Big news out of Reds camp today, as the club made a number of cuts:

Not a lot surprising there, but it is certainly interesting. First, Ben Revere has been reassigned, and he’ll have to decide whether to accept the demotion or not. I’d be shocked if he reported to the minor league camp, but we’ll know soon.

In addition, LOOGY Oliver Pérez was released. Again, it isn’t particularly surprising, but I thought the veteran lefty had a chance to make the bullpen. He may or may not latch on with another team.

Perhaps the biggest — though not unexpected — news is that Robert Stephenson didn’t make the big league rotation. Unlike last season, the Reds aren’t going to fool around with putting him in the Cincinnati bullpen to begin the campaign. It is expected that Stephenson will go down and anchor the rotation at Triple-A Louisville, and presumably Jackson Stephens will also be in that group.

So…the Cincinnati starting staff is beginning to take shape:

At this point, it really appears that the Opening Day rotation will be Homer Bailey, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Sal Romano. Once the Reds need a fifth starter, it will be Amir Garrett or Brandon Finnegan, presuming Finnegan is every healthy again in his entire life. (He’s having some Mesoraco-level bad luck.)

I’m pretty nervous about the Reds starting corps, since the Reds don’t have a single pitcher who has both (a) demonstrated an ability to stay healthy, and (b) pitched a full big league season. That’s a lot of uncertainty, and I could see that turning into just as big a mess as last year.

But there is reason for optimism. Castillo, Mahle, Romano, Garrett, and Finnegan are all young and talented. It’s going to be fun to watch them get better and better at the big league level (fingers crossed and hoping for the best). More than anything, I’m happy to see Mahle win a spot. All that guy does is get hitters out. And if Garrett can pitch like he has in spring training, he’ll be in the full-time rotation sooner rather than later.

Finally, we have a full-on Rebuild Rotation. Let’s see what we’ve got, shall we?

Oh yeah, and here’s one more reminder:

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

Join the conversation! 62 Comments

  1. Big sighs of relief all around that we don’t have worry about Revere leading off games. Just read through the Williams Reddit feed–the FO seems to have a pretty clear view that Winker is ready and that Hamilton’s position is increasingly precarious. Let’s just hope BP sees things similarly.

    • Real bold moves I’d like to see are a) handing full time OF duties to Duvall, Schebler & Winker and b) shuffling the IF to insert Blandino in everyday line-up.

  2. If Jocketty were still in charge, would Revere and Perez still be in big league camp?

    • Seeing Revere cut takes some of the sting out of signing him in the first place. The Reds just haven’t handled minor league contracts effectively in the past. Maybe things are changing.

    • I’ll take yes on that. I really like Williams so far!…

    • And Revere would have cost $1.5 million; the extra million he would have made can be much better used elsewhere. I see more of DW’s hand in these moves, and I like it.

  3. I suppose I should be me more concerned about starting Mahle’s service time ‘clock’ than I am, but I like that he is in the rotation. For all the talk about having a player until 2022 or 2023 or whatever, at some point, it’s time to start winning. … I’ll be champing at the bit for when Senzel gets here. Am I the only one who hates to see Garrett relegated to the bullpen? A numbers game, I suppose.

    Wonder if the Reds will do any more waiver wire shopping.

    • Garrett should be in the rotation

    • My suspicion is that Finnegan won’t be ready to make a start when the Reds need a fifth starter, and Garrett will get that job. If he performs, he can hang onto it.

      In other words, I don’t think we can say he’s been “relegated to the bullpen,” at least not just yet.

    • Bonus points for using the technically correct “champing at the bit!”

    • I’m guessing they do him like Garrett last year, as soon as everyone is healthy or someone in AAA throws strikes (I’m looking at you BobSteve). He’ll be down for the clock at some point. That said, good to see him up now, though I think Garrett has been our best guy so far.

    • While they are close to the top of the waiver claim pecking order, I hope they get a shot at another Simon/Straily/Gennett. And I hope it’s the coming weeks are the last time they are near the top of that list.

      And in Mahle’s case since he got a bit of service time last year, he would have had to stay in Louisville for much longer to maintain an extra year of control than Senzel or other fresh rookies, so his performance was allowed to speak for itself. That said, if he struggles at all and there’s another pitcher they want to see/sort, I could see them having a quicker hook with Mahle than others.

  4. Is it me or does Mahle look like he got jacked? Guy looks like he’s been working out with Lorenzen. I don’t remember him being built like that last year. Then again he did only make 4 starts for the Reds last year 🙂

  5. All the talk is about Stephenson & Revere being sent down but what about Mason Williams? Will he go to Louisville? I thought he looked like a decent cf- maybe as good as Ervin.

    • Ervin’s CF defense has been poor. When he was drafted, I believe the Reds envisioned him playing CF, but his time in CF has been drastically shrinking in favor of a corner OF. I see Ervin playing CF as Blandino playing SS. He can do it, but only in a temporary capacity. Ervin’s bat really doesn’t play as a corner OF, so his ceiling is really as a utility OF, but that ain’t a bad gig. He has speed and pop. He could play many years as a utility OF.

      I was suprprise that Williams was cut in favor of Ervin, simply due to Williams LH bat. I guess with Schebler and Winker already in the OF, the Reds didn’t see a need for an additional LH bat as a utility OF.

      • With Schebler’s splits, should we really treat him as a “LH” bat? This is a very important question for the Reds moving forward.

      • I agree with all of this but I can’t help but grimace at a first round utility OF.

      • I would have liked to see Ervin get more time at AAA. He did not hit well there last year.

        • I still am hoping he gets sent down for much of the season, especially early, to work on improving by being in the everyday lineup. Barring injury, the Reds 5th outfielder will see very little playing time. Ideally, I’d like to see the 5th outfielder be able to play some infield, as well.

          • Agreed, that is why I was surprised they cut Kivlehan early on. They must really not have liked how he looked. .596 OPS against well below AAA talent this spring.

            That leaves Dixon looking like an option but even though he plays multiple positions I think he is bad at them all. Not sure if his offense can make the lines cross or not.

  6. If they put Garrett in the bullpen because we “need an effective lefty”, and that’s why Mahle is being kept up to start despite the service time issues, I’ll be very sad. Pitch Garrett, send Mahle down, it’s a win-win. So simple, even a caveman could do it.

    For those who are happy because Mahle has pitched well and has earned a spot, I’ll just say I would hope he’ll pitch even better in that last year of control when we might actually be fighting for a championship.

    • I agree with ETR.
      My preference is to start with Garrett in the 4 spot, Finnegan in 5 (if ready) then pivot to Mahle if needed.
      I wouldn’t go too far out of the way to save Mahle’s clock, but I believe that Garrett is just as deserving of the spot as he has been as impressive as Mahle this spring and the service time advantages break the tie. I am becoming more and more convinced that Garrett’s hip injury was the main source of his struggles as evidenced by the added velocity. I think he has legit #2 upside.
      This staff could really be something in 2019.

  7. Reds sign outfielder ben revere and lefty loogy reliever oliver perez….lol, why waste money???

    • I believe they were both minor league contracts so I think the money “wasted” was probably insignificant. Also Revere can opt out so I would assume he doesn’t get paid if he makes that decision

  8. Just be grateful Revere and Perez are gone. Give our young kids a chance and let’s get on with this!

  9. I thought the Old Cossack was missing something, but I don’t see anything to indicate that Mahle has made the squad. He might, but there’s nothing to indicate that with the nine cuts that were announced. Stephenson to AAA as a starter was a give no-brainer. I hope he can get things together.

    Starting pitchers left in camp: Bailey, Castillo, Romano, Garrett, Mahle, Reed, Finnegan

    Relief pitchers left in camp: Iglesias, Hughes, Hernandez, Peralta, Lorenzen, Brice, Shackleford, Weiss, Quackenbush, Worley

    The Reds only need 4 starters on the 25-man roster for the 1st 12 days, 9 games and can extend that for an additional 5 days, 5 games by using the bullpen on April 9th and firing up the Louisville shuttle for fresh relievers from AAA.

    There are 6 games remaining in ST, so each potential starter should get one more start.

    The first 4 starters should be Bailey, Castillo, Romano and Garrett. The fifth starter,, when needed, should be Finnegan. That starting rotation carry the team through the first few weeks of the season with good results.

    The Bats season doesn’t begin until April 6th. Reed could be used from the major league bullpen and managed to be available for the start on April 9th if Finnegan is not yet stretched out and ready. If Finnegan is still not stretched out and ready by April 14th, Reed takes a spot in the starting rotation until he loses it.

    • I just don’t see how Finnegan gets stretched out in time to make that start. He was behind in ST and then got hurt shortly after he started. Just no need to rush him back. If they bring Mahle up, they’re going to use him.

      • Finnegan pitched on the 21st. He could have 3 more starts before the 9th and 4 more starts before the 14th. If everything goes right physically, he could be stretched out to 6 innings or more by the 14th.

        • Finnegan has never been able to go 6 innings, that would be 120 plus pitches for him.

    • Cossack
      as usual i agree whole heartedly with your post.I have not read anything to contradict what you have said.As of now there are still decisions to be made about the rotation.
      The 4th/5th starters are clearly still up in the air.Mahle/garrett/finnegans status are all still to be determined.Time will tell but I feel Mahle will start in the minors with the April 9 game to be determined by Finnegans health.If healthy the Reds would be more than happy to have him throw 5 innings and let the pen finish the game,possibly Reed with multiple innings.
      Bailey
      Castillo
      Romano
      Garrett
      Finnegan
      Has anyone seen any Reds official announcement to the contrary?

  10. A lot of focus and attention is directed to the starting rotation, but equally pertinent is the remaining players in camp competing for a utility role on the team.

    Utility OF left in camp: Ervin, Elizalde
    Utility IF left in camp: Blandino, Dixon, Pennington, Gosselin

    One of the OF and two of the IF will make the roster. With Williams and Revere sent to the minor league camp, Ervin almost certainly makes the team.

    Now here it gets really interesting. Pennington and Gosselin are MLB veterans, signed to minor league contracts. Both are weak hitting veterans on the downside of their careers. Blandino and Dixon are rookies with no major league experience. During the WJ regime, this wouldn’t even be a competition. The MLB veterans with weak bats and on a minor league contract would make the roster hands down. This is suppose to be the DW show now, not the WJ show. Blandino and Dixon are still in the major league camp. Blandino is already on the 40-man roster. Both had good seasons at AAA in 2017 and both have had a good ST, light years better than the ‘veterans’ signed to minor league contracts. Will we see a clear break from the old-school WJ methodology of veteraniness as DW firmly affixes his stamp on this team with an in-house, home grown youth movement?

    • Crossed fingers knocking on wood. I don’t see any of these guys needing AAA time to become MLB starters/stars, a la Senzel, even if it slightly ups their ceilings. Let em play now!

      • Blandino may be ready after a good full season last year, but Ervin and Elizalde don’t have full season numbers that suggest they are ready. Since Elizalde probably has little future, there’s not much risk in giving him a try. With Ervin, I’d like to see him in AAA playing everyday and (hopefully) elevating his game to major-league caliber.

    • Ervin and Elizade both go back to Louisville. They’ve shown no plate discipline this spring. Ervin has 2 BB and 14 K and Elizade has 0 BB and 12 K. Not what you want from a bench bat/player.
      Pennington is done as well.
      I think the bench spots go to Mesoraco, 4th OF, Dixon, Blandino, and Gosselin.
      They all have earned spots.

      • Not shown in spring training but historically, Ervin has been a patient hitter.

  11. Suarez and Duvall are 4-4 combined with a double/HR against lefty Mike Minor tonite. They have the personnel to do alot more damage vs lefties this year! Price could run something like this out there vs lefties:

    Winker/Blandino/Peraza leading off
    Votto
    Suarez
    Duvall
    Mesoraco
    Schebler
    Winker/Blandino
    Pitcher
    Peraza/Blandino

    Could throw Dixon in the mix too at 2b if they wanted? We already know they can throw lefty hitters out there in droves vs righties. This could possibly be a pretty competitive year (or maybe spring/summer atleast) if Price can finally get the best out of his personnel!

    • Price would have to commit to 3 absolute platoons in the lineup. He would commit harakiri by clipboard if he had to manage 3 platoons in his lineup.

  12. I agree with poster who said it is not a given Mahle is in the four man rotation just yet. He may be the fifth with Garrett being the fourth, who knows. Just don’t see Reed in the equation as a starter at all.

  13. I’m with the Cossack. I don’t see that this locks Mahle into the rotation, and I suspect it will be Garrett taking the 4th slot (with Bailey, Castillo and Romano). Finnegan may get the occasional 5th start, but I think Reed is actually more likely. I suspect we’ll see Mahle only after the service clock is resolved unless someone else is hurt. And to be honest I think that’s a good scenario. Now I’m hoping we see Blandino and Dixon instead of Pennington and Gosselin. With Ervin as the 5th outfielder that leaves just a couple of bullpen slots to lock down. The other big mystery will be how much playing time Winker gets. I’m hoping Duvall is given regular rest and Hamilton only starts occasionally, with Winker and Schebler playing pretty much every day. I can dream, right? Oh, and ONE WEEK to go. I can’t wait!

    • Another error by Pennington tonight, leading to an unearned run. I have not been even slightly impressed with Pennington’s defense this spring and that’s the only thing he brings to the table besides ‘veteraniness’.

      • I noticed that too. 4 errors in limited innings does not bode well. Let’s hope Pennington at least is not destined for Cincinnati.

        • Another positive from last night’s game. Gennett, at 2B, was the only starter to play a full 9 innings. When Blandino substituted into the game, he replaced Pennington at SS rather than Gennett at 2B.

  14. You know all the talk about various youngsters is interesting. Just remember that more things are going to happen in 6 weeks when. . . .Senzel and Mahle(he’ll be sent back) return. I still think that Blandino will be sent back either pre-opening day or when Senzel returns.
    Finnegan and/or Disco(can’t believe that can happen, but you never know) get healthy, etc., so it is much more important to discuss what this team will look like in May as opposed to what this team will look like next week. I’ll bet that 4-5 players that make the opening day roster are gone(released or sent back) by mid-may.

  15. So glad they let Perez go, he’s shot. Mahle has to be in the rotation. He’s shown nothing but consistent outings since last year. I understand service time considerations, but looking 6 years ahead for an additional year seems silly at this point. Let’s win some ballgames.

    • or…let’s win more games and some championships.

      The difference is six weeks on a roster that is still transitioning to competitiness v. a full year in a stacked roster that is competing with the elite teams in the game.

      The Reds are going to win some games this season and the 2nd half will be more fun than the 1st half once Senzel and Winker insert their offensive skills into the starting lineup on a full time basis and the starting pitching rotation settles into a dominant force against NL hitters with more talent charging toward MLB readiness while pounding on the MLB door and demanding entry.

      Remember 2010…it wasn’t so long ago. No one really believed in the team heading into the season, but by the all star break the trumpets were blaring, the cymbals were ringing and the Reds were marching through the NL to the playoffs. Mark the all star break of 2018 on your collective calenders. That’s when this team becomes whole and starts displaying its personality. Then start counting forward for six years and look at the talent still coming through the Reds farm system. Anyone not seriously contributing to the team’s success by the all star break should take heed and duck, because the wrecking ball of success will start swinging.

    • I am firmly in this camp about letting Mahle play. It’s an honest assessment that he’s at least showing he’s more prepared and ready to play then who else they have. Nobody can stomach another season of guys walking 5 players in four innings. They owe it it to Votto and Homer to start putting as competitive as a team as they can.

      Just no way to know what that window will look like in 6 years, and if Mahle is good, maybe they lock him down early.

      For now, given the team luck, he’s healthy. No sense on waiting for him to get hurt 3 years from now and having that extra year of arbitration left! Let’s just try to win some games!

    • I agree,time to win.Once a proud winning franchise ,let’s put a winner on the field.

  16. Matt Wi, I agree, they talk about all the good players they have coming up, then why not let the young ones they have now play don’t worry about arbitration.

    • I like these comments about winning ball games. It’s time to let the young guys play ball and see who are the keepers the same way the Astros did it.

  17. If all we have to do is keep Mahle in AAA for 6 weeks while Garrett pitches in his place, then there should be no discussion about it. Send him down. Another year of team control for a team who is still in a “rebuild” mode now, would be fantastic. It is true that we don’t know what he will be for that extra year, but I would be willing to take that chance to find out. No reason to waste a year of his team control for 6 weeks, so we can have a slightly better chance of winning the 7 starts he would make in that time.

    • Fair enough. But it might also be the difference between sending Bob Steve out there again. The speculation is Homer, Castillo, Mahle, Romano, and Garrett is already going to have to be the 5th starter unless Finnegan is miraculously healthy enough to go as the 5th starter from the opening bell.

      If Disco and Finnegan were healthy, this would have been a no-brainer. But at this point, I’m happy they are willing to bring forth their best instead of a retread veteran or Jackson Stevens.

    • If we had access to the crystal ball that shows the roster 6 years from now I’m sure there would be plenty of surprises. It would be an interesting(and exhausting) exercise to go back 6 years on each ML team and see what percentage of prospects at that time were held back for service-time reasons and where they are now, especially pitchers. Given the flame-outs and injuries that occur every year to every team I’d be willing to bet there would be names that we have to scratch our heads to remember. OK, those 6 weeks don’t seem like much in the broader scope of things, but what if Mahle becomes bored/embittered over his wasted time at AAA? Comes back to the show and gets lit up his first few starts because he’s not used to ML hitters again? Did Garrett’s meltdown coincide with his demotion last year? Let’s not mess around. Let him pitch. Let’s see if we can start winning now. Who knows?

    • Not sure that a team needs to worry about team control for a pitcher as much as a hitter. There is a decent chance that a pitcher will get injured. If Mahle is good enough and healthy, the Reds will need to do something with his contract anyway.
      Just play the best young players this season and let it sort out, 5 years or more is a long way out at this point.

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About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

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2018 Reds, 2018 Spring Training

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