Lodolo ready to fulfill lifelong dream by making Reds debut

First-round pick in 2019 will pitch second home game of season Wednesday

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds clubhouse has the same feel these days as it did in 2019, the last time it was open to members of the media before the pandemic. For the most part, it’s the same place — the victory gong, now with Jonathan India’s pitcher in the middle, being a big exception — except for the names on the lockers.

Joey Votto still has two lockers to himself in one corner. Luis Castillo has the same locker he’s had since his debut in 2017. Then there’s Tucker Barnhart’s locker, now occupied by Tyler Stephenson. Mike Moustakas uses Jay Bruce’s old locker, which was steps away from Votto’s for many years. Hunter Greene calls Bronson Arroyo’s old locker home.

One of the many players seeing his locker at Great American Ball Park for the first time this week is left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo, who will make his big-league debut when the Reds play the Cleveland Guardians at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday. Lodolo was so excited to see the locker he took a photo of it and texted it to his dad, Tom.

“He was pretty excited about it, too,” said Lodolo on Tuesday before the Reds played the Guardians in their home opener. “I grew up around Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium,. and going through those clubhouses every once in a while when we’d have a game there, you’re like, ‘Wow,’ and now seeing your own, it’s pretty cool.”

Lodolo will pitch for the Reds for the first time almost three years after they selected him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 draft.

“It’s something that has been a lifelong dream of mine,” Lodolo said. “I’m just excited to get out there and just go pitch and have fun.”

Lodolo made six starts with the Billings Mustangs at the Rookie level in 2019 and then two starts with the Single-A Dayton Dragons that season. After pitching at the alternate training site in 2020, when the minor league season was cancelled, he started the 2021 season with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts before earning a promotion to the Triple-A Louisville Bats in August.

Lodolo made the 2022 roster by posting a 2.38 ERA in four appearances in spring training.

“I think I was really confident,” Lodolo said, “and everything on the mound came together.”

Bell said it was the best look he’s had of Lodolo, and he looked like a big-league pitcher in spring training.

“We know how talented he is,” Bell said. “We know he’s young. We know he’s going to have ups and downs just like all of us do, but we really believe he’s prepared for it and the way he was attacking the strike zone, throwing strikes, using all of his pitches, he doesn’t have to do anything different. That that’s going to be good enough.”

Lodolo expects to have 15-20 family members and friends in the stands Wednesday. He’ll be the second rookie to make his first start this season. Hunter Greene, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, pitched Sunday and allowed three earned runs on four hits in five innings in a 6-3 victory against the Atlanta Braves as the Reds earned a split of the four-game series.

Lodolo talked to Greene about his debut, but Lodolo didn’t get the full big-league experience during the series in Atlanta because he wasn’t on the active roster. He will get to experience the pregame introductions Tuesday.

“He’ll be introduced out on the field, which is really important,” manager David Bell said. “So he won’t be taking the field for the first time (Wednesday) in every way. I think he’s excited. He’s prepared. It’s a big deal, but at the same time, similar to Hunter, they’re here but really focused on doing well and not just just being here.”

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