The Reds dropped a 10-4 decision to the Astros last night at Great American Ballpark. Mike Leake basically threw batting practice in the third inning, surrendering 7 runs. The Reds have now dropped 15 of 24 contests since opening the season 5-0. The starting pitchers rank 29th in the Majors with an ERA of 5.56. Were last year’s Reds a flash in the pan? Is it time to press the panic button? Not yet.
For all the bad baseball the Reds have played over the past few weeks, they still sit only 2.5 games behind the Cardinals. It’s pretty clear that no team is running away with the NL Central this season. So despite the Reds maladies, it’s going to be hard to get too far out of contention in this division. And as long as Votto, Bruce, and Phillips remain healthy, the Reds have the best trio of hitters in the division.
The starting pitching has been, in a word, atrocious. Edinson Volquez has been a first inning disaster. Travis Wood, Mike Leake, and Sam LeCure have not stepped up to provide quality starts, leaving Bronson Arroyo to stem the bleeding. The good news is Homer Bailey is slated to return Thursday from the DL and Johnny Cueto shouldn’t be too far behind. Volquez has shown better in his last couple of starts, so there’s reason to believe the starting pitching from the Reds will improve. Outside of Nick Masset, the bullpen has been solid. Logan Andrusek has stepped up and provided some holds while Coco Cordero has been flawless thus far.
The only real concern is the status of Scott Rolen. Word is that he’ll have to extend his stay on the disabled list. This puts the Reds in a bind, both offensively and defensively. Rolen provides a solid RBI bat in the cleanup spot and protection for Joey Votto. And even at his advanced age, he’s still one of the best defensive 3rd basemen in the league. The Reds have no real answer if Rolen remains out for an extended period. Miguel Cairo is versatile, but comes nowhere near replacing Rolen’s presence in the lineup. Whether it’s Renteria, Janish, or Valaika filling in, all are playing out of position. Young Juan Francisco is on the DL himself, and when he returns, the jury is still out on his ability to perform everyday. Will he live up to his hype, or is this Willie Greene, the sequel? If this hole remains, Walt Jocketty may have to pull the trigger on a trade to fill the gap. David Wright in GABP?
It’s instructive to remember that the Reds were 14-15 on May 7 last year and then went on a tear. Without an improvement in starting pitching or Rolen in the lineup, they will definitely struggle to make up lost ground. So while it’s still early and no time for fans to panic, there is some definite concern about this year’s Reds squad.