Fay: Now is the time to give Reds prospect Tyler Mahle a chance in the starting rotation

CINCINNATI -- The question was about September pitching call-ups. Reds manager Bryan Price’s answer was about Amir Garrett, Cody Reed and Rookie Davis.

“The biggest challenge is having guys come up who are throwing the ball well consistently in Triple-A, ” Price said. “We’d really like to see the guys performing and performing well. I know they’re doing a lot of work there. Amir’s been throwing the ball better. Cody’s been throwing the ball better, Rookie as well.

“That’s a good thing. I’d like to see that trend continue and put ourselves in the position where we’re champing at the bit to see all of them, pitching as starters. It’s unlikely and unrealistic that they all will. But you still want to see a competition for the opportunity.”

By that measure, the competition is over.

Tyler Mahle won.

Give the kid the ball, call him in September -- or sooner -- to get him acclimated to the big leagues and to see what you’ve got.

Mahle, 22-year-old right-hander, has earned an extended look in September. He was better than Luis Castillo at Double-A Pensacola. And look what Castillo has been -- the Reds’ best starter.

“(Mahle’s) been our best performer in the organization all year,” Price said. “I think that’s more of a question for the front office, simply because of the effect it will have on the roster.

“That may be the biggest challenge, also getting to exceeding his innings limit. What would September provide him as far as opportunities?”

Mahle threw 150 2/3 innings last year. He’s at 144 1/3 this year. He can reasonably be expected to get to 180. I’d make sure most of those 46-odd innings are with the Reds, even if that means pre-September call-up.

As for the roster spot, Scott Feldman had surgery Tuesday and is out for year. Put him on the 60-day disabled list and you’ve got a spot for Mahle. The Reds can’t worry about starting Mahle’s clock. They’ve got to worry about winning enough games in ’18 to sell tickets.

Mahle is 10-7 with a 2.06 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A stints. He struck out 138 and walked 30. Opponents are hitting .208 off him.

He may or may not be ready for the big leagues. But, aside from Castillo, you clearly can’t count on any of the other young pitchers as locks for the ’18 rotation. Robert Stephenson and Sal Romano have been very inconsistent. Reed, Garrett and Davis haven’t put up numbers that are close to Mahle’s in Triple-A.

Price said Asher Wojciechowski will replace Feldman in the rotation for now.

“We’ll get to September and take a look,” Price said. “There’ll be some inevitable changes. Unless we really abbreviate Castillo’s outings, I don’t think he’ll be able to pitch to Oct. 1. We’ll just kind of see. I’d like to have guys who kind of pitched their way into the mix.”

“Wojo’s been one of our most reliable arms. I like looking at (Tim) Adelman out of the bullpen to see where the best fit moving forward is. I think Wojo would prefer to start.

“I don’t know how to answer the question. I can’t pencil anyone in for September.”

Fair enough, but again, if the Reds don’t pencil Mahle into the rotation in September, that is a huge mistake, in my humble opinion.

The Reds are going to have the spots. As Price mentioned, Castillo has an innings limit, probably 30 to 35 more. Feldman is finished for the year. Wojciechowski has a 5.36 ERA and he’s 28.

If he’s in the rotation for 2018, you’re looking at repeat of ’17.

“We have to make strides,” Price said. “I don’t think we can say in 2018 we can have another in 2017. We have to move the needle forward. We have to create a pitching staff that gives us the promise of a much better season in the win column.

“We can’t continue to run these numbers -- the ERA, the walks and home runs and the overall numbers of runs we’ve allowed. It’s bound to happen that we rely completely on the youth.

“An open tryout in 2018 would be a big mistake for us... If we have three spots in our rotation and three spots in our bullpen open, I think we’re moving in the direction of having a repeat performance.”

So give Mahle his tryout now. 

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

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