When it comes to stories emanating from Goodyear this month, none will be more fascinating than Raisel Iglesias.
The right-handerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s personality and the narrative for how the Cuban player reached the United States are of interest, even without baseball considerations. Mark Sheldon observes that on the surface, the 25-year-old appears to be less guarded and more outgoing than Aroldis Chapman.
Iglesias gave interviews yesterday and discussed his emotions to be in the United States and on a big league ball club. You can learn more about him Ã¢â‚¬â€œ his hobbies, his family situation, his comparison of Cuban to American baseball Ã¢â‚¬â€œ by reading Mark Sheldon and Hal McCoy today.
But for Reds fans, the more intriguing (and important) issue will be the development of Raisel Iglesias and his role on the team
The Reds signed the then-24-year-old Iglesias to a $32 million contract last June. Visa issues dashed plans the club might have had to call on him to patch up the leaking big league bullpen in August. Instead, Iglesias remained in Haiti, watching Reds games on the Internet.
Since arriving in the United States, Iglesias has pitched one inning in an instructional league and seven innings in the Arizona Fall League (seven single-inning appearances) where he dazzled onlookers.
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also learned two new pitches.
During the splashy press conference last June announcing the signing, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty turned a few heads when he claimed Iglesias had Ã¢â‚¬Å“four quality pitches.Ã¢â‚¬Â This contradicted previous reports that the wiry right-hander had just two, a fastball and a sweeping breaking ball. JockettyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statement notwithstanding, two pitches is how we described his repertoire in our Ã¢â‚¬Å“welcomeÃ¢â‚¬Â post. (For the record, Iglesias told veteran Dayton Daily News reporter Hal McCoy yesterday that he had two pitches when he was signed.)
The real mystery remains the role that Iglesias will fill for the Cincinnati Reds.
If he has a strong spring, it will create a tough competition for the last two starting rotation jobs between Tony Cingrani, Anthony DeSclafani and Iglesias. The age difference between the three pitchers is less than a year, with Cingrani the oldest and DeSclafani the youngest.
All three pitchers have hurdles to clear to prove they belong in a starting rotation as opposed to the bullpen. Cingrani was a reliever in college and has struggled in the major leagues with pitches beyond his fastball. Bryan Price suggested earlier in the offseason (before Matt Latos and Alfredo Simon were traded) that CingraniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pitch portfolio might be better suited for relief pitching.
Likewise, DeSclafani was a relief pitcher for the University of Florida, mainly relying on his fastball. The Marlins moved him from their rotation to the bullpen last season. DeSclafani has worked on additional pitches and also had a compelling AFL performance. But scouts remain divided on his fit.
That brings us back to Iglesias. In Cuba, Raisel Iglesias was used primarily as a relief pitcher. He now has four pitches, adding a change-up and dividing the breaking ball into a distinct curve and slider. But he’s yet to pitch more than one-inning at a time, let alone three times through a major league lineup.
In discussing his role, Iglesias (through a translator) said that while he is preparing to compete for a starting spot, he was here to help the teamÃ‚Â andÃ‚Â would do whatever the team asks. One thing we learned: that sentence is part of Cuban Spanish.
His role was at the crux of why Iglesias signed with the Reds. Other organizations saw him as a relief pitcher. The Reds viewed him as a potential starter, so they outbid other suitors. So you would expect the Reds to give Raisel Iglesias every opportunity to start. Or maybe Iglesias could start the 2015 season in the bullpen but long-term fill the role of a starter.Ã‚Â What could possibly go wrong with that plan?