Ashcraft an important part of rotation in Year 2

April 2nd, 2023

CINCINNATI -- didn’t come to the Reds with a resume like 's or 's. Those two were former top 10 picks in the MLB Draft and were heralded as top prospects. Ashcraft was a sixth-rounder in 2019 and ranked as Cincinnati’s No. 20 prospect in '21.

But Ashcraft can touch 100 mph with his fastball and has a nasty slider to go with it. He's the third starter in the Reds' rotation, and he’s just as confident in his stuff as Greene and Lodolo.

"I don't look at it that way," Ashcraft said about the hype surrounding the trio’s debuts. "We're all here. We've all got a story. My story is a little different than theirs. That's how I look at it."

"I don't think there's anyone in our clubhouse who has any doubt that he can be one of the best in the game," Reds manager David Bell said. "Graham believes that. I know he's got to get better and keep working. That's saying a lot. But most importantly, he has the competitive nature and the work ethic. He loves to pitch."

Ashcraft went seven innings and allowed one run on four hits in the Reds' 3-1 win over the Pirates on Sunday at Great American Ball Park. He struck out six and walked one on 95 pitches over seven innings.

In Cactus League play, Ashcraft showed he was ready to follow up his spectacular rookie season. He went 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA, striking out 25 while walking only two over five starts. In his final Spring Training start, he struck out 10 and did not allow a walk.

"He took some momentum at the end of Spring Training," Bell said. "He couldn't wait for the season to start. He attacked, threw strikes. The slider got better as the game went on. He was able to throw that for strikes. It made for tough at-bats. To get through the seventh was really important for our bullpen."

"I feel like I'm in a good spot," Ashcraft said. "I feel like we're in a good spot as a team."

Ashcraft’s seven innings gave the bullpen a chance to rest after Greene (3 1/3 innings) and Lodolo (five innings) had shorter starts in the first two games of the series. Ashcraft learned from watching Greene and Lodolo attack the Pirates in their starts.

"[Oneil] Cruz was really attacking Hunter," Ashcraft said. "I thought he'd have the same game plan against me. Starting the game off, I was able to get inside and blew his bat up. Things like that are really going to help this year."

Ashcraft relied on his slider as the game wore on.

"The way it shaped up, I was really feeling it halfway through the outing," Ashcraft said. "After [Bryan] Reynolds came up after the home run, it was the best three sliders I threw the whole game. It's come a long way. It's going to help my arsenal."

After his callup in May last year, Ashcraft was on the Opening Day roster for the first time this year. In the second year of a rebuild, he noted how he feels the team has changed.

"It's a different atmosphere," Ashcraft said. "Everyone wants to do good. We're all for each other. We all want to win. Not that we didn't want to win last year. Not allowing the downs to take over."