Reds reliever Tejay Antone is not going to be ready for Opening Day, he announced this evening on Instagram (h/t to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer). The right-hander received a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat a flexor strain in his forearm today and will have to shut down his throwing program for the time being.
Antone didn’t provide many specifics on his recovery, though it appears he’ll be out for an extended stretch. While he cautioned the issue was a “small, little strain, nothing crazy,” he concluded by noting he’ll be ready “for the playoff push in the second half.” If he’s indeed out until near or following the All-Star Break, it’ll be a significant hit to a Cincinnati bullpen that already looked thin.
The 29-year-old Antone was arguably the Reds’ best reliever from 2020-21. He combined for a 2.48 ERA over his first 69 MLB innings, striking out 32.3% of opponents with an above-average 48% grounder rate. His 10.8% walk percentage was higher than ideal, but the combination of missed bats and ground balls pushed him into high-leverage work by his second season. Antone collected three saves and held eight more leads over 23 appearances in 2021 but began battling forearm issues that June. He twice landed on the injured list before making brief returns, but a third IL stay culminated in August Tommy John surgery.
That was the second TJS procedure of Antone’s career, as he’d also gone under the knife in 2017. He spent all of last year on the injured list rehabbing and seemed on track to be ready for the start of the upcoming season. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reported last month Antone had been dealing with a forearm concern that was unrelated to his surgically repaired elbow ligament. While this flexor problem isn’t as serious as another Tommy John procedure would be, it’s a nevertheless disappointing development for a talented hurler whose past year and a half have been defined by injuries.
Alexis Díaz broke out as Cincinnati’s closer last season. He’ll be joined in high-leverage innings by Lucas Sims, who’s hoping to bounce back from an injury-wrecked 2022 campaign himself. Ground-ball specialist Reiver Sanmartin is probably the top left-hander in the group. Cincinnati will need some less heralded relievers to take steps forward as Díaz did last year. They haven’t made any MLB additions this offseason to a bullpen that ranked 28th in the league with a 4.72 ERA.
Antone has exactly three years of MLB service time. He and the Reds previously agreed to a $770K contract to avoid arbitration. He’ll continue to collect service while on the injured list and be eligible for arbitration twice more. He’s on track to hit free agency after the 2025 season.