3 dark horse candidates for the last spot in the Reds' Opening Day rotation

Spring training will provide a proving ground for some under-the-radar pitchers to make a name for themselves.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Connor Phillips
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Connor Phillips / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Reds have done a lot to ensure that the team's 2024 starting rotation does not undergo the same perils from last season. Rather than turning to Michael Mariot or Randy Wynne, in a pinch, the front office's investment during free agency has helped to add depth to the rotation.

By signing Nick Martinez and Frankie Montas, the Reds rotation would appear to have a strong mix of experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Cincinnati is hoping that Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo will emerge from Goodyear, Arizona healthy and ready to make a difference in 2024.

But there's always that dark horse, the one nobody saw coming, who emerges once spring training begins. Relievers Derek Law and Alex Young did just that a year ago, and parlayed a strong spring into a spot on the 2023 Opening Day roster. Which three Reds players could make a dark-horse run at the final spot in the Reds rotation?

1. Brandon Williamson

It feels odd even listing Brandon Williamson as a dark horse to make the Cincinnati Reds 2024 Opening Day roster, but that just shows how deep the team's pitching staff is heading into the upcoming season.

Williamson had an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster out of spring training last year, but was optioned to Triple-A Louisville to begin the season. However, the left-hander quickly made his way to the big leagues and had a positive impact on the club upon his promotion.

Williamson essentially took over for fellow left-hander and his former TCU teammate Nick Lodolo after the Reds' 2019 first-round pick was sidelined with an injury. Lodolo's placement on the 60-day IL combined with Connor Overton's injury and Luis Cessa's dismissal resulted in continued opportunities for Williamson.

The 25-year-old started 23 games for Cincinnati a year ago and logged over 110 inning of work. Williamson had a very good stretch during the month of August, posting a 3.67 ERA while only allowing opposing batters to hit .224. Williamson did, however, run out of gas down the stretch and only made it past the fifth inning once over his final four games.

Brandon Williamson will be given a fair shake to make the Reds Opening Day roster, and if any one of Cincinnati's starters suffers a setback or injury, the left-hander will be the next man up. But if everyone is healthy, it'll take a Herculean effort from Williamson this spring in order to make a run at that final spot in the rotation.