Reds can't afford to make this mistake with Graham Ashcraft after demotion to minors

The Reds need to avoid this silly idea at all costs.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Graham Ashcraft
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Graham Ashcraft / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Well, it happened. After a couple weeks of the Reds fanbase clamoring for the team to remove Graham Ashcraft from the rotation, Cincinnati's front office finally did just that. Ashcraft was optioned to Triple-A Louisville in order to activate Emilio Pagán off the 15-day IL after the reliever was sidelined with a triceps injury since mid-May.

It's undoubtedly a blow to Ashcraft's ego. No major league player wants to feel as if they're not good enough to stick in The Show. But the harsh reality is that Ashcraft has struggled mightily this season getting through the opposing team's batting order more than twice. The third time through the batting order, the opposition was lighting Ashcraft up to the tune of .333/.415/.491.

Ashcraft will now head down to the Derby City and work on his craft while the Reds operate with a four-man rotation. The team's scheduled off days on Monday and Thursday next week allow Reds manager David Bell to use just four starters until the team's next roadtrip.

Graham Ashcraft should not be moved to the Reds bullpen (yet)

But several Reds fans have opined that Ashcraft belongs in the bullpen, not the starting rotation. There's merit to the argument, as Ashcraft's stuff is downright filthy at times, and not having to face hitters multiple times could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

But the Reds cannot afford to turn Ashcraft into a reliever this season. Why not? Because the rest of the starters down at Triple-A Louisville have been downright awful this season. Outside of Brandon Williamson — who's on a rehab assignment and will likely take Ashcraft's spot in the rotation — the Louisville Bats' rotation has been abysmal.

Lyon Richarson, Connor Phillips, and Christian Roa — all of whom the Reds were expecting to perhaps count on at some point this season — have been dreadful. Richardson has 45 strikeouts in 46.2 innings, but is walking nearly 16% of the batters he's faced this season. Phillips has been even worse with more walks (44) than punch outs (42). In three stats, Roa owns an 8.64 ERA with nine walks and 10 strikeouts in 8.1 innings of work. These are not the guys you want getting the call if one of your starting pitchers lands on the IL.

Carson Spiers has pitched well and he's even seen some time with the big league club this season. But most of Spiers' work in Cincinnati has come out of the Reds bullpen and he's looked shaky at times. In other words, if the Reds needed a spot starter or someone to fill in as an injury replacement, it should be Ashcraft.

Graham Ashcraft could move to the Reds bullpen next season

The idea of Ashcraft eventually turning into a reliever — maybe even as soon as next year — is quite plausible. By then, pitchers like Chase Petty and Rhett Lowder may be major league-ready, and Cincinnati will need Ashcraft's effective cutter/ slider combo in the bullpen. But midway through the 2024 season is not the time to change Ashcraft's role with the team.

Hopefully some time down in the minors will reinvigorate Ashcraft and allow him to return later this season with a vengeance. They always say that you can never have enough pitching, so it's stands to reason that Ashcraft should be part of the Bats' rotation, not the bullpen.

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