Notes: Reds' starting favor; Moose close

August 8th, 2020

Although the Reds’ offense and bullpen have struggled out of the gate, there has been one area that has lived up to preseason hype: the starting rotation.

The Reds’ subpar record is largely reflective of a bullpen that has allowed too many baserunners and an offense that carried a scoreless streak of 23 innings through Thursday’s finale in Cleveland.

But the rotation, predicted by many to be one of the strongest in the National League Central, has, for the most part, excelled. It entered Friday’s game leading the NL with a 2.57 ERA, the second-lowest in baseball, behind only the Indians (2.32).

Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, who threw five shutout frames in his season debut on Sunday, will take the mound Saturday looking to add to the rotation’s early fortunes.

“I think there's no question we're off to a good start,” he said. “Throughout a six-month season, you're always going to have your ebbs and flows with the starting rotation. With the 60 games, we want to try to minimize those. I still think there might be a little stretch where maybe there's a little bit of a downfall, but as of now, we're just going to try and keep it rolling.”

Moose getting loose?
Second baseman Mike Moustakas is nearing a return to the field, manager David Bell said before the opener in Milwaukee. Moustakas, who has been sidelined with a bruised left quad, could return to the lineup by Tuesday, following the scheduled off-day on Monday.

Moustakas has played in seven games so far this season, logging five hits in 21 at-bats. He last appeared in a game on Aug. 4 at home vs. Cleveland.

Position player pitching
While it’s true position players aren’t necessarily hoping they’ll be called on to pitch, it’s good to have someone earmarked in case a situation calls for it.

Position players pitch when their teams are down by a lot and it’s late in the game, when the manager doesn’t want to burn through more actual relievers to finish out a lost cause.

Enter the "PPP" -- position player pitching. It’s an unenviable job, but fun for fans who are still hanging in there in late in a game their team has little-to-no chance to win.

Matt Davidson, the starting first baseman in the Reds’ opener in Milwaukee Friday, had PPP honors during Thursday’s 13-0 loss in Cleveland.

Davidson pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out pinch-hitter Mike Freeman and allowing a two-out single to Oscar Mercado. It was Davidson’s fourth career pitching appearance. The three prior outings all happened in 2018, when he was with the White Sox.

Davidson said he hadn’t had any specific conversations with Bell about being the “designated pitcher” in the past, but he was ready when called upon.

“I’ve kind of joked around a little bit here and there,” he said. “They asked if I could do it, and I said sure, and went out and warmed up and did it.”

Reds add to pool
Before Friday’s game, the Reds added to the 60-man player pool by assigning to the alternate training site left-hander Brandon Finnegan, infielder Rece Hinds and outfielder TJ Friedl. They also re-acquired outfielder Mark Payton from the A’s in exchange for cash. The 2019 Rule 5 draftee cleared waivers on July 21 and was returned to Oakland.

Finnegan last pitched in the Major Leagues in May 2018, making five starts for the Reds and pitching to a 7.40 ERA. After he was removed from the Reds’ 40-man roster last year, he spent most of the season with Double-A Chattanooga.

Bell noted the organization’s commitment to providing “development opportunities” for the left-hander, who has also sought assistance from Driveline Baseball to increase his velocity.

“We’re really excited about Brandon,” Bell said. “He’s still young, a left-handed pitcher who’s pitched in the Major Leagues, that has talent and has been really open to the pitching group that we have, the coaches that we have on staff, to help him get to the next level.”

The Reds’ 60-man player pool now includes 58 players.