Cincinnati Reds baseball players run drills during the teams’ first spring training workout, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Photo: Matt York
Photo: Matt York

Reds starter DeSclafani eager to build on strong end to 2019 season

DeSclafani watched from his winter home in Freehold, N.J., as the Reds’ front office had a busy winter.

“It was very exciting,” he said. “Early on it was clear that they (front office) was going to spend some money and make some additions. I think they exceeded a lot of people’s expectations because of what that could have been. It seems like they added a lot of high quality players but also guys that are probably good team guys.”

The first of the new players to sign free agent contracts was starter Wade Miley, who will bring a left-handed presence to the Reds’ starting rotation. Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer and Luis Castillo are expected to join DeSclafani in that rotation with Tyler Mahle adding depth.

DeSclafani was among the first wave of younger players that the Reds’ wanted to build around. Castillo is another. DeSclafani came to the Reds on December 11, 2014. Since then he’s had challenges on and off the field.

DeSclafani showed great promise in 2015, making 31 starts, the most among National League rookies. He had a losing record at 9-13 with a 4.05 ERA and also had the most innings of any rookie (184 2/3).

“I’ve seen big players being traded away when I first got here,” he said. “There were some big time Reds guys (Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman).

“It was going through a rebuild … it’s definitely not fun,” he added. “It is a completely different vibe now, knowing that nothing short of a World Series ring is acceptable. I feel like everyone feels that we can achieve that. It is up to us.”

DeSclafani stayed in tune with the changes in the National League Central with the moves the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates made this winter.

“The offseason is fun in general to watch to see what moves are going on, who is going where. We were the most active in the division. We needed to be. It is very exciting,” he said.

A pain-free offseason after a strong finish to 2019 added to DeSclafani’s positive vibes.

Injuries put him on the sidelines for significant parts of the last three seasons. He made 20 starts in 2016 with a 9-5 record and a 3.28 ERA. He missed all of 2017 with a sprained right elbow. A strained left oblique limited the 29-year old to 21 starts in 2018 when he finished 7-8 with a 4.93 ERA.

“It was great to have a full season under my belt,” said DeSclafani, who rebounded last season 2ith a 9-9 mark, 3.98 ERA in 31 starts.

In his last eight starts of the season he went 2-2 with a 2.39. DeSclafani made five straight starts of at least six innings allowing fewer than three hits. He established a career high with 151 strikeouts, that included the 500th of his career. He struck out the first nine Milwaukee Brewers he faced in a start on June 23 in Milwaukee. His success was not only attributed to his health but equally achieved with some changes made with the guidance of first-year pitching coach Derek Johnson.

“I struggled a few years. I’m feeling strong and healthy,” DeSclafani said. “I got a full year with mechanical changes and pitch usage. If I can build off of that it is going to be an exciting year for me, too.”

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