Antone hits IL, confident in quick return

No. 9 prospect Santillan set for MLB debut Sunday

June 11th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- The Reds sustained a huge blow to their bullpen Friday when right-handed reliever Tejay Antone was placed on the 10-day injured list with right forearm inflammation. The move is retroactive to Tuesday, which means Antone is eligible to be activated next Friday.

“I’m very confident that he’s going to be back whenever his first day of eligibility to come off is. Very confident,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s something that we just want to make sure we stay ahead of. It was never anything that’s kept him from pitching or was that concerning, but it did get to a point where it just made the most sense to be ahead of it -- for our season, for his career. It’s what we would do for any of our players.”

Antone, 27, has a 1.41 ERA and three saves in 20 appearances this season while emerging as Cincinnati’s most important relief asset in big situations. In 32 innings, he has walked 11 batters and struck out 40, while using a strong curveball and a sinker capable of touching 100 mph.

Even with Antone enjoying a sterling season, Cincinnati’s bullpen is ranked last in the Majors with a 5.88 ERA and 39 home runs allowed.

Bell will have to hope some of his other relievers can step up in Antone’s absence.

“We just continue to put a lot of thought into putting guys into a position to succeed -- keep supporting guys, keep working with them,” Bell said. “Our guys are professionals. They’re doing everything they can to be working and everything they can to get better. And it’s a long season. We have a long way to go, so we remain confident.”

The last time Antone pitched was Sunday at St. Louis; he is currently on a streak of 16 2/3 scoreless innings. During Wednesday’s win over the Brewers, he was called on to warm up during the ninth inning when Heath Hembree ran into trouble.

Antone noticed he didn’t feel great and notified bullpen coach Lee Tunnell.

“And luckily, it wasn’t in the game or anything, but it was starting to affect my preparation. And it could kind of get worse,” Antone said. “It was extremely hard for me to kind of accept the IL. As of yesterday, I told [Bell] I was good to go and wanted to push through it, continue to push through it. They kind of made that decision for me, and I agree with it. I think it is the smart decision, but I’m good. I’m good to go.

“It hasn’t affected my ability on the field, but there were a couple of outings where it kind of delayed me getting back available again. It’s kind of been under the radar.”

Antone, who had Tommy John surgery in the Minor Leagues and missed the 2017 season, was not so worried about the inflammation because it is not on the inside area of his elbow by the repaired ulnar collateral ligament.

“That’s kind of the reason why I felt confident in pushing through it," Antone said. "It’s in a different area."

Santillan to debut Sunday

With limited reliever options on their 40-man roster for a short-term callup, the Reds did not announce a corresponding move to replace Antone on the roster. At some point, however, the club will promote pitcher Tony Santillan from Triple-A Louisville to start Sunday vs. the Rockies in place of the injured Sonny Gray.

It will be the Major League debut for Santillan, who is 1-3 with a 2.51 ERA in six starts this season for Louisville. The 24-year-old, who is ranked as the organization’s No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was the Reds’ second-round selection in the 2015 Draft.

“The communication between us and the coaches and everyone in the Minor Leagues, it’s all been really positive,” Bell said about Santillan. “Everyone loves Tony, not only as a pitcher, but as a competitor and [his] work ethic. A lot to be very excited about. And we got to experience that firsthand the last three Spring Trainings, so we’re all very familiar with him and [we’re] really excited to add him. I know it’ll be a big day for Tony.”