By Hal McCoy
Trevor Bauer is gone. So forget him.
Anthony DeSclafani is gone. So forget him.
Sonny Gray isn’t gone. . .yet. If rumors of a trade come to fruition, forget him, too.
So where does that leave the Cincinnati Reds pitching rotation for 2021?
That leaves three gargantuan holes to be filled? Where to start and who to start? Who joins Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle?
Michael Lorenzen has lobbied to be a starter for the last three years. He has mainly been in the bullpen, with some mixed-in outfield duty. And he started a couple of games last season.
“No decision has been made,” said manager David Bell. “I have a ton of confidence in Michael Lorenzen to be a starter and reliever. I have a lot of confidence in him as an outfielder and a position player. So we’ll have to see how that plays out.”
Well, that doesn’t much answer that question, does it?
“Lorenzen obviously showed last year what he can do (as a starter),” Bell added. “If it turns out that it is in the best interest of our team to be a starter, we know he can step in there and be a big part of our rotation.”
So, if he does start on the mound, what about his time as a fill-in outfielder?
“I don’t think it would eliminate him as a pinch-hitter or position player,” Bell added. “In some ways, it makes it easier if he is a starter, makes it a little more predictable. We could come up with a plan that on certain days between his starts he could be fully available.”
One of the candidates Bell mentioned was 27-year-old righthander Jeff Hoffman, acquired recently in a trade that sent Robert Stephenson to the Colorado Rockies.
“Hoffman could serve as a starter or could end up in the bullpen,” said Bell.
Hoffman did both in his five years with the Rockies after he was a first-round draftee by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014. The Shaker Heights, Oh. native appeared in 68 games while with the Rockies and was 10-16 over 38 starts and 30 relief appearances.
He was all bullpen last season, 16 times for a 2-1 record and a 6.40 earned run average.
“As far as our rotation, obviously Trevor Bauer being a free agent has to play out,” said Bell. “We still see the rotation as the strength of our team. Other than Trevor, we’re still in a good place with our rotation.”
That, of course, is if Gray isn’t shipped away.
The bullpen, too, needs more than a twist and a tweak after the club declined to offer Archie Bradley a contract, after they traded closer Raisel Iglesias and if the move Lorenzen into the rotation.
“We had some guys step up last year,” said Bell. “T.J. Antone came out of nowhere and was a big part of our success. Lucas Sims had a big year. And a guy like Sal Romano, who has worked so hard to get an opportunity. Maybe he gets that chance this year. And we have Amir Garrett.
“We have guys like that who can step up,” he added. “We really believe in the formula we have in place to have a successful bullpen. Even though the personnel may be a little bit different, we are very confident moving forward.”
Amir Garrett makes it clear he plans to move forward as the closer replacement for the departed Iglesias and minces no words about it.
Garrett, a lefthander, possesses a slider that seems invisible to lefthanded hitters and barely visible to righthanders.
His intentions were on his left sleeve after he recorded his one career save against Pittsburgh late last season. After recording the final out, he did a victory jig and captured the baseball to place in a prominent spot on his mantel.
“It’s time for me to go to the next level,” he said. “I want to be a lockdown closer. I want to come in in the ninth inning and shut the game down.
“It fits my mentality. You guys know how I pitch,” he said to the writers. “I’m a dog out there. I’m fiery. I do what I do and have fun playing the game and that’s what my calling was.”
Anybody wh0 doubts the dog in Garrett, well, the pit bull in him, need only ask the Pittsburgh Pirates of two seasons ago. Garrett barged from the pitching mound and sprinted to the Pittsburgh dugout and challenged the entire team to a one-on-25 skirmish.
“The job is mine. I’m taking it. My time is now. I’m going to prove it,” he said.
And who in their right mind is going to challenge the 6-foot-5, 240-pound former St. John’s basketball player.