Reds: Tony Santillan’s likely promotion is silver lining of Sonny Gray’s injury

GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Tony Santillan #74 poses during Cincinnati Reds Photo Day. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Tony Santillan #74 poses during Cincinnati Reds Photo Day. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Reds Country took one on the chin last night after Sonny Gray left prior to pitching in the fourth inning with groin tightness. One of Cincinnati’s better starters, Gray will undergo an MRI today. With a likely stint on the injured list looming, the Cincinnati Reds need to call on Tony Santillan to replace Gray until the two-time All-Star is healthy.

Santillan has been one of the Reds top minor league arms for the past three seasons. After breaking into the upper echelon of the Cincinnati farm system in 2018, a regression of sorts in 2019 kept the right-hander from making his major league debut that season.

Throw in no minor league season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you now know why Santillan is still at Triple-A Louisville. Santillan has pitched well this season for the Louisville Bats, and it’s time for the hard-throwing Texan to see if he has what it takes to be a major league starter.

Reds starter Sonny Gray was cruising last night until the 4th inning.

Sonny Gray was cruising through three innings of work last night. The Cincinnati hurler had already struck out five batters, then prior to the fourth inning, while warming up on the mound, Gray appeared to wince. The training staff and manager David Bell came out to check on Gray, and he was promptly removed from the game.

Speaking of promptly, upon entering the game in relief, Sean Doolittle was promptly taken deep to to right field, and the 1-0 lead the Cincinnati Reds enjoyed after three innings was gone. The Milwaukee Brewers eventually won the game by a score of 5-1 as the Reds bullpen surrendered five runs and nine walks, two of which were intentional.

While Gray said after the game that he felt like there was the opportunity for him to continue, it seemed more prudent to remove himself from the game. Here’s what Gray had to say via

"“The first thing in my head was, ‘The smart thing would be to stop. The smart thing to do would be to stop, so you’re not missing eight, 10 weeks here. The competitiveness wants to keep going, because I think I can pitch just kind of half-dragging my backside through, but then there’s a lot of repercussions that come with that.”"

Cincinnati’s philosophy all season has been next man up. We’ve already seen the Reds deal with a number of injuries. Joey Votto, who returned last night, missed over one month with a broken thumb. The team is still without its emotional leader Mike Moustakas. Nick Senzel and Michael Lorenzen are both on the IL as well.

It’s time for the Reds to summon Tony Santillan.

Tony Santillan is slated to pitch later this week for the Louisville Bats. But, the Cincinnati Reds organization may want to hit the pause button on that. Groin injuries are nothing to mess around with, and fans should expect Sonny Gray to miss at least one start, if not more.

With that in mind, Cincinnati will need to fill Gray’s spot in the rotation, and there’s no better option at Triple-A than Santillan. The right-hander is 1-3 with a 2.51 ERA and 45 strikeouts over 32.1 innings. I’ve been championing Santillan’s promotion to the big leagues all season, and there’s no way I’m stopping now.

Tony Santillan is a stud, capable of easily going over 100 pitches. Santillan has punched out six or more batters in five of his six starts this season. In Santillan’s last start, the right-hander went seven innings, struck out 13 batters, and surrendered just two earned runs.

Santillan has boosted his strikeout-rate tremendously from 2019 to 2021. With Double-A Chattanooga in 2019, Santillan’s was striking out 19.8% of the batters he faced. In his six games with Triple-A Louisville this season, Santillan is punching out more than one-third of the hitters who step into the batter’s box to face him.

Santillan also seems to have gotten control of the walks that have plagued the right-hander in the past. After seeing a career-worst K-BB% of 8.2% in 2019, Santillan’s K-BB% is sitting at career-best 25.2% this season.

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If you’re trying to find the silver lining in the likely loss of Sonny Gray to the IL, it’s Tony Santillan. The former second-round pick has been languishing in the Cincinnati Reds farm system for some time now, and with the likely loss of Gray, it’s Santillan’s time to shine.