2 areas of concern Graham Ashcraft must address upon his return to the Reds rotation

Graham Ashcraft is expected to return from the Cincinnati Reds rotation for Saturday's game against the Atlanta Braves.

Cincinnati Reds starter Graham Ashcraft
Cincinnati Reds starter Graham Ashcraft / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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Graham Ashcraft is expected to be activated from the 15-day injured list today after taking a comebacker off his leg during his last start.

The second-year starter has seen his fair share of ups and downs in 2023, but prior to his placement on the IL, Ashcraft was mired in a horrific slump.

With both Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo on the IL, the Cincinnati Reds need Graham Ashcraft to return to the level of dominance that he enjoyed during his rookie season. What are the expectations for Ashcraft when he toes the rubber today against the Atlanta Braves?

Graham Ashcraft must show improvement in these 2 areas upon his return to the Reds.

While the comebacker off his leg surely left Graham Ashcraft with a gnarly bruise, it was also a way to get the right-hander away from the day-to-day grind for a couple weeks and help him refocus on what made him such a talented pitcher in 2022.

In 2022, and even spring training, Ashcraft looked like a solid piece of the Cincinnati rotation; a player this team could build around. But after his first six starts (2-0, 2.00 ERA), Ashcraft looked like he forgot how to pitch.

Since Ashcraft's early-May outing against the Chicago White Sox, the 25-year-old has gone 1-5 with ghastly 12.72 ERA. So where do the Reds need to see improvement from Ashcraft moving forward?

First, Graham Ashcraft needs to rediscover that sinker that helped him keep the opposition on the ground. During his first six starts, according to FanGraphs, Ashcraft owned a ground ball-rate of 54.4-percent. But during his last seven starts, that number shrank to 41.3-percent.

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Another area where Reds fans will hope to see improvement is the long ball. Ashcraft saw only a 3.8-percent home run to fly ball-rate in those first six starts. But since then, that number has exploded to 24.2-percent.

Both of these problems can be solved by Graham Ashcraft showing more confidence in his sinker. There was a stretch where the right-hander completely abandoned his third offering and relied instead on just his cutter and slider.

If Ashcraft can at least throw his sinker consistently, it'll help keep the hitters off balance and keep the ball on the ground. Ashcraft loves to pitch to contact, but if that ball gets in the air, especially at Great American Ball Park, it's going to travel a long way.

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