Lodolo 'looks strong, looks ready'; early Minor League training camp opens

February 16th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Reds pitching prospect Nick Lodolo has been working off a mound with no concerns about the shoulder injury that hampered his 2021 season. Lodolo’s most recent bullpen session came Tuesday at the club’s player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati’s No. 2 prospect and No. 31 overall, Lodolo had a left shoulder strain that put him on the injured list late last season. The 24-year-old was limited to three starts at Triple-A Louisville, following a promotion from Double-A Chattanooga.

“He’s been here, and we’re trying to build him up and make sure we’re beyond the shoulder issues,” Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said Wednesday. “We were cautious last year. I think rightfully so, based on some of the other things that were happening. He threw very well [Tuesday]. He looks completely healthy.

“We may again decide to be a little cautious to start, but based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve been told by our folks, he’s right on target. He looks good, looks strong, looks ready.”

In 13 games combined with Louisville and Chattanooga last season, Lodolo was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He also dealt with blisters on his pitching hand that were caused by the seams on the Minor League baseballs. The team had him use Major League balls in side bullpen sessions, which alleviated the problem. But the experience may have indirectly led to his shoulder issues.

After he took time off to let the blisters heal, Lodolo pitched one inning in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July and Pender felt the pitcher ramped up his workload too soon in the games that followed.

“I don’t think I did a good enough job to make sure we had built him up properly,” Pender said. “Came back, and instead of him showing we built him up from the missed time he had, we went from one-inning, 30-pitch max to like three innings, 65 [pitches]. So he gets to his 65 and there should have been a built-in gap in between the 1/35 and the 3/65-70. As a result, I think it overtaxed him with the time off, and he strained it.”

When Major League Spring Training opens, Lodolo will be in camp as a non-roster invite. He could have a chance to compete for the vacant fifth starter’s spot with No. 1 prospect Hunter Greene, left-hander Reiver Sanmartin and righty Riley O’Brien, among others.

Early camp opens

Continuing an organizational trend of the past several years, the Reds opened their early training camp for select Minor Leaguers. Pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday and position players are scheduled to arrive next Monday. Overall, there are 54 players expected to participate ahead of the regular Minor League camp that opens on March 4.

Cincinnati’s front office has historically found the early camp to be helpful in multiple ways.

“When you lay your eyes on them early, there's always guys that in the offseason that there's something tweaked or they're not ready, and now they show up and it's March and now they're not as ready as we need them to be and they get delayed,” Pender said. “From that standpoint, it helps us if there's a problem or a lack of physical preparation.

“The second thing it does help is any time we get touch points with our prospects where they're around coaching. A lot of guys are doing whatever it is, whether it's hitting or pitching with their ‘at-home guru,’ we feel it's much better, safer, cleaner for us to have them. I think the game is evolving this way and I know that our organization is looking at it. If we can extend the timeline that we have with these guys, we're all going to be better for it. We're hoping to do more of this early with more numbers. This really fits in with our overall improvement and player development philosophy.”

Normally, the early campers would get into big league spring exhibition games. That’s not currently possible because of the MLB lockout of players on 40-man rosters.

“We'll do more intrasquad [action] or ask to go over and play Cleveland when we feel like we've got our guys up and running,” Pender said. “It's more of a scheduling change, but from a philosophy [situation], nothing's really changing.”

Siani close to ready

The Reds’ No. 11 ranked prospect, outfielder Michael Siani, should be ready for early camp next week after he sustained Achilles tendon inflammation that cost him about two weeks during the Arizona Fall League.

“We went out and had a workout with [outfield prospect] Austin Hendrick and our new hitting coordinator. We met up in Pittsburgh, so I had a chance to see him,” Pender said. “[Siani] looks great, no complaints. He said there’s still a little stiffness on occasion, but that might have been the weather.”