Fay: It's time for the Reds to try the next tier of young pitchers

CINCINNATI — It’s got to be Tyler Mahle, right?

Someone is going to start in Brandon Finnegan’s spot Saturday for the Reds. The game falls on Mahle’s turn. He’s been the best pitcher in the Reds system this year. He was terrific in his first Triple-A start.

So it’s got to be him, right?

The rest of the year is about the future, and Mahle looks to have a bright one.

It’s time to stop rolling the dice with retreads like Lisaverto Bonilla and Adam Wojciechowski and find out about the next tier of young pitchers.

The Reds gave chances to Rookie Davis, Amir Garrett, Sal Romano and Cody Reed at starters this year. They currently giving Luis Castillo a shot.

The Reds are in the spot they’re in — struggling mightily — because none of the prospects have come through on any kind of consistent basis. They got their chances.

It would seem logical to give Mahle his now.

Bryan Price deferred the question to president of the baseball operations Dick Williams. 

“That might be a better question for Dick  and the player development people,” Price said. “I do think there’s a reason why he was in Triple-A. He would have been just as good a candidate as Castillo to come up form Double-A. Those are questions are better asked of people who deal with guys like Tyler.

“But I do know he’s been a great performer. He had a terrific first Triple-A start. He throw a lot of strikes. I would not be surprised if before the year’s out he’s pitching for us in some capacity.” 

Williams could not be reached Tuesday. He would not have likely tipped his hand anyway.

Mahle, a 22-year-old right-hander, has been good since the Reds picked him in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. He was the Reds’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2015 after going 13-3 with a 2.43 ERA at Dayton.

Last year, he was 8-3 with 2.50 ERA at high-A Daytona. He struggled a bit at Double-A Pensacola — 6-3 with a 4.92 ERA.

But he’s put up sterling numbers this year. He started the year at Pensacola. He went 7-3 with 1.59 ERA. He struck out 87 and walked 17 in the 85 innings and held opponents to a .190 average.

Devin Mesoraco caught Mahle in Pensacola while on the rehab and was impressed.

“His fastball command was really good,” Mesoraco said. “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.”

Mahle made his first start for Louisville Monday. He pitched six innings and allowed four hits and no earned runs. He walked one and struck out nine.

That is no guarantee of success against the Cubs on Saturday. But the Reds have to find out about these young starters.

Right now, the locks for 2018 rotation are Homer Bailey, Finnegan and Anthony DeScalfani. They’ve gone to the post a total of five times this year, so chances of an injury-free ’81 aren’t great. Tim Adleman has pitched well enough to considered for a spot.

But things aren’t going to get better unless the young pitchers start to come through.

This year’s been a disaster so far because the top prospects — Reed, Garrett and Robert Stephenson — haven’t gone from potential to productive.

If the Reds pass on Mahle this go-round, I’d bring back Reed or Stephenson. They’ve put up decent numbers in Triple-A since being sent down. Reed is 2-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 10 starts. Stephenson is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in four starts. Garrett has made a start since being sent down. Davis is on the disabled list, and Romano been underwhelming recently.

There aren’t a lot of other choices. Consider this: The Reds picked Stephenson, Tony Cingrani, Garrett and Sal Romano in the ’11 draft. Michael Lorenzen, the No. 1A pick in 2013, is the only player from the next five drafts on the current roster.

Price revealed Tuesday that Nick Travieso, the No. 1 pick in 2012, had shoulder surgery. He’s out for the year. The Reds picked Phillip Ervin in ’13 and Nick Howard No. 1 in ’14.

“It doesn’t look great,” Price said. “He has more shoulder soreness or triceps soreness, I should say. It’s a similar injury but not in the same place.”

An MRI showed the original injury had healed. 

So give Mahle a chance. If nothing else, he could make that ’13 draft look a lot better.

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at johnfayman@aol.com.

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