Reds faced with balancing act on starters' limits

'We may have a 20-man staff in September,' Price says

Reds faced with balancing act on starters' limits

LOS ANGELES -- The all-veteran rotation the Reds had a year ago is gone. Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon and Mike Leake were all traded in the past year, and Homer Bailey is out for the season with an elbow injury. Rookies have been pressed into service to pick up the slack.

But with Michael Lorenzen on an innings limit, and now in Triple-A, and caps likely for Raisel Iglesias, John Lamb and possibly others, how will manager Bryan Price have enough arms to fill the innings the rest of the season? Price didn't seem too worried when asked on Sunday.

"We'll find them. We may have a 20-man pitching staff in September but we'll definitely find the innings," Price said.

Cueto and Leake pitched 200 innings last season and Simon nearly reached that mark in 2014. Anthony DeSclafani, who was given two extra days of rest before he started Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers, is expected to make all of his starts the rest of the season if all goes well.

At issue for Cincinnati is the few veterans in Triple-A Louisville who are able to pick up innings. Besides Lorenzen, who will likely shift to a bullpen role in September, others like No. 2 prospect Robert Stephenson have no big league experience at all. Brandon Finnegan, who came with Lamb in the trade that sent Cueto to the Royals July 26, is being stretched out to start after he's been a reliever. Tony Cingrani, who has 29 big league starts, performed poorly in his one big league start this season and was sent down. Cingrani has a 1.59 ERA in five games for Louisville.

"These things always find a way of taking care of themselves," Price said. "You put our players in a bubble and you want to protect them the best you can. And we'll do everything we can. Some guys might end up exceeding their innings limit by a fraction. I don't think we've defined anything yet in regard to pitch limits and innings limits. We're going to a more conservative route because we haven't been able to figure out why these pitchers [in the game] are getting hurt so frequently. We're not going to see anybody taking on 60 or 80 innings more than they had last year.

"But if we say, 'Hey, we want maybe to go up 30-35 innings beyond where they were the previous year,' and exceed that by a few innings, that's not really a huge organizational concern."

A couple of long relievers on the staff that are former starters -- Dylan Axelrod and Pedro Villarreal -- are unlikely to get starts.

"I don't see necessarily those two in the rotation unless we got into a situation where we didn't have any other choices," Price said. "We have guys that we know that are starting in Triple-A and that are starting here that will continue to start. If we have to flip some roles, then we'll flip roles. It will all come out in the wash. It just might be a little murky along the way."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.