While we got swept this weekend by the surging Phillies, the one positive development from the depressing series: All three of our starting pitchers (Ramirez, Williams and Claussen) threw quality games that easily could have earned them wins if the offense hadn't gone DOA.
In fact, these were the best of Claussen and Williams' 15 starts this season, and Ramirez wasn't too shabby Friday night, either.
What motivated the stand-out performances? You have to suspect it's Milton's looming return from the DL. With Ramirez, Williams and possibly even Claussen on the bubble, they reached a little deeper, concentrated a little harder and produced nice gems, spoiled only by the offensive offense.
If I was in a position to call the shots, I would schedule Milton for at least 1, maybe 2 minor league rehab starts before reactiving him. Let him build back his arm strength and get into a rhythm after his layoff, but more importantly, keep the competition going among Claussen, Williams and Ramirez.
Why rush Milton's return when we don't know if he's ready? Let him prove it. I know he gets paid like an ace, but he's not exactly delivered like one in his tenure with the Reds.
And why bounce Ramirez, Williams or Claussen from the rotation after how they did against the Phillies? Ideally, I'd want to see each of them in another series before having to retool the rotation.
The procrastinating could pay off. While Ramirez is the low man on the totem pole in terms of seniority, his 3.13 ERA in four starts suggests he might belong in the rotation. That would leave Williams or Claussen as the fall guy, but after this weekend, it's tough to say who should take the fall.