CINCINNATI -- All season, the Reds have demonstrated the ability to hit and play defense and often have had a quality bullpen in the late innings. What's been lacking throughout is starting pitching. Manager Bryan Price is hoping that the final 2 1/2 months of the season will provide the
CINCINNATI -- All season, the Reds have demonstrated the ability to hit and play defense and often have had a quality bullpen in the late innings. What's been lacking throughout is starting pitching. Manager Bryan Price is hoping that the final 2 1/2 months of the season will provide the vision of a quality rotation that can roll into 2018.
Sal Romano is one of those pitching prospects Price envisioned to be part of the solution. But Romano could not solve the problems of the rotation during Tuesday's 11-2 loss to the D-backs.
"I think I just elevated the ball too much," Romano said. "The guys got the extra-base hits and some balls today, I feel like they were just down the line. When I gave up ground-ball hits, I'm a sinkerball guy, and they found holes."
Lasting four-plus innings and 93 pitches, Romano had six earned runs, six hits, five walks (one intentional) and three strikeouts. He didn't retire any of his four batters in the decisive six-run fifth inning. A.J. Pollock and David Peralta started the rally with back-to-back doubles, followed by a Paul Goldschmidt walk and Jake Lamb's two-run triple.
On eight occasions out of 22 batters, not counting the intentional walk, Romano was in a three-ball count.
"The first four innings I was able to make some pitches and get out of some big situations and they made some good plays behind me and [kept] us in the ballgame," Romano said. "One bad inning just cost us."
During the current five-game losing streak, Reds starting pitchers are 0-5 with a 12.57 ERA and seven home runs allowed. Washington or Arizona has had double-digit run totals vs. Cincinnati in three of the last four games.
Romano, 23, earned his first big league win with a nice five-inning start vs. the Rockies on July 6 and was sent down to Triple-A Louisville so the club could have extra bullpen help heading into the All-Star break. But he secured his spot in the second-half rotation with the outing and was recalled on Tuesday.
Romano is one of seven rookies and 13 starters the Reds have used this season in a rotation that ranks last in the Majors in innings pitched and ERA. Injuries have decimated starters -- including Scott Feldmangoing on the disabled list earlier in the day. But the depth of prospects hasn't delivered as hoped. While Luis Castillo has shown promise and poise in his five starts, other young arms have yet to do so.
"This has been a really difficult last three years, really starting from [after the] All-Star break [in] 2014, we've struggled to put together winning streaks," Price said. "We've had several long, extended losing streaks. We've had a lot of turnover in both the rotation and bullpen. The one theme has been rebuilding a pitching staff, rebuilding a starting rotation."
While Robert Stephenson has shown signs of turning things around at Louisville lately, others like Cody Reed and Amir Garrett have struggled. While Romano was pitching for the Reds in Cincinnati, Reed allowed six walks in his start for Louisville over 5 2/3 innings, but earned a win.
Price is looking for pitchers to step up, but realizes that only adds pressure to young players.
"That's what happens when you lose," Price said. "The pressures increase on players, staff and front office. What we have to do is what we have done, stay together and continue to get the work done and do the best you can to play the best baseball you can play. However, the losing makes for an environment that's a lot more challenging."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.