Changing the manager -- as the Reds did Thursday -- doesn't mean instant improvement for a 3-15 club. Progress is up to the players -- both those already on the roster and perhaps others who could be arriving in the future. It's also up to the front office to put
Changing the manager -- as the Reds did Thursday -- doesn't mean instant improvement for a 3-15 club. Progress is up to the players -- both those already on the roster and perhaps others who could be arriving in the future. It's also up to the front office to put the next manager in position to develop a winning culture.
The goal at the outset of the season was for Cincinnati to turn the corner -- to transition from rebuild back toward contending. So far, that obviously has not happened, but that doesn't mean that it can't. Here are five reasons that things can get better for the Reds going forward:
1. Injured hitters will return
For a team that's struggling to score runs, the return of injured players Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler will be very welcomed. Interim manager Jim Riggleman should immediately benefit, because Schebler is expected to be activated from the disabled list Friday vs. the Cardinals. The 30-homer hitter from 2017 hasn't played since the season's third game on April 1, when he was hit by a pitch on the right elbow and suffered an ulnar nerve contusion.
As for Suarez, he is making fast progress from a fractured right thumb that put him on the DL on April 9. A clubhouse leader who hit 26 homers last season and plays strong defense at third base, he should be back in early May. The combo at third base of Cliff Pennington, Phil Gosselin and Alex Blandino hasn't produced offensively or defensively. Suarez has in the past and likely will again once healthy.
2. Joey Votto will hit
Votto, the team's best player, was batting .158 through five games, but he has slowly started to pick up the pace. Slow starts are nothing new for him. As recently as 2016, Votto batted .213 over the first two months. In the second half of that season, he batted .408 and finished with 29 home runs.
Votto's career numbers of .313/.427/.537 indicate he will eventually find his usual high level as the lineup's toughest out. That's no small thing -- this is one of the very best hitters in the National League.
3. The leadoff spot will get settled
Price started waning on using Billy Hamilton as his leadoff hitter, sometimes batting him ninth. Hamilton has a .284 on-base percentage this season (.297 lifetime), while Jesse Winker has a .407 OBP in 2018. Winker has led off in nine of the 18 games. It's time to make the change, full time, to Winker, to create chances for Suarez, Votto, Adam Duvall, Scooter Gennett and others.
4. Senzel will be up, eventually
In an interview with MLB.com on Monday, general manager Dick Williams indicated that the club was in no rush to promote top prospect Nick Senzel. Williams wanted the callup of Senzel to "be more dictated by his performance and confidence as opposed to being dictated by the situation here." At the moment, the 22-year-old is batting .233 for Triple-A Louisville.
But Senzel has hit well in his past few games, and he showed no signs of being overwhelmed during Spring Training in his first big league camp. If Senzel heats up, and the Reds open an infield spot for him, he could provide a boost without expectations to be a main guy. He's been playing second base and third base for Louisville after trying shortstop in camp.
5. The pitching can only improve
Cincinnati's pitchers are last in the NL with a 5.42 ERA. It might be a lot to expect Anthony DeSclafani to be a steadying presence for the rotation, because he hasn't had a healthy season since 2015. But he's due back from his latest injury -- a strained left oblique -- at the end of May, and his consistency and experience would be a boost. When healthy, DeSclafani has been good (9-5, 3.28 ERA in 20 starts in 2016).
The rotation has gotten good performances in the past four games. In the cases of Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano this week, one bad pitch to the Brewers' Eric Thames cost the team the game. Waiting in the wings is Amir Garrett, who has spun 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the bullpen.
As for the Reds' bullpen, it's turned things around after a horrendous beginning. Yovani Gallardo and others have been jettisoned. Over the past six games, Cincy's relievers have a 0.48 ERA. Rehabbing Michael Lorenzen (strained teres major) isn't due to get on a mound until the end of April, and it could likely be another month before he's activated, but he'll help when he arrives.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.