career starts against the Reds, Liriano has been miserable, going 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA in 72.1 innings. Last season, he made three starts, taking the win in one of them and throwing 18.0 innings with a 3.00 ERA. Of the Reds starting today, Devin Mesoraco has had the most success against Liriano, hitting .385 in 13 at-bats with 2 RBIs.
Brandon Phillips reappears in the Reds’ lineup after battling the stomach bug the past couple of days. The rest of the lineup is Reds standard, with Adam Duvall taking a platoon day in left.
DeSclafani will NOT start Sunday. Price said no setback, but doesn't feel 100 percent yet. Replacement not announced yet
— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) April 8, 2016
Nothing about that tweet appears particularly ominous, but it’s not a good thing regardless. Dan Straily would be the logical replacement choice, but Keyvius Sampson could get a spot start or management could move Tim Melville onto the 40-man roster. I wouldn’t expect to see Rookie Davis or Amir Garret making the jump up anytime soon.
Weekend in the Bigs
#reds purchase contract of 1B Brandon Allen to replace Robert Stephenson on the roster
— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) April 8, 2016
30-year-old first baseman Brandon Allen had his contract selected by the Reds this morning to fill the roster spot left empty by Robert Stephenson’s option to AAA. Allen figured to be on the roster for the next two days until Anthony DeSclafani was set to come off the DL to start Sunday, but with Disco’s setback, Allen’s new timetable is unclear.
Allen has bounced around the league since being drafted in 2004. He hasn’t appeared in a big league game since 2012 with the Rays, but might see a pinch hit at-bat sometime this weekend. For his career, Allen has barely hit above the Mendoza line (.203 AVG).
Around the NL Central
The Cubs won the first of a four game set against the Diamondbacks with a 14-6 dismantling, but young star Kyle Schwarber sprained his left ankle in the process. Schwarber collided with centerfielder Dexter Fowler going for a Jean Segura line drive. The Brewers were off yesterday.
It’ll be a cold, cloudy, potentially rainy night at Great American Ballpark: does it feel like baseball season yet? Hopefully, it warms up a bit before game time and the Reds stay hot. It would be great if the Reds could match their 4-0 start from last season, especially against a fearsome Pirates team. Go Reds!