Ignoring the impact that the return of right-handers Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen has had on the Reds’ bullpen is impossible.
Iglesias, Cincinnati’s Opening Day starter, was activated from the disabled list on June 21, one day before Lorenzen returned after getting over problems with his elbow and mononucleosis. Iglesias, who was sidelined on May 1 with an impingement in his right shoulder, went into Sunday’s series finale against Arizona with a streak of seven scoreless appearances, all lasting at least two innings. The native of Cuba had allowed just one run in his nine appearances since returning.
Lorenzen was 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA after retiring all eight batters he faced to get the win in Cincinnati’s 6-1 victory over the Diamondbacks on Saturday.
Together, they had helped stabilize a Reds’ bullpen that had been nothing short of disastrous over the first 2 ½ months of the season. Starting on June 10, the relievers had combined to log a 3.50 earned-run average, dropping the bullpen’s overall ERA from 6.71 to 5.38, the lowest since it was 5.36 on April 17.
Part of the solution was stability, manager Bryan Price pointed out. Going into Sunday’s game, the Reds hadn’t made a transaction involving a relief pitcher since right-hander J.J. Hoover was optioned to Triple-A Louisville and right-hander Keyvius Sampson was recalled from the Bats on June 29. That was easily Cincinnati’s longest stretch of the season without a move involving a reliever.
“As you can see we have continuity in our bullpen now,” Price said before Sunday’s game. “When you think about how many pitchers we’ve gone back and forth with – Jumbo (Diaz) was up and down, Hoover was up and down, Dayan Diaz, (Daniel) Wright. There were so many pitchers that came in here and either made a start or were in the bullpen or were in Keyvius Sampson’s situation where he made an emergency start and went to the bullpen. There was so much ambiguity to it.”
Rehab mode: Even though Iglesias has been on an impressive role, Price is trying to stick to the simple formula the Reds put together when he was activated.
“It is unlikely that we would use Raisel the next day after two innings,” Price said. “Under the guidelines, however many innings he pitched, he’d get a day off. If he pitches one inning, he gets one day off. If he pitches two innings, two days off – mandatory. We got to the point now where if he pitches two innings and he feels great, he can pitch with one day off. We’re getting to the point where we can use him as a regular pitcher as opposed to a rehab pitcher. He hasn’t had any issues at all. He’s throwing great. He’s working his way back.”
Price feels less inhibited with Lorenzen.
“He has been bouncing back pretty well, especially since the All-Star break,” the manager said. “We do a little Q&A with these guys and he’s been bouncing back great. We get to the point that he will be used like a regular pitcher. Lorenzen went 2 2/3 innings (on Saturday), so it’s unlikely we will use him (Sunday), unless he feels great and we have an overwhelming need.”