PEORIA, Ariz. — Forget about batting average and ERAs. The only thing that really mattered for the Reds this spring was the health of the three starting pitchers who spent the majority of last season on the disabled list.
The Reds made it a day short of a month in good stead. Then the quiet spring ended with two injury thuds on Sunday.
About a half hour after it was announced that right-hander Anthony DeSclafani had a left oblique strain, left-hander Brandon Finnegan left his start with a left lateral forearm spasm.
So of the aforementioned three, only Homer Bailey is still pitching.
It’s hard to overstate how devastating this could be for the Reds. The club finished last in the National League in starting pitching with a 5.55 ERA. The starters averaged just over five innings a start, also worst in the NL. That put added pressure on the bullpen, which finished second worst in the NL with a 4.65 ERA.
That ruined the season before it ever got going.
For the Reds to significantly improve on that, they need Bailey, DeSclafani and Finnegan to be healthy. That looked to be the case before Sunday’s double whammy.
And now this.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of good timing when it comes to arm innings with the Reds,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I don’t know if there’s a such a thing.”
The Reds gave no timetable on DeSclafani’s return, but generally, oblique injuries lead to a significant stay on the disabled list. Finnegan’s injury, at this point, seems to be less serious.
“I just know what I knew at the time,” Price said after the game. “He had a cramp in his triceps. It was affecting the way he was gripping the ball. He would have stayed out there and continued to pitch. But it didn’t make any sense, so we got him out of there.
“We think it’s a muscular issue, but we’ll know more (Monday) morning.”
The Reds seemed somewhat settled on Bailey, DeSclafani, Luis Castillo, Finnegan and Sal Romano as the starting five before the injuries.
Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen and Amir Garrett were in the rotation race as well.
Of that foursome, Mahle and Garrett have pitched the best. Mahle has a 3.72 ERA over four outings and 9 2/3 innings. Garrett has a 2.57 ERA over three outings and seven innings. He’s struck out 11 and walked two.
But Stephenson is coming off his best outing (three innings, one hit), and Lorenzen was very good Sunday. He went three innings and allowed one run on three hits. He walked none and struck out three.
The Reds are in a better position to handle injuries this year because of the experience the young pitchers got last year.
“We keep giving these guys opportunities to pitch and compete for spots,” Price said. “We’re hoping it’s not a longterm thing with Finnegan, and we’ll know in a week or so with Disco.
“But without question, we’re going to need some resources here.”
A text to Reds general manager Dick Williams asking the club would look outside the organization for starting hope was not returned late Sunday afternoon.
That’s because the news of DeSclafani’s injury was a devastating blow.
“It wasn’t something that anybody knew about until after his last start,” Price said. “He had it checked out (Saturday) through the MRI. Results showed a strain. Beyond that, I don’t know much more as far as time away from baseball.”
DeSclafani was on the disabled list from April 3 to June 9 of the 2016 season with a similar injury.
“Two years ago, it was in front,” Price said. “This time, it’s in the back.”
DeSclafani, 27, missed all of last year with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. He’s pitched well, for the most part, this spring. He went three scoreless innings in the outing he injured the oblique in.
“He had a sensation,” Price said. “He got through his outing. In the aftermath, he told the training staff and had it checked out.”
Price was visibly down when announcing the news.
“Obviously, I have a total sense of frustration for Anthony and our club,” Price said. “I really feel bad for the kid. He’s worked his tail off to be ready to go. As you guys have witnessed, this kid has done everything we asked of him and more. There’s no lack of preparation. He couldn’t have done more.”
DeSclafani was one of the three starters assured a spot if healthy. Oblique injuries are generally at least six-week rehabs.
“It ’s one of those injuries that very easily can be exacerbated by not giving it enough time, “Price said.
Finnegan, the 24-year-old left-hander, missed all but four starts last year with injuries to both shoulders. Sunday’s start was his second in an “A” game this spring. He was about a week behind in his preparation because of that, but he had no issues before Sunday.