Reds starter Luis Castillo pitches against the Nationals on Saturday, March 31, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Cincinnati Reds: Rotation holdovers anchor staff

It gives Castillo and DeSclafani the freedom to get ready for the season without looking over their shoulders. Their past success has earned them that right.

DeSclafani has an injury riddled recent history but has been a solid starter when healthy.

In his first full season in 2015 after the Reds traded Mat Latos to acquire him, DeSclafani made all 31 of his starts. He was 9-13 with a 4.05 ERA.

It was a season to build on but a strained oblique late in spring training in 2016 caused him to be scratched from the Opening Day start. He returned in June and went 6-0 in his first 11 starts. DeSclafani finished 9-5 with a 3.20 in 20 starts.

It built optimism for 2017 but that was dashed by a strained ligament in his right elbow. He didn’t have surgery but missed the entire season. Last year another oblique injury in spring training cost him two months. DeSclafani returned in early June and led the team with seven wins, 115 innings, 108 strikeouts and 21 starts.

DeSclafani made his first spring start Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox. He allowed a hit and a walk in one inning.

“We were commenting on how well he threw,” Reds manager David Bell said after the game. “He feels great about himself. He’s in a good place right now. He’s shown good fastball command, a good slider and a healthy arm.”

DeSclafani was encouraged about his first outing.

“My body felt good,” DeSclafani said. “My arm felt good. I thought the ball was coming out of my hand pretty well. I was throwing strikes. I could have used a better “out” pitch. I’m out here working on stuff. I thought it was a pretty good curve ball.”

Castillo also got his first taste of action off the mound against the Sox, allowing a run on two hits in an inning.

“I felt comfortable in my first outing. My pitches were there,” Castillo said through interpreter Julio Morillo. “It surprised me how good my change-up was. It is my best pitch. I usually throw a slider. I threw a curve ball a long time ago. They came to me and said why not throw it again. Now I have two breaking balls.”

“It was good to see Castillo out there,” Bell said.

Castillo came to the Reds in a January 2017 trade with the Miami Marlins for Dan Straily.

Castillo, 26, made 31 starts last season, leading the Reds with a 10-12 record and a 4.30 ERA. Both wins and losses were team highs and he led the team with 11 quality starts to earn a solid place in the 2019 rotation.

Castillo was better after the All-Star break with a 2.44 ERA in 11 starts. That was the fifth best National League ERA in that span. The strong finish gives the Reds’ new coaching staff optimism.

The Reds allowed Castillo to settle in with new pitching coach Derek Johnson before putting in a Cactus League game. The starting rotation went to the second turn but nothing physical delayed his appearance. He was working on that curve ball on the side.

“That is just the way the schedule worked out,” Bell said. “He is a huge part of our rotation as much success as he’s had at a young age. There is more in there. There are no reasons to make great changes with him.”

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