Reds Must Be Asking Who’s Next?


You’re heard and read it a thousand times. Maybe even more. One aspect that aided the Cincinnati Reds in their claiming of the 2012 NL Central title was the overall health of the team, mainly the starting rotation. Yes, there was DL usage (Scott Rolen and Joey Votto as the prime examples), but as we approach game number 12 of the season, the list of Reds on that list is composed of two players that figured prominently in last year’s title run and now, potentially their ace.

Opening Day, left fielder Ryan Ludwick was attempting a head first slide into third base. In the process of said slide, he separated his shoulder and required surgery. Slot Brandon Phillips as the Reds cleanup hitter only one game into the 2013 season.  The next surprised me.

In this day and age of the digital world and how secrets are uncovered by the millisecond, the shoulder fatigue that was plaguing Sean Marshall toward the end of spring training was kept hush-hush. Not until the apparent overuse of J.J. Hoover which left Reds fans wondering about why Marshall was not being used in games did we hear of the shoulder fatigue. Marshall did pitch in a game, but was ultimately placed on the DL soon after that appearance.

The club had hoped that Marshall’s shoulder would come around and allow him to not hit the DL. Didn’t work. Could even say it backfired.

Oct 6, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds staff and catcher Ryan Hanigan (29) react after an injury to starter Johnny Cueto (middle) against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of game one of the 2012 NLDS. (Phot: Kelley L Cox – USA TODAY Sports)

Last evening, it is possible that the next Reds player that could be DL-bound is ace #1 Johnny Cueto. During the 5th inning of last night’s 3-1 loss to the Pirates, Cueto experienced a pain his right triceps. According to Cueto, he felt pain after delivering a changeup to Pedro Alvarez. He didn’t want to come out of the game, but he was removed as a precaution. He will see Dr. Kremcheck for an examination.

And we hold our breath…maybe now more than ever.  Why is that?

So, the Reds rotation could be potentially in a full spin. After Friday’s loss to Pittsburgh, there were outcries of bringing up Tony Cingrani and removing Mike Leake from the starting rotation, maybe even demoting Leake to Louisville. With the possibility of Cueto hitting the DL – and we won’t know anything until the news of his examination – could we be looking at a pair of rotation slots up for grabs?  Depends as I ask the following…

The question: Who takes over for Cueto?

Notice I didn’t say “replace”. We already know that Cueto cannot be replaced. I needn’t go back any more than what happened in last year’s NLDS.

We’ve seen how important having Ludwick in the starting lineup means to this team. We’ve seen how having Marshall available in the ‘pen means to this team. We already too aware of what the presence of Cueto in the starting rotation means to this team.

So who’s next? And when I say next, I mean who is next to see himself in a Reds uniform.

Is it Cingrani (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.41 WHIP at Louisville)? Maybe Daniel Corcino (0-2, 7.27 ERA, 1.62 WHIP at Louisville) gets a look. Don’t forget Pedro Villarreal (0-1, 2.08 ERA, 0.69 WHIP at Louisville) either. Could it be a player with MLB experience in the likes of Armando Galarraga (1-1, 2.53 ERA, 1.50 WHIP at Louisville) or Greg Reynolds (1-0, 2.45 ERA, 0.91 WHIP at Louisville)?  Most likely only one even if Cueto is DL-bound with Leake staying in the rotation.

For the Reds and their fans to see the likes of Galarraga or Reynolds, a move on the 40-man roster would need to be made as it is at the maximum.

The timing of Cueto’s injury could not have come at a worse time.  With the Reds only two games into a stretch of playing 20 games in 20 days, Cueto cannot merely be skipped a turn due to an off day.  What is possible, almost inevitable, is that a  roster juggle for (hopefully) one start with Cingrani, Corcino or Villarreal getting the call since they are already on the 40-man.  I would point more toward Cingrani or Villarreal even though some scouts have said Corcino is MLB ready.

And we await that examination.

UPDATE: Cingrani was pulled from his outing after pitching two perfect innings and striking out 5 of 6 batters. Could mean a DL stint for Cueto.

UPDATE #2: Cueto was placed on the 15-day DL and the Reds selected the contract of Justin Freeman. Ryan Ludwick was moved to the 60-day DL to make room for Freeman on the 40-man. Cingrani will be brought up as well, but most likely not until the day that would be Cueto’s next start.