Over his first five starts of the season, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jeff Hoffman had a 3.33 ERA.
In April, Hoffman's slider was one of the more effective pitches in the Reds starting rotation, and he was averaging about five innings per start.
Then inflammation started building in his shoulder. Hoffman had a 6.48 ERA in his five starts in May, and he went on the injured list at the end of the month with a right shoulder impingement.
Hoffman has missed about five weeks, but on Sunday he said he feels healthy and ready to return to game action.
“I feel much more like what I felt in the first month and month-and-a-half of the season,” Hoffman said. “I feel like the injury crept in my head and started to really impact the way I pitch, and that’s why we got to where we got. Right now, I’m back to doing what I was doing earlier in the year.”
After he went on the injured list, a scan of Hoffman’s shoulder showed inflammation building in his shoulder. Hoffman went on the 10-day IL after his start on May 26 against the Washington Nationals, and he began a rehab assignment in Triple-A on June 22.
Hoffman has built up from two innings to four innings on his rehab assignment, and he allowed just one run in four innings on Friday with the Louisville Bats.
“I’m just healthy, that’s the main thing,” Hoffman said. “That’s throwing strikes, going up in the zone and getting out of the zone when I need to with my chase pitches.”
When Hoffman went on the injured list in May, rookie Vladimir Gutierrez filled his spot in the rotation. Gutierrez has a 4.93 ERA in his seven starts with the Reds, and Gutierrez has also led the Reds to three wins.
In two starts against the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers this season, Gutierrez pitched a combined 13 innings while allowing just four total runs.
With Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley and Tyler Mahle entrenched in the starting rotation, Hoffman is waiting to learn if he’ll regain his fifth spot in the rotation or move to the bullpen.
“That’s going to be more up to the front office to see what we want to do,” Hoffman said. “I’m ready to go. I’ve relayed that message to them that I’m ready to go in whatever capacity they decide to use me in.”
“The most I can tell you is that I’m ready. It’s in their court. Whatever they decide to do is what we’ll do.”
ANTONE AND SIMS: Reds manager David Bell targeted an end of July return date for standout relievers Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims to come back to the bullpen.
Antone has been out with a right forearm strain since June 24. Bell said Antone had a PRP injection and hasn’t started throwing yet.
“After that, there's a little bit of a period where you don't do a lot,” Bell said. “Then he'll start ramping up here. He's doing a lot more movement the last couple of days. I think he should be throwing here any day.”
Bell said Sims could be slightly ahead of Antone in his recovery as Sims rehabs from a sprained right elbow.
“All the reports have been really encouraging, maybe a little quicker than we thought,” Bell said. “I think with both of those guys, we have to be sure that we give them enough time to get all the way back now and not have to go through this again any more the rest of the year.”
REHAB ASSIGNMENT: Reds reliever Michael Feliz began a rehab assignment this week in Triple-A with the Louisville Bats. Feliz, who was claimed by the Reds from the Pittsburgh Pirates in May, has been out since June 6 with a right elbow injury.
On Saturday, Feliz pitched a scoreless inning of relief with the Bats.
“Between now and the All-Star break, he’s going to get a few outings,” Bell said. “It could be right before the All-Star break or right after.”