McCoy: Reliever Sims the last Reds pitcher to go on Injured List

Credit: Jeffrey Phelps

Credit: Jeffrey Phelps

Another day, another Cincinnati Reds pitcher on the Injured List.

Lucas Sims, one of the team’s high-leverage relief pitchers, was placed on the IL on Thursday with a sprained right elbow as the Reds prepared to open a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves in Great American Ball Park.

And to add further concern, starting pitcher Sonny Gray woke up Thursday morning with some back discomfort and was scratched from his scheduled rehab start Thursday for Class AAA Louisville.

Gray’s appearance has been pushed back two days and, back permitting, he will pitch for Louisville on Saturday.

The loss of Sims comes just as the Reds welcomed back Tejay Antone, their other high-leverage relief pitcher, from the IL.

“There was a night in San Diego (last week) when we thought he slept on his elbow wrong,” manager David Bell said of Sims. “There was a day or two where we limited his work, and made him unavailable for one extra day just to make sure he was OK.

“Then he bounced back and was good the first time he pitched in Minnesota (Monday),” Bell added. “Then on Tuesday, he felt it that day.”

Sims was part of Tuesday’s eighth-inning bullpen meltdown when the Twins came from 7-2 behind with five runs to tie the game, 7-7. Tyler Naquin won it with a three-run home run in the ninth.

Sims faced three batters and gave up a home run, a single and a double.

Sims was examined in Cincinnati on Wednesday’s off-day and Bell feared it might be worse, a ligament tear that would require Tommy John surgery.

“When I got the report, I was very relieved and I called Lucas and I think he was, too,” said Bell. “We’ll miss him, but in the big picture it could have been a lot worse. We know what we’re dealing with and it is just going to take some time to rest it.”

There is no time frame, but Bell indicated Sims probably won’t return for three to four weeks, leaving a large hole in an already thin bullpen.

“I feel for Lucas because he is doing so well and he has a great career ahead of him,” said Bell. “He has shown us what he can do over the last year or year-and-a-half. He has a long career to go and he loves to win, loves to compete, loves being a part of this team.”

Although no Reds pitcher has been anointed as the closer, Sims has finished nine games and leads to the team with seven saves.

The 27-year-old right-hander is 4-1 with a 5.02 earned run average after appearing in 28 games and pitching 28 2/3 innings. Walks have been an issue, 15 of them, while he has struck out 44.

“It will be a tough few weeks for him, I’m sure, but we’ll have so much ahead of us this year that we’re looking at the bright side,” said Bell. “Let’s get it taken care of now and get him back for the most important part of the year.”

While the Reds have been hit hard by injuries, it is what is happening all over the major league landscape. Injuries, injuries and more injuries.

“Our players, and so many teams, are dealing with injuries,” said Bell. “It does make you really double down on how important everything is in getting guys healthy. I have a feeling we’ll look back at this year and that will be a really important part of who succeeds at the end of the year.

“There is no master plan, nobody has mastered how to do that (prevent injuries),” Bell added. “It certainly makes us look close at everything we do. And we have. And we’ll continue to do that.”

The absence of Sims, Michael Lorenzen and Jeff Hoffman, who is scheduled to move into the bullpen when he comes off the IL, has put more reliance on Heath Hembree and Brad Brach.

“They have already stepped in from kind of out of nowhere on our team in some ways and stepped up and served really important roles. That’s what a team is all about. The guys understand that, and they will respond to it.”

Bell said that the health and well-being of his pitchers is the No. 1 priority. Winning is important, but ruining careers is something he wants to avoid. He endeavors to prevent overuse of his bullpen arms.

“I want to win, we all want to win, but I know in my heart I never put that ahead of our guys’ health because I care about them it is important to our team. Looking at the big picture is important.

“I always take a look at that, I will continue to do so,” he said. “I don’t have anything to point at that I feel I have to change or wish we could have done over. You always learning, but nothing really stands out to make me feel differently. I’d be the first to point the finger at myself, I really would. But that doesn’t mean there is something to be learned from every situation. I’ll do that. It’s an important part of what I do.”

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