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Riggleman bucking trends with relief usage

MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- If a Reds starting pitcher encounters a jam in the fifth or sixth inning this season, odds are he won't be given much room to work out of it. Interim manager Jim Riggleman has a hook ready, and he hasn't been afraid to use it.

Reds starters entered Sunday with the fewest innings pitched (542 1/3) in the National League and the highest ERA (5.24). The bullpen is third in the NL in innings pitched (402 2/3) and reliever Jared Hughes ranks fourth in innings, while Amir Garrett is tied for 11th.

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CINCINNATI -- If a Reds starting pitcher encounters a jam in the fifth or sixth inning this season, odds are he won't be given much room to work out of it. Interim manager Jim Riggleman has a hook ready, and he hasn't been afraid to use it.

Reds starters entered Sunday with the fewest innings pitched (542 1/3) in the National League and the highest ERA (5.24). The bullpen is third in the NL in innings pitched (402 2/3) and reliever Jared Hughes ranks fourth in innings, while Amir Garrett is tied for 11th.

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Relievers, like Hughes and David Hernandez, are often counted on to pitch multiple innings. Hughes pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in Saturday's 6-2 win and Hernandez was the winning pitcher in Friday's 6-4 win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Riggleman will keep leaning on them.

Video: PHI@CIN: Hughes forces a lineout to earn a 5-out save

"We are testing the limits a little bit," Riggleman said on Sunday. "We would like to back off a little bit on it, but you are also trying to win the game. Those have been our best options quite often. Those are our two leaders down in the bullpen. They kind of set the tone for everybody else. I certainly don't want to be responsible for overdoing it and hurting somebody. But, I do feel that the last several years we have lowered the bar so much as to what we expect from players. They can give us more than what we have been asking of them in the last several years."

During Friday's game, Riggleman pulled starter Anthony DeSclafani after 4 1/3 innings when he had allowed some hard contact on a pair of one-out hits. Matt Harvey was pitching very well through five innings on Saturday, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded and two outs in an attempt to take command of what was a 2-2 game. Harvey did have 92 pitches, however.

Riggleman doesn't have the luxury that many managers do of having a contract beyond 2018. He is expected to keep the interim tag into the offseason before the Reds conduct a search for a permanent manager.

Cincinnati's bullpen entered Sunday ranked ninth in the NL with a 4.13 ERA.

"They've certainly responded very well," Riggleman said. "The bottom line is, eventually we have to get our starters going deeper into games, take more of the load off our relievers. But they've held up very well and done a great job."

Riggleman pointed out that playoff team managers have routinely bucked conventional practices of bullpen usage in recent postseasons.

"In the postseason, all of a sudden starters are pitching in relief. Relievers are pitching multiple innings, a lot of workload," he said. "What that tells me is guys are doing more than what we have been asking. Now, we would never do that over a 162-game schedule, but those guys came out of it fine. [Andrew] Miller in Cleveland. [Kenley] Jansen, what he did for the Dodgers and the way [Cubs manager] Joe Maddon handled [Aroldis] Chapman. Those guys took the ball and their clubs won doing it and nobody got hurt."

Davis' rehab assignment stopped

The rehab assignment for pitcher Rookie Davis has been halted because of discomfort in his right arm. Davis has been on the 60-day disabled list all season recovering from 2017 right hip surgery. He made one rehab appearance for Class A Advanced Daytona and two appearances for Double-A Pensacola, most recently on Friday.

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.

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