Struggles of rotation taxing Reds' bullpen

Struggles of rotation taxing Reds' bullpen

ATLANTA -- Before his team even took the field, Reds manager Bryan Price knew Thursday's game against the Braves would come down to starting pitching.

During Wednesday's 13-inning loss at Turner Field, Cincinnati used seven relievers over 9 1/3 innings, while Atlanta turned to eight members of its bullpen for the final eight frames.

But with both bullpens gassed, Price didn't receive the performance he longed for from starter Dan Straily. The right-hander surrendered six runs across just 4 1/3 innings, as the Reds fell to the Braves, 7-2, to split the four-game series.

Straily's short outing continues a recent trend by Cincinnati's starting rotation. Over the past five games, Brandon Finnegan is the only starter to pitch through the fifth inning.

"Everyone goes through it at some point of time during the year," Price said of his rotation's recent struggles. "Everyone, even the Cubs will go through a cycle where [Jake] Arrieta, [Jon] Lester and those guys are affected either by ineffectiveness, a rain delay or something like that that creates a tough environment for the bullpen."

The environment in the Reds' bullpen has been extremely taxing. During this five-game stretch, Price has relied on nine relievers to get through 27 innings.

Price attributed much of his starters' struggles to lacking quality stuff and experiencing control issues. The latter certainly plagued Straily on Thursday, as he threw 101 pitches (61 strikes) during his shortest start of the year.

"You're constantly just trying to find out the next pitch and how I'll execute the next one," said Straily about overcoming command problems. "It's just when it's over and done that you realize, 'I just didn't have it.' I never threw a pitch today I wasn't confident in.

"It was just one of those things where they got to me."

Price knows such damage to the rotation can only be afforded for so much longer.

"I've got some guys down there [in the bullpen] who are willing to take the ball when they're out of gas and they'll continue to come out and pitch," Price said, "But that's just not the way you compete. You don't want to get into situations where you're finishing a game with your backend bullpen pieces that are already tired, just simply as to finish a game."

Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.