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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking pitching, rough starts, and season hopes with Red Reporter

They said we can have Suarez back!

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Usually if the Tigers seen any team this often this early in the season, it would be divisional rivals like the Indians or Royals. Instead, the Tigers are seeing the Cincinnati Reds for the second time in as many weeks, after a fairly successful (and maybe slightly lucky?) first series.

The first time out the Tigers were on the ropes against Reds starting pitchers, who packed a wallop with strikeouts, but were able to surge to victory against the bullpen. This time around Detroit will hope for similar success.

We talked to Wick Terrell, managing editor of our Reds sister site Red Reporter, about what lessons the team hopefully gleaned from their last outing and a generally rough start to the season, and the age old question: can we have Eugenio Suarez back?

BYB: So, I think a lot of people thought the Reds might have a great opportunity to break out this season, but so far things aren’t going so great. What do you think has had the biggest impact in the first week and a bit of the season?

WT: They’ve outscored their opponents 37-33 in their 6 games, and in the 4 games started by Sonny Gray (2), Luis Castillo (1), and Trevor Bauer (1), they’ve combined for 25 IP, 44/5 K/BB, 12 H, and only 3 total ER. The play hasn’t added up to many wins yet, however, in part due to the hits coming in rare bunches and several bullpen implosions. On top of that, the positive COVID test from Matt Davidson and subsequent scares with Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel caused both a stir and serious lineup voids, all that on top of Tucker Barnhart missing the first 5 games of the season while on the paternity list.

When fully together, this club is going to be more than fine. The big question, of course, is whether they can navigate it with all parts healthy and safe, which is the same, larger question facing all MLB at the moment.

The starting pitchers have had incredible strikeout numbers so far, where is pitching failing the team, do you think?

Wade Miley was the lone starter who hasn’t pitched quite well, and we learned yesterday that’s most likely due to a groin issue that’s going to land him on the IL today (Friday). Aside from that, the starters have been electric, and that even includes spot-starter Tyler Mahle, whose numbers don’t truly reflect how well he pitched in his start thanks to shoddy defense behind him.

The pitching problem has been in the bullpen, and in a big, big way. Michael Lorenzen has already yielded a pair of back-breaking homers, while Raisel Iglesias already has one on his ledger. Add-in that Robert Stephenson and his knee-buckling breaking ball have hit the IL already, and that’s the one major area of concern at the moment.

Can we have Suarez back?

The one that started the season 1 for 17? Yeah, you can have that Suarez back.

(Geno’s going to be juuuuust fine.)

This is already the second time the Reds have seen the Tigers this season, what do you think they need to do differently in this series?

We joke at RR about the Reds making a habit out of outscoring opponents in 3 game series and walking away with 2 losses, but it’s something that happened over and over and over again for much of last year. That’s exactly what happened in the opening series against the Tigers, as the Reds squandered a pair of brilliant starts while bats went quiet and the bullpen went poof. Frankly, I’m not concerned about the bats this time around now that the everyday regulars are back, but fixing the bullpen is going to have to simply happen on the fly.

Maybe if they’d just schedule a bunch of 7 inning doubleheaders, the Reds starters could just finish them themselves...

Which Tiger do you think is going to pose the most problems for the Reds this series?

I noticed Miggy socked a pair of dingers last night, adding to the one he parked off Lorenzen in the opening series against the Reds. Factor in that Luis Castillo managed to fan him 4 times in their previous matchup, and that has me thinking the future Hall of Famer is both heating up and looking for some revenge.

As if he wasn’t always the most dangerous bat in that lineup, I think he’s primed for a good series.

Which players in the taxi squad do you think we might see soon, and which are you most excited to see?

Tyler Stephenson is a Top 100 prospect and former 1st round pick of the Reds, and homered in his brief call-up earlier this year. He’s the catcher of the future, but is currently a bit blocked by Barnhart and Curt Casali, who are both plenty cromulent and playing well. Like most catchers drafted right out of high school, he’s taken a long time to develop, but has massive power at 6’4” while still able to handle the defensive requirements at the position, and his plate approach has been lauded, too.

He’s absolutely the one I’m most excited to see, and since he’s the only player the Reds have confirmed will be on the taxi squad at all, I guess that answers both of your questions!

Do you think this is just an unusual start to the season and the team will surprise us still?

The fan in me does, obviously, after six completely miserable rebuilding seasons. If I put on my unbiased goggles, though, I still see a team plenty talented enough to make the expanded playoffs with ease. The starting pitching and the lineup’s offensive potential are both potentially elite, and hopefully good enough to hide a bullpen that has its fair share of problems. Ideally, they’re in a good enough spot here in another few weeks to be able to address the ‘pen with a deal at the deadline, even.

What’s become clear early in this process, though, is that the team seems to generally have meshed quite well already, something I wasn’t sure would be able to happen given so many new faces.

Thanks so much to Wick for taking the time to chat with us and providing some insight into the Tigers most recent consistent rival (and home to many a former Tiger, it seems). If you want to read more of his work, you can find it at Red Reporter, or follow him on Twitter @wickterrell.