Tyler Mahle took the mound for the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night. But, it was something that happened before the game that could have helped push him in the right direction towards locking up a spot in the rotation. Michael Lorenzen, who was at least in the conversation for a rotation spot, was diagnosed with strained Teres Major muscle. That’s the same injury that Brandon Finnegan dealt with in 2017. C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic reported that the Reds believe Lorenzen’s strain is less serious than Finnegan’s was.
While it was likely that Michael Lorenzen was heading to the bullpen before the injury, if he winds up on the disabled list to start the year it means that a spot in the bullpen is now opened up, too. And that could mean that one of the starters winds up there to take his place. Perhaps that’s a role that Robert Stephenson could slide into to begin the season.
Of course, maybe none of that matters. Tyler Mahle may have just taken care of things all on his own. Things didn’t go well in the first inning as the Padres scored two runs against the right hander, but over the next four innings he shut San Diego down. The 23-year-old allowed just those two runs over 5.0 innings. The Padres had just three hits and one walk, while Mahle struck out six hitters. For the spring he now has a 2.75 ERA in 19.2 innings over his six appearances. He’s only allowed 10 hits, three walks, and he’s hit two batters along the way. That also includes 15 strikeouts.
Could the Reds send Tyler Mahle to the Minors for contractual reasons?
If spring training performance, and stats matter at all, then Tyler Mahle should be locked into the rotation. Those things, however, aren’t always the case though. Ask Ronald Acuna and how his .432/.519/.727 line this spring with four home runs and four stolen bases somehow means he’s heading to the Minor Leagues to begin the year to “get into the flow and keep doing what he was doing”.
When it comes to baseball teams, they try to manipulate service time for some players. The Rays did it with Evan Longoria. The Cubs did it with Kris Bryant. Would the Reds try to do it with Tyler Mahle? It doesn’t seem likely. Mahle has big league service time under his belt. The organization would need to keep him in Triple-A well into May in order to get that extra year of control out of him. And that ignores the premise of trying to work this game with pitchers. As much as it pains us to admit, pitchers are far more likely to get injured and miss significant time. Because of that, it makes far less sense to try and do that for a pitcher. When you believe they are ready to play in the Major Leagues, get them there.
The Anthony DeSclafani injury could have been what opened up a spot for Tyler Mahle. But, that spot wasn’t just his because he was the only option. He’s gone out this spring and taken the opportunity given to him (and others) to show Bryan Price, Dick Williams, Mack Jenkins and others why he should have that spot. From a performance standpoint, it’s hard to think he could have done anything better than he has. We’ll know how things work out in a few days, but if Mahle weren’t penciled into the rotation before Tuesday night, it seems that he’s done all that he can to make that happen now.