Reds: 3 areas Cincinnati needs to clean up heading into May

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett (50) walks to the dugout after surrendering a three-run home run.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett (50) walks to the dugout after surrendering a three-run home run. /
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Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts.
CINCINNATI, OHIO – APRIL 20: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds have had a roller coaster month to begin the 2021 season. We’ve seen this year’s squad win six consecutive games and then lose seven in a row. Consistency is certainly lacking, but it’s still early and David Bell along with his coaching staff have plenty of time to figure things out over the summer.

That said, the Reds can’t just sit on their hands, and some areas of concern must be addressed as the calendar flips from April to May. As Cincinnati embarks on the second month of the 2021 season, what are the the three biggest issues that must be ironed out before the dog days of summer descend upon the Queen City?

1. Reds starter Luis Castillo must return to form.

One of the biggest issues during the first month of the season has been the disappointing play of Cincinnati’s ace Luis Castillo. Disappointing might not even be a strong enough word to describe the paltry play we’ve seen from La Piedra during the month of April.

Castillo has pitched in five games and owns a 6.29 ERA. The right-hander has struck out just 19 batters over 24.1 innings of work. His 32 hits allowed are the third-highest in the league behind Antonio Senzatela and Zach Eflin. Castillo has also surrendered five home runs. Castillo gave up just five homers all of last season.

The Reds are getting great production from Tyler Mahle and Wade Miley. I think it’s fair to say that Jeff Hoffman has exceeded expectations, and after Wednesday’s performance, Reds Country has to be happy with what they saw from Sonny Gray.

But, if this team is going to make some noise in the National League Central, Luis Castillo must play up to his ability. According to FanGraphs, Castillo’s strikeout-rate has dropped from 30.5% (2020) to 17.5% (2021). Castillo has reduced the usage of his fastball and relied more heavily on his changeup.

While his off-speed stuff is second-to-none, locating his fastball is key to Castillo’s success. There’s also been a drop in velocity, which may concerning if it continues. For the Reds to be competitive this season, Luis Castillo must return to form, and fast.