Lamb knows it's now time to turn season around

Lamb knows it's now time to turn season around

CINCINNATI -- Twenty-four Major League starts in parts of two seasons isn't a lengthy resume, but Reds lefty John Lamb has been around long enough to realize the tenuousness of his situation. There are expectations that he hasn't met and his latest performance fell well short again.

In a 9-1 Reds loss to the Brewers on Saturday, Lamb lasted two-plus innings -- tying a career-low. He allowed nine earned runs -- a new career-high -- with nine hits, two walks and three strikeouts. His record fell to 1-7 with a 6.43 ERA in 14 starts.

"I think that's obvious at some point you've got to execute," Lamb said. "I don't believe I'm coming out here with a guaranteed job every fifth day. I never have. I sure hope to never think that way."

Lamb's rotation status is getting murkier as Homer Bailey nears a long-awaited return from the disabled list - possibly after one more rehab start at Triple-A Louisville. Top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson also waits in the wings at Louisville.

The Reds have lost six of Lamb's last seven starts while he has gone 0-4 with an 8.44 ERA and nine homers allowed over his last 32 innings in that stretch.

"You want to put these guys in a place where they can go out and pitch and not look over their shoulder, but there's also the element of performance that needs to be there," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I just don't think he has really found himself at this level yet. I believe in his stuff. He needs to make believers out of everybody that his stuff will play here and he knows how to utilize it. He's been vulnerable to the big inning. There's been some knockout punches early in games, and those are hard to deal with on a regular basis."

Since he pitched 7 1/3 innings vs. the Cardinals on June 7, one Lamb start has reached six innings. While there have been moments of optimism -- like his career-high nine strikeouts over five innings July 9 at Miami -- the results are missing. Lamb often leaves pitches up in the strike zone and pays dearly for it -- such as the 1-2 changeup for Jonathan Lucroy's homer. Rarely this season has he been able to work deep into games.

"I think just generally looking in the rearview mirror and understanding I haven't been that consistent, there's without a doubt a sense of urgency," Lamb said. "But it's not going to change anything I do. I come in here every day and work hard."

Against Milwaukee, Lamb was down 2-0 two batters into the game after Hernan Perez's two-run homer and trailed 4-0 after the first inning. In the third inning on a Lucroy foul tip, Price unsuccessfully argued it was a swing-and-miss for strike three. Lucroy slugged the next pitch for a two-run homer. Lamb followed up by sandwiching a single between the only two walks he allowed -- before being pulled.

"This should be a competition to not just be in the big leagues and not just to stay in the big leagues, but be a difference-maker in an organization that's trying to get things turned around," said Price, who was ejected after making the pitching change in the third inning. "Any of this only goes so long. You can only be mediocre or below average so long before we look to find better players."

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.