With an assist from Nationals, Reds begin reworking their starting staff

LAS VEGAS - Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark was traded Wednesday to the Reds, a team that's trying to rebuild its rotation and recover from four consecutive seasons of at least 90 losses.

The Reds have had nothing but pitching problems. Last year, their staff gave up 5.06 runs a game, highest in the National League. The staff finished 14th in ERA (4.63) in 2018 and were last in 2017 at 5.17.

Last year, the Reds fired their manager, Bryan Price, a former pitching coach, after the first 18 games, and replaced him with Jim Riggleman, the former Nationals manager. The Reds won 19 of their final 55 games and finished last with 67 victories in the NL Central.

The Reds, who were last in the postseason in 2013 when they lost to the Pirates in the wild card game, are promising to get more pitching beyond Roark, who was up-and-down last season for the Nationals and finished with a 4.34 ERA.

They tried to trade for Seattle starter James Paxton before he went to the Yankees. They've shown interest in Lance Lynn, Wade Miley and J.A. Happ. They've called the Dodgers and Indians, teams that might be willing to trade starters.

But at this point, Roark and Luis Castillo are their two best pitchers. The other three spots in the rotation are wide open for 2019.

Castillo, Homer Bailey, Tyler Mahle and Matt Harvey were expected to be in the mainstays in the Reds rotation last season.

Castillo had a 3.15 ERA in 15 starts as a rookie in 2017 and last season, his first full campaign, he led the Reds with 165 strikeouts, but gave up 28 home runs. His strikeout-to-walk ratio improved as the season went on.

Harvey, acquired in a trade from the Mets after a turbulent time in New York, was had good and bad moments. He's a free agent.

Bailey, who made $21 million last season, had only one victory in 2018. He gave up 23 home runs in 20 starts. The Reds would love to trade Bailey, but he still has $28 million left on his contract.

The weird thing about Bailey is that he had, at 2.9 runs a game, the lowest run support in the league. This from a Reds lineup that led the NL in home runs with 228 and included hitters such as Eugenio Suárez, Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto and led the NL with 228 home runs.

As a rookie last season, Mahle threw 112 innings, giving up 125 hits. He had 110 strikeouts, 53 walks. Obviously, there's some growing to do there.

The Reds' home - Great American Ball Park - is not friendly to pitchers, but Roark hasn't done badly there. In four career starts in Cincinnati covering 22 innings, he has a 3.27 ERA.

Roark, acquired in exchange for reliever Tanner Rainey, doesn't worry about the ballpark's reputation: "The balls fly everywhere.''

Roark was asked what he knows about the Reds.

"They can hit the ball, that's for sure,'' he answered.

Now if they can only pitch.

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