Derek Johnson: Cincinnati Reds have flexibility with rotation

Bauer willing to pitch every four days

Trevor Bauer arrived at Summer Camp wearing a T-shirt mocking the Houston Astros. The shirt featured a photo of the 2017 World Series trophy sitting on a trash can and referred to the team as the Houston Cheaters.

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“Baseball is back everyone!!” Bauer wrote under the photo on Twitter. “Intake testing done, lots of really high tech stuff goin on here but anything to help us win is in, right?!”

The Reds acquired Bauer at the trading deadline last season, and this will be his first full season, if you can call the 60-game season that, in Cincinnati. With Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Anthony DeSclafani and newcomer Wade Miley, who signed as a free agent with the Reds in December, the Reds have the starting staff they believe can get them to the postseason for the first time since 2013.

Pitching coach Derek Johnson began the process of getting that staff ready for the 2020 season opener, which is expected to be July 24 for the Reds, according to reports. The three-week summer training period began for 35 players at Great American Ball Park and for 22 at Prasco Park in Mason.

Johnson talked to reporters via a Zoom call on Saturday morning about what he saw Friday in Cincinnati.

“The throwing was probably a sidebar really,” Johnson said. “It’s just getting with guys again and being out on the field. You don’t know that you miss it until you get back on it and you find out you really missed it. For me anyway, it was just great to see guys and see the smile on their faces and see them doing what they love to do.”

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Johnson was the pitching coach at Vanderbilt University from 2002-12 and said this shortened season will remind him of his college days. Everything is going to happen a lot faster, and the Reds coaches will have to make adjustments quicker during games and between games.

The Reds will have to get creative to optimize their chances of winning, Johnson said, and that includes being flexible with the starting rotation.

“We have some guys who can (pitch) on shorter rest and want to,” Johnson said, “and I think if you look at it like that, you can come up with maybe three, four or five different ways that you can slice this thing, You have a couple of guys who who won’t be in the starting rotation who could piggyback and serve as a long-ending type of guy. In our game right now, the way it stands, the long man was sort of a dinosaur. They didn’t really exist.”

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That will change this year. If the starter doesn’t have it, the Reds could pull him early. They won’t save their bullpen for the next day by keeping him in the game. They can’t afford to with every game counting for so much more. A long reliever could make a big difference.

Bauer could give the Reds additional flexibility with his desire to pitch more often — every four days instead of the normal every five days. Johnson said that is “100 percent on the table” and Bauer could thrive in that role.

“I trust Trevor,” Johnson said. “I trust what kind of work he puts in. He invests in himself. If he feels like he can do it, I think he can. From from what I see and the things that he and I have talked about, I think it’s a really cool weapon that that we have that maybe a lot of teams don’t have. If we can can use that in our advantage, I think we will.”

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