Vladimir Gutierrez is slowly working his way back from Tommy John surgery. The former starter turned reliever has made a few rehab appearances at Triple-A Louisville and is on the cusp of returning to the Cincinnati Reds roster.
Gutierrez enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign in 2021, but things went off the rails last season. After being demoted to Triple-A Louisville midway through the season, it was revealed that Gutierrez would need to have elbow surgery.
But Gutierrez has now logged four innings of work at both the Arizona Complex League and Triple-A. With the right-hander nearing a return to the big leagues, is there a pitcher in the bullpen who might lose his roster spot once Gutierrez returns to action?
Buck Farmer could be in jeopardy of losing his roster spot once Vladimir Gutierrez returns.
Let's address the elephant in the room first, shall we? The Cincinnati Reds bullpen is absolutely gassed. Four members of the Reds relief corps are among the Top 5 in the National League in appearances.
Buck Farmer, Ian Gibaut, Alex Young, and Alexis Diaz have all made at least 50 appearances this season. So while Vladimir Gutierrez may well replace someone in the Reds bullpen, the reliever he supplants may head out on a phantom IL stint in order to get breather.
That pitcher could be the aforementioned Farmer. The right-hander leads the NL in appearances and is ninth in the league innings pitches. Farmer has covered anything from low-leverage situations to high-leverage situations and everything in between.
But Farmer has not looked the same since the All-Star break. Before the Midsummer Classic, Farmer was 2-3 with a 3.65 ERA, 21.3-percent strikeout-rate, and 6.7-percent walk-rate. However, since July 15th, Farmer has seen his walk-rate skyrocket.
According to FanGraphs, over his last 10 appearances, Farmer has walked nearly 20-percent of the opposing batters. While his strikeout-rate (26.2-percent) has seen an uptick as well, it's not enough to offset the eight free passes he's issued since the All-Star break.
Again, this isn't a call to outright replace Buck Farmer, but Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell cannot afford to trot him out on a regular basis at this point in the season. Farmer is a workhorse, but the last time he was counted on for this many innings was in 2019 with the Detroit Tigers.
Farmer is out of minor league options, so don't be surprised if he is placed on the injured list with shoulder fatigue or some other type of malady that will give the right-hander a break before the final month of the 2023 season.