CINCINNATI — As Norm Charlton once said to Rob Dibble, two of the three members of Cincinnati Reds ‘Nasty Boys’ bullpen in 1990, “Dibs, you have more problems than a run over raccoon.”
Or as Reds manager Dusty Baker’s old manager with the Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, likes to say, “Half the people don’t care about your problems and the other half are glad you have them.”
Problems, most of them of the injury variety, have plagued Baker and the Reds most of the season and another one surfaced Thursday.
Relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton is done for the season and will undergo exploratory surgery on his elbow/forearm area.
Broxton spent two months on the disabled list with a strain of the right flexor mass in his elbow. This time it is a strain of the right flexor mass in his forearm.
Broxton tried to pitch Wednesday night and gave up a home run and a walk before calling pitching coach Bryan Price and trainer Paul Lessard to the mound to tell them he was done.
That forced Baker to use closer Aroldis Chapman for two innings, the first time this year he has pitched more than one. And he used set-up man J.J. Hoover for the third straight day as he struggled to cover innings. On Tuesday starter Tony Cingrani only went 3 2/3 innings before leaving with a back sprain, but further taxation on the bullpen.
Before Thursday afternoon’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Baker shook his head and said, “Don’t ask me who is my closer today. I don’t know. I have no idea.”
To cover Broxton’s absence the Reds selected the contract of Class AAA Louisville pitcher Nick Christiani and put pitcher Johnny Cueto on the 60-day disabled list. The Cueto move was procedural because he already has been on the DL more than 60 days and can come off the DL at any time — when and if he recovers from his troublesome lat problems that has put him on the DL three times this year.
Christiani, a 26-year-old right-hander, was a 13th-round draft pick in 2009 and has not appeared in the majors. He pitched in short relief this season for Louisville — 6-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 476 games over 53 1/3 innings.
“I don’t know what to expect on the Broxton situation,” said Baker. “All I know is that he said Wednesday he wouldn’t be ready for more than a couple of days, so we needed help. He knew, it was a bad feeling when he was on the mound. And I had a bad feeling when I went to the mound.
“Big Broxton doesn’t just walk off under any circumstances,” Baker continued. “It’s different, in a different location, than he had before. They don’t know what’s wrong until they get in there and see. They’re just guessing right now.”
About revealing the extent of Broxton’s problems, Baker said, “You can’t hide it and I’m not going to lie to you.”
Of Christianai, a New Jersey native, Baker said, “We saw a lot of him in spring training. I heard he is throwing the ball pretty good down there.” The other call-up candidate was Curtis Partch, who spent some time with the Reds earlier this season, “But he just got back off the DL with a triceps injury.”
On the Cingrani front, he is still listed as Sunday’s starter against Milwaukee and he threw a bullpen session before Thursday’s game. The club will see how he comes out of that session before determining if he is, as Baker describes it, “Pitchable for Sunday.”
So the Reds continue to take hits in the solar plexus and all over the rest of their bodies, but Baker keeps the proverbial stiff upper lip, hoping those don’t crack.
“Man, we’d just gotten Big Broxton back,” said Baker. “He said he was feeling great, throwing 97 and 98. It is kind of a downer. You can’t get down, but you can’t stay down. You have to figure out a way to keep rolling, even though this is a pretty big blow.
“Some of the other guys just have to pick it up as a team,” he added. “We’ve had so many injuries I can’t keep up, I can only be in so many places at one time.
“Problem-solving? Like my dad always told me, ‘Son, you can only take them one problem at a time,’” said Baker. “He said if you have problems, eat the elephant one bite at a time. That advice has worked pretty good for me so far.”