Reds: David Bell’s odd decision to lift Tony Santillan was not without merit

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JUNE 08: Manager David Bell of the Cincinnati Reds walks across the field. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JUNE 08: Manager David Bell of the Cincinnati Reds walks across the field. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds rookie starter Tony Santillan lasted only three innings on Friday night before being pulled in favor of a pinch hitter. David Bell’s decision to remove Santillan seems like a quick hook, but the move was not without merit.

Shogo Akiyama pinch hit for Santillan in the top of the fourth inning. Akiyama entered with the Reds trailing the San Diego Padres 3-2 with two outs and two runners on base. The Japanese outfielder promptly struck out to end the inning.

David Bell’s decision to lift Reds’ starter Tony Santillan was tough, but fair.

David Bell was, of course, asked about his decision to pull starting pitcher Tony Santillan after just three innings of work and only 53 pitches. To be clear, let’s not pretend that Santillan was spinning a gem out there.

The right-hander surrendered a lead off homer to Tommy Pham, a scorching double to Manny Machado, another deep fly to Wil Myers, and a hard-hit two-bagger courtesy of Fernando Tatis Jr. before being lifted. Bell said, via MLB.com, this about the decision:

"“Tough call, but I tried to keep the inning going, see if we could extend that opportunity right there and get back to the top of our order. Try to score. That was the thought process there.”"

Given how well the trio of Jonathan India, Jesse Winker, and Nick Castellanos have been hitting of late, I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to bring in a pinch hitter given that allowing Santillan to hit would have almost assuredly ended the inning.

David Bell’s call to the bullpen may help preserve Tony Santillan’s confidence.

Don’t take David Bell’s decision to lift Tony Santillan as a lack of faith in the rookie’s ability to pitch, but to hit. When your team is playing a squad as lethal as the San Diego Padres, you have to take the opportunities when they present themselves.

After Thursday night’s crushing defeat, Bell was looking for any way possible to put some runs on the board and transform a one-run inning into a three, four, or even five run inning. With Eugenio Suarez in scoring position, and Kyle Farmer on first base, a base hit courtesy of Akiyama would’ve likely scored Geno from second base and tied the game.

Then, you turn the lineup over to India, Winker, and Castellanos with two runners aboard. While Bell’s strategy could be defined as bold, the decision was made with the best of intentions. It failed to work out, but that’s baseball.

Pulling Tony Santillan when he did may also help preserve the right-hander’s confidence. While Santillan didn’t get rocked, San Diego’s lineup was getting solid contact and a big inning seemed to be in the making.

David Bell has already shown confidence in the rookie’s ability to battle. Santillan went 4.2 innings, throwing 97 pitches in the process. Santillan entered the fifth inning and allowed two walks and hit a batter before Bell finally pulled the Texas native in his major league debut. The Reds’ skipper had ample opportunity to remove Santillan prior to his struggles, but decided against it.

Bell is clear frontrunner for Manager of the Year. Next

Tony Santillan will likely get another crack at proving he has what it takes to be a starting pitcher win the major leagues. With an off-day on Wednesday prior to Cincinnati’s return home to face the Atlanta Braves, Tony Santillan is likely to take the hill when the Reds return home to Great American Ball Park.