1:55pm: Reds skipper David Bell tells reporters that Sims is expected to miss around a month’s worth of games (Twitter link via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer).
11:45am: The Reds placed right-hander Lucas Sims on the 10-day injured list due to a right elbow sprain, per a club announcement. Outfielder Scott Heineman is up from Triple-A Louisville to take his spot on the active roster. Sims’ placement on the IL is retroactive to June 23.
Sims has had an up-and-down season but has been the Reds’ most oft-used option in save situations this year. He’s leading the club with seven saves and has also picked up four holds as one of the team’s most prominent high-leverage options.
The 27-year-old Sims got out to a miserable start in 2021, pitching to a 7.20 ERA through his first month of action. But over a span of 16 games from May 5 through June 21, Sims looked like the potentially dominant, breakout reliever he appeared to be last season, posting a 2.41 ERA with a 29-to-8 K/BB ratio in 16 2/3 frames of relief. Sims hit another roadblock in his most recent outing, however, serving up three runs without recording an out.
All told, Sims has gone from a 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 frames in 2020 to a 5.02 mark through his first 28 2/3 innings in 2021. From a velocity standpoint, he’s actually added about a mile per hour to his heater, and he’s also bumped his strikeout rate from 33 percent to 35 percent. He’s seen a major spike in BABIP (.192 in 2020, .333 in 2021) while his ability to strand runners has taken a nosedive as well.
As is so frequently the case, the reality likely lies somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Sims unquestionably benefited from that minuscule average on balls in play in 2020, but he’s also surely better than his 2021 ERA would indicate. He’s limiting hard contact quite efficiently, striking out batters in droves and keeping the ball in the yard. His sub-par command ought to lead to occasional hiccups, but taken in totality, his 2020-21 numbers — 3.81 ERA, 3.23 SIERA, 34.1 percent strikeout rate, 11.4 percent walk rate — have the makings of a solid late-inning option for the Reds.
The team hasn’t provided a timetable on Sims’ absence, though obviously any type of elbow injury is a concern for a pitcher. Sprains, in particular, can be ominous. The hope is obviously that it’ll prove to be a minor issue, as the Reds can ill afford to lose a key arm from an already struggling bullpen. The Reds’ relief corps did just receive a boost with the return of its best reliever, Tejay Antone, but the Cincinnati ’pen has collectively pitched to an MLB-worst 5.70 ERA so far in 2021.