HomeMLB RumorsBrandon Williamson To Begin Season On Injured List

Brandon Williamson To Begin Season On Injured List

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Reds starter Brandon Williamson will begin the season on the 15-day injured list, manager David Bell informed the Cincinnati beat on Tuesday (relayed by Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer). The left-hander departed his Spring Training start over the weekend with shoulder soreness.

There’s no indication it’s expected to be a long-term issue, but the team didn’t provide a timeline for his return. Williamson held a spot in the Reds rotation for much of last season. He started 23 games and worked 117 innings as a rookie. After being hit hard through his first eight starts, Williamson settled in as a decent back-of-the-rotation contributor. He finished his debut campaign with a 4.46 ERA, a respectable figure for a rookie pitching in one of the league’s most hitter-friendly home environments.

That came with middling peripherals, but the TCU product still had a shot of securing a season-opening rotation spot if he were healthy. With Williamson on the shelf, Bell said that fellow lefty Andrew Abbott will get a starting job. The Reds had previously been noncommittal on that, even though Abbott had a strong rookie campaign. Over 21 starts, he worked to a 3.87 ERA while punching out 26.1% of opposing hitters. The overall numbers were impressive, but Abbott’s production fell off dramatically down the stretch. He carried a 2.35 ERA into August before allowing more than six earned runs per nine in each of the final two months.

Abbott rounds out a season-opening rotation that’ll be fronted by offseason pickup Frankie Montas. The Reds announced that the hard-throwing righty will get the nod on Opening Day for his team debut. He’ll be followed in some order by Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, fellow free agent signee Nick Martinez, and Abbott. Martinez has plenty of experience as both a starter and reliever. He’ll take at least one turn through the rotation but would be an option to move back to the bullpen once Nick Lodolo is ready for his season debut. The Reds have targeted the second week of April for the left-hander, who lost most of the 2023 season to a stress fracture in his left tibia.

Cincinnati was hit with bigger injury news over the weekend, as center fielder TJ Friedl was diagnosed with a fracture in his right wrist. He’ll be out for quite some time. At this stage of the offseason, there aren’t any MLB-caliber center fielders still available in free agency. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes that the Reds seem likely to turn to the combination of Will Benson and Stuart Fairchild to cover center field if they can’t find help outside the organization.

As a left-handed hitter, Benson would be in position for the stronger side of a possible platoon arrangement. The Reds kept him away from southpaws last season, limiting him to 44 plate appearances. Benson was excellent when put in favorable platoon situations. He hit .297/.389/.549 in a little under 300 trips versus righty pitching. That kind of production was always going to warrant a lot of play in the Cincinnati outfield. The bigger question is whether he’s capable of handling an up-the-middle position. Benson only has 88 major league innings in center field. Statcast and Defensive Runs Saved have each graded him as a roughly neutral defender in the corners.

Fairchild appeared in 97 games a year ago, hitting .228/.321/.388. He’s out of minor league options and was already set to break camp, but the Friedl injury pushes him into a more important fourth outfield role. The 28-year-old has posted roughly average offensive numbers against pitchers of either handedness in his major league career. He owns a more impressive .275/.371/.507 slash line over parts of three Triple-A campaigns.

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