- Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan tells Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s displeased the team demoted him to Triple-A on May 10 to make room for Matt Harvey’s acquisition. Finnegan noted that he’s fine either starting or relieving in the majors, saying “whatever helps the team out is what I want to do,” but he believes he made a case earlier this season to continue in the Reds’ rotation. “I felt like I had two pretty good starts up in Cincinnati,” Finnegan said. “You can’t do anything about getting taken out of the game after 70 pitches. (Reds interim manager Jim) Riggleman loves using the bullpen; that’s his thing. That part was out of my hands. Besides that, two of my five starts I had, I thought were pretty good. I was attacking guys.” Notably, Finnegan added that he has no hard feelings toward Riggleman, per Nightengale. Regardless, Finnegan didn’t exactly make a case to stay in the Reds’ rotation during his five pre-demotion starts – he logged a 7.40 ERA with 15 walks and 14 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings – though he still expected more leeway after missing most of last season with shoulder issues. The Reds, for their part, haven’t given up on Finnegan serving as a starter in the majors, and they sent him down so he’d work out of their their Triple-A rotation rather than the big league bullpen, Nightengale writes. Finnegan, meanwhile, is using his stint in the minors as motivation and “hoping to get back” to the Reds sooner than later.
The Reds announced this afternoon that they’ve placed closer Raisel Iglesias on the 10-day disabled list due to soreness in his left (non-throwing) biceps. Fellow righty Austin Brice is also headed to the DL thanks to an upper back injury. In their place, the Reds activated righties Michael Lorenzen and Tanner Rainey from the disabled list. The announcement didn’t include any expected timeline for either player’s absence.
Iglesias, 28, struggled with his control early in the season but has corrected that issue lately and looked to be in excellent form since late April. He did issue a pair of runs and suffer his second blown save in his most recent appearance, but he’s gone 10 outings without issuing a walk and pitched to a 1.74 ERA with 12 strikeouts in that time. Overall in 21 2/3 innings this season, he’s notched a 2.08 ERA with 11.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.25 HR/9 and a 36.2 percent ground-ball rate.
Brice, meanwhile, has been scored upon in four of his past past five appearances, causing his ERA to balloon up to 4.67 despite largely promising K/BB and ground-ball tendencies. In 25 innings of relief this season, he’s averaged 9.4 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 with a 50.7 percent ground-ball rate. He’s been too prone to the long ball, though, already serving up four homers on the season. That’s been an ongoing trend for Brice in the big leagues, as he’s yielded a dozen big flies in just 71 2/3 frames at the game’s top level.
It’s not yet clear who’ll step into the ninth inning for the Reds with Iglesias out of action. For all of the Reds’ flaws, they actually have several high-quality options in the ’pen, where Amir Garrett, Jared Hughes and Dylan Floro have all worked to a sub-2.00 ERA in 2018. Garrett has very arguably been the team’s most dominant relief arm, averaging better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings and notching a 1.67 ERA in his 27 frames this far. The veteran Hughes has shown the best control of the bunch and comes with the most late-inning experience in the big leagues, having spent several seasons as a setup man for the division-rival Pirates. Lorenzen, meanwhile, was the top setup man to Iglesias last season but has yet to pitch in the Majors this season due to a shoulder strain that caused him to open the season on the disabled list.
- The Reds selected the contract of infielder/outfielder Brandon Dixon from Triple-A, optioning Rosell Herrera to Triple-A in a corresponding move. Dixon, a third-round pick for the Dodgers in the 2013 draft, was one of the three youngsters (along with Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler) dealt to Cincinnati as part of the three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox. Neither Baseball America or MLB.com ranked Dixon among the Reds’ top 30 prospects, though he put himself on the map this season thanks to an impressive .326/.371/.527 slash line over 140 PA at Triple-A Louisville. While he has spent much of his pro career as a second and third baseman, Dixon has made multiple starts as a first baseman and corner outfielder this season, giving him added versatility on the Reds’ roster.
On his latest podcast, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand chats with just-minted Reds GM Nick Krall, who took a grinder’s approach to getting into the game. The back story is an interesting listen and also provides some insight into Krall’s background with the Moneyball-era A’s. Of what he learned from Billy Beane, Krall says he was impressed by Beane’s scope of knowledge of players from outside the Oakland organization along with his certitude as to “what he wanted on his team.” From former Reds GM Walt Jocketty, Krall says he learned to exercise greater patience. (Krall describes himself as “a very impatient person” by nature.) It’s a worthwhile listen for fans who want to learn more about the most recent person to be named a major-league general manager.
- The Reds have been playing better under Jim Riggleman, but if the team does still want to make a long-term change in the dugout, Heyman hears that the team isn’t going to be spending big on a managerial salary. A new skipper will almost certainly make less than Dusty Baker’s $3.5MM annual salary when he was running the team. This could rule out a star hire like Joe Girardi, who impressed Reds ownership when he interviewed for the job prior to Baker’s hiring. Interestingly, Heyman believes that Girardi — an Illinois native — could be a candidate if the White Sox decided to make a managerial change, though there isn’t any indication that the Sox are considering moving on from Rick Renteria. That scenario would have a strong echo of Renteria’s last managerial job, when he stewarded the Cubs through some rebuilding years before being replaced by another star manager in Joe Maddon.
- Like Kershaw, Reds righty Anthony DeSclafani is making progress as he works back from his own injury – a left oblique strain. DeSclafani, who previously missed all of last season with a sprained UCL, made a successful start at Double-A on Saturday and could be just two more rehab starts from returning to the majors, Brian Scott Rippee of MLB.com writes. Before injuries derailed his career, DeSclafani was an effective starter in Cincinnati, where he combined for 308 innings of 3.74 ERA/3.79 FIP ball from 2015-16. If the 28-year-old’s anywhere near that good upon returning, it would be a boon for a rebuilding Cincy club that has struggled to find quality starters. The Reds’ DeSclafani-less rotation has posted a horrendous 5.66 ERA dating back to last season.
Pennington, 34, has been a fixture in the majors since he debuted back in 2008, though he has not been a regular since wrapping up his time with the A’s after the 2012 campaign. In recent seasons, he has functioned as a utilityman with the Diamondbacks, Angels, and (briefly) Blue Jays.
Over the years, Pennington has compiled ample experience at short and second, while also lining up a fair bit at third base and seeing limited action in left field and at first base. (And, yes, he has also taken the mound.) Despite a marginal .242/.309/.339 career batting line, Pennington has rarely struggled to find work due to his respected glove.
Last winter, though, it proved impossible for Pennington to land a MLB job. He won a spot on the Cincinnati roster to open the year, but managed only four singles and five walks (with 13 strikeouts) in his 34 plate appearances. Now, he’ll head back onto the open market in hopes of finding another organization that can offer a path back to the big leagues.
- Right-handed reliever Ben Rowen was released from the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy.The 29-year-old Rowen has just 11 2/3 MLB innings under his belt (none since 2016), but the sidearmer has a lengthy track record of success in Triple-A. He allowed 11 runs in 10 2/3 innings to open the 2018 season, however, and his ground-ball rate, which has previously been well north of 60 percent, was just 41.9 percent so far this season. Rowen entered 2018 with a career 2.81 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9 in parts of five Triple-A campaigns, so perhaps he’ll garner interest elsewhere.
The latest minor league moves from around the game…
- The Reds announced that outfielder Tyler Goeddel was released from Triple-A Louisville’s roster to create room for recently-demoted southpaw Brandon Finnegan. Goeddel has been in Cincinnati’s organization since being claimed off waivers by the Phillies in April 2017, and he was off to a tough start this season, batting just .229/.326/.349 over 96 PA for Louisville. Picked 41st overall by the Rays in the 2011 amateur draft, Goeddel hit .192/.258/.291 over 234 plate appearances after the Phillies selected him out of Tampa’s system in the 2015 Rule 5 draft.
The presence of Rule 5 Draft pick Victor Reyes is somewhat of a strain on the Tigers’ roster. Evan Woodberry of mlive.com takes an extensive look at the topic, and notes that the speedy outfielder’s most definable job so far this season has been as a pinch runner for the aging Victor Martinez. While injuries mount for Detroit, other players have been forced to shoulder a heavier workload, including Mikie Mahtook, who had to start Wednesday’s game against the Rangers despite being jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. While Reyes certainly has a bright future, Woodberry points out that he’s clearly overmatched by big-league pitching in the present; he’s only managed to collect three soft singles so far this season and has an average exit velocity below 80 MPH. In accordance with the Rule 5 boundaries, Reyes must remain on the Tigers’ 25-man roster for the entirety of the season or be returned to his former club (the Diamondbacks). Few around baseball have any doubt that his future is bright, but rostering him for the entire season could prove a significant burden for a club that’s already going to have a hard time winning baseball games.
Onto some items from the NL Central…
- Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs writes that the Pirates found a winning lottery ticket in the form of recent minor-league free agent Richard Rodriguez. The 28-year-old right-hander has been just about as dominant as a pitcher can be, evidenced by his 15.53 K/9 and microscopic 0.16 FIP on the young season. He’s already been worth half a win above replacement, as Sawchik points out, which is remarkable considering we’re not even halfway through May. Sawchik has plenty of other interesting facts throughout a deep look into RichRod’s dominance, including the whiff rate on his fastball, his first-pitch strike percentage and the way he’s attacking hitters.
- In other Pirates news, right-hander Jameson Taillon exited last night’s start with a finger laceration. According to Adam Berry of MLB.com, Taillon is frustrated at the freak accident and hopes it won’t cost him a start. “It just got worse and worse. It’s tough in the short term to come out of a game, but hopefully by coming out when I did, we’ve kind of mitigated it,” Taillon said. “Hopefully I won’t miss starts down the road.” The budding Pirates ace has had something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde season so far, allowing 15 earned runs in his three losses but permitting just three across his other five starts.
- Nick Senzel’s vertigo is back, and the Reds prospect has landed on the 7-day DL as a result. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com notes that Senzel hasn’t played since being removed from a May 3rd game after just one plate appearance. Vertigo is a condition that brings on dizziness spells and causes the victim to lose balance. Reds president Dick Williams told reporters recently that the club is “being very cautious” with their top-ranked prospect, and at the moment there isn’t a clear timetable for when he’ll be able to resume playing. The club has been playing Senzel at both second and third base this season in hopes of increasing his versatility and finding him a spot at the big league level.