Finding a rotation for 2018 a challenge for the Reds

CINCINNATI — The cycle is complete. Scott Feldman was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, meaning every Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher who came out of spring training in the rotation has been on the disabled list.

Does that make it more difficult for the Reds to define a rotation for 2018? Or does it make it easier because the team has to keep pushing rookies out on the mound?

IT PROBABLY SLOWS THE team’s rebuilding process because manager Bryan Price would like to have five guys ready for 2018 by the end of 2017.

“If you are going to build a team, you build it through the starting rotation,” he said. “We have to define who we are going with, who is going to be in this five-man rotation. That has been a hard process for us ever since we decided to transition from that group in 2012 and 2013.”

So now it is 2017 and where are they?

“We’ve had a hard time replacing what we’ve lost (Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon),” said Price.

“It is very challenging if the strength of your club is not based on your starting rotation,” he said. “We are going to have to continue to give young kids an opportunity to pitch up here. And eventually we are going to have to look into someone from outside as we move forward, something to build around.”

PRICE IS CONFIDENT THAT there are viable arms among the steady stream of guys passing through on their tryout appearances.

“Having Homer Bailey back is good,” he began. “We’ll be getting Anthony DeSclafani back soon. Luis Castillo is a building block. We’re getting a look at Sal Romano (Tuesday’s pitcher).”

And with Feldman out for at least two starts, if not longer with his ouchy right knee, Price said the team will take a look at another minor league starter, probably Saturday if Asher Wojciechowski can’t make that start.

“These last 10 weeks are very important for us because we have to have a vision of what our starting rotation is going to look like in 2018. We have to have that vision by the end of 2017.

“It will be very difficult to talk about being competitive (in 2018) if we don’t know what our pitching is going to look like in 2018 from the outset.”

PRICE SAID THE VISION AT the outset for this season was Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman and one of the young prospects, “But that fell by the wayside by time we got two weeks into the season (Bailey, DeSclafani and Finnegan were all gone by then). We didn’t have any of our top three.”

What Price wants is for five heavy favorites heading into spring training, “Guys who are ready to pitch up here and can hold down a spot in the rotation instead of being on a tryout basis.”

Four of the top candidates have been tried and haven’t performed — Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Rookie Davis.

“These kids want to be here,” said Price. “The challenge for them has been to perform to the degree that would allow them to stay. Their disappointment is twofold — the disappointment of making the team and getting sent back down and then going down and not pitching to the level at which they pitched in the minors before they were called up.”

PRICE MAINTAINS CONFIDENCE in his young guns. He has no choice. A couple of them have to step up and step up quickly.

“Robert Stephenson is doing a terrific job and everyone is taking notice,” he said. “There is no loss of confidence in what we think Garrett and Reed and Davis and Jackson Stephens can do.

“You do have to perform to the level that warrants another opportunity,” said Price. “That’s how life is, that isn’t just baseball. Our young guys are learning that this is a performance-based business. It is not personal. We love our guys. And we are optimistic about the guys in our system. We have faith in what they are able to do, but they have to do it. There are no free rides here. They have to perform their way back here and when they get here they have to perform to stay.”

DEVIN MESORACO’S REHAB appearance Monday for the Class AAA Louisville Bats was a smashing success — six at bat, two walks and a grand slam home run. He also struck out twice.

Mesoraco came to bat for the first time in the bottom of the first inning and crushed the first pitch he saw for a grand slam home run. But the Bats fell to Syracuse, 11-8.

Mesoraco was scheduled to catch again in Louisville tonight against Syracuse and he will catch Cody Reed, who is 2-and-5 for the Bats.

NICK SENZEL IS, INDEED, on the fast track. Last year’s No. 1 draft pick started the season at high Class A Daytona Beach and has been promoted to Class AA Pensacola.

“It was great that he was able to start in the Florida State League this year, a tough place to hit,” said Price. “Now he has graduated to the Southern League (AA), a place that can be challenging for a young player.

“It is his first full year of professional baseball and Double-A can be quite challenging. It can be considered the level of separation. You really define yourself as a player in Double-A. It is a game-changer for a lot of players.”

In 23 games for the Blue Wahoos, Senzel is hitting .302 with five doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI in 85 at bats.

“He is hitting over .300, playing good third base and stolen some bases,” said Price. “He is doing a lot of good things.”

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