Price hopes new faces improve struggling 'pen

Diaz, Morris, Smith called up in attempt to enhance relief corps

May 22nd, 2016
Reds manager Bryan Price's bullpen has the highest ERA in baseball, as well as leading the Majors in innings pitched. (AP)

CINCINNATI -- Two of the Reds' three latest callups lack any big league experience. But wanting to change the narrative of their bullpen's historically poor season, the hope is the pitchers can help bring some form of stability.

Right-handers Dayan Diaz, A.J. Morris and Josh Smith were called up from Triple-A Louisville on Sunday. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and outfielder Yorman Rodriguez were transferred to the 60-day disabled list. On Saturday, relievers Jumbo Diaz, Keyvius Sampson and Steve Delabar were demoted.

"All three of them have fairly strong ground-ball rates," Reds manager Bryan Price said of the three callups. "We'll see how that translates at this level. Under the circumstances, it was necessary. It's not an indictment on the three guys we sent out of here, but it is somewhat of an indictment that we just haven't pitched well, not up to what we think is Major League caliber for the talent we have here."

Besides having the highest ERA in the Majors, Cincinnati's bullpen also leads in walks and home runs allowed. Because of shorter starts from the rotation, Reds relievers also have the most innings pitched in the big leagues.

Morris owns a 2-to-1 ground ball/fly ball ratio for his career in the Minors. Dayan Diaz has a 1.75 ratio this season and no homers allowed in 14 1/3 innings, while Smith's ground-ball rate is 1.33

Only Smith has big league experience among the trio, but he struggled with a 0-4 record and 6.89 ERA in nine games, including seven starts, for the Reds last season. He was 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts this season for Louisville.

"I think he's in a better role pitching in middle relief," Price said.

In nine games and six starts for Louisville, the 29-year-old Morris was 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA. He also pitched well in big league camp at Spring Training with a 2.63 ERA in eight games.

"I throw strikes, ground balls and hopefully they go to somebody that I can have quick innings and keep the team in the ballgame," Morris said. "You try to do what you can to leave an impression in the coaches and organization's mind [in camp] and when the time is right, they can use you. It's also a learning experience to find out what you need to do and better yourself during the season at Triple-A in order to try to get up here and make a difference."

Diaz, 27, had a 1.88 ERA this season after making a good impression in camp. He was one of the final cuts before Opening Day.

"I was focused on working hard, making my pitches and pitching really good at Louisville in order to make the team really soon," Diaz said through translator Julio Morillo.

Not counting Diaz and Morris, the Reds have already had six players make their Major League debuts this season. The club entered the day having already used 20 different pitchers.