By Mark Carpenter –
Amidst all of the crash and burn that has taken place at Paul Brown Stadium this month, something else is happening along the riverfront in Cincinnati that is flying under the radar and getting lost in the shuffle. While the Bengals are battling it out at the moment for the title of the NFL’s “worst” team, their neighbors to the east are quietly giving their fan base a glimmer of hope for the future.
If you haven’t noticed, the Cincinnati Reds have been playing some pretty good baseball lately and a lot of that has to do with some young pitchers who seem to slowly be catching on to life in the big leagues. The Reds have certainly kept it no secret that they have gone into a rebuild mode, after trading away a number of veterans to accumulate some young, but unproven talent. Now some of that talent is beginning to bloom at the major league level, giving hope to Reds fans that maybe the rebuild isn’t long for this world.
The brightest hope coming out of Great American Ball Park is coming from the pitcher’s mound as a group of young pitchers have shown some great promise in the last few weeks. Before he was shut down with an innings limit (this isn’t the 70’s any more), right hander Luis Castillo, who was acquired in exchange for Dan Straily, was brilliant at times though his 3-7 record might not reflect that, but 98 strikeouts in 89 innings and some nasty stuff may make him next year’s possible Opening Day starter. Throw in Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, and maybe even the recently rejuvenated Robert “Don’t Call Me Bob” Stephenson, and a big chunk of next year’s rotation might be set barring injury.
Who fills the other spots? How about Homer? Maybe David Dewitt Bailey comes back in 2018 and become the ace of the staff. There are a lot of other arms to choose from- Rookie Davis, Amir Garrett, Ariel Hernandez, Cody Reed, and Jackson Stephens. There has been talk of making Michael Lorenzen back into a starter and perhaps a free agent starter makes his way to the Queen City. However it shakes out, it has the makings of one of the best young rotations in baseball if some pitching coach along the way teaches the youngsters to throw strikes.
On the offensive side, the Reds have six players with at least 20 home runs, which is pretty good actually, though a couple of those guys (Cozart, maybe Duvall or Schebler) may not be here in 2018. When he has been healthy and in the lineup, Jesse Winker has played well and if he can ever learn to bunt, Billy Hamilton is still the best defensive center fielder in baseball. Joey Votto is Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez presents an intriguing question, with 2016 number one draft pick Nick Senzel waiting in the wings. Tucker Barnhart has firmly grabbed the catching position and his play is reflected in the pitchers’ ERA when he is behind the plate.
Though the future looks bright, the present still has its ups and downs, such as losing three of four to a really bad Mets team, but then sweeping the Pirates in three straight. The Reds get a major test this weekend when their young pitchers face the AL East leading Boston Red Sox as hometown hero Andrew Benintendi returns and the young Cincinnati pitchers will be provided a good measuring stick.
Lest we forget that the Bengals also play this weekend, looking to go 0-3 as they head for the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to face a Packers team that got manhandled last weekend by the Falcons. Oh well, Opening Day 2018 comes early-March 29 the Nationals come to town. Something to look forward to.