Cincinnati Reds: If Wood isn’t ready to go, who gets his spot in starting rotation?

Alex Wood is has been held out of Cactus League games since Feb. 25.

The left-hander obtained in the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for Homer Bailey has been bothered with tightness in his back since his one-inning appearance against the Seattle Mariners.

The lone lefty in the Reds’ projected starting rotation had a setback on Friday while throwing live batting practice, the final step before getting back into game competition. The Reds have not scheduled his next throwing activity.

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Opening Day is two weeks away and it’s starting to get to the point that the Reds have to consider alternatives to Wood for the rotation.

Sal Romano, Cody Reed, Tyler Mahle and Brandon Finnegan are among the pitchers that the Reds identified would be stretched out this spring to either start or pitch in long relief. Mahle, Romano and Reed pitched against the Chicago Cubs in a split squad game on Tuesday night in Mesa.

The Reds can get by with four starters until April 6. After that it will require a fill in if Wood isn’t ready. That likelihood increases every day Wood is out.

Mahle looks like the best option based on results this spring. He has not allowed a run in six innings of work with 11 strikeouts and surrendered just five hits.

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In Tuesday’s game vs. the Cubs, the right-hander struck out five in three scoreless innings. He allowed two hits.

“It felt good with all their fans and stuff,” Mahle said. “Their lineup was stacked with most of their starters. So that was cool too. It was a good atmosphere.”

“He’s gotten better each time,” David Bell said. “He really set the tone for pitching the rest of the game.”

Bell has said that if Mahle doesn’t make the starting rotation in Cincinnati, he will start the season in the Louisville rotation.

The other candidates to potentially replace Wood have not fared as well.

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Finnegan has been in five games but pitched only 4 1/3 innings. He has allowed seven runs, seven hits and four walks. That’s an average of nearly two hits and a walk per inning for a WHIP of 2.53.

Romano hhas been working to recover his curve ball, a pitch he lost somewhere on his rise to the Major Leagues. Romano has logged five innings in four games. The right-hander has given up seven runs on nine and walked four in six innings.

Reed has been told that he will pitch out of the bullpen in long relief or a swing role, so an occasional start is not out of the question. The lefty has a 9.00 ERA, allowing seven runs in nine innings of work. Reed pitched two scoreless innings against the Cubs.

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