Short outings by starters hurting Cincinnati Reds bullpen

Equipment managers scrape mud off the cleats of Cincinnati Reds players after every game. The sound echoes around the clubhouse at Great American Ball Park after losses, and to this point, it’s the soundtrack of the season.

The cleaning happens right in front of the row of lockers belonging to the relief pitchers, most of whom have stats that can’t be washed away by the strongest bleach.

Thirteen pitchers made relief appearances in the first 32 games. Tony Cingrani (3.14 ERA) and Blake Wood (3.60) have each pitched 16 times and have respectable numbers.

The rest of the group is the reason the bullpen is on track to be one of the worst in history. The bullpen has a 6.59 ERA that’s far and away the worst in baseball. The second-worst ERA belongs to the San Diego Padres (4.88).

The starting pitchers’ inability to last deep into the game — they average just over five innings per start — has hurt the bullpen. The Reds addressed that problem by adding an eighth reliever Monday, promoting right-hander Layne Somsen from Triple-A Louisville before the start of a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park.

Reds starters haven’t lasted more than 7 2/3 innings, and the Reds have used at least two relievers in every game.

“We’ve had some short outings from the starters at times,” manager Bryan Price said, “and we’ve been trying to keep these games close with the bullpen. Guys have been used a lot. It’s just that time of year to have an eight-man bullpen. It just makes more sense right now with as much as I’ve asked these guys to do over the course of the last week or 10 games.”

When the Yankton, S.D., native Somsen pitches, it will be his big-league debut. The Reds promoted him when Jay Bruce was on paternity leave April 25-27, but he didn’t pitch in three games against the Mets in New York City.

There’s little doubt Somsen will get his chance soon. He had a 1.29 ERA in eight appearances and 14 innings with the Bats.

“I’m a little bit more comfortable,” said Somsen of his second stint with the Reds. “Being in the major leagues and having that experience is going to help me today as long as I stay up here.”