GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It was Anthony DeSclafani’s freshman year at the University of Florida when he picked up his nickname. A senior couldn’t pronounce "DEE-scla-faw-nee" so out came "Disco" instead.
"It’s funny because that’s what people called my dad when he was younger, too," said DeSclafani. "He just blurted it out and it stuck ever since."
When the Reds traded established pitcher Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins last December, ‘Disco’ was the prospect they targeted in return. He’s just 24 years old but he’s shown a steady progression throughout his career, including making his Major League Baseball debut with Miami last season with a six-inning, two-run performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
From an organizational standpoint, DeSclafani fits because his MLB service clock is just starting and the Reds will have him under contract control for six seasons. If he’s able to live up to the confidence that manager Bryan Price has in him, DeSclafani will be a perfect fit. As things stand now, a little more than two weeks away from Opening Day, DeSclafani will be one of the five starting pitchers in the Reds rotation.
The Reds had high hopes for DeSclafani coming into the spring camp and he has done nothing to lower those expectations.
"He’s historically been a strike thrower with plus stuff, especially fastball, slider and a developing changeup and curveball" said Price. "He hasn’t disappointed me."
DeSclafani has had four starts and thrown 13 2/3 innings this spring, including 4 2/3 innings Friday night against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale. He retired nine Giants in a row at one point before being touched up for three runs on five hits and two walks in the fourth and fifth innings of a game the Reds eventually won 6-5. Two of the runs against DeSclafani were unearned, but stats in spring training are virtually meaningless.
Price says the only thing he looks at on the daily stat sheet is how many at-bats a position player has and how many innings a pitcher has thrown. Evaluations go much deeper than numbers.
It’s the same for players. Numbers don’t matter.
"I’ve got to be ready for the baseball season whether it’s in the big leagues or in (Triple-A) Louisville," said DeSclafani. "I’m focusing on my delivery and how my pitches feel and pitching my game, attacking hitters. I like to fill up the strike zone and mix up pitches with my arm speed."
DeSclafani is rated as the No. 6 prospect in the Reds organization by Baseball America. Raisel Iglesias (No. 2) and Michael Lorenzen (No. 4) are also in the mix to earn spots on the Opening Day 25-man roster.
That’s something new for DeSclafani this spring. He wasn’t on Miami’s 40-man roster last spring and ended up starting the season with Double-A Jacksonville. He was promoted to Triple-A New Orleans before getting his chance with the Marlins. DeSclafani pitched in 13 games for Miami last season, starting five times. One of his eight relief appearances came against the Reds at Great American Ball Park, a 7-2 win for Cincinnati on Aug. 6 but DeSclafani only gave up a hit and struck out two in a scoreless one-inning appearance.
He was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he started six games and finished with a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings. He caught the eyes of Reds scouts.
This is the second time DeSclafani has been part of a trade. He was one of seven players Toronto sent to Miami in exchange for five players, including pitchers Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson and infielder Jose Reyes, in November 2012. That trade taught him the business side of baseball, DeSclafani said. This time he’s looking at the opportunity he’s been presented.
So far, he’s taking advantage of the situation. The Reds had two open spots in the rotation with the trades of Latos to Miami and Alfredo Simon to Detroit. A third spot is temporarily available while Homer Bailey, who is expected to miss a minimum of two turns in the rotation at the start of the season, rehabs his way back from forearm surgery last September.
When Price said this past week that Tony Cingrani and Paul Maholm were going to be competing for bullpen spots, that left DeSclafani, Iglesias and veteran Jason Marquis left in the major league camp among the candidates who started camp vying for those starting spots.
No one has been told anything when it comes to final decisions. DeSclafani knew the possibilities ahead of him before he arrived in Arizona. He threw more than 160 innings combined last year between his stops in the minors, with the Marlins and then the Arizona Fall League.
If "Disco" gets the call to be in the starting rotation, DeSclafani has no doubts about his readiness.
"I think I’m definitely physically and mentally prepared to go as long as they want me to go," said DeSclafani. "It’s really just going as long and as hard as I can. That’s what I do. That’s what I try to do every outing. The innings will take care of itself. That’s not in my mind. I just try to get outs."