Fay: Reds Question 6: Can Arroyo, at 40, beat out a gaggle of young pitchers for a starting spot?

Bailey's injury throws a wrench in the works
Fay: Reds Question 6: Can Arroyo, at 40, beat out a gaggle of young pitchers for a starting spot?
Posted at 7:32 AM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 13:03:28-05

CINCINNATI -- This was going to be a "Who is going to be the fifth starter?" article.

Then Homer Bailey had arthroscopic surgery Wednesday on his right elbow -- his third surgery in two years. He'll likely start the year on the disabled list. So now this is a "Who will be the fourth and fifth starters?" story.

The Reds have no shortage of candidates. You've got prospects Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson and maybe Sal Romano. You've got Tim Adleman, who made it from independent ball to the Reds rotation. And you've got Bronson Arroyo, the 40-year-old comeback kid.

It's a hard race to handicap, especially now that Arroyo is (unofficially) in the mix.

"If my arm doesn't hurt, I feel like I can throw 200 innings, like I always have," Arroyo said.

The other five in the field have 153 big-league innings -- total.

Arroyo's health is a big if. He hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2014, and he's spent the last two years recovering from elbow and shoulder surgery.

But with two spots open, if he can throw 84 mph, I'm guessing he'll begin the year in the rotation.

Stephenson and Reed went into last season atop the Reds prospect list, but both struggled in the big leagues. A lot of scouts rate Garrett, the left-hander and former college basketball player, above them at this point.

Romano has not pitched above Double-A. The Reds have been reluctant in the past to have pitchers jump a level. That could be different now that Dick Williams is in charge.

The Reds would be comfortable with one of the youngsters in the rotation, but the club signed veteran right-hander Scott Feldman for a rotation spot after trading Dan Strailey to guard against two of them in the rotation.

"To have a durable strike-throwing innings eater (like Feldman) is a great addition for our ball club and an area of need," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It also saves us from having to feel like we're rushing a couple of guys into the rotation."

Adleman, a 29-year-old right-hander, is probably the fallback plan if Arroyo doesn't prove he's healthy and the prospects struggle. He was 4-4 with a 4.00 ERA in 13 starts for the Reds last year.

Price says any of the young pitchers who do not make the rotation will be in the mix for bullpen jobs.

"If we become a better team because they spent half a season or a season in the bullpen, let's have a better team and let them get experience pitching out of the bullpen," Price said. "It doesn't mean they won't start again."

And although the first three spots in the rotation are set with Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and Feldman, the Bailey setback shows that could change as well.

For the Reds to be better than last year, some of the young pitchers are going to have to take major steps.

Question 5: Is Scott Schebler right for right field?
Question 4: Will we see first-half Votto or second-half Votto?
Question 3: Who closes? Storen? Iglesias? Cingrani?
Question 2: What should fans expect from Homer Bailey?
Question 1: Where does Price play top prospect Jose Peraza?