Notes: Moustakas returns; Castillo-Barnhart

April 28th, 2021

The Reds got a key member of their regular lineup back on Tuesday when third baseman was activated from the 10-day injured list. Moustakas had been out since April 16 while he dealt with a non-COVID related viral illness.

Cincinnati had a 1-6 record while Moustakas was on the IL. He entered Tuesday’s game vs. the Dodgers batting .289 with a .957 OPS and two home runs.

“It’s great to have him back,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s good that he’s healthy and feels physically ready to go. He got a few days in of good baseball work, too. Not only physically not being sick, but also ready to go from a baseball standpoint. In the big picture, it’s good to get a little break every now and then, not that he wanted it. We have a long season ahead, and he has a lot of games ahead of him.”

To make room on the 26-man roster, the Reds optioned outfielder Mark Payton to their alternate training site in Louisville. That means the club will continue to operate with nine relievers and be short with four players on the bench.

The Reds needed reliever Tejay Antone for three innings during Monday’s 5-3 win over the Dodgers, and Lucas Sims pitched 1 2/3 innings.

“There are certain points in the season where it makes sense to have the extra reliever,” Bell said. “With Lucas having to pitch quite a bit last night, and obviously Tejay, keeping as many options as we can against this lineup for the next couple of days makes the most sense.”

Barnhart to keep catching Castillo
Although is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball and well-regarded for his game-calling, he and Reds pitcher haven’t appeared to click when working together the last two seasons. Castillo has an 8.83 ERA in four starts when Barnhart catches, and he threw seven scoreless innings vs. the Pirates with rookie behind the plate on April 7.

“I think that our relationship is great,” Barnhart said on Tuesday. “I think the success, or lack of that, that we’ve had is part of the game. I think that we are in a situation where we are working through a few things that maybe I haven’t done in the past, that other guys have. For example, we’ve got numbers that we’ve looked at that are trends that maybe I used, let’s see, a pitch maybe one or two percent more or less than when Luis has had the success that he’s had. So it’s just one of those things where we’re working through it. I expect it to get and be good here in the short-term future.”

In 2020, Castillo had a 2.02 ERA in seven starts working with Curt Casali, compared to a 5.33 ERA in five starts with Barnhart. Castillo acknowledged earlier this month that he and Barnhart weren’t on the same page during a start.

Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson noted that Castillo and Barnhart will continue to work together.

“Well, to be honest with you, I don’t really care. The reason that I say that I don’t is because there are going to be days that he’s going to pitch with Tucker,” Johnson said. “There are going to be days he’s going to pitch with Stephenson. Our job -- and my job -- is just to try to get it right. It doesn’t really make any difference of where we’re at with it or what we think is better. We don’t have a luxury of that, I don’t think, on our club.

“We’ve done our homework. We’ve seen some things that we think can help. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be instantaneous. … I’m not breathing life into that story. I’m just not. My job is to get it right with whoever is out there, so that’s the way we’re going to go with it.”

Gray feeling better
Reds pitcher , who will start vs. Los Angeles on Wednesday, has felt good the last few days. Gray, who missed much of Spring Training and the first two weeks of the regular season with a back injury, threw a side bullpen session on Monday.

Because of cold weather last week, Gray did not get on a mound between his first and second starts. On Friday at St. Louis, he gave up five earned runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings and acknowledged he had yet to find his rhythm.

“I’ve had a good week, and that’s all that really I can do for myself,” Gray said. “I feel a lot better. I got on the mound in between starts [Monday], I threw a bullpen and I felt good with where I was at. I was able to do that, which was nice. The day after, sometimes you’ve got to tell yourself that you’re fine and there’s nothing wrong and you just got to go. It’s just time to go. I’ve had a good week of work, and I feel very, very prepared.”