Cincinnati Reds: Don’t rush to insert Tejay Antone into the starting rotation

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 09: Relief pitcher Tejay Antone #70 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 09: Relief pitcher Tejay Antone #70 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Yes, he may be one of the best hurlers on this year’s Cincinnati Reds team, but let’s back off the idea of inserting Tejay Antone into the starting rotation. Why? Well, in case you missed it, Antone absolutely shut down the San Francisco Giants in the sixth, seventh, and eighth inning last night, proving that he has incredible value out of the bullpen.

I’m sure a lot of fans would love to have that type of production from the jump, but Antone provides a weapon that few teams have; a skilled pitcher capable of going multiple innings in relief. The “long man” as it has been referred to, has seemingly vanished in today’s game, but Antone is looking to refine the role.

Tejay Antone is arguably the Reds best reliever.

After Wade Miley tossed five innings of shutout baseball versus the Giants on Monday night, David Bell gave the ball to Tejay Antone. The right-hander went 3.2 innings, allowed just two base runners; a walk to the first batter he faced and a hit-by-pitch in the ninth.

Antone faced 12 batters and threw 60 pitches, 35 of which went for strikes. While it looked like Antone was in line for a four-inning save, Bell emerged from the dugout with two outs in the ninth inning and replaced Antone with Lucas Sims. Sims punched out Evan Longoria and recorded his first save.

Now, before all you armchair managers want to sit back and criticize Bell’s decision, it was absolutely the right call. Antone said after the game via C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic that he could tell he was “running out of gas.”

Tejay Antone will join the Reds rotation…eventually.

I firmly believe that Tejay Antone could and should be in the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation, but let’s not rush to elevate the Texas native to that role just yet. If Antone isn’t ready to throw more than 60 pitches, do we really want to rely on him to throw 80-plus?

Now, that’s not say that in the coming weeks and months that Antone won’t receive enough work to be stretched out and eventually join the rotation. But, after missing some time during spring training due to injury, there’s no need to put Antone in a situation that requires him to go five-plus innings right now.

Furthermore, we’ve heard David Bell talk about having a bullpen ace. He may have found that in Tejay Antone. While Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims jockey over who should be the Cincinnati Reds closer, I’m of the mindset that Antone might be their best option. However, that would take away his ability to go multiple innings; something that would ultimately hurt the team.

With Sonny Gray set to return this week, either Jeff Hoffman or Jose De Leon will find themselves out of a spot in the starting rotation. When Michael Lorenzen finally returns, he’ll displace the remaining member of the rotation. With Gray, Lorenzen, Miley, Luis Castillo, and Tyler Mahle looking like the Reds’ starting quintet, there’s simply no room for Antone…yet.

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I think Tejay Antone has the chance to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter; dare I say, the Reds’ ace. But let’s temper expectations for now and allow Antone to find his footing and see if those numbers stay the same when the right-hander goes against some stiffer competition. The San Francisco Giants have a collective OPS of .664, which is good enough for 12th in the league.