Sports Today: Will the Reds ever be healthy again?

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 02: Brandon Finnegan #29 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on after giving up three runs in the second inning of the game against the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ball Park on May 2, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 02: Brandon Finnegan #29 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on after giving up three runs in the second inning of the game against the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ball Park on May 2, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Maybe it's appropriate the same day Bronson Arroyo essentially announced his retirement, Brandon Finnegan pulled up lame again.

As the team’s formerly indestructible starter, a pillar of the teams that put more than a decade-plus of losing behind them, admitted he can’t pitch in the majors anymore, another of the players expected to replace him wasn’t able to make it through the fourth inning.

RELATED: Arroyo confirms his career is probably over

The Reds’ pitching problems are really getting into the realm of unbelievable.

As has been a hot topic over the last few days, the young starters they no doubt hoped would key the next winning era in Cincinnati have not just struggled — they have universally failed.

None of the rookies the Reds have turned to over the past two years have provided any reason to believe they are going to be able to be relied upon in the future.

RELATED: Reds reinstate Finnegan, but he leaves early with injury

The few who have had glimpses of success have not been able to stay healthy. That’s what killed the bullpen last year, and it has sunk the rotation this year.

Perhaps it is all coincidence, but at some point it’s fair to wonder if there are systemic issues with the way the Reds manage injuries.

Two days after Homer Bailey’s disastrous return, a sense of deja vu was inevitable when Brandon Finnegan lasted only three innings in his return.

HAL MCCOY: Reds pitching news always bad

Bailey’s stinker Saturday isn’t related to health (as far as we know), but it did mark a return from two-plus years of arm troubles. He had to overcome three different injuries.

Anthony DeSclafani, whose season was abbreviated last year because of injuries, hasn’t pitched yet this season because of more health problems.

Now Finnegan is bothered by something almost immediately upon returning.

Recall Johnny Cueto had a year of recurring injury issues before his 20-win season, too.

I know the human body can be unpredictable, but how does that happen again and again?

After the game yesterday in St. Louis, manager Bryan Price hinted sometimes players aren't as forthcoming as they need to be when they are in pain. I'm sure that's valid.

He also didn’t sound optimistic Finnegan will to be able to make his next start, though Finnegan downplayed the issue.

Per MLB.com:

"Going out for the fourth inning, warming up, I knew something wasn't right. And in my head -- of course, it crosses your mind -- it's not how you want to come back, especially just after missing two months."

Of course, Finnegan’s comments could be construed as confirming Price’s, but that’s not a sufficient answer to an ongoing problem.

Players trying to play through injuries is nothing new. It’s up to a club to get to the bottom of things — not to mention diagnose them correctly and apply the proper treatment when they do. Accomplishing that the first time would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Maybe next time. There’s no doubt there will be a next time…

Then again, nobody has the answers when it comes to keeping pitchers healthy. 

Price spoke in the offseason about not wanting to coddle young arms, and now we can add John Smoltz to the list of people who have noticed limiting innings hasn't worked.

"I think pitchers are less prepared and more nurtured than ever before because in theory, that's what they say is supposed to stop the injuries," said Smoltz, a Fox sports analyst. "And all it has done is increase them. 

"That kid-glove treatment is universal, so it's not just the Dodgers. It's a philosophical approach to pitching. I call it a flaw, but I'm not running a team, so it doesn't matter what I think." 

To me the issue has come into focus over the years: It’s about effort more than volume of work.

Going out there and throwing every pitch with max effort — especially for starters — is obviously going to create a lot more strain on an arm than throwing itself.

That doesn’t mean pitch counts should be ignored, but they clearly aren’t the holy grail of injury prevention.

As the obsession with velocity has mushroomed, the common refrain is that kids throw as hard as they can to impress scouts then worry about the rest later.

Contrast that to watching pitchers from previous generations — and many older ones still getting by in the majors now, often long after their stuff has diminished — and you’ll see much easier-going throwing motions. Not an attempt to throw the ball through the backstop 100 times a game.

An SI story earlier this year even revealed there’s a lack of evidence throwing too many curveballs at an early age leads to more injuries.

Hmmm….

Speaking of Arroyo, he remained the king of metaphors when talking to MLB.com after the game about his career pretty much being over, bringing up a certain former NFL quarterback and every kid's favorite time of year.

"I don't want to be Brett Favre and continue to come back three or four times," Arroyo said. "I was going to give one good shot at it. It's taken me three years to get back to this point, so I've already kind of dealt with all those emotions. So for me everything is just joyous." 

He went on to compare his current feelings to those of a kid finishing out the school year.

"I'm winding down the last three months of going to school, and I'm about to get out for the summer."

Best of luck, Bronson.

🔗 https://t.co/oNoZZaSPQz pic.twitter.com/SusaN234Px— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) June 27, 2017

Meanwhile, some future Reds and former Dayton Dragons should get a chance to be part of something else big going on in baseball this year.

Tim Tebow's promotion by the Mets from low Single-A South Atlantic League to the advanced Single-A Florida State League means he should face Reds minor leaguers in the near future.

The Heisman Trophy winner’s St. Lucie Mets are scheduled to play Reds affiliate Daytona in a three-game series July 12-14.

Will any of them ask for his autograph?…

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