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Saturday, May 28, 2011
Add an ace to the Reds' recipe

By Christina Kahrl

Like more than a few teams, the Reds are nearing the season’s one-third mark mucking around .500, They’re closer to fifth place than first in the NL Central, but in today’s parity party, half the league is within single three-game series of the Reds.

Francisco
The Twins' Francisco Liriano made one costly mistake during his 15-strikeout effort on Friday.
But the Reds can’t afford to be sanguine about their lot, not when the roster has been an unsettled mess. What started off on paper as a nicely crowded selection of starting pitching options has been undermined by equal doses of injury and ineffectiveness. Homer Bailey is back on the DL with a shoulder injury, this just a few short days after Edinson Volquez was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. There’s also the problem with what their rotation will actually amount to, even in better-case scenarios. Volquez, Bailey, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo and Travis Wood can all be useful starting pitchers in the major leagues, but if everything goes right, aren’t they all just potentially threes and fours in a big-league rotation?

Then there’s Aroldis Chapman, on so many short lists for best candidates for the National League Rookie of the Year in March. He’s also in Louisville at the moment, and is also on the DL for shoulder trouble. Pitching coach Bryan Price is being credited with fixing a flaw in Chapman’s delivery, but a third of the way through the season the most notable thing about Chapman’s season is that he put more than a third of all batters faced on base via walks or hit batsmen.

The lineup has its own issues. Scott Rolen is off to a slow start, and neither of the shortstops is hitting. Starting left fielder Jonny Gomes has been riding pine for the past week and a half, purportedly getting the benefit of plenty of hands-on instruction from his manager. Maybe that’s so, maybe it’s window dressing, but the simple fact is their starting left fielder has been benched for some combination of Fred Lewis and Chris Heisey.

So Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker haven’t been sitting on their hands, but the Reds should be thinking in terms of what other moves they can make to exploit their depth on the big-league roster as well as within a farm system that provides them with good alternatives. The danger of doing nothing is that they might wind up watching as the Cardinals get out too far ahead, and waiting until July to seriously reconsider their roster could only add to the challenge. Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.