PITTSBURGH — In each of his six starts for the Reds this season, Vladimir Gutierrez has been hit hard while struggling to command his pitches. On Friday, manager David Bell revealed that Gutierrez will be dropped from the rotation and be available as a reliever out of the bullpen.
“We told him we love having him on the team and know he can help us win games,” Bell said. “I’m [excited] to see him pitch out of the bullpen, but that does not mean this is a long-term decision. He could easily go back into the rotation.”
Gutierrez is 0-5 with an 8.65 ERA and hasn’t completed five innings in any of his starts.
The decision came as the Reds have two off-days next week and lack the need for five starters. Connor Overton, who has a 1.59 ERA in his three starts since his April 30 promotion, will remain in the rotation and pitch on Tuesday vs. the Guardians. Tyler Mahle is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday.
Cincinnati could also soon get injured starter Mike Minor back in its rotation soon, which made Gutierrez more expendable. Minor, who has yet to debut because of a left shoulder injury, is slated to make his second rehab assignment start for Triple-A Louisville on Sunday.
“He could get multiple innings out of the bullpen also. We still have him as one of our best pitchers to be on our Major League roster,” Bell said of Gutierrez.
Gutierrez appreciated the chance to stay in the big leagues as a reliever rather than going to Triple-A Louisville to start.
“Obviously, I am grateful to him that he still believes in me,” Gutierrez said via translator Jorge Merlos. “He has a lot of confidence in me that I can still go out there and get the job done, whatever it may be. It’s nothing new for me. It’s what I did when I was back in Cuba for two years. I was a reliever. When I came here to Cincinnati is when I became a starter. It’s nothing new to me. I will be fine out there.”
Gutierrez, 26, had a more successful rookie year in 2021, when he went 9-6 with a 4.74 ERA in 22 starts and 114 innings. After he finished serving an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug protocol that ended in April that year, he was promoted from Louisville in May and was 9-4 with a 3.68 ERA in his first 16 starts, including 11 quality starts. As he tired down the stretch, Gutierrez was 0-2 with a 9.43 ERA over his final six starts of last season for the Reds.
In the offseason, he tried to make some adjustments to his slider, and they have not worked in games.
“I’m trying to throw it down and away, and those balls are just being hung over the middle of the plate,” Gutierrez said. “Also, my arm is a little bit tardy as well. It looks great in the bullpen sessions that we are doing with [pitching coach Derek Johnson], but out on the field, it’s just a very small, minimal thing I am doing wrong on the mound. [These are] things I still have to keep working on.”