It was, what, 15 months ago that the Cincinnati Reds and David Bell were talking about using Raisel Iglesias in a non-traditional role for a closer. The talk was that rather than a traditional role as a closer, he would be used more like that of a “fireman”, brought in to face the heart of the order if it was before the 9th inning, or brought in in specific situations with the game on the line even if it wasn’t the final inning. But when it came time for baseball to start being played, things weren’t going well for Iglesias in the early part of 2019, and eventually he expressed his frustrations with his usage, which led to his return to more of a traditional closer role.
That sounds like it’s what’s going to be happening again this year, too. Manager David Bell was asked about Iglesias and the role he would play this season before the intrasquad scrimmage on Friday.
“Yes, the big thing with all of our guys is making sure they are ready and making sure they are ready to go on time. But, assuming he’s fully ready to go we’re going to need him to win games,” said Bell. “We talked about , have seen that he’s more comfortable pitching with the lead last year in the 9th. There’s no denying that. That’ll be a part of the decision making process. Also, there’s no doubt that 60 games, we’re going to do everything we can to win.”
The Cincinnati bullpen is deep, though. Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Pedro Strop, Cody Reed, and Lucas Sims are all guys that can match up well with most lineups in baseball. There could be more opportunities to go around if and when Iglesias isn’t available.
“We have other options to close games as well, hopefully we’re winning so many that we have guys that can step in and pick Iggy up. He’s not going to be able to pitch every day,” Bell said. “Hopefully we’re winning most nights. The good thing, too, you saw yesterday, Michael pitched three innings and there may be times where Iggy pitches a couple in a row and we get to the 7th and Michael’s fully available and we wouldn’t be afraid to let him finish the game off, 2-3 innings. And there will be other times when he’ll only pitch one inning, too. We like our bullpen, we like all of our options. Iggy is a big part of that – we need Iggy to be himself and we understand what makes him tick and we’ll factor that in.”
The Reds manager seems confident in his bullpen. And why wouldn’t he? There are some strong arms in there. There is plenty of depth, too. A guy like Joel Kuhnel is fighting for a job after dominating the minors last year, pitching well in the Majors over the last six weeks of the regular season after being called up, and routinely pitches in the upper 90’s. Depth could be a huge factor in a short season where every game matters more. Quick hooks on starters that are struggling could be something that happens a lot more frequently in 2020, and having a plethora of arms to go to should be beneficial to teams that have plenty of good ones to choose from. Cincinnati seems to fit that bill.