As the Reds begin their final week of Spring Training, it looks like Travis Wood has the inside track on the final spot in the starting rotation. The stiff back that forced Aroldis Chapman to exit a game last week appears to be the excuse the Reds needed to justify the flame-thrower starting his season at AAA Louisville. I also think the front office is a little afraid to see their $30 million investment get lit up like a Christmas tree early in the season.
I do feel that it would be better to send Chapman to the minors rather than put him in the bullpen. He is a starting pitcher. That being said, let’s take a look at the guys who will make up the Cincinnati bullpen.
Francisco Cordero was the team’s lone All-Star in 2009. He converted 39 of 43 save opportunities while posting a 2.16 earned run average. Cordero appears ready for Opening Day as much as anyone. In eight appearances this spring, he has allowed one unearned run.
The other veteran in the bullpen is left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who has also breezed through Spring Training so far. He has not allowed a run in five innings. In 2009, Rhodes was one of the most reliable relievers in the National League, posting a 2.53 ERA and holding opponents to a .198 batting average.
The other left-hander in the bullpen is Daniel Ray Herrera. Herrera better resembles someone you would see singing on Disney Channel than a Major League pitcher. At 5’6″ and 165 pounds, he hardly classifies as an imposing figure on the mound. However, he gets people out. With the screwball as his go-to pitch, Herrera will continue trying to baffle hitters in the mid-to-late innings.
After being considered for a spot in the starting rotation last spring, Nick Masset was placed in the bullpen and seems to have found his niche. He was 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA for the Reds in 2009. With Rhodes, the big right-hander will serve as a setup man to Cordero. Another strong season would definitely put Masset in line to be the club’s next closer.
In 2007, Jared Burton held the position that Masset currently has a firm grip on. Periods of ineffectiveness and time on the disabled list have steered Burton more toward a middle-innings role. He did have an encouraging finish to the 2009 season, posting a 1.20 ERA in his final 15 games of the season.
Micah Owings served as the club’s fifth starter for much of last season. He was 6-11 with a 5.74 ERA in 19 starts before being sent to the bullpen. It looks like Owings will stay in the bullpen, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing. It gives Dusty Baker the option to use him as a pinch hitter before beginning a relief stint on the mound, thus saving a bench player. Owings hit .259 with three home runs last season.
If the Reds decide to break camp with 12 pitchers, that would leave one more spot in the bullpen. Mark Sheldon seems to see it coming down to Mike Lincoln, Matt Maloney, Carlos Fisher and Logan Ondrusek. I would tend to lean toward Lincoln if they take 12 pitchers.
Images by Team Doster.
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