Bell praises team's character amidst tough start

Pitching woes continue as club looks ahead to Castillo's return

May 5th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- It was anticipated the Reds' starting rotation wasn’t going to be top-tier in 2022, especially after losing Wade Miley and Sonny Gray. Their start to the season has been one roller coaster ride filled with runs -- and lots of them.

That continued in a hard way on Wednesday night in an 18-4 defeat against the Brewers at American Family Field. This loss extended the Reds' losing streak to eight games, but it meant more to manager David Bell than the rest.

“We want to win every game very badly, especially right now,” Bell said. “Tonight may have been the most I’ve really wanted to win a game in quite a long time.”

But instead of listing all the problems with the team, the skipper took some time to praise his players.

“I’m impressed with every single guy in this clubhouse and the way they’re handling it,” he said. “It’s not easy. It’s a huge challenge that we have in front of us. They’re handling it better than I would [as a player]. It’s impressive to me.”

You could feel his emotions as he talked about his players, seeing how much he cared about them and how he loved being a part of this team.

But for win-loss results to improve, the Reds need better pitching, first and foremost. With Wednesday’s loss, Cincinnati’s starters have a season-high 18 losses with a 8.41 ERA. Their ERA is the highest through a team’s first 24 games of a season since the NL started tracking earned runs in 1912.

Vladimir Gutiérrez added to the Reds' rotation struggles by allowing a career-high seven runs on eight hits on 4 1/3 innings. The Cuban native has failed to put it all together in year two after an impressive rookie season.

“There are just a couple of adjustments I have to make to get better for the next start,” the right-hander said.

His fastball command was again lacking. After walking a career-high six batters in his last start on April 27, he plunked both Lorenzo Cain and Willy Adames in back-to-back innings on his four-seamer.

“That pitch to Adames got me out of rhythm and just threw me out of the loop right there,” Gutiérrez said, which led to a Rowdy Tellez grand slam in the third inning,. “It was supposed to be a pitch away and it came back in.”

With his seven runs allowed, his season total stands at 21, which is the third-most this season. Tyler Mahle (20) and Reiver Sanmartin (25) also rank in the top four.

“We just have to keep getting better in every area, every one of us,” Bell said. “That’s what we’ll continue to do. We look for every little adjustment, every edge we can to improve.”

If there is any good news within the team’s 3-21 start, it’s that the return of Luis Castillo is on the horizon. The ace completed his final rehab start on Wednesday and pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, two walks with seven strikeouts.

“It [went] well today from everything I heard,” Bell said. “I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but all the reports were excellent. Some would say, he’s penciled in on Monday.”

Cincinnati will get back one of its top pitchers and while it might not fully help fix this rotation, it can surely help a struggling unit. Over his career, Castillo has a 3.72 ERA with 770 strikeouts.

Even in what was considered a down-year for the right-hander last season, with an NL high 75 walks, he still produced quality outings. In his last 23 starts, the 29-year-old had a 2.76 ERA and limited batters to a .226 batting average.

The return of Castillo can surely give the Reds a much needed boost in their rotation.

“He’s been one of our best pitchers, if not our best pitcher, for a long time,” Bell said. “He’s extremely well-liked and his presence on our team goes way above and beyond. It’s going to be great to have him back.”