Cincinnati Reds: Who’s the odd man out in the six-man rotation?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 14: Interim manager Jim Riggleman #35 of the Cincinnati Reds takes the ball from starting pitcher Sal Romano #47 taking Romano out of the game against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the third innng at AT&T Park on May 14, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 14: Interim manager Jim Riggleman #35 of the Cincinnati Reds takes the ball from starting pitcher Sal Romano #47 taking Romano out of the game against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the third innng at AT&T Park on May 14, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman sounds like he’s ready to return to a five-man starting rotation. Who’s most likely to be the odd man out?

The Cincinnati Reds are likely to return to a five-man rotation in very short order. Interim manager Jim Riggleman said as much before the Reds game versus the Washington Nationals on Thursday night. The question now becomes, which of the Reds’ starters will be the odd man out?

Since Homer Bailey’s return from the disabled list on July 24th, the Cincinnati Reds have been operating with a six-man starting rotation. The thought behind the move was to keep all the starters who’d been pitching while Bailey was away on the active roster until the likely move of Matt Harvey at the trade deadline. There’s just one problem, Harvey was not traded and is still with the team.

The Reds apparently did not receive what they felt was fair compensation for the veteran right-hander who they’d previously traded for in May. So now the Reds are stuck with six capable starters, and one less arm in the bullpen.

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With a few sub-par performances by the starters, the Reds have been forced to rely heavily on the bullpen of late. Because of that, Riggleman said on Thursday, via Cincinnati.com, that the Reds were looking to go back to a five-man rotation:

"“I talked with  Danny Darwin and Ted Power. We’re going to nail that down. In all likelihood, we’ll go with five. We’re going to talk about that.”"

It appears as though the six-man rotation has run its course. But, who’s the most likely pitcher to be on the outside looking in? Let’s investigate that a little further.

I think it’s safe to say that Bailey, Harvey and Luis Castillo are safe. Bailey has pitched very well since his return from the DL, Harvey had one of his best games as a Red during his last outing, and Castillo appears to have found his rhythm of late. That leaves Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, and Anthony DeSclafani as the three most likely players to be removed from the rotation.

‘Disco’ is probably in the safest position among those three. He’s only played in 10 games so far this season after sitting out all of 2017 with an injury. While his last three starts have not been great (9.00 ERA and 5 home runs allowed), he’s still been able to strike hitters out.

DeSclafani has had difficulty keeping the ball in the ballpark this season, which seems to be a theme for most of the Reds’ starters, but there was a stretch from mid-June through mid-July where he was hitting his spots and helping the Reds win games. From June 10 through July 9th, DeSclafani was 4-0 in 6 games, struck out 27 batters through 35.2 innings and had a 4.04 ERA.

How about Sal Romano? Big Sally has been a workhorse for the Reds this season. Romano has pitched in 116 innings thus far in 2018, the most by any Reds pitcher. In addition to his 21 starts this season, Romano has also come out of the bullpen in a couple games recently.

Romano went 5.1 innings during his last outing against the Tigers. A few ground balls snuck few the infield and made his stats in that game appear worse than they were. Romano allowed 4 runs on 8 hits with 3 strikeouts.

Tyler Mahle only went 1.2 innings on Thursday night versus the Nationals. Mahle allowed 6 runs in the second inning. This was the third time in his last four outings that Mahle was pulled before pitching three full innings.

Mahle can’t escape 2nd inning vs Nats. Next

Whoever the Reds chose, that player will likely head to Triple-A Louisville until an injury to the starting rotation or the September call ups. A corresponding move will likely bring a reliever up to the big leagues.