The Cincinnati Reds announced today that they had re-signed right-handed reliever Tony Santillan for the 2024 season. The deal is a minor league one with an invitation to big league spring training.
It wasn’t that long ago that Tony Santillan was a staple in the clubs bullpen. After coming up through the minor leagues as a starting pitcher, he moved to the bullpen in 2021 with the big league club and posted a 2.91 ERA that season in 26 games, throwing 43.1 innings with 56 strikeouts.
During the 2022 season he picked up four saves for the Reds before suffering a back injury in the middle of June. It would wind up costing him the remainder of the season. It also kept him off of the mound early in the spring of 2023, but he returned in early April with a rehab stint in Triple-A Louisville. Santillan dealt with other injuries and was shut down for two months before beginning another rehab stint in Louisville in the middle of June. Starting in July he had a three week stretch where he was up-and-down between Cincinnati and Louisville, but he headed back to the minors on July 20th and he didn’t get the call back to the big leagues.
On August 29th the Reds designated him for assignment. A few days later he cleared waivers and was outrighted to Louisville where he remained for the rest of the season. There’s no transaction noting that he elected free agency, but it’s possible that he had indicated to the team he was going to and they came to a new agreement before he needed to do that.
The season in Louisville was a struggle for Santillan. He battled consistency throughout his time with the Bats, posting a 7.88 ERA in 35 games – including his rehab time. He walked 28 batters and had 40 strikeouts in 32.0 innings.During an 11-day stretch in mid-August he allowed 12 earned runs in 2.2 innings where he walked nine batters and had just one strikeout. Outside of that stretch, not including his rehab time, he threw 20.1 innings while allowing one home run, walking 11, and striking out 26 to go along with an ERA of 3.98 for the Bats.
An interesting note is that in 2023, Tony Santillan’s fastball had the best velocity it’s ever had. It was 1.2 MPH faster than it was in 2021 and 0.1 MPH faster than in 2022. His problems on the mound appear to be more about the execution of his pitches, and his ability to throw them for strikes more often, than his stuff declining when he returned from injury.