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Reed struggles in return to Reds' rotation

Young lefty allows two homers, seven runs in two-inning loss to Cubs
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- By virtue of four scoreless relief appearances over eight innings this season, including retiring his last 18 batters faced over his past three games, the Reds felt Cody Reed was ready for another chance to start.

It didn't take long for Reed to demonstrate there were plenty of potholes remaining on his road to being a rotation fixture. The left-hander lasted two rough innings during a 12-8 loss to the Cubs, and allowed seven earned runs, four hits and five walks (one intentional), with three strikeouts, two wild pitches and two home runs.

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CINCINNATI -- By virtue of four scoreless relief appearances over eight innings this season, including retiring his last 18 batters faced over his past three games, the Reds felt Cody Reed was ready for another chance to start.

It didn't take long for Reed to demonstrate there were plenty of potholes remaining on his road to being a rotation fixture. The left-hander lasted two rough innings during a 12-8 loss to the Cubs, and allowed seven earned runs, four hits and five walks (one intentional), with three strikeouts, two wild pitches and two home runs.

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"It's just frustrating, in general," Reed said. "I'm not executing and doing what I need to do. We score eight runs, and we lost. That's tough."

With Tim Adleman throwing well and Rookie Davis due to return from the disabled list possibly next week, Reds manager Bryan Price didn't have Reed necessarily locked in for a second start.

"We have a lot of things to discuss," Price said.

Saturday's game began with a four-pitch walk to Kyle Schwarber, followed by a Kris Bryant walk. Anthony Rizzo's three-run homer quickly made it 3-0.

"He's got a big pitcher's body and great stuff. I thought he was just a little overamped early," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

It took 34 pitches and eight batters for Reed to get through the first inning.

"You could see from the first couple of hitters that he was really erratic with fastball command," Price said. "The second inning, [he] was really reliant on the slider to compete in the strike zone. It kind of became his go-to pitch, because it was the pitch he could control."

The Reds gave Reed a shot at a do-over of sorts with a four-run bottom of the first inning, but he squandered it. A one-out double by Bryant and back-to-back walks led to Willson Contreras' grand slam.

Reed admitted during Spring Training after a rough first inning that he sometimes gets jittery before starts. Last season, when he was 0-7 with a 7.36 ERA in 10 starts for Cincinnati, he had a 14.40 ERA in the first inning.

"It's one thing to acknowledge it. The next step is to correct it," Price said. "Cody's not the first guy that's struggled in the first inning. Today it was just being able to get a ball into the strike zone. That's the part that's hard to manage around, the big first inning."

According to Statcast™, each of the homers Reed allowed had 100-plus mph exit velocities. Entering the day, only two batted balls were hit that hard off him this season, and both had resulted in groundouts.

Bryant's double was hit with an exit velocity of 102.6 mph, making it the first 100-plus-mph batted ball hit off Reed's slider this season. The previous five batted balls he had induced on his slider averaged 74.3 mph.

"I've started before. I've had good starts before," Reed said. "I didn't give up any runs against the Cardinals that one time [last Aug. 8]. I know I can do it. I just have to do it."

Price also has faith in Reed, but noted that every year can't be a "trial-and-error season," because the club wants to be more competitive and has more arms available.

"It's part our responsibility and a lot his responsibility to extract that talent and let it work," Price said. "It's going to sort itself out. I think he's a big league pitcher. If it's as a starter or if it's as a reliever, that's undefined."

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.

Cincinnati Reds, Cody Reed