CINCINNATI -- The Reds made a roster move on Monday to get a fresh arm for their well-worn bullpen by swapping out right-handed relievers. Jackson Stephens was recalled from Triple-A Louisville while Kevin Shackelford was optioned to Louisville.This will be Stephens' second big league stint of 2018. On March 31
CINCINNATI -- The Reds made a roster move on Monday to get a fresh arm for their well-worn bullpen by swapping out right-handed relievers. Jackson Stephens was recalled from Triple-A Louisville while Kevin Shackelford was optioned to Louisville.
This will be Stephens' second big league stint of 2018. On March 31 vs. the Nationals, he allowed two runs and three hits in one inning. With Louisville, he had a 5.04 ERA in five starts and was scheduled to pitch on Monday for the Bats.
"We needed a little bit of length there, somebody in the bullpen who could give us as much as four, five innings," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Shackelford had a 9.00 ERA in four appearances since coming off of the disabled list last month. In Sunday's 8-5 loss to the Marlins, he worked one-third of an inning and allowed one earned run, two hits and a walk with a strikeout.
The bigger issue beyond the roster move is that Reds starters are not providing enough innings to keep the bullpen fresh and more effective. Cincinnati starters are ranked 13th out of 15 National League teams with 173 1/3 innings through 34 games. Brandon Finnegan provided 3 1/3 innings and allowed five earned runs on Sunday, and starts of five innings or fewer have become frequent occurrences.
In part because of Finnegan's poor start -- as well as a rain delay -- the Reds used six relievers on Sunday.
"It affects a lot of things," Riggleman said. "It affects how many bench players you can carry. We had a really fresh bullpen going into the game yesterday, but we had to use a bunch of it trying to stay in the game and doing anything we can to win the game. You hate to use up that much of it in a losing cause."
Finnegan to start again Friday
Finnegan is 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA in his five starts this season and has yet to put together a really strong outing. He fell behind, 4-0, during a 39-pitch first inning on Sunday. Riggleman didn't exactly give the left-hander a ringing endorsement on Monday, but he noted Finnegan would make his next start on Friday vs. the Dodgers.
"He knows that this has not been satisfactory," Riggleman said. "He'll get his next start, and he'll get these four days to figure something out and hopefully give us a good ballgame in Los Angeles."
The Reds could turn to former starter Amir Garrett, who has starred for the bullpen this season. Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed are currently in Louisville.
"Nothing is jumping out at us as to who would replace him," Riggleman said. "I can't tell you how many more starts we're going to go [with Finnegan], but certainly we can't be down 4-0 and 5-0 routinely and having to be getting guys up early in the game and wearing them out down in the bullpen before they even get in the game."
Outfielder rotation continues
Two of the four outfielders in the Reds' four-man outfield rotation -- Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall -- have struggled at the plate for much of the young season. However, Hamilton has started to improve during this homestand and got his on-base percentage up to .322 entering Monday despite a .204 batting average.
Since taking over as skipper from Bryan Price on April 19, Riggleman maintained he expected that the four-man rotation would eventually become three regulars.
"I can't tell you when that would be exactly yet," Riggleman said. "That will be kind of an organizational decision, [a] coaches, manager decision. We'll all have input on that as to what point does one of them become the fourth outfielder as opposed to the rotation that's taken place. Usually the players will determine that for you with their performances. Billy's picked it up lately. Billy is the guy that we need him so bad in center field."
Duvall came into the night batting .161 and 1-for-his-last-16 after hitting at least 30 homers and driving in 99 runs in each of the past two seasons.
"You respect the last two years that he's been a 100-RBI guy, you can't dismiss that. So, we're going to give it as much time as we can," Riggleman said. "[Scott] Schebler's been hot and cold. [Jesse] Winker has probably been the most consistent. We're still wading through it a little bit."
Infielder/outfielder Patrick Kivlehan, who spent the entire 2017 in the big leagues as a bench player for the Reds, was released by the organization on April 29. Kivlehan was sent to Louisville after he did not make the team out of Spring Training and was batting .167 in 15 games before his April 29 release.
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.