Cincinnati Reds: Filling the final spot in the starting rotation

DENVER, CO - MAY 26: Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Coors Field on May 26, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MAY 26: Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Coors Field on May 26, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images) /
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So very many questions are still floating around the Cincinnati Reds 2019 starting rotation. Who, currently, should fill the fifth spot in the Reds rotation?

Only two pitchers from the 2018 starting rotation are expected to retain their spots in 2019. Both  Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo are virtual locks to be part of next year’s rotation. With the trade to acquire Tanner Roark and another pitching move expected, that leaves one final spot in the starting rotation open. Several names currently on the Cincinnati Reds roster could, and likely will be considered to fill that final spot.

Sal Romano has to be in consideration. Romano made 25 starts for the Reds last season, going 8-11, with a 5.31 ERA. Big Sally is a solid pitcher given how young he is. Drafted in 2011, he made his debut in April 2017. Romano had several decent outings last year. He is definitely someone who will be considered for the rotation, however, based on his performance and experience, he’s not the most likely choice .

Another name that will be mentioned for that final spot is Robert Stephenson. Stephenson was a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, and was expected to be an outstanding addition to the rotation. Despite excellent numbers at Triple-A Louisville, Stephenson was a disappointing on the mound in Cincinnati.

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Making only 3 starts in 2018, Stephenson went 0-2 with a 9.26 ERA, walking 12 batters, and only striking out 11. If Stephenson can get some good work in with new Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson during spring training, there is a chance he’ll get the nod for the starting rotation. But, unless his walks decrease, that it’s highly unlikely.

Tyler Mahle started 23 games last season, going 7-9 overall with a 4.98 ERA. Mahle had a phenomenal month of June. He went 3-0, had a 2.18 ERA, and struck out 37 batters. However, he fell apart in July and August, was optioned back down to Triple-A, and then came back to another poor start in September. Mahle is another one who will need to show some serious improvement in Spring Training if he wants a chance at the starting rotation.

Lefty, Cody Reed is, and likely will still be, talked about for some starts next year. Reed is one of three left-handed pitchers who came to the Cincinnati Reds in 2015 via the deal that sent Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals.

Reed started 7 games in 2018, appearing in a total of 17 games, with a 3.98 ERA. He struck out 42 batters in 43 innings pitched. Reed, like Stephenson, posted great numbers in Triple-A Louisville; the difference being that Reed made some noise in Cincinnati and has the decent ERA to back him up.

These are just the four of the current Reds pitchers who are most likely candidates to be selected for that final open spot in the rotation. Of these four though, I believe Reed and Mahle are the top contenders. Both have shown that they have some good potential as young pitchers. I cannot wait to see how they improve after Johnson spends some time working with them.

I think a good solution would be for the two of them to share time in that spot throughout the season. Since both Reed and Mahle are more inexperienced pitchers, this would allow them some breaks as they work on maturing this season. An approach like this would help prevent the burnout Tyler Mahle dealt with last year and it would allow them to make use of one of their only lefties against the left-hand heavy batting lineups.

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Still though, anything could happen. What happens at Spring Training will be a big contributing factor to the decision. There is also always a chance that the Cincinnati Reds front office will work out more than one trade deal or find some other way to acquire two more pitchers, instead of just the expected one. Hopefully we will see some moves being made soon and we can get actual answers to these questions rather than just speculation.