The Cincinnati Reds experienced the worst their bullpen had to offer last week when a 9-1 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays turned into a 14-9 gut-wrenching loss. That game featured a carousel of ineffective relievers who magnified the glaring weakness of the Reds’ bullpen, which has the second-worst ERA (4.28) in the NL.
The Reds suffer from four struggling relievers who have had varying levels of success in the past but are all now in the throes of poor pitching: Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, Manny Parra and JJ Hoover.
With the season apparently now over for beleaguered lefty specialist Sean Marshall due to shoulder surgery, the Reds are rid of their most ineffective reliever in the first half of 2014. But they still have to figure out ways to improve a bullpen that only has strength at the very back end in eighth-inning specialist Jonathan Broxton and closer Aroldis Chapman.
The Reds have brought in two right-handed power pitchers to try to fill their bullpen void in 30-year-old Jose “Jumbo” Diaz, who can hit 100 mph, and 23-year-old Carlos Contreras, who made the jump from Double-A. Both made their major league debuts last week, and both may offer some alternative to relying so much on their quartet of the four flailing relievers.
In the event the Reds don’t feel like they have the answers they need in Diaz and Contreras, they are going to have to rethink their bullpen. LeCure most likely will bounce back from his recent struggles, but there’s no overwhelming expectation that Ondrusek, Parra and Hoover are going to be any better in the second half of the season than they were in the first half.
Short of hitting the market to see who they could acquire, the Reds do have one very compelling alternative – shift Alfredo Simon from the rotation to the bullpen. However, given the struggles of Tony Cingrani (who has been demoted to the minors after serving in the Reds’ rotation for most of the first half), the Reds may not want to move Simon from the rotation, where he has been a very successful workhorse (10-3 and a 3.05 ERA in 14 starts).
But like it or not, the Reds might not have a choice but to move Simon back to the bullpen if one of the newly promoted relievers can’t fill the void and the Reds don’t acquire better bullpen talent than the group they’re relying upon now.