Reds spring training preview: Starting pitching
FEB 12, 2014 4:13p ET
It's a tad bit cold here in the Ohio Valley. Not so much in Arizona.
Pitchers and catchers for the Reds report for Spring Training on Friday, with the rest of the players due to report by next Wednesday, Feb. 19, to the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
It has been a long four-plus months since the Reds lost in the National League wild card game at Pittsburgh, ending a season that began with high expectations but resulted in six straight losses and disappointment.
Before the Reds get things underway, Fox Sports Ohio will take a look at how the team looks heading into camp.
Today: Starting pitching
The strength of the team the past few seasons is again its top strength going into 2014. Every time the Reds take the field this season they should have a chance at winning because of the guy who throws the first pitch for them. It's a young group -- none of the starting five will be older than 28 this season -- but a group that is coming into its own as pitchers. Four of the five have made at least 30 starts in a single season during their careers and three of the five set career highs for innings pitched.
Reds starters were third in the NL last season with a 3.43 ERA, behind only Los Angeles and St. Louis. It's the best collective ERA for a Reds rotation since 1974. This staff is capable of a similar, if not better, performance this season.
*Johnny Cueto's health is the top concern facing the starting rotation. Three trips to the disabled list last season for lat and oblique muscle issues leave a lingering thought about what happens if those problems arise again this season. Cueto pushed hard to come back last season, maybe a little too hard at times. Throw in the disastrous start against the Pirates in the wild card game and Cueto is an X-factor for the Reds.
If he comes back to be the Cueto of 2011-12, the Reds have a true No. 1 ace. If he's the Cueto of last season, the Reds will be scrambling to fill his spot.
*Mat Latos could very well get the call as the Opening Day starter and it shouldn't shock anyone if he does. In Cueto's absence last season, Latos stepped into that No. 1 role and lived up to it. Latos became a more efficient pitcher in 2013, figuring out how to go deeper into games. He went at least six innings in his last 12 starts and at least seven innings in eight of them. His lone complete game of the season came on Sept. 2 against St. Louis when the Reds were still very much in the divisional race.
Latos pitched through bone spurs in his right elbow last season. He had arthroscopic surgery in October and is healthy heading into this season.
*Homer Bailey is heading into what could very well be his final season with the Reds. He's got an arbitration hearing coming up and is set to become a free agent next offseason unless he and the Reds come to terms on a multi-year extension. The business side of baseball could make it prudent for the Reds to trade Bailey at some point this season.
The baseball side of baseball says this team is better with Bailey pitching every fifth day. Bailey has lowered his ERA each of the last four seasons, including 3.49 last season, while throwing a career-high 209 innings.
*Mike Leake set career highs for starts, wins, innings pitched and strikeouts last season. He had a scoreless streak of 20 1/3 innings covering three starts in September. Leake isn't the power pitcher in the mold of Latos or Bailey but he fits right into their mold when it comes to maturing on the mound. There are a lot of teams that would love to have this quality of a fourth or fifth starter.
*Tony Cingrani got his chance last season when Cueto got hurt and he responded with a 7-4 record, 2.77 ERA in 18 starts. This camp will be about Cingrani continuing to develop and command his secondary pitches but he was impressive with his fastball last season.
*The departure of Bronson Arroyo as a free agent was an inevitable consequence of the business but he will be missed for more than his consistently taking the ball each time his turn came up. Arroyo was a leader and mentor to the pitching staff in and out of the clubhouse.
*Beyond the starting five, there is a lack of depth. Top prospect Robert Stephenson is legitimately a year or two away from being ready for the big leagues. The Reds signed veteran Chien-Ming Wang as a non-roster camp invitee.