Cincinnati Reds: DeSclafani close to making his return to rotation

As the date when Anthony DeSclafani can be activated from the 60-day disabled list approaches, thoughts among many – including Reds fans – are turning to whom he might replace in the Cincinnati starting rotation.

The 28-year-old right-hander, who’s been sidelined all season with a left oblique strain he sustained in spring training, made his second rehab start for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos on Saturday. The line wasn’t impressive. The Jackson Generals reached him for five hits and three runs, two earned, but he was able to pitch into the sixth inning. He threw 76 pitches, 49 for strikes, and he piled up eight strikeouts while walking one batter.

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“Today was a good night,” said DeSclafani, who missed all of last season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, in a video provided by the Reds. “I don’t think I’ve pitched that long since my last start in 2016. I’m definitely feeling it now. I feel sore and achy. It feels good. It’s been a long time since I felt this way.

“I almost felt too good in the pen,” he added. “I had to bring the reins back in – get it back in control and take it easy with my delivery. It felt good.”

DeSclafani, who was acquired by the Reds in December 2014 from the Marlins as part of the package for right-hander Mat Latos, was 9-13 while leading National League rookies with 31 starts in 2015 and 9-5 with a 3.28 earned-run average in 20 starts in 2016, when he also opened the season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique.

He can’t be activated from the disabled list until May 28, which means he’ll likely get at least one more rehab start somewhere in the Cincinnati farm system. Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman suspects DeSclafani might need more time. Pitchers can spend up to 30 days on a minor league rehab assignment, and DeSclafani’s clock didn’t start ticking until May 14.

“He has two or three more (rehab) starts, then we’ll plug him right into the rotation,” Riggleman said before Sunday’s series finale against Chicago.

While all of the pitchers currently in Cincinnati’s rotation have struggled at times this season, the one occupying the biggest space on the bubble – literally and figuratively – is right-hander Sal Romano. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Romano has regressed in recent starts. He produced a career-high six walks – four while Chicago was sending nine batters to the plate in a five-run fifth inning in Cincinnati’s 10-0 loss to the Cubs in the nightcap of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader. Romano (2-5), who allowed a career-high six earned runs in his previous start, upped that by one when he gave up seven on Saturday.

Veteran Homer Bailey also has struggled recently, but he would be difficult to send to the minor leagues and his recent performance and contract make him almost impossible to trade.

“The adjustment has yet to be determined,” Riggleman said. “It will be performance-based and also depend on who can pitch in the bullpen.”

DeSclafani obviously is looking forward to rejoining the Reds.

“It’s definitely not fun not being able to compete with the boys,” he said. “Hopefully, my time is up now and I can get back to competing and helping the team win.”

New face: Jose Peraza, hitless in his last 15 at bats going into Sunday’s game, was not in Riggleman’s starting lineup for just the third time in 48 games. Rookie Alex Blandino got his second start of the season at shortstop and first in the leadoff slot in the batting order.

Blandino went into the game hitting .500 over his last eight appearances, raising his overall average from .230 to .280.

Next up: After a second day off in a span of five days on Monday, the Reds are scheduled to open a three-game series on Tuesday night against the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. Right-hander Matt Harvey (0-2), acquired from the Mets for catcher Devin Mesoraco on May 8, will make his Great American Ball Park debut in a Reds uniform. He is scheduled to be opposed by right-hander Jameson Taillon (2-3).

The Pirates won two games during a three-game series against the Reds April 5-7 in Pittsburgh. The Pirates went into Sunday’s home game against San Diego in second place in the National League Central Division, 1 ½ games behind Milwaukee.

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