CINCINNATI -- It's not wise to make pronouncements 24 games into a baseball season, but I think we can safely make this one: Things are not going to get better for the Reds until the starting pitching gets better.
The Reds are last in Major League Baseball in starter ERA at 5.96 and last in innings pitched by the starters. Starters have averaged fewer than 14 outs per outing.
That's led to a lot of big early deficits -- the kind of deficits you don't overcome. This, more than anything, is why the Reds had lost eight of 11 going into Monday's game.
You're going to have to live with some of this when you're rebuilding and counting heavily on young, unproven starters. I'm all for patience, but there's got to be a limit. Rookie Davis, for instance, has made three starts. He's gone 3, 4, and 2 2/3 innings in those outings.
Is it doing him any good if he continually struggles through these short starts?
That's why I'd look at the pitchers pitching well at Double-A Pensacola if things don't change quickly.
Tyler Mahle, a 22-year-old right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.55 ERA. Two starters ago, he threw a perfect game. Luis Castillo, a 24-year-old right-hander, is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and an 0.89 WHIP.
The Reds have always been reluctant for players to jump levels. But right now, no starter has good numbers at Triple-A Louisville, except Sal Romano, who's on the disabled list.
Reds manager Bryan Price did not rule out looking at Mahle or Castillo.
"I think we would," he said. "But more so if there was a pressing need. Like. ‘Hey, we need someone for tomorrow and this is the only guy we've got and it's his turn to pitch.' Sometimes, that's how these decisions are made. When you need a starter or a someone for long relief, you just look at the schedule and see who is scheduled to pitch that day."
The Reds brought Ariel Hernandez from Triple-A for a situation like that. That could happen with Mahle or Castillo, but the Reds prefer the traditional route.
"There is a sense of wanting these kids to pitch Triple-A a bit before they're exposed to the big leagues," Price said. "That's in the perfect world. I would anticipate that if continue to pitch well they'll get to Triple-A in short order."
Devin Mesoraco caught both Mahle and Castillo during his rehab assignment. Both impressed him.
"Going down there, I heard Mahle was a pitch-ability guy," Mesoraco said. "But he was throwing 96 any time he wanted. He'll stroke some fastballs in there at 89, but that ain't a bad thing. It's a good thing. I've seen Justin Verlander pitch when was throwing 100, and he would throw 90 in the first inning with nobody on base. Then later, he'd throw 97, 100.
"I though Mahle was very impressive. His fastball command was really good. He has a slider, a curveball and a change-up. The slider's a really good pitch that he can throw for strikes. For him, it all comes down to that heater. He's got really good command of it to all four quadrants of the plate. He's a really impressive kid."
"He's definitely impressive, too," Mesoraco said. "Super big stuff with the heater. He has slider and really good changeup. He throws everything for strikes. The times I caught him. It was 70 percent strikes, which is pretty darned impressive. He's a good-looking guy."
Castillo, who the Reds got in the Dan Strailey trade, is on the 40-man roster. Mahle is not. That's always a consideration in moves.
Mesoraco thinks Mahle's ready for the majors and Castillo's close.
"For me, I wouldn't be afraid to say Tyler is ready right now," Mesoraco said. "He was really impressive. I think Castillo has some things to work on, but with that stuff he could pitch up her for sure. With Mahle, I don't see what else he has to work on in my opinion. He can just about thing you want a pitcher to do."