Reds expect fewer 'lumps' for 2016 rotation

Cincinnati closed season with 64 straight rookie starts

Reds expect fewer 'lumps' for 2016 rotation

PITTSBURGH -- It's just about stone-cold lock that the Reds won't have 110 games started among nine rookies next season, including the Major League record final 64 games. Since the departures of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake via trades in late July, an all-rookie Cincinnati rotation took more than its share of lumps.

"Well, the lumps you talk about shouldn't be as lumpy next year. We shouldn't be quite as lump-filled in 2016," Reds manager Bryan Price said before right-hander Josh Smith started the final game of the season vs. the Pirates. He was the 64th straight rookie starter.

On Saturday, during a 3-1 win, Brandon Finnegan helped snap a 13-game losing streak with the first quality start from the rotation since Sept. 21 and the second one since Sept. 12. There were only 20 quality starts since the Cueto and Leake deals.

Rookies not only struggled to keep opponents from jumping ahead, but they couldn't pitch deep in games. Several starts were of five innings or fewer the past couple of months, which helped beat up the bullpen. But it was all part of the process of learning at the highest level, which the club expects to pay dividends next season.

"That's the biggest part, especially those that are getting acclimated in the big leagues," Price said. "It's a whole new ball of wax. ... Of course, coming into an environment where we weren't winning, which was making things even more challenging. I think it's way different when you're plugging one pitcher into a four-man rotation of experienced pitchers, and those guys can carry that young guy. To be one of five guys that are new to the big leagues poses completely different challenges for the pitchers and the coaching staff. Because you don't have the veteran presence to set on-field examples for these young pitchers, and that's probably been the biggest challenge we've had to this point."

Rookies Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias seem like solid bets to be part of the 2016 rotation, with Jon Moscot, Michael Lorenzen, John Lamb, Finnegan and prospects like Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed perhaps getting looks. Homer Bailey, who had season-ending Tommy John surgery after only two starts this season, is expected to be ready by early-to-mid May.

"We don't want to go through another year like this," Price said. "Even if we see it as a retooling situation, we don't want to lose 98 games. We want to be way more competitive and in order to do that, we're probably going to need some experience in our rotation."

Even with the young pitchers more experienced, the club could definitely use a dependable veteran that can be counted on to go at least seven innings.

"We've kicked it around in the very preliminary stages," Price said. "I didn't even know I was going to be back here until recently so it was kind of hard to invest in the discussions about 2016 but it will definitely be a talking point in the days that follow for sure. We have to understand what to do with this roster in order to have a vision of what we can do in 2016 before we start figuring out what pieces we need to add."

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.