There was some big news out of spring training earlier today when the Cincinnati Reds said that Tony Cingrani would be heading to the bullpen. That alone is an interesting move. In his career as a starter, Cingrani has a 3.50 ERA in 157.0 innings pitcher with 167 strikeouts and 67 walks. Those are strong numbers. He did however struggle in 2014, though it turns out he was injured and wound up missing plenty of time. He seems healthy now, but the team is looking to use him out of the bullpen rather than the rotation. I have no doubt that Cingrani can be very successful in that role. The concerns come with the comments that followed from Bryan Price on who could be taking the spot in the rotation left by Cingrani:
The thing is, when we have veteran guys like Marquis and Maholm, you’re not going to use them for one start,” Price said. “If they’re going to be on our team, the hope is that they’re on our team for an entire season, if not longer. And that’s how we have to look at that. … You can back-and-forth a young guy. You can start a game or two and then go down to the Minor Leagues or go to the bullpen and help us as a long guy. So Marquis and Maholm are looking more like long-term, start-to-finish options for us.
Jason Marquis is having a good spring, but it’s still just spring training. He hasn’t had an above-league-average ERA since 2009 and last summer he was topping out with his fastball in the mid-80’s. He was coming off an arm injury, and maybe he’s throwing harder now, but it’s been a long time since he’s been even league average (over the last five years he hasn’t even been remotely close to league average) and he’s now 36-years-old.
Paul Maholm is only going to be 33-years-old this year, but it’s been two years since he was an average or better starter and last year he spent his time in the Dodgers bullpen where he struggled mightily, walking 28 batters with just 34 strikeouts in 70.2 innings. Maholm has two strikeouts this spring and he’s faced 26 batters. That doesn’t bode well for success.
If either of these guys are making more than a spot start or three for the Cincinnati Reds it’s very likely going to be a rough season. There’s a reason that both of them were easily available on minor league contracts this past offseason.
The other options would seem to be Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani. It would appear that DeSclafani has a spot locked up and that at least for now, Iglesias will be starting in place of Homer Bailey. Where things get tough is where Price says that the younger guys can be moved back-and-forth and they won’t do that with veterans. Neither Iglesias or DeSclafani are proven, and there’s some uncertainty with each of those guys. There’s also a whole lot of upside with those guys too though.
It would seem strange to go with a very likely, well below-average starter than an unproven, but possibly high upside starter, especially if you are going to instead use one of those high upside starters in the bullpen. Go with the big arms and hope for the best. Don’t go with lesser arms with far lesser stuff simply because they are veterans and had a solid March. There’s a long history showing you exactly who those guys are and it’s not looking good. Expecting guys in their 30’s to find something they haven’t shown in years is never a good bet in sports. Father Time is undefeated.
Michael Lorenzen is still in camp, but it does not seem that he is in contention for a spot in the rotation at this point for some reason. Lorenzen seems like he may have a spot in the bullpen and John Fay believes he’s pretty much got one locked up.