Viola finds relief as starter
Reds left-handed prospect transitions from bullpen to rotation
CINCINNATI -- Lefty pitching prospect Pedro Viola seemed well on his way to a future with the Reds as a reliever -- until plans changed.Now Viola has a chance to make sweet music as a starter. "He took the role and ran with it and got better every time out," Reds Minor League director Terry Reynolds said. "Starting is a role we're looking at for him next summer." Viola made his third start of the Arizona Fall League season on Monday night. Over 4 1/3 innings for the Peoria Javelinas, the 25-year-old Dominican gave up one earned run and six hits without a walk, and struck out three. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty traveled to Arizona on Monday and made it to the ballpark in time to catch Viola's last inning. "The guys that saw him said that he was throwing well," Jocketty said on Tuesday. In three AFL starts, Viola is 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA, 13 hits, two walks and seven strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings. He was roughed up for five runs over three innings in his first start, but rebounded with three scoreless innings and one hit allowed in his second outing. After he began with the Reds' Dominican summer league team as a starter, Viola zoomed through the system quickly as a reliever. He was promoted three times in 2007, posting a combined 1.42 ERA, with his season ending with Double-A Chattanooga. This season, Viola slipped to 1-6 with a 5.48 ERA in 45 relief appearances for Chattanooga with 61 hits allowed over 49 1/3 innings. He had made one spot start and moved full-time into the Lookouts' rotation late in the summer as starters moved up to Triple-A Louisville and created a void in Double-A. Over seven starts, Viola was 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA. In 33 innings, he gave up 27 hits with nine walks and 30 strikeouts. Thus, a new career path was born. "He seemed to be more comfortable and used all three of his pitches," Reynolds said. "He wasn't doing badly as a reliever, but as a starter, he seemed to be a better fit personally. He was more comfortable and relaxed. It wasn't something we blueprinted, but it just worked out that way." Likely to begin next season in Double-A or Triple-A, Viola potentially offers the Reds something they've lacked at the upper levels and the Majors -- left-handed starters.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.