After returning from a trip to Cincinnati last month during which I saw the Reds drop three games to the Cardinals, I offered several suggestions as to how to stop the bleeding. Granted, many of my bullet points were painfully obvious, but in the span of just two weeks, it’s been interesting to see how much has changed.
As I’ll have more opportunities to see the Reds play in person here in Los Angeles sooner than later, I thought it’d be fun to revisit my previous commentary and offer some updated suggestions.
1. Bryan Price should be fired immediately.
Status: To the surprise of absolutely no one, Price was dismissed on April 19 after the Reds began the season with a woeful 3-15 start.
New suggestion: Jim Riggleman should be dismissed at the All-Star break.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. In his first few games as manager, Riggleman echoed many of Price’s peculiar “Cro-Magnon” strategies, from needlessly sacrificing outs and lowering run expectancy via bunting, to calling for the worst bullpen arm available at a key moment in a close game, to inexplicably not using his best relief options at other high-leverage moments. When pressed for explanations, his reasoning is convoluted at best. What’s clear, however, is that Riggleman is a disciple of the book, and in a day and age when winning teams exploit every possible advantage, the Reds need to be led by someone who isn’t tethered to old-school ways of thinking.
2. The Reds need to figure out what to do with Cody Reed.
Status: After appearing in four games for Cincinnati, Reed was optioned on April 20. Since then, he has pitched twice – a three-inning appearance on April 24 in which he gave up one hit, walked two and struck out three, and an April 30 start in which he yielded two hits and three walks over four innings.
New suggestion: Let him pitch regularly.
Between April 10 and April 23, Reed threw just 27 pitches for the Reds. That’s nowhere near enough work. Hopefully in Louisville, he’ll have the chance to start every fifth game and achieve some of the potential he’s flashed.
3. Phillip Ervin should be demoted.
Status: Ervin was sent to Louisville on April 26.
New suggestion: End the four-man outfield experiment.
As many others have pleaded, Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler should start the majority of the Reds’ games. Platoon Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall instead. The primary down side of such a strategy is that it potentially lowers the value of two of the team’s trade chips, but Schebler and Winker have shown that they deserve to receive the maximum number of at-bats possible. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same about Hamilton and Duvall, whose batting averages more closely resemble blood alcohol content levels than what you’d like to see from major league outfielders.
4. Amir Garrett should not be a reliever.
Status: (bangs head against wall)
New suggestion: See original suggestion.
It made no sense coming out of spring training, and it makes no sense today. Maybe Garrett won’t be able to cut it as a starter, but he at least deserves the chance to try.
5. Joey Votto needs to be Joey Votto again.
Status: Over the last two weeks, Votto has reached base prodigiously, raising his slash line from .250/.292/.267 to .269/.408/.404 going into last night’s game against the Brewers. On April 27, he reached base during each of his six plate appearances against the Twins.
New suggestion: Never doubt Joey Votto again.
Here’s hoping the Votto we saw during the season’s first three weeks will be a temporary blemish on another “pièce de résistance” campaign.
6. If a Reds player gets hurt, he should go on the DL.
Status: As I was proofreading this write-up for the final time, The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans and MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon tweeted that Scooter Gennett underwent an MRI for a “tender right shoulder” and won’t be able to throw for a “few days.” Since then, nothing has improved. Considering that the Reds’ bench is currently down to four, it seems needlessly foolhardy to proceed shorthanded.
New suggestion: No need to revise this one. The 10-day DL is there for a reason. Use it.
7. Homer Bailey is back.
Status: Bailey has made three appearances since I wrote the above. He fell one out short of the “quality start” threshold on April 21, but in two starts since, he hasn’t pitched past the fifth inning.
New suggestion: To quote Magic 8-Ball, “Ask again later.”
Bailey has been one of the Reds’ three most reliable starters so far this year, but the fact that he hasn’t been able to pitch deeper into games as of late is worrisome. Still, while the Reds have yet to win a game started by Bailey this year, he’s typically pitched well enough to give them a chance to do so. Hopefully the team will give him some run support — and in turn, more rope — sooner than later.
With the first month (and change) of the 2018 season behind us, the Reds now await the returns of Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani, who should further stabilize a pitching staff that has been inconsistent and volatile. Meanwhile, roster dead weight Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin have been jettisoned, and it seems Alex Blandino will stick around for now – although I can’t see him remaining with the Reds after Nick Senzel is finally called up. Having too many good players on the active roster will be a refreshing change of pace and a nice problem to have, though.
I realize the turbulent first few weeks of the season tested the patience, if not the fandom, of even the most optimistic die-hards. As I wrote previously, I don’t believe the storm has yet passed, but the returns of Eugenio Suarez and Schebler, the recent hot streaks of Votto and Jose Peraza and the encouraging starts delivered by Tyler Mahle have provided some much-needed rays of light. Here’s hoping the forecast will continue to improve as we head toward the summer.