ST. LOUIS — Pitching for a spot in a team’s rotation during spring training is one thing. Actually being able to hold it down once the season starts is the hard part.
That is the task facing two Cincinnati Reds rookies who won the third and fourth spots in their team’s rotation. After the aptly named Rookie Davis got his first taste of big league life Thursday in a 7-4 win against the Philadelphia Phillies, Amir Garrett makes his major league debut Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Ohio
The 25-year old Garrett, a hard-throwing left-hander who was a four-star recruit in basketball and played two seasons at St. John’s before switching full time to baseball, won three games in spring training and displayed good control. He walked just six batters over 21 1/3 innings.
“The key for him is to harness all his pitches in the zone,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. “He’s got a very good fastball. The changeup and slider have improved greatly. The changeup is a difference-maker for him to hit the ground running at the major league level.”
Davis’ start Thursday was predictably ragged. The former New York Yankees prospect, acquired for Aroldis Chapman in December 2015, needed 74 pitches to obtain nine outs against the Phillies. Davis gave up five hits and four runs, walking two and whiffing four.
Five Reds relievers combined for six scoreless innings to clean up the mess from Davis’ outing. Another one, Michael Lorenzen, snapped a 4-4 tie with a homer as a pinch hitter in the sixth, helping Cincinnati take two of three to start the season.
“A couple of pitches beat me today,” Davis said. “The way the team rallied was special for me.”
While the Reds (2-1) were winning a series, St. Louis (1-2) was losing one. The Cardinals coughed up a 4-1 advantage and lost 6-4 to the Chicago Cubs, spoiling a potential victory for starter Lance Lynn in his return from Tommy John surgery that forced him to sit out 2016.
Lynn lost his location after working four shutout innings, but still left with a lead after 5 1/3 innings. Lynn allowed five hits and two runs, walking one and striking out four.
“For the most part, I was happy with it,” Lynn said of his first big league start since October of 2015. “Later in the game, I was getting too fine.”
Mike Leake takes the mound for the Cardinals on Friday night, hoping for better success than he experienced in 2016 — both overall and against his old team. Leake struggled through a 9-12 year and a 4.69 ERA, neither of which were helped by Cincinnati.
The Reds handed Leake two losses in four starts, pummeling him for seven runs on Aug. 4 to tie his career high for most runs allowed in a game. But the sinkerballing Leake has looked much better this spring, signaling a return to the pitcher St. Louis spent $80 million to sign in December 2015.
Leake went 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA in six spring training starts.
“I was repeating and being more consistent with the force and energy I’m generating through my windup,” Leake told MLB.com.
Michael Wacha will pitch the Saturday game against a Reds starter to be determined. The teams’ Opening Day starters — Scott Feldman for Cincinnati and Carlos Martinez for St. Louis — get the call in the series finale Sunday.