Why Nick Lodolo's return could result in a six-man starting rotation for the Reds

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) throws a pitch in the first inning.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) throws a pitch in the first inning. / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

It sounds as if Reds fans should expect left-hander Nick Lodolo to return from the Injured List in a couple of weeks. Will we see the Cincinnati Reds employ a six-man rotation when the rookie returns?

According to MLB.com, Lodolo's next step toward a return is throwing live batting practice before the southpaw heads out on rehab assignment. If everything goes as planned, the Reds are expecting Lodolo to return to the rotation later this month.

If Lodolo indeed returns to the team in the next few weeks, and no trades are made, the Reds will have six pitchers and only five spots in the rotation. Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Graham Ashcraft, Mike Minor, and Hunter Greene all look to be part of the rotation moving forward.

Will the Reds employ a 6-man rotation when Nick Lodolo returns?

The six-man rotation is a relatively new concept, and one that not every major league team utilizes. The Milwaukee Brewers had tremendous success with it last season when Corbin Burnes, Eric Lauer, Brett Anderson, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and Adrian Houser all started 20 or more games for the Crew.

The Cincinnati Reds have six pitchers, and actually seven once Connor Overton returns from the IL, who are worthy to be part of the starting rotation. Every one of them, except Mike Minor, have minor league options remaining, but the remaining quintet have all proven that they deserve to stay in the big leagues.

While Minor, Luis Castillo, and Tyler Mahle are all capable of throwing 180-plus inning this season, the same may not hold true for Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft. Lodolo barely eclipsed 50 innings last season in the minors, and both Greene and Ashcraft were just over 100 innings.

The future of the Reds rotation is Greene, Lodolo, and Ashcraft, and going to a six-man rotation could preserve all three during their first season in the major leagues. That extra day of rests between starts could help guide them to the end of the season rather than see them reach their "innings limit".

There's also the elephant in the room called the trade deadline. How much longer do fans really expect to see Castillo and Mahle, and maybe even Minor, in a Cincinnati Reds uniform? All three may be dealt before August 2nd. So the six-man rotation may only be for about a month anyway.

Traditional baseball fans, myself included, might not like the idea of a six-man rotation, but it would certainly work in this instance. The Cincinnati Reds are not contending this season, especially after dropping three of four to the Washington Nationals, so the best course of action is to do whatever it takes to develop the team's young core.

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