Lodolo slated to join Greene in Reds' rotation
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The force of the Reds’ youthful pitching wave will be on full display in the first few weeks of the 2022 regular season. Nick Lodolo, the club’s No. 2 prospect and No. 42 overall per MLB Pipeline, will travel with the team to begin the year before joining the active roster ahead of his Major League debut.
Hunter Greene, the club’s top prospect and No. 22 overall, is slated to make his own big league debut Sunday vs. the Braves. Due to an off-day next Monday, the Reds won’t need a fifth starter until April 13 vs. the Guardians -- which is where Lodolo enters the picture.
Lodolo, 24, was the seventh overall selection in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Texas Christian University. Since joining the Reds’ organization, he has soared up the Minor League ranks and compiled a 2.35 ERA across 21 starts, spanning four levels.
The 6-foot-6 Lodolo had his 2020 Minor League season wiped out due to the pandemic, but that allowed the southpaw to participate at the Reds' alternate training site and make a lasting impression. Lodolo made four appearances (three starts) during the Cactus League this year, compiling 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings with a 2.38 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP.
“He’s pitching, really, with a lot of confidence,” manager David Bell said after Lodolo’s final Spring Training outing on Sunday against the D-backs.
“As the season is coming up, you finally start to see it come together,” Lodolo said Sunday of his stuff, which generated nine whiffs.
Bell noted that due to Lodolo’s attendance at Minor League camp during the lockout, he could be the most stretched out of Cincinnati’s prospective first five starters. Lodolo expressed similar sentiment, noting that he could have continued beyond the 69 pitches that he threw in his final tuneup.
Lodolo traditionally utilizes a three-pitch mix of a sinking fastball, a breaking ball and a changeup, all three of which draw above-average scouting grades. Despite his frame, his control draws rave reviews, as evidenced by his issuing just 11 free passes in 69 Minor League innings.
The arrival of Lodolo -- when it comes -- will mark a significant moment for a team that has long awaited premier pitching talent to arrive through its own pipeline.
Bullpen begins to take shape
Bell said Monday that the team plans to break camp with four starters and 11 relievers at its disposal among the 28-man roster.
Joining that relief corps will be Alexis Diaz and Daniel Duarte, who are cracking camp with the big league club for the first time and will be making their Major League debuts when the bullpen door swings open for them.
“It’s a dream come true,” Diaz said of his initial reaction to the news. “It’s an honor to be on this club.”
Diaz, the brother of Mets reliever Edwin Díaz, was a 12th-round selection by Cincinnati in the 2015 MLB Draft out of Puerto Rico. The 25-year-old pitched with Cangrejeros de Santurce of the Puerto Rican Winter League this past year and racked up seven strikeouts in 3 2/3 scoreless innings, yielding just one hit.
“I was able to build up a lot of my confidence and the way that I am as a pitcher through this past winter league in Puerto Rico,” Diaz said. “I’ve been able to face a whole bunch of veterans who played in that league, so I’ve really built up my confidence pitching there.”
Last season, Diaz racked up 70 punchouts in 42 1/3 innings at Double-A Chattanooga. Having reclaimed some previously dwindling velocity after working with his fireballing brother during the offseason, the righty enjoyed a solid spring with four strikeouts across four innings. He brings an explosive arm to the Reds’ middle-relief plans, alongside a proud connection to both his family and his homeland.
“I worked hard with my brother,” Diaz said. “He was so happy for me.
“It’s an honor to represent Puerto Rico like that.”