When the Cincinnati Reds traded Raisel Iglesias over the winter it opened up the closers role on the team. Iglesias had saved 100 games for the Reds over the previous four seasons to go along with a 2.95 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. While there were come hiccups along the way, he was a quality closer.

For a while there was a fun back-and-forth between Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett about who would be the clubs closer. It was all good natured between the two relievers, and objectively both pitchers could make claim that they should be “the closer”. Sims is coming off of a 2020 season where he struck out 34 batters in 25.2 innings while posting a 2.45 ERA. Garrett has posted a 3.03 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 74.1 innings over the last two seasons. Those lines will get the job done.

The Reds weren’t satisfied with the bullpen overall as they were heading into spring training. They went out and signed left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle. He missed most of 2020, but saved 78 games for the Athletics and Nationals between 2017-2019 while posting a 2.94 ERA in that span. His spring hasn’t resulted in good numbers. At all. But spring training isn’t always about trying to put up the best numbers, especially for guys who know they’ve made the team already. Sometimes guys are just out there to work on specific things and that doesn’t always lead to the best spring training results, but gets them prepared for the regular season when the results actually do matter.

Cincinnati is hoping that’s the case for Sean Doolittle, because they’ve spoken of using a situation that’s basically closer by committee. Manager David Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson have both talked about Doolittle, Garrett, Sims, and Bell even mentioned Tejay Antone as possible guys who could get chances in the 9th inning to pick up a save.

“Obviously we have to be on the same page in terms of the way we talk and the way we think, and David (Bell) shies away from it from a standpoint that he feels like we have 2-3 guys capable at the end of the game to help us win. I think that’s actually a smart way to look at it,” Johnson said. “Historically there’s always been this closer idea, Iggy (Raisel Iglesias) was definitely that guy for us because he was just best in that role. I think Amir Garrett will be considered a closer. I think Lucas Sims will be considered a closer. At the end of the day Sean Doolittle may be considered a closer. ”

Not having a “9th inning only” kind of guy does, at least in theory, provide teams with more optimal usage. But that may only work if everyone involved is ready for the situations that they’ll be called on for. The pitchers need to be ready to enter the game, which means they need to understand when to start their routine just in case. If you’re the “9th inning guy”, you know when that is every day. You don’t need to be ready for the 6th or 7th inning. But if you know that going into a series against a team that has a middle of the order that’s slanted towards righties (or lefties) and that’s the group you’re going to be counted on to get out, you can look at the game situation and know that it’s time to start getting ready to go in case that phone rings.

“Really it’s about getting those last three outs in the 9th inning, and we want to put ourselves in the best spot to do that,” Johnson said. “I think as long as our guys are good with that, in sharing that role, then life is good. I think when you start getting too conventional in thinking that there’s only one guy to do this job, it’s probably where your team falls apart a little bit”

“We have to do a good job of keeping those guys informed, number one, and then number two, helping them understand that it could be Lucas one night, it could be Amir one night, it could be Doolittle one night – it’s just going to depend on a lot of different things. The other factor with that, at least in the beginning, we do have two guys with Lucas and Amir who haven’t been built up properly from spring training because they’ve been injured. So I think if you look at it that way it just makes sense to take care of them on one end, and on the other end of it is put ourselves in the best spot that we can to win the game.”

After the game on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers both Amir Garrett and Sean Doolittle addressed the “closer by committee” situation with reporters.

“I’m fine with that,” said Amir Garrett. “Like I’ve said before, I don’t care where I pitch. I want to be the closer, but 7th, 8th, wherever they need me at, it’s no big thing. I kind of put my mind to that, that that is what’s was going to happen regardless of results. It wasn’t ‘be closer by committee’ but, it’s all good. Gotta get to it. Whoever gets the 9th, whatever, they’ve got to lock it down and get three outs. That’s all.”

It was a similar reaction from Doolittle on Sunday afternoon when asked about a “closer by committee” situation.

“I’ve been in that role multiple times where there’s a couple of guys they lean on to get those big outs late in games,” Doolittle said. “One time when I was in Oakland I was sharing the 9th with Ryan Madsen. In 2019 in the second half I was sharing that role with Daniel Hudson. I think it just requires a little bit more communication on the front end of games so that guys know what situations to prepare for. Whether it’s a chunk of the lineup, different match ups they want us to look for to try and get us in the right spots”

“I think Amir’s pitched really, really well in camp. He’s proven he’s ready to pitch in that role. Sims is absolutely nasty and I know he can handle it as well. I think it’s a scenario that could help us manage a workload over the course of a long season. Maybe one guy emerges and kind of takes that role and runs with it and the other guys slide into a set up spot, but I think one of the strengths of this bullpen is that we’re not going to rely on just one guy, on two guys to get big outs for us. I think we have the weapons to be able to match up and get it done as a group.”

31 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    “The Reds weren’t satisfied with the bullpen overall as they were heading into spring training.”
    Probably why they shouldn’t have dumped Iglesias and let Bradley go then.
    Of course the Reds also said they were happy with options they had at SS, after failing to bring in someone. Then they turn around and make Suarez the SS, who wasn’t one of the options they were considering at the beginning of camp.
    I just don’t really believe anything coming out of Reds camp. They make it up as they go.

    • Grand Salami

      It’s been a rough offseason for Reds FO credibility.

      Still, 15 mill between Bradley and Iglesias vs 1.5 for Doolittle doesn’t undermine their statements on the pen.

      • Hotto4Votto

        And of that $$ (which I think was more like 13-14m, but that’s splitting hairs) they said they were going to reallocate that money into other areas. I guess the other areas were Big Bob’s pockets since the only ML guy they signed was Doolittle.

        Yeah, not a lot of credibility from the FO.

      • Grand Salami

        Your figures are more accurate. Bradley got $6 mill from Philly but that’s not what the Reds would have paid.

        I think big Bob said we are paying Boddy, Johnson, and co to make arms so we aren’t paying a premium for bullpen arms anymore. (And yes, that reduced payroll).

    • Doug Gray

      Suarez was one of the options they were considering at the beginning of camp, they just weren’t saying it publicly as they were allowing him to work on things in practice (which the public can’t see this year, so it really was a secret) before letting it happen in games.

    • Scott C

      I really wasn’t disappointed in trading Iglesias, he was way too inconsistent. I was disappointed in not getting anything but a salary dump for him and then not “reallocating” those funds. Maybe they did somewhere we can’t see it but if so let the fans know. I was extremely disappointed in them letting Bradley go and not getting a shortstop that would have been a difference maker. Perhaps they will luck out and their realigned infield will produce enough runs to make a difference. Not totally counting on it but who knows.

    • JayTheRed

      Yes I agree the leadership of this team seems like it has absolutely no direction. Everything they talk about is a hodge podge of comments. Honestly I would be surprised if this team competes at all with how the manager and GM and Owner run this team.

    • Taylor

      Completely agree. They had no plan this offseason leading into the season.
      Their starting rotation is going to be awful. I know Gray is out, but having Miley, De Leon, and Hoffman is setting up to be a disaster.
      Hoffman got rocked all spring.

    • JayTheRed

      Agree they are afraid it seems to make commitments to anything this season.

  2. JB

    Who cares who the closer is as long as you get the victory. Maybe these three can be the nasty boys part two. Take this quote from Dibble. “We were intimidating,” Dibble said. “People thought we were a little crazy. But we were all very unselfish about who pitched when, and that’s a big part of what that team was about.”
    Sounds like these three pitchers.

    • MBS

      Garrett has that crazy side, so there is your Dibble, but who is going to blow up the catcher blocking home plate, that guy ain’t on the team. They won’t be the Nasty Boys, but hopefully they work together as well as them. I also think if C. Perez continues to gain confidence, and reduce walks, then we can think of cool names for a 4 some. 4 horsemen, fantastic 4, fiery 4, 4 gone conclusion etc… Ok those were bad but you get the idea.

      • Jimbo44CN

        I think you have it right and that is what was missing last year, even though we made the playoffs. We need this team to have an edge, and that starts with the manager. Garret is a big plus with his attitude. We have to have more of that throughout the team. I am not piling on but believe that begins with the Manager. Think about the really good ones. Yes, they got along with the players, but no, they did not constantly try to make them all happy. This team needs some fire, and it starts with Bell.

  3. MK

    Got to love people who know how to spend other people’s money. If they are in the red they are in the red. CoVid killed the financial position of the team.

    Was not like Iglesias or Bradley were lights out pitchers of late. I guess you rather have them try to create enthusiasm for the following season by announcing we thing our bullpen sucks and we aren’t going to do anything about it because we have no money.

    • David

      Yeah, the Reds likely lost a bucket load of money last year, and without the salary dump, were likely to lose a bucket load of money this year.
      I have no liking or respect for the way Castelini has run the team, but you can’t expect ownership to lose a lot of money year after year.
      And please, don’t tell me how rich Castelini is or how much the Reds are worth.

      Having said all that, fourth or fifth place seems about where this team ends up.

      • MBS

        Obviously in 2020 teams didn’t earn as much money as they normally earn, and will likely earn less than they normally would in 2021. The puzzling part for me is how @MK and @David got a hold the teams finances. Not trying to poke too much fun at you 2, but we are all speculating on the financial shape of the Reds. This is a team that has a history of low payrolls. They finally spend some to make a push for a competitive team, and it reverts to the old way of doing things. Is it out of necessity(COVID), or is it out of greed?

      • VaRedsFan

        They may have had less revenue, but they also only had to pay 1/3 of the salaries. COVID, while devastating, built a convenient excuse to cut player costs.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      When the product is happiness and not a physical product then asking them to spend their money to make the product valuable to the consumer isn’t asking too much.

      You’re complaining that there are bad reviews on a product.

  4. DataDumpster

    Much ado about nothing. With their two key closer candidates looking good but short of innings and the third man looking like he shouldn’t even be used at this point, I’m wondering who else on this staff could fill in this role. No one comes to mind.

  5. James

    If Amir Garret stays healthy along with Lucas Sims the Reds should be pretty stocked up on the closer situation. But I am a little iffy about the Sean Doolittle stats and that he made the team with a 14.63 ERA. Ultimately the Reds need to work on mostly their relief pitching. But the real question is will Cam Beodrasian make the team?

    • JayTheRed

      I feel like Bedrasian should make the team honestly. He didn’t really do anything this spring to make himself not earn a position in the bullpen.

      • James

        How about Brandon Finnegan and Vladimir Gutierrez?They could possibly spur up the Reds bullpen. Vladimir ,not amazing stats but Finnegan has been pitching decent, I’ll guess we’ll see what he can do today. And remember, about Iglesias, that he had a big contract. A 3 year 24million contract, considering he was pretty inconsistent and that he costed a lot of money just for the Reds to hope he did well I’m glad they took care of that. I’m hoping Amir Garret will get the job done. If David Bell uses his brain and strategic uses we could possibly be in 2nd or at worst 3rd in our division.

      • JB

        Guitterez would have made the team in my opinion, but I believe has 20 more games of suspension to serve. As for Iglesias yes it was a salary dump. The guy was terrible the last 2 years for 10 mil a season. Every time he came in I was on the edge of my couch begging the lord to keep it in the park. Only to watch him Groove it and cranking his neck to watch it go over the fence.

  6. I’m 9 yrs old

    Do you think Tony Santallian has the stuff to be a regular relief pitcher?

    • Doug Gray

      Yes. He’s got very good stuff. He needs to be more consistent with his control and command.

  7. Daytonnati

    Question for Doug: why is Lucas Sims not in the conversation as a potential starter? It seems like that was the role he was being groomed for when he arrived. Is it only because the bullpen is so thin? I think he is far better than the bargain bin retreads they are bringing in??

  8. Roger Garrett

    The logic is sound and I like it but it does take big time communication and players that will go along with it.It really boils down to can the pitchers get 3 outs in the 7th when the game appears to be on the line as opposed to the last 3 outs to close out the game.I don’t know if they could keep the same intensity for both situations or even if it should be the same.I like it though.

  9. Tom

    The problem I have with the Reds and David Bell, is they treat the end of spring training like a tryout camp. While other teams are playing regulars the last week of spring to prepare for the season, the Reds are still pitching low minors guys and starters are not going more than 2 or so innings. The net result is a bad start to the season. Remember last year when they had the Tigers for the first two weeks of the season and fell flat. The way they have played this spring and their poor starts means that Bell should be on a short leash.

  10. lost11found

    One of the undercurrents on the site here has been that a team shouldn’t spend big bucks on the ‘closers’. Its an unneeded specialty role that restricts strategy too much.

    I’m interested to see how this plays out. in past years, when this has been tried it’s been because the overall quality of the ‘pen was poor and so was the results. This year, the ‘pen is pretty deep on paper and we shouldn’t have the agonizing problem of you best available arm sitting on the bench for a situation that may never arise (ahead in the 9th <= 3 run lead).