Injuries taking toll on rotation candidates

Reds starter Moscot scratched from start with intercostal strain

Injuries taking toll on rotation candidates

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Attrition is starting to affect the battle for the final three spots in the Reds' rotation.

Jon Moscot became the latest rotation candidate to need medical attention this week as the right-hander was scratched from Wednesday's start, a 10-6 loss to the D-backs, because a left intercostal muscle strain in his side. Moscot, who is day to day, was injured while taking batting practice a couple of days prior to his scratched start.

"It might be something where he pitches and it doesn't bother him, just don't have him swing the bat in a game and he'll be fine," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It could create a little bit of tenderness so we said, 'What are we going to do?' Are we going to pitch him in a Spring Training game? Force him to go out there and pitch when there's a little bit of tenderness? We're just being ultra-cautious right now."

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Moscot might miss the one start only and is expected to still be OK for the regular season. Michael Lorenzen, who was diagnosed Tuesday with a right elbow strain and tendinitis, is unlikely to be ready for the rotation because he will need more rest.

While the disabled list is possible, Price felt Lorenzen could still make the team -- in a bullpen role, at least at first.

"Taking several days from throwing and not having pitched since [March 4] makes it a lot harder of a challenge for him to be able to start the season as a starter, to get him stretched out," Price said. "If Jon missed a start, if [Anthony] DeSclafani missed a start … [Raisel] Iglesias is going to go a start short, that's not a big deal. The big deal is two or three starts that you miss and trying to get up to where you can safely say the kid can throw 85 pitches in a game. … If they're not ready to do that, it just starts to kill your bullpen."

Add in that John Lamb hasn't pitched yet as he rehabs from back surgery and Homer Bailey isn't due to return from Tommy John surgery rehab until May, and the pool of options available to Price and the club's decision-makers has thinned.

DeSclafani and Iglesias were already viewed as locks for the rotation. Brandon Finnegan is looking like a safe bet for a spot. Moscot didn't pitch well in his previous two starts.

Where it gets real interesting is with prospects Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed. Both have pitched well this spring, but their service time would start if they made the team. Waiting a few weeks to call them up would extend their eligibility for free agency down the road for another season. Stephenson the Reds' No. 2 prospect, has a half a season of Triple-A experience, and Reed is ranked third by, with a half-season of Double-A on his resume.

Tim Melville and Jonathan Sanchez, both signed to Minor League deals as free agents in the offseason, are also in the mix. If neither of them works out, perhaps a possibility is using projected long reliever Keyvius Sampson, who just got over right triceps soreness.

Price and the Reds are faced with either bringing up young prospects ahead of their desired timetable, using a pitcher in the rotation they had already tagged for the bullpen or Triple-A, or having to search the waiver wire for a stopgap veteran pickup.

"None of those are nearly as attractive as having a healthy group of guys in our rotation and bullpen, and having the guys we hoped would start the season for us be available," Price said. "It certainly doesn't look like that's going to be the case, especially with Michael."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for 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.