Cincinnati Reds: Vladimir Gutierrez should take Luis Castillo’s next start

Mar 9, 2021; Goodyear, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez pitches. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2021; Goodyear, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez pitches. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Cincinnati Reds starter Luis Castillo is struggling mightily. Removing him from the rotation is not the answer, and a trip to Triple-A Louisville to “get it right” would only hurt his already fragile psyche. The best course of action Reds’ manager David Bell could take is giving Castillo a week off and give the ball to Vladimir Gutierrez on Friday.

Castillo is a shell of his former self. The right-hander got rocked Opening Day and has just one quality start in seven trips to the hill. La Piedra is sitting on a 6.42 ERA and has only 26 strikeouts through 33.2 innings of work. An extra week off might do the Reds starter some good.

Reds prospect Vladimir Gutierrez should take Luis Castillo’s next start.

What do you do when your best pitcher is struggling? That’s the issue facing the Cincinnati Reds at this moment. The Reds are not going anywhere this season if Luis Castillo does not return to the dominant pitcher we know that he can be.

Castillo has two minor league options remaining, so sure, Cincinnati could option the right-hander to Triple-A Louisville to iron out whatever flaws he has in his game. But is that really the best course of action?

The team is currently carrying nine relievers and five starters. Why not replace one of those nine relievers with a minor league starter before Friday’s game in Colorado and allow a pitcher like Vladimir Gutierrez to supplant Luis Castillo?

I’m not talking about a permanent replacement – just one start. Castillo was lit up for six runs, four of them earned, while striking out just two batters. We’re used to La Piedra hitting double-digits strikeouts routinely, but the right-hander’s best performance this season has only seen him rack up seven punch outs. In four of his seven starts, Castillo has been held to four strikeouts or less.

Reds prospect Vladimir Gutierrez shined in his 2021 debut.

Vladimir Gutierrez has been part of the Cincinnati Reds for some time now, but the 25-year-old has yet to live up to his potential. An international signee in 2016, Gutierrez is ranked as the 13th best prospect within the Reds farm system according to MLB Pipeline.

The right-hander has a devastating curveball and a fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. Gutierrez was suspended for all of last season and the first several games of 2021 because of PED use. However, the Reds front office thought enough of Gutierrez to add him to the 40-man roster this winter in order to keep him safe from the Rule 5 Draft.

Allowing Gutierrez to start on Friday in place of Castillo is not punishment, but rather an opportunity for La Piedra to get things right. Rather than focusing on the scouting report, Castillo could work with pitching coach Derek Johnson and get his mechanics right.

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If Luis Castillo was given Friday evening off, the 28-year-old would not have to return to action until Wednesday, May 19th against the San Francisco Giants. Castillo has already faced the Giants once this season and surrendered two long balls and four earned runs while striking out seven during April 13th’s game at Oracle Park.