Just when it looked like it couldn’t get any worse for the Cincinnati Reds tapped-out starting rotation, two more starters went on the injured list Saturday — leaving the Reds with no healthy starting pitchers who were in the big leagues as recently as June 4.
MLB’s first team COVID-19 outbreak of the season claimed Sunday’s scheduled starter when left-hander Brandon Williamson tested positive and became the fourth Reds pitcher to land on the 7-day COVID IL in two days — joining reliever Fernando Cruz and starters Hunter Greene and Ben Lively.
Reds player moves An in-depth look at the craziest day of this Cincinnati Reds’ season
Also Saturday right-hander Graham Ashcraft — the Reds’ best pitcher the last two months — went on the 15-day IL because of the right big toe injury that has hampered him for the past week.
“There’s some optimism about him pitching again for us this season,” manager David Bell said, which is great. “There’s not much time left.”
Just as likely is that it’s a season-ending injury for Ashcraft, who was diagnosed with a stress reaction in the healed area of an old fracture. That would be the biggest blow yet to a starting corps that has struggled among the bottom three rotations in the majors most of the season, given Ashcraft’s 2.58 ERA and 76 2/3 innings over his last 12 starts.
Twenty-five games remained as Bell spoke, the Reds just one game out of the final National League wild-card position and scrambling to determine who would start any of their next four games against the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners — with three of the likeliest candidates yet to make their big-league debuts.
Shocking? Demoralizing? Utter disbelief?
“More so just kind of a we-can’t-catch-a-break type of feeling,” said reliever Buck Farmer, one of the few seasoned veterans left in the clubhouse. “But we’ve got guys here that are healthy and that are going to have to carry the load moving forward until we get those guys back.”
In addition to Ashcraft potentially being out for the season, rehabbing starter Nick Lodolo was officially ruled out for the year Tuesday after being evaluated again this week, and Saturday’s starter Andrew Abbott is facing workload issues that Bell said he expects to address by pushing back starts — as soon as the next turn through the rotation.
Rookies Brett Kennedy, Carson Spiers and top-prospect Connor Phillips could all get starts in the next few days — which would be big-league debuts for Spiers and Phillips.
Spiers was called up from Double-A Chattanooga Friday as a non-40-man roster substitute allowed because of the COVID outbreak. Phillips was called up Saturday from Triple-A Louisville.
The Reds on Saturday also added journeyman lefty reliever Chasen Shreve, who was signed as a minor-league free agent two weeks ago.
“Everybody’s still in good spirits,” Farmer said. “It’s just stuff you deal with as a team.
“It’s going to have to be a day at a time, because every day’s probably going to be different from here on out,” he said. “So it’s just scratching together wins where we can and winning as many games as possible.”
How depleted is the rotation? Consider that Abbott debuted on June 5.
As of June 4, this was the Reds’ rotation (and where they are now):
“I always think with what’s going on around, it could be worse,” Bell said of surges in new COVID cases being reported in several regions of the country — including San Francisco, where the Reds just played in the past week. “We were very closely connected as a team over the course of the last week. We’ve been together a lot in close quarters.”
That included more than eight hours stuck on their charter on a tarmac Sunday night in Phoenix because of mechanical issues before they flew to San Francisco.
“So it could be a lot worse,” Bell said. “A lot worse.”
Bell said it’s impossible to know whether the Reds are out of the woods yet with the outbreak or even exactly how quickly some of the pitchers with COVID might take to return.
“These guys that are out, they’re out,” he said. “They’re feeling bad.”
Greene was still in San Francisco, Bell said, staying active while isolated from the team and “progressing.”
It’s also unclear how many players or staff might be impacted.
“I don’t know,” said Bell, who said at least two members of the support staff, but no on-field coaches, are among those who have tested positive. “These guys (on the IL) are the ones that are really feeling bad, and they were tested, and we were able to replace them and get players that are ready to play.”
Even if some of them never have played in the majors before — never mind a big-league pennant race in September.
“At the end of the day the Cubs don’t feel sorry for us,” Steer said. “No one else is going to feel sorry for us. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to keep going.
“We’re still in the middle of this playoff race, and that needs to be our main focus,” he said. “We can’t worry about who we’re losing or who’s even pitching tomorrow. We’ve got to go out there and try to win tonight.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: COVID-19 outbreak, injury claim two more Cincinnati Reds starters
Source: Yahoo Sports