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Photo Credit: © Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Homecoming

Joey Votto in Toronto! Maybe during this series Votto will realize that he’s always belonged with the Blue Jays and he’ll demand a trade specifically to Toronto? Hell yeah. If that fantasy isn’t going to become reality, the Jays could at least kick the crap out of Cincinnati’s scrapheap rotation.

Monday at 7:07 ET

The Reds’ starting pitching is baaaaaaad. How bad? With Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, and Brandon Finnegan on the disabled list, the only sure things in their rotation are team ace Scott Feldman and the 40-year-old corpse of Bronson Arroyo, otherwise, the Reds are digging Seattle Mariners level deep into their bag of arms.

They’re so thin on pitching that the Reds are trotting out Lisalverto Bonilla, a guy who has a 6.17 ERA through 23 1/3 innings in the majors and a 5.61 ERA in 25 2/3 innings in Triple-A this season. His peripherals aren’t much better, either. Bonilla is walking nearly as many guys (4.2 per 9IP) as he’s striking out (6.2/9IP) so far and isn’t having difficult luck with batted balls.

Going for the Blue Jays will be Marcus Stroman who has never faced the Reds in his career. Stroman was solid last week in Milwaukee, though his line from the afternoon doesn’t really indicate that because he allowed a three-run homer before being pulled two outs into the sixth inning. Since aggravating his arm and getting lit up in New York, Stroman has bounced back nicely, allowing just six runs in 23 1/1 innings while also seeing his strikeout totals increase slightly.

Tuesday at 7:07 ET

Apparently J.A. Happ is going to be activated for Tuesday’s game, according to Hazel Mae and multiple other sources. Interestingly enough, Happ will be going up against former Blue Jays first round pick Asher Wojciechowski, who was dealt for Happ when the Jays first acquired him from the Astros back in 2012.

Wojo, who signed as a free agent with the Reds after being released by the Diamondbacks, hasn’t  made a start yet this season. He’s pitched four innings in relief with the big league club, but had a sparkling 1.40 ERA through five starts in Triple-A. He made a few starts with the Astros back in 2015 but didn’t make it further than four innings in any of them.

Happ only made three starts before going on the disabled list back on April 16. He made a rehab start in Dunedin last week, allowing seven hits and three runs over three innings of work. Obviously it’s great to have Happ back, but I do hope the Jays aren’t rushing him. I imagine he’ll only pitch four or five innings in Tuesday’s game before handing it over to the ‘pen.

Wednesday at 12:37 ET

The series finale will be played niiiiiiice and early on Wednesday, so if you want to skip work you can come down to the stadium and enjoy the Mike Bolsinger experience. Bolsinger has now made four starts with the Blue Jays, owning a 5.75 ERA. He isn’t getting hit that hard, but he’s had a hell of a time with command. Bolsinger, being a guy who relies on breaking stuff, will inevitably struggle with walks, but through 20 1/3 innings so far, he’s averaging 6.6 walks per nine, waaaaaay above his career norm.

Tim Adleman is the closest thing to a real, major league starter that the Reds have this week. A former Orioles second round pick, Adleman signed with the Reds in 2013 as a free agent and has become a sort of decent depth starter for the team. Through seven starts this season, he owns a 4.95 ERA. In his last outing against the Phillies, Adleman allowed just one hit over eight innings. I think the Jays lineup might be more of a task, though.

Thoughts

The Reds are one of baseball’s best teams with the bat, averaging 5.10 runs per game, but as you’ve likely already figured out, they give a lot of it back. The Reds are going to have to mash their way to wins this week with Bonilla, Wojo, and Adleman pitching, and that’s something they’re certainly capable of doing. The Reds have four players with more than 10 home runs and five regulars with an OPS over .800, led by Joey Votto and Zack Cozart who are having MVP-calibre offensive seasons.

Still, though. As good as Cincinnati’s offence is, this is a pitching rotation that the Jays should absolutely feast on. And with the schedule ahead looking quite daunting, this really is a series Toronto needs to take advantage of.