Johnny Cueto stayed healthy until it really counted.
Last season the Cincinnati Reds starting five made 161 of 162 regular season starts. The only exception being the back end of a doubleheader that saw Todd Redmond take the mound for 3.1 innings. This remarkable stretch of health is far-and-away the exception to the rule in baseball—a task that will most likely not be duplicated by them again.
Four of the five starters racked up over 200 innings-pitched and 12 wins apiece. Mike Leake was the only exception, though he did still make 30 starts and accumulate 179 innings pitched from the fifth starting spot.
With Johnny Cueto recovering from his postseason oblique strain, Reds starters have a daunting task ahead—staying healthy, yet again. They may not go 161 of 162 again, but 150 of 162 is well within range.
Lets take a look at five keys to the 2013 staff remaining healthy throughout the entire season
Sean Marshall will be the Reds' go-to bullpen lefty in 2013.
The Reds boasted the top relief corp in 2012. Their 2.65 ERA was tops in all of baseball as was their 56 team saves. They also recorded 31 relief wins and a .219 BAA—second and third bests respectively.
The Reds maintain a deep relief corp entering 2013. They actually may be deeper this season than last.
In all actuality Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman will probably both split time as members of the rotation and as members of the bullpen. Tony Cingrani also looks to be a prime candidate for role as the other lefty in the pen behind Sean Marshall.
Leake, Chapman, and Cingrani will all bring a unique quality to the bullpen—the ability to make extended relief appearances. All three are technically starters and have no need to be limited to one inning during their relief appearances.
This could allow Cincy to keep their bullpen fresh—a key to not overworking starters and to maintaining their health.
Mike Leake may lose his claim to full-time starter, but make no mistake, he will start in 2013. Leake's lack of a rotation spot is going to prove to be a bonus for Cincinnati.
The Reds will have the ability to rotate six pitchers through a five-man rotation and I expect them to do just that.
Here are a few predictions:
1) Mike Leake makes 12-15 starts
2) Aroldis Chapman make 19-20 starts
3) Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, and Bronson Arroyo all make at least 30 starts each
4) The four previously mentioned pitchers are all rested at least one or two starts this season
5) Don't be surprised to see Tony Cingrani make a few starts himself
The Reds are deep in pitching and that is great for their overall health.
Dusty Baker eyes another division championship in 2013.
Like it or not, Dusty Baker will play a major role in the health of his pitching staff. Will he manage with his brain or his heart.
Fans all know that Baker's heart can get him into trouble. He is notorious for leaving guys on the mound one out too long in order to, get the win. One comment that fans should hope Dusty doesn't make this season is, "I just wanted to get him the win."
Reds fans that listen to the post and pregame interviews with Baker have heard this comment in a round-about similar way numerous times—lets hope the comments revolve more around keeping guys healthy and the strength of the bullpen.
Fans could care less if Mat Latos or any other pitcher wins 18 games or 14 games officially. What matters is if the team gets the win and the starters maintain their health.
All and all, the 2013 season is going to come down to the strength of Cincinnati's young pitching. Homer Bailey stayed healthy for an entire season for the first time in his career. Can he maintain it? Will he maintain it?
Aroldis Chapman steps into a new and possibly dangerous role for him. Can his arm take the innings increase? Will the fans actually get to see him throw 140-plus innings or will he fan out way before then?
These are just a few of the questions that will be hanging over the team as they enter regular season play. One thing is almost certain though—we are bound to get answers sooner rather than later.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @JRamCincy