The Cincinnati Reds hope the signing of David Hernandez helps compete a couple of pictures for the team in spring training.
Adding the veteran right-handed reliever on a reported two-year deal gives them another reliable arm out of the bullpen and means one more young starter is likely to start the season in Triple-A.
A 32-year-old from California, Hernandez pitched in 64 major-league games last season, splitting time with the Diamondbacks and Angels.
He has a career ERA of 4.00 in 443 major-league appearances with 22 career saves.
The team also signed reliever Jared Hughes to a major-league deal in December, and general manager Dick Williams said Tuesday he expects to see Hughes and Hernandez join Raisel Iglesias and Wandy Peralta in the bullpen.
Williams guessed there are two spots open in the bullpen with candidates including Austin Brice, Zack Weiss, Ariel Hernandez and Kevin Shackleford, among others.
Michael Lorenzen is expected to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, but he could end up back in the bullpen for a third year if he doesn’t make the starting five.
Williams made it sound like the majority of the team’s young starters who do not make the team will be sent back to Louisville rather than converted to relievers at the major-league level, a choice made more possible by signing David Hernandez.
“Just the opportunity,” Hernandez said when asked about why he chose to sign with the Reds. “I feel like I have an opportunity to pitch late in a game and hopefully lock down some big outs. Whether it’s late in the game or early in the game, I’m just looking forward to helping guys get better and hopefully we can see some growth.”
He has traditionally used a fastball and curveball predominantly but had some success with “a cutter/slider kind of thing” last season when he posted a 3.11 ERA and struck out 52 while walking nine in 55 innings.
Hernandez could be the last free agent to get a major-league contract from the Reds before players report for spring training Feb. 13.
“We do still have some budget available, but we are at 40 on the roster so major-league signings are probably less likely,” Williams said. “But we do have some areas we want to address.”
Those include shortstop, where Jose Peraza is expected to step in for Zack Cozart (free agent departure) but the team would like a veteran backup.
Williams said they will add a few more arms via minor-league deals, too.
Manager Bryan Price said in December he sees four rotation spots likely locked up by Luis Castillo, Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan.
That would leave one spot open for the likes of Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, Rookie Davis, Cody Reed and others.