LOS ANGELES – For the first time in David Bell’s four seasons as manager, the Cincinnati Reds use an opener as a pitching strategy.
Luis Cessa kicks off Thursday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers with previously scheduled starter Reiver Sanmartin expected to follow Cessa out of the bullpen at some point. Cessa, who made 19 starts with the New York Yankees, has not thrown more than 35 lanes in a playoff since the start of spring training, so he is limited to a maximum of three innings.
“We want a pretty rested bullpen behind Cessa,” Bell said. “He was the right guy to do it. He’s been in a lot of different situations and roles. There was no hesitation there.”
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The Reds did not complete their decision to use an opener until after Wednesday’s loss to the Cleveland Guardians. Bell said he would not have kept Cessa from pitching if there was a situation to use him in the 7-3 loss.
Bell has always had an open mind towards openers since it became more popular in the league in 2019. The Tampa Bay Rays are the team most associated with the strategy. Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson used it during the 2018 playoffs, with left-winger Wade Miley facing just one batter in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.
“We’ve talked a lot about it, but we never did,” Bell said. “We had guys in the past who only started and had a long track record of success as starters. There were a few times we were close to doing that, but such a strength of our team too, we just never really messed up. with that. With some of the guys we have now, after playing more roles, it’s just easier this time. “
The minimum rule for three batters means the right-handed Cessa will face the top of the Dodgers lineup, who were Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner in their first five games. Using Cessa will not give the Reds a sharing advantage, but the strategy means that Sanmartin, a soft-throwing leftist, does not have to face the top of the ranks as often.
Sanmartin, 25, has only made three Major League starts, but he has been tougher against left-handed batsmen throughout his minor-league career. In two MLB starts against the Pirates and one against Atlanta, the left beats .182 against Sanmartin, while the right wing has a stroke average of .375 against him.
“To be able to get Cess, who has beaten really well, maybe up to once around the order, you have to choose the right place to bring in – if it’s Reiver, we can find the right place in their lineup to bring him in. and then let him look up, “Bell said. “Let him go as deep as he can. We have a pretty rested bullpen, a bunch of right-handed relievers behind Reiver.”
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The Reds will be without Cessa at the back of their bullpen for at least one game, but they have Tony Santillan, Art Warren, Hunter Strickland and Justin Wilson to cover the late innings.
SLOW START? The Reds have the fourth-lowest batting average (0.198), the fourth-lowest on-base percentage (0.268) and the sixth-lowest slugging percentage (0.318) in the Majors through the first week of the season.
Tommy Pham, who missed Wednesday’s match due to a left-handed injury, is unbeaten in his first 15 strokes. Aristides Aquino has nine strikeouts in 13 strokes. Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel both have two hits in 17 strokes.
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Tyler Naquin and Kyle Farmer are the only Reds players with more than five hits.
“It’s not even early yet,” Bell said. “A start is like the first month or two. We’re fine with it. We’ve gone up against really good pitching. We liked how we came back. It’s really not fair to think about it yet.”
REHAB EXCURSIONS: Left-handed starter Mike Minor did not strike in any of the spring training matches and he had a tough ride to begin his rehearsal assignment in Double-A Chattanooga.
Minor allowed six runs on five hits (two homers) and one step in 1 2/3 innings while hitting one. He threw 45 throws, 23 strokes.
The Reds hope the Minor will be ready to return to the Majors by the end of April. He was delayed in spring training due to a sore shoulder, so he is building up his lap again.
Reds reliever Lucas Sims, who could return as early as April 22 when the Reds return to Cincinnati for their next home run, allowed a homer on his first outing on a rehab mission in Triple-A Louisville. Sims threw 12 pitches and knocked out a batter.
YOUTUBE GAMES: The Reds already had matches scheduled to air on Bally Sports Ohio, ESPN, AppleTV +, Peacock and FOX this year, and now YouTube is back in the mix.
YouTube will exclusively broadcast the Reds’ home game against Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 11 at 12:35. Scott Braun is scheduled to be the play-by-play announcer and former Reds player Yonder Alonso will be the color commentator. MLB Networks Siera Santos will host a 30-minute pregame show.
RED SCOUT BASS: Reds scouting supervisor Jeff Brookens died Wednesday in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 69.
Brookens was honored last offseason as MLB’s East Coast Scout of the Year. He spent nearly 18 years in the Reds’ organization, signing several Major Leaguers, including Devin Mesoraco and Chris Heisey, along with top Reds prospects Austin Hendrick and Andrew Abbott.
Known as “Brookie”, he was named Barton Scout of the Year in the Reds in 2020, and he was named the Mid-Atlantic Scout Association’s Scout of the Year in 2011. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame and Mid -Atlantic Scouts Association Hall of Fame.
Brookens has also been a football and basketball referee for more than three decades.