Cincinnati Reds: Cody Reed looks to carve out a permanent role

GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 10: Cody Reed #25 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers a first inning pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Goodyear Ballpark on March 10, 2017 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 10: Cody Reed #25 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers a first inning pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Goodyear Ballpark on March 10, 2017 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Cody Reed has flirted with the opportunity of a permanent role for the Cincinnati Reds in the past, but finding a role this season could prove difficult.

When Cody Reed first made his Major League debut for the Cincinnati Reds back in June of 2016, there were high hopes that he’d develop into a consistent left-handed starter in the back half of the rotation. His first start showed flashes, going 7 strong innings while giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and striking out 9 batters. The Memphis native showed off control and velocity on his fastball, and hard bite on his slider.

Unfortunately for both the Reds and for Reed, his next nine starts through August did not exactly show the same promise. Reed was giving up runs in a hurry, sporting a 7.36 ERA and an 0-7 record through 10 starts, and he found himself relegated to the bullpen to start the 2017 season.

Known at this point as the lefty donning rec-specs, Reed started out the 2017 season hot again, but sputtered soon after. Reed was sent down to Triple-A Louisville to pitch for the Bats until September call-ups at the end of the 2017 season.

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The 2018 season was more of the same as he lasted just one start and three relief appearances before being shipped back to Triple-A until the beginning of August. Keeping runs off the board on a consistent basis proved difficult for Reed, as he’d follow a strong outing with a less than stellar performance.

Over time though, he did get his numbers down, finishing 2018 with an ERA of 3.98 over 43 innings consisting of 7 starts and 10 appearances out of the bullpen. Being able to locate his slider down and away to lefties consistently was huge for Reed’s success through the final two months of the season. In fact, left-handed batters slashed just .222/.282/.278 with zero home runs through his 2018 campaign.

The finish to the 2018 season left Reed hoping that 2019 would be the year that he broke into a permanent role in the starting rotation. A new manager should help give him a clean slate to work off of in Spring Training. However, the Cincinnati Reds have been incredibly busy this offseason, going after more additions than most can remember in years.

With Luis Castillo cementing himself as a first or second option in the rotation, the Reds went to work surrounding him with talent, starting with bringing in Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals as a middle of the rotation starter.

Next came the blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, sending Homer Bailey’s contract away, much to the delight of the loud majority of Reds’ fans everywhere. Among those coming to Cincinnati from Los Angeles was left-hander Alex Wood, who will compete with Castillo for the No. 1 spot in the rotation.

With Anthony DeSclafani most likely to take one of the two remaining starting spots, that left just one spot for Cody Reed to compete for in the spring. But the Reds weren’t finished making moves, as they inked a deal with the New York Yankees to bring in another arm in the form of right-hander Sonny Gray. All of the sudden, the idea of being in the Opening Day rotation seems unrealistic and it looks like Cody Reed realizes that.

Personally, I was seeing Reed as a potential lefty-specialist out of the bullpen, but he definitely has the ability to give the Reds some long-relief help if multiple innings are necessary. Yet again, his opportunity dwindled, as the Reds reportedly signed free agent Zach Duke as a veteran presence out of the pen. The problem for Reed in that signing is that Duke is about as close to a professional lefty-specialist as you’ll find in the free agent market.

So where does that leave Cody Reed for the 2019 season? It leaves him in a situation where Spring Training is probably more important than any other season of his career. Reed will need to force the coaching staff to keep him at the big league level with strong outings.

Carving out a permanent spot in that bullpen won’t be easy with more than a couple southpaws above him on the depth chart, but if he can prove that he can force ground balls and swinging strikes against left-handed batters, he can definitely earn a spot. The second-most likely spot for him, in my opinion, would be in the starting rotation in Louisville, but I can’t imagine that role will be sufficient in Reed’s eyes.

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Baseball is an extremely taxing game mentally, and Reed will need to take the mindset that he has the ability to hang with these guys if he wants to wear a big league uniform for a full season for the first time in his career. Coming out with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove could be beneficial for Reed. Time will tell with Spring Training right around the corner, but honestly, how can you not hope to have those goggles jogging in from the pen this year?