NEW YORK -- A cavalry of sorts is on the way to bring help to the Reds' beleaguered pitching staff. Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and John Lamb are all nearing the end of their stints on the disabled list.
The trio's return could affect three-fifths of the rotation and reverberate to an overtaxed bullpen that has provided little support.
"It will be nice to have a little more experience in the rotation and guys who have been out there ... in innings seven, eight and nine, to not have to lean on our bullpen quite as much as we have," said Reds manager Bryan Price, whose club has dropped 12 of its last 16 games.
Twice in his career, Bailey has surpassed 200 innings in a season, while DeSclafani threw 184 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2015. Both aren't expected to toss complete games immediately upon their return, but if healthy, they should provide consistency that has been lacking.
Reds pitchers entered Thursday with the third-highest ERA in the Majors at 5.45, and they have allowed a league-high 39 home runs and are tied for the most walks surrendered (101). One starter -- Robert Stephenson -- has completed seven innings, and he is currently pitching for Triple-A Louisville. The bullpen is fourth in the Majors in innings and third in total pitches.
Bailey, who had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on May 8, 2015, is expected to need one more rehab assignment start. DeSclafani, who strained his left oblique during Spring Training, was scheduled to make his second and final rehab start on Thursday night with Class A Dayton. Lamb, who is returning from December back surgery, threw eight innings on Wednesday in his rehab start for Louisville.
The big picture this season should eventually include Stephenson and Cody Reed, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Nos. 2 and 3 prospects, respectively, in the organization. Cincinnati will have to decide who among its current starters should move to the bullpen and who should go to Louisville.
"I think quality performance would certainly lend itself to an easier decision for us to keep someone in the starting rotation," Price said. "In the same respect, I've had a hard time finding the magical pieces to get us into that ninth inning with a lead. We have to define some roles in that bullpen. We can't just be this 'Anybody at any time' type of bullpen we currently have and expect to turn the corner with our bullpen."
Price acknowledged that losing games in the late innings is painful, but the rebuilding club has the luxury of taking a long view while pitchers grow on the job.
"I'll tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better this year than I did last year, in large part because we know what's in front of us and what our goal is in rebuilding a pitching staff," Price said. "We didn't invest in the offseason in bullpen help. We really put all of our eggs in developing our own young pitching and defining where they're best suited. And we're on the front end of that. I'm looking forward to it."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.