Brandon Williamson's impending return leaves Reds with tough roster decision

B-Will made another rehab appearance on Tuesday night.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Brandon Williamson
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Brandon Williamson / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Reds are slowly but surely beginning to get healthy. Left-hander Nick Lodolo was back on the mound for Monday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Alex Young returned from the injured list on Tuesday afternoon, and there's a chance that TJ Friedl could be activated as early as the upcoming series against the Chicago Cubs.

But Brandon Williamson is another name to keep an eye on as he begins to work his way back from an injury that kept the Reds' starter off the Opening Day roster. Williamson was sent on a rehab assignment earlier this month after being sidelined with a shoulder strain. Williamson's first start was a High-A Dayton, but has since been assigned to Triple-A Louisville.

On Tuesday, Williamson threw 40 pitches through three innings and didn't allow a run. Once Williamson's rehab assignment is complete, the Reds will have a decision to make. Will Cincinnati add Williamson to the active roster or option him back to the minor leagues?

Brandon Williamson's impending return leaves Reds with tough roster decision

Williamson is being stretched out as a starter, so don't look for Cincinnati to transform Williamson into a reliever. This is not a 2021 Tony Santillan situation where the Reds are looking to convert a failed starter into a reliever. If Williamson gets the call, it'll be as a starting pitcher. Plus the Reds already have three left-handers in the bullpen with another southpaw (Justin Wilson) on the mend.

So the conundrum becomes, if the Reds plan to activate Williamson from the IL, who gets sent back to the minors? Obviously Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Frankie Montas, and Andrew Abbott aren't going anywhere. So that leaves only Graham Ashcraft.

Ashcraft has had his ups and downs this season. The right-hander has allowed at least three earned runs in his last four starts, including a five-spot courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers during his last outing. But Ashcraft consistently gives manager David Bell five-plus innings every time he takes the ball.

The most likely scenario is for the Reds to activate Williamson from the IL and option him back to Triple-A. The Reds may have a need for an additional starter at some point this season, but with Nick Martinez in the bullpen, it's difficult to see Cincinnati entertain a six-man rotation.

It'll be a story to follow as the season progresses, and Williamson is kept in the Derby City, he's just a phone call away. Given the lack of success from the stable of young pitchers (Connor Phillips, Lyon Richardson, and Chase Petty), having Williamson as insurances is a huge benefit.

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