Coddling rookie rotation no option for Reds

Before September callups, club needs innings from starters

Coddling rookie rotation no option for Reds

CINCINNATI -- As some members of the all-rookie Reds rotation labor and struggle to get through their starts, there isn't much flexibility for manager Bryan Price to bring an early hook and summon a reliever.

When rosters can expand in September, Price expects that to be different. In the meantime, the Reds are trying to do their best to get through. Entering Monday's makeup game vs. the Tigers, the rookie rotation had a 4.92 ERA since July 29.

"We put the team first, as far as winning games. That is a challenge. In the same respect, my commandment to the starting pitchers is they have to pitch the innings," Price said on Monday. "Even though this is a rookie rotation, I can't simply throw a life preserver out there every time they're in trouble. It's a matter of these guys going out there and competing. I'm not going to have a bullpen if the starters don't log the bulk of the innings.

"That being said, we're getting closer to September. Decisions I make with the starter can happen sooner in the game with a 10 or 12-man bullpen. Some of those decisions I can't make in the third or fourth inning when a guy is struggling when I know that we only have a couple of guys down there able to pitch out of the 'pen."

Among the pitchers who could be seen in September is Brandon Finnegan, who was acquired in the July 26 trade that sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals. Finnegan has a 6.00 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Louisville as he works to transition from a reliever to a starter. It's been uneven, as he had five scoreless innings two starts ago but gave up three earned runs and five hits over four innings in his last outing.

Finnegan is slated to start for Louisville on Tuesday vs. Indianapolis.

Finnegan gets double play

"I think he needs to continue to pitch in September in large part because this is a kid who threw a total of 138 innings between college and Minor Leagues and Major Leagues last year," Price said. "This year, he has a total of 70. He needs to pitch."

Finnegan appeared in both the College World Series for TCU and World Series for the Royals last season, as a reliever.

Also in Louisville, top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson (right forearm strain) has resumed a throwing program. Stephenson, who is currently on the seven-day disabled list, could be a potential September callup if he is healthy.

Worth noting

Left-hander Tony Cingrani came out of Sunday's start for Louisville after three innings with a possible arm injury. Cingrani just came off of the DL on Aug. 18 after he had a neck injury.

"I heard he didn't come out of that game really well, as far as overall how he felt coming out [on Sunday]," Price said. "We'll follow up with that and maybe we'll have more for you [Tuesday]."

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.