The Cincinnati Reds, because of three days off in the past week, have been able to stretch their starting rotation from five to four. Brandon Williamson, Graham Ashcraft, Luke Weaver, and Andrew Abbott have been holding down the fort.
But Hunter Greene is scheduled to return to the Reds on Sunday. Ben Lively has already made one rehab start down at Triple-A Louisville, and Nick Lodolo should be on track to return from the 60-day IL by the end of August.
Strange as it may sound, it may be time for the Cincinnati Reds ro consider a six-man rotation once the trio of Greene, Lively, and Lodolo return from the injured list.
A six-man rotation would help preserve the Reds young arms.
Luke Weaver was designated for assignment, but the Cincinnati Reds (when healthy) still have six, and perhaps even seven capable starting pitchers on the 40-man roster if you include Brett Kennedy.
On Wednesday, Andrew Abbott was removed from the contest after throwing 84 pitches. Abbott has thrown less than 100 pitches in three of his last four outings. The left-hander has already blown his career-high in innings pitched, and the Reds may be looking to reduce the wear and tear on his arm down the stretch.
Brandon Williamson is probably about two starts away from surpassing his career-high in innings pitched as well. The southpaw is sitting on 115 innings pitched this season between Triple-A Louisville and the big leagues after tossing 122 innings last season in the minor leagues.
Once the band is back together, a rotation of Abbott, Williamson, Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Ben Lively could help the Reds remain well rested over the final month of the season.
How would a six-man rotation affect the Reds bullpen?
But what about the bullpen? Fans know that the Cincinnati Reds bullpen is thoroughly exhausted. Pitchers like Buck Farmer, Ian Gibaut, Alexis Diaz, Alex Young, and Lucas Sims look utterly gassed. And why shouldn't they be?
Four of those five pitchers are among the Top 10 in relief appearances this season and all five have come out of the bullpen at least 50 times in 2023. The Reds lone trade deadline acquisition, Sam Moll, has made over 50 appearances this season as well.
Rosters expand from 26 to 28 players next month, and it just so happens that Nick Lodolo should be returning from the injured list about that time. When Lodolo is reinstated from the IL, the Reds could run out six starters and eight relievers to finish out the season.
Cincinnati has their fair share of fresh arms ready to return. Tejay Antone is currently on the rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville, though the club will likely be very cautious once he returns.
Vladimir Gutierrez may have experienced a setback, as he was returned from his rehab assignment on Wednesday. Justin Dunn is also on a rehab assignment, and Casey Legumina is on the Triple-A roster as well.
Of the eight pitchers currently in the bullpen, Sam Moll, Alex Young, Alan Busentiz, Alexis Diaz, Fernando Cruz, and Brett Kennedy have minor league options remaining. Two of those players are left-handed, another two have been your best performers, and the remaining two will likely be optioned to make room for Antone and Nick Lodolo.
Fans may see some tweaks to the roster in the coming weeks. Will Buck Farmer remain with the club once the Reds are fully healthy? The right-hander has struggled of late, but that's likely due to the increased workload.
The bullpen is going to be gassed whether the Cincinnati Reds go with a standard five-man rotation or six starting pitchers. However, if the team hopes to keep its young starters on the active roster for the rest of the season, a six-man rotation may be the way to go.