Cincinnati Reds Tanner Rainey tries to crack the roster

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Cincinnati Reds relief prospect Tanner Rainey attempts to take advantage of pitching injuries.

Heading into spring training, Cincinnati Reds relief prospect Tanner Rainey looked like he had little chance to climb onto the forty man roster.  The 25 year old is trying to make the big league club only one year after transitioning to relief.  Prior to 2017 Rainey was on track to become a big league starting pitcher.

Rainey made 35 minor league starts before the Reds pulled the plug.  He was 5-10 in 2016.  Worse than that, his WHIP was over 1.40 in each of his first two professional seasons.

Last season Rainey collected 13 saves in 16 attempts with a WHIP of 1.00.  He struck out 104 batters in only 62 innings.  He also had an impressive WHIP of 1.00 and a batting average against of .139.

Rainey walked 33 batters and hit 7 more.  That was a large reason that his WHIP wasn’t below 1.00.  He also gave up 6 home runs in 53 games.

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All of these numbers are good enough to show that changing from starting to relieving helped Rainey become a more effective pitcher.  Once Rainey left Daytona Beach for Pensacola, the team transitioned from a single closer system to a match-up system.  That is the sort of pitcher that the Reds could add to their current bullpen.

The competition for the last few roster spots on the Cincinnati Reds is tight.

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This spring, Rainey has a 2.16 ERA to go with a WHIP of 1.32.  He struck out 13 batters in 8 1/3 innings.  He also collected 2 saves over 7 games.

The Reds may elect to place Rainey as Louisville’s closer because they just claimed Justin Nicolino from the Miami Marlins.  He is another starting pitcher that is transitioning to relief.  The open spot on the roster that looked like it may belong to Rainey went to Nicolino.

The Reds tried to sneak recently acquired first baseman Kennys Vargas to the minors, but the Minnesota Twins claimed him back.  That may make the Reds a bit gun shy in trying to do that again.  Nicolino, in particular, may stay around for that reason.

Then again, Austin Brice is a main competitor for Rainey.  Brice, though, has a 10.24 ERA.  He’s had a rough enough spring that the Reds may find themselves in need of a reliable arm.

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In the end, Rainey is probably going to start at Triple-A.  As a former second round competitive balance pick, he is viewed as too talented to risk bringing up too early.  Of course, this all changes if someone ends up on the 60-day DL.