Cincinnati Reds Rotation Showing Signs of Life

Monday afternoon marked a milestone for the Cincinnati Reds.  For the first time this season the Reds starters have started 6 consecutive games successfully.  In addition, Monday marked a successful appearance by Nick Masset who mowed down the White Sox in the 5th inning.  Bill Bray and Ryan Madson are closing in on their inaugural trip to the mound in 2012.  Let’s take a look at each game and get a feel for where the rotation is with just 17 days till opening day.

Thursday, March 15 vs the LA Angels

March 15, 2012; Tempe, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) throws against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE

Johnny Cueto started this game and delivered 4 innings of quality work.  He gave up a run in the first after a lead off triple by Erick Aybar and an unearned run in the second after a errant throw by third baseman Todd Frazier and then closed the door for his final two innings of work.  His statistical line was 4IP, 1 ER, 2 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 3K.  One of the highlights of Cueto’s game were pickoffs ending both the first and second innings.  His best inning was his last when he struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 fourth inning.  Jeff Francis also pitched 3 innings allowing a run on 2 hits.

Friday, March 16 vs the Colorado Rockies

Mat Latos stepped to the mound to start this game and he shined.  He pitched 4 innings, the first two perfectly, and finished with the best line score of the Spring to date with 4 IP, 0 ER, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K.  Following Latos’ stellar performance, Brett Tomko pitched 3 additional perfect innings in this contest.

Saturday, March 17 vs the Cleveland Indians

Bronson Arroyo started Saturday’s game versus the Tribe and he continued the surge.  His first test came in the first inning when Joey Votto uncharacteristically committed a fielding error off of the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera and left him stranded at first.  Arroyo allowed a two out double in the second, surrendering his only run of the night, to third baseman Andy LaRoche.  Following a 1-2-3 third inning Bronson got in trouble in the fourth after allowing a single and a double with just one out but was able to fight through the challenge and induce both Matt LaPorta and Andy LaRoche to flyout to end the inning.  His line was 4IP, 1 ER, 1 R, 4 H, 0 BB, and 2 K.  This marked the second night in a row that the starter allowed no walks, a focus of Dusty Baker this season and the effort appears to be working.

Sunday, March 18th vs the Arizona Diamondbacks

Sunday afternoon found Mike Leake taking his turn on the mound and he maintained the emerging pattern.  After cruising through two innings, allowing just a double, he moved into the third.  With two outs and a man at first; Adam Eaton, a three year member of the Miami University baseball squad, lined a double into center that scored the runner.  He recovered to retire the final four batters he faced without incident.  His stat line read 4 IP, 1 ER, 1 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K.

Monday, March 19th vs the Chicago White Sox

This game is my favorite of the spring and until opening day it will probably be something of an anomaly as pitchers duels will doubtful be a thing of the past.  As Dusty has used this week to successfully extend the Reds starters to four innings apiece.  Next week will see them try and extend the pitch count even further with just two weeks to Opening Day.      I tweeted at the start of this game the importance of Homer Bailey stepping up and taking control of his destiny.  He did. The first three batters hit the ball hard, but Chris Heisey caught a line drive in right and after a single by Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios flied out deep to Heisey.  At this point, with Adam Dunn on deck, Bailey induced a soft fly ball to Denis Phipps in center.  When Dunn came to the plate in the second Homer attacked with confidence and retired the side swiftly.  The third and the fourth Bailey pitched well and benefited from a double play in each frame.  His line for the outing was a strong 4 IP, 0 ER, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, and 1 K.  Nick Masset marked his return to the mound with a quick and effective inning as the first of 5 excellent relief innings in the game.  The best relief appearance was a brutal exhibition put on by Logan Ondrusek where with quick dispatch he struck out Dayan Viciedo, Brent Morel, and Brent Lillibridge all swinging.  The game was won on a Wilson Valdez suicide squeeze and the pitching line was an exhilarating 9 IP, 0 ER, 0 R, 4 H, 2 BB, and 8 K.  This is the kind of game I dream about.

Tuesday, March 20th vs the Seattle Mariners

Today’s game offered more of the same.  Jeff Francis became the first pitcher to go five innings.  It was not without some growing pains though.  The first inning started with two singles, the first a bunt single down the third base line but he made it out of the inning unscathed.  Francis again avoided trouble in the second allowing a lead off double then retiring three in a row.  He surrendered another single in the third then retired the side in the fourth.  Francis simply ran out of gas in the fifth.  In short order he gave up a single, a home run (to Carlos Peguero) a strike out, another single by Munenori Kawasaki.  Francis then through away a pickoff throw into right field allowing Kawasaki to move to third where he scored on a sacrifice fly a batter later.  This means Francis technically gave up an unearned run but if the pitcher commits the error is it really unearned?  His final stat line reads 5 IP, 2 ER, 3 R, 7 H, 0 BB, 5 K.  Watching Francis pitch resembles a ride on a roller coaster but for 4 innings he got the job done.

In the final review of this 6 game stretch the men vying for a starting job combined for a dominant 25 IP, 5 ER, 7 R, 22 H, 3 BB, 15 K.  Add in the performance of Tomko and Francis in long non starting roles and the numbers improve to 31 IP, 6 ER, 8 R, 24 H, 3 BB, and 17 K.  These are numbers any team would be pleased with and the results the Reds dearly need.  The number that I love most is 3 walks in 31 innings pitched.  Truly outstanding.  Dusty is going to have a smile on his face while he fishes on his off day tomorrow.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz

Topics: Adam Dunn, Adam Eaton, Alex Rios, Andy LaRoche, Asdrubal Cabrera, Bill Bray, Brent Lillibridge, Brent Morel, Brett Tomko, Bronson Arroyo, Carlos Peguero, Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds, Dayan Viciedo, Denis Phipps, Dusty Baker, Erick Aybar, Gordon Beckham, Homer Bailey, Jeff Francis, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Logan Ondrusek, Mat Latos, Matt LaPorta, Mike Leake, Munenori Kawasaki, Nick Masset, Ryan Madson, Todd Frazier, Wilson Valdez

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  • http://calltothepen.com/ SorianoJoe

    Tuesday was actually the 20th, but t doesn’t matter because that was a great review of the starters in Spring Training for the Reds thus far. Bronson Arroyo is terrible and Jeff Francis isn’t going to get a spot in the rotation; those are the two weak points among the pitchers. Latos is one of the best pitchers in baseball, Cueto is a quality No. 2 or 3 starter for most teams, and Homer Bailey is really the X-Factor here. I hope he ends up making the jump and putting peripherals to good use; loved that AB against Dunn the second time around. They need that kind of swagger on the mound out of Bailey.
     
    http://www.calltothepen.com

  • JohnHeitz

     @SorianoJoe Thanks for noticing my error.  I have to disagree with you about Arroyo though.  The difference between this year and last is strangely velocity.  Bronson is not known for throwing smoke but he lost 4-5 mph in his fastball last year and was bombed because of it.  He spent a lot of time conditioning himself in the offseason and appears to have regained that speed.  If the Reds can get 200 innings and a 3.50-4.00 ERA from him they will be very hard to beat.
     
    As for Homer, on Monday after surviving the first inning, he found confidence to carry him the rest of the way.  If the Reds can hit the ground running on opening day that confidence could carry them to the promised land.
     
    And like Dusty said, quit handing out free passes to first base! 

  • beeker

    I agree with you on Arroyo. I don’t assume he will be as good as 2010, but I don’t think he will be as bad as 2011. Somewhere in the middle would be good enough.
    I am curious if you have any speculations about what Roy Oswalt might be thinking, now that we are 2 weeks away from Opening Day. Could you see the Reds or Cardinals making a play for him? And what are your thoughts on the rumors of the Reds talking with the Phillies about trading Brandon Phillips for Cole Hamels?

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