The Reds announced they’ve reinstated right-hander Tejay Antone from the 10-day injured list. To open space on the active roster, Cincinnati designated southpaw Sean Doolittle for assignment. The move also clears another spot on the 40-man roster, which now sits at 37.
Antone has missed the better part of three months dealing with forearm issues. He landed on the IL with inflammation on June 11, then returned after a minimal stint. Just four days later, he was placed back on the IL with a forearm strain that has kept him out ever since. Before the injury, Antone had been the Reds’ best late-inning weapon. He’s worked to a 1.87 ERA over 33 2/3 frames this season, striking out a fantastic 33.1% of opponents against an average 9.4% walk rate. It’s the second consecutive quality season for the 27-year-old, who posted a 2.80 ERA over 35 1/3 innings as a rookie in 2020.
Cincinnati welcomes back their top reliever at an opportune time. The Reds’ recent hot streak, coupled with the Padres’ free fall, has Cincinnati up a game over the Friars with a little less than six weeks remaining in the regular season. That’s a far better position than the Reds were in as recently as a couple weeks ago, but it’s also nowhere near a comfortable advantage. The Cincinnati bullpen was a disaster earlier in the season, but they’ve performed better over the past few weeks.
Doolittle has been a fixture in that relief corps for the entire season. He’ll now lose his spot as part of a broader makeover in the late innings. In addition to Antone, Cincinnati welcomed Lucas Sims back from a lengthy IL stint earlier this month, and they overhauled the bullpen before the July 30 trade deadline. The Reds brought in Mychal Givens, Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson via trade, pushing Doolittle out of the picture.
The veteran southpaw was one of the sport’s premier relievers from 2012-18. He broke in with the A’s and eventually earned the closer’s role in Oakland, a job he retained after being traded to the Nationals midway through the 2017 season. Doolittle pitched at a league average level in 2019 before struggling through an injury-wrecked 2020 campaign to end his time in Washington. He signed a one-year, $1.5MM guarantee with the Reds in February.
Doolittle has stayed healthy this season, but he’s amidst the worst year of his career. The 34-year-old has worked 38 1/3 innings of 4.46 ERA ball across 45 appearances, striking out 23.7% of opposing hitters against a 10.4% walk rate. That’s not disastrous work — it’s a little worse than league average after adjusting for the Reds’ hitter-friendly home park — but it’s nowhere near the elite heights Doolittle reached at his peak.
That said, it’s plausible another team will add Doolittle off waivers over the coming days. Even if he’s only a league average pitcher at this stage of his career, that kind of competence could upgrade many teams’ current middle innings situations. And Doolittle’s low base salary would reduce the financial responsibility for claiming teams, as he’s only due around $311K from now through season’s end. Should Doolittle pass through waivers unclaimed, he’d have the right to elect free agency while collecting the remainder of that guaranteed salary as a player with five-plus years of big league service.