A look at a stacked rotation and another possible innings limit dilemma

When it comes to baseball’s best rotations, the Nationals, Phillies, Giants and Braves are usually the four teams mentioned first. But the team with the deepest rotation is usually overlooked. We’re talking about the Reds.

With Aroldis Chapman, a lefty reliever who can throw 100 mph, moving from closer to the rotation, the Reds have six quality starters. Like the Nationals’ John Lannan a year ago, one talented Reds pitcher with nothing to prove will start the season at Triple-A.

The Reds have four pitchers that threw at least 200 innings last season in Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey. Mike Leake was the only one who didn’t, but he finished with 179 innings and a 4.58 in his in third season as a starter.

Cueto (2.78 ERA last season) and Latos (3.48) could be National League Cy Young candidates. Arroyo (3.74) is the rotation’s leader. Bailey (3.68) is set to follow his breakout season of 2012.

Leake is interesting because in 2010, he made the big leagues without throwing a pitch in the minor leagues. Generally, that’s a big story, but Leake was overshadowed by the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg making his starts at Double-A Harrisburg.

The Reds aren’t saying how they’ll handle Chapman. Does he start in the Reds bullpen and become a starter in the second half of the season, a la Kris Medlen of the Braves last season? Or does he make the rotation, reach an innings limit and get shut down in September, like Strasburg?

Last year, the Nationals made it clear how they were going to handle Strasburg’s innings from the start of spring training. Although Chapman isn’t rehabilitating an elbow injury, he’s likely on an innings limit, but the Reds aren’t saying what their plans are.

Other thoughts:

* Quarterback Tom Brady signed a below-market contract extension with the New England Patriots that will allow ownership to use up to $15 million to retain current players. Can’t think of a deal like that in baseball, but it is a sure bet the Twins would be a better team if Joe Mauer had signed for less than $184 million. Same for the Mariners and Felix Hernandez, who signed for $175 million. Both teams struggle to get quality players around Mauer and Hernandez.

* The general consensus is that the more batters see pitchers, the more difficult it gets for pitchers to get those hitters out. So while the Orioles’ spring site in Sarasota is about perfect, the one downside is that all American League East teams are on Florida’s west coast, giving the Orioles 17 of 35 Grapefruit League games versus their division.

* Speaking of money, was it refreshing or foolish for Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke to say he’d rather play on a last-place team and get $200 million than a first-place team and make $10 million?

* Infielder Mark DeRosa has played in the postseason five of the last six seasons, including last season for the Nationals. This season, he’s with the Blue Jays, who have rebuilt their rotation with Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the NL Cy Young Award winner. DeRosa told the Toronto Star that he’s taking the advice of his dad, who said that if he followed the pitching, he would always look like a genius.

* Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson will miss at least the month of April because of a broken right forearm, another blow to the injury-plagued and aging Yankees. The prediction here is that Granderson will still hit 40 home runs.

* It’s good news for baseball when union leaders and the commissioner’s office each say that they are open to tougher punishments for first-time steroids users. In 2014, the penalty for a first-time offense could move from 50 to 100 games.

Thanks for reading!