Reds pitcher Riley O'Brien should follow Tony Santillan into a relief role

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Riley O'Brien (57) delivers a pitcher.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Riley O'Brien (57) delivers a pitcher. / Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

After being optioned to Triple-A on Sunday, David Bell said, via Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer, it's yet to be determined if right-hander Riley O'Brien is a longterm starter or a reliever. It seems like a simple concept, however, given the Cincinnati Reds pitching depth. O'Brien should be moved, a la Tony Santillan, to the bullpen.

O'Brien spend the majority of last season at Triple-A Louisville, but did make one spot-start for the Reds near the end of the 2021 season. O'Brien's major league debut lasted just 1.1 innings and the Washington native saw two balls leave the park. O'Brien struck out two batters and walked three.

Riley O'Brien should be moved to the Reds bullpen.

Riley O'Brien came to the Cincinnati Reds back in 2020 in a trade that sent former second-round pick Cody Reed to the Tampa Bay Rays. O'Brien didn't pitch in 2020 due to the cancellation of the minor league season, but appeared in 23 games last season with 22 starts for the Louisville Bats. O'Brien posted a respectable 7-7 record with a 4.55 ERA and 121 punch outs of 112.1 innings of work.

Tony Santillan, a teammate of O'Brien's at Triple-A Louisville last season, struggled as a starter during his first stint in the big leagues last season, but after returning to the Bats, the right-hander returned as a reliever and was dominant out of the Reds bullpen.

Could Riley O'Brien follow a similar path? Optioning O'Brien to Triple-A is a clear message that he's no longer in the running to be part of the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. With Luis Castillo and Mike Minor likely to miss the first week-plus of the 2022 season, there looks to be three openings among the starting rotation.

Tyler Mahle has been named the Opening Day starter, and Vladimir Gutierrez appears to have locked up a spot in the rotation as well. It looks as though the group of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Reiver Sanmartin, and Tony Santillan will be battling it out to see who else begins the season in the big leagues or in the minors. The possibility exists for Santillan to start the season in the bullpen.

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Riley O'Brien had an inauspicious start to his major league career, but perhaps a change in roles will help the 27-year-old find success in 2022. We'll see where the Reds turn from here, but moving O'Brien to the pen might be the prudent move.