Pondering Possible Pitching Prosperity

Two weeks ago, I wrote that the Reds’ pitching problems would prevent them from repeating as NL Central Champions. Without a trade to improve the rotation, the Reds just didn’t have the arms to compete. I wasn’t alone in my worries as Reds’ pitchers posted a 4.42 ERA in the month of May.  I am happy to report today that I was wrong. It appears as though the Reds’ pitchers have returned to form.  For the month of June, the Reds’ team ERA is 3.26. Over the last 14 days, the Reds’ have posted a 2.67 ERA.

Even more good news is on the way. Homer Bailey was pitching like Roy Halladay before his most recent injury. He pitched 6 innings of 3-run ball last night for Louisville. Reports are that he is close to returning to the Reds roster. Likewise, Aroldis Chapman threw a perfect inning in relief for Louisville last night, and should be with the big league club before too long. Sam LeCure, who is hoping to build on his impressive start to 2011, also appears to be healthy again. On top of it all, Dontrelle Willis continues to dominate AAA hitters, sporting a 2.51 ERA in 11 starts for the Bats this year.

It appears as though we are beginning to see all of that pitching “depth” that was often discussed going into the season. With Bailey, LeCure, and Chapman primed to crack the Reds’ roster shortly, decisions will need to be made. Which starter will Bailey replace? Which relievers are sent down when LeCure and Chapman return? The bullpen decisions seem to be obvious. Jeremy Horst and Carlos Fisher have both pitched admirably this year, but they seem like the obvious choices to be sent back to Louisville.

The rotation decision is more complicated however. Assuming Cueto’s neck is okay, his spot is safe. Arroyo’s spot is always secure. Leake has been the Reds’ most consistent pitcher and thus should remain in the rotation. Edinson Volquez still appears shaky, but it looks as though he is close to figuring it out. Over his last 3 starts, he’s averaged 6 innings pitched with just over 2 runs per outing. He’s allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in 5 of his last 7 starts. Additionally, he will be given a slightly longer leash due to his electric “stuff” and ability to dominate hitters.

That leaves one man – Travis Wood. It’s been a perplexing season for the young lefty. The month of April was a rollercoaster for Wood. In his 6 April starts, Wood alternated from good starts to bad starts. His earned run totals per game went like this: 1, 6, 1, 6, 3, 7. The month of May was a more consistent month for Wood. He allowed more than 3 earned runs only once (May 20th, 4 ER) and posted a solid 3.50 ERA for the month. Then the calendar turned to June, and the inconsistency returned. After giving up 8 runs to the Dogders on June 5th, Wood followed with 2 quality starts in which he gave up a 3 runs over 14 innings. On Monday, Wood was tagged for 4 runs in the first inning against the Yankees.

While Wood is still showing signs of what got us so excited last season, his inconsistency is hurting the club. When Bailey is reinstated, Wood will like be sent to AAA to work on these issues. Don’t expect Travis to be there long however. As we’ve seen this year, injuries will pop up and other pitchers will falter. Wood’s services will be needed in Cincinnati sooner rather than later.

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