Seth Shaner is an occasional contributor to Redleg Nation. His last piece was about the Reds’ outfield rotation.

There I was, waiting for my gas tank to fill up on a scorching July day in Ohio, when I came across a blog post on the Cincinnati Enquirer Facebook page. The headline grabbed me with the idea that the Washington Nationals might be a contender for the great Matt Harvey sweepstakes.

But it was a clip of a Jon Heyman tweet that really dropped my jaw on the melting asphalt.

Not only have the Nats talked to the Reds about Harvey, but also about reliever Raisel Iglesias. OK, that’s about right. Who wouldn’t want the Cuban closer? But then he mentions the idea that “Multiple teams see Iglesias as possible starter.”

That brought out all the emotions, to the point where I couldn’t tell if it was sweat or tears streaming down my face.

It has oft been taken as gospel that Iglesias can’t hack it as a starter because of a shoulder that weakens after being used too much. That has been the narrative since former manager Bryan Price spun it to the media a few years ago.

Possible? Yes. But I always saw that move as a crutch, much like the one Dusty Baker used with Aroldis Chapman. Both seemed to need the best arm on the team at the back end of the bullpen, regardless of how much, or in this case, how little he would be used.

Let’s take a look at that “he can’t handle starter’s innings because of his weak shoulder” argument. After making 16 starts and 18 appearances in 2015, Iglesias was shut down due to shoulder fatigue. This was coming off ’14, when he pitched just seven innings in the Arizona Fall League, which happened to be the first time he had pitched since the Cuban National Series…in 2012!

So, you’ll excuse me if it seems normal to have shoulder fatigue after not having built up his arm. The Reds went into Spring Training in ’16 treating Iglesias with kid gloves, planning to put him in the back end of the rotation in hopes that he wouldn’t be used as much early and would ease into being a starter in the big leagues.

But Homer Bailey and John Lamb weren’t ready for Opening Day. Top prospects Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed were initially sent back to the minors before the Reds broke camp. And Anthony DeSclafani was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a strained oblique on March 25…shocker, I know!

That left Iglesias to start Opening Day, which he did, pitching 6 innings and giving up two runs before the bullpen took over in an eventual 6-2 win over the Phillies. Next came Brandon Finnegan, and then Robert Stephenson, who was pressed into duty and was followed by the returning bloated corpse of Alfredo Simon (back with the Reds after the Reds had sent him to the Tigers for future cornerstone of the franchise Eugenio Suarez).

And who started the Reds’ fifth game of the season? Skipping a possible fifth starter? You guessed it. Raisel Iglesias, coming off a season that ended with shoulder fatigue following two full seasons of basically no pitching.

Yes, Iglesias went 5.2 innings and earned the win, surrendering just one run and lowering his ERA to 2.31. And yes, there had been an off day between Opening Day and that second start, meaning he started in his regular turn.

But he would make just five starts that season before going on the DL with more shoulder pain. When he returned, he immediately went to the bullpen and has been there ever since as, admittedly, one of the best relievers in baseball.

I love watching Iglesias pitch. Maybe he isn’t suited to be a starter. But do we really know for sure? Apparently, Jon Heyman doesn’t think so and maybe he does have sources with other Major League teams who feel the same way.

The similarities to Chapman are undeniable. Also reminds me a little bit of how the club decided to use Amir Garrett, this year. But that’s another rant.

5 Responses

  1. KDJ

    Chapman really only had 1 MLB level pitch virtually his entire time with the Reds. Plus, he seemed to like the moniker of “The Closer.” Of course, I don’t know him personally, so I could be wrong on that second point.
    The moves of Iglesias, Garrett, and Lorenzen to the Reds black hole of the bullpen have been puzzling at best. All three have skill sets that would be more fully utilized in other roles.

  2. Jack

    I cant remember Chad but was there any other diagnosis than Fatigue? Impingement etc? Frustrating to say the least. Chapman, Iglesias, Lorenzen, Garrett etc. Let’s hope Greene has no problems down the road.

  3. streamer88

    I love speculative banter more than most, but nothing IMHO is more of a whimsical waste of time than debating the health and durability of throwing shoulders on MLB pitchers, from the cheap seats.

    We do not have access to medical charts, we are not seeing these men off stage between outings, we are not in the training room, we are not their physicians nor their therapists.

    Statistical analysis of on-field performance has been revolutionized, but to the question: Can Iggy be a starter and not get hurt? — we (being the fans) still have the weakest, flimsiest types of conjecture without even a smidgeon of concrete evidence to say either way.

    And that’s just the physical stuff. Mental make up, cultural, aspirational, spiritual discussions are even less tangible.

    If Iggy gets us Robles, or Tucker, or Whitley, I’m not entirely sure I care what position it says on his baseball card at this point. I’ll wish him the best.

    • Rich H

      Streamer88 that is maybe the best comment I’ve read on Reds’ boards in a long time.