After a slow start, Alfredo Simon has earned the right to be a member of the Reds 'pen. (Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE)

Tough Decisions Ahead for Reds Brass

The recent winning streak the Good Guys have mustered is a wondrous sight. Seeing “Cincinnati” as the first name listed when you look at the National League divisional standings can only bring a smile to the face of any Reds fans. As has been noted on more than one occasion, a huge contributor to that success has been the bullpen.

You remember. The one piece that all of us (yes, I said all of us) believed to be in shambles.

At the end of spring training, the ‘pen had endured three injuries.

The first was the devastating news of newly signed Ryan Madson. His Reds career (if you seriously want to call it that) was over before it even began. After experiencing soreness in his elbow, it was revealed that Tommy John was needed.

J.J. Hoover was the beneficiary of Bray hitting the DL. Last night, he earned his first MLB win. (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

At one point, Bill Bray fought through a groin strain. Sure, you see or hear groin and chuckle, but until you’ve experience a strain in “that area”, you don’t realize how debilitating it can be. It’s hard to walk, let alone take a stride. Bray battled back to stay on the Opening Day roster, but as we all know, he wasn’t the same as he was in 2011. Bray was placed on the disabled list. Since his stint on the DL began, he has also experienced back issues. According to the team’s website, Bray may resume throwing tomorrow.

During last season, no single reliever (possibly outside of the now departed Francisco Cordero) drew more ire from Reds fans than Nick Masset. I don’t think anyone would be fooled into believing he had a good 2011. It simply wasn’t. I would go so far as to say it was his worst as a Red.

2012 was to be a rebound season, but it he has yet to see GABP in game action due to an inflamed shoulder. Only recently has Masset started throwing.

Madson won’t be back, but Masset and Bray will…eventually. It may be a month, maybe even longer. When those days arrive, the Reds front office will be challenged to make a pair of huge, difficult decisions.

This current construction of the Reds ‘pen is arguably the best in the National League. The Pirates have themselves a nice crew in Pittsburgh. We heard some of the numbers during last nights (painful) telecast. (I say painful not because we had Thom on board. We’re used to that. Yes, “Wild Thing” got the the point of being unbearable. I think my ears leaked a little blood.)

Just so you can see it…

W = 12, tops
ERA = 2.51, 2nd
hits allowed = 101, the least
batting average against = .204, lowest
WHIP = 1.14, lowest
strikeouts = 161, most
SO/BB = 2.93, best

No, the Reds ‘pen hasn’t amassed a ton of saves and/or holds, but the numbers above count a little more. We see that opponents aren’t hitting against them and the arms aren’t allowing too many baserunners either. The strikeouts might be a bit elevated due to Aroldis Chapman, but I doubt anyone will complain (other than those that want him in the starting rotation).

In what was supposed to be a strength is a strength, just not in the same manner in which many of us (alright, all of us) thought it would be.

Considering what the bullpen has accomplished so far in 2012 and despite the somewhat diminished expectations from the group as the camp broke, you would seriously be hard pressed to make any type of move. If Masset and Bray are back and healthy, there will be two moves made. And neither would be pleasing.

I would not want to be Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker. There will be two guys that will have worked their butts off that will hear the dreaded phrase “Dusty wants to see you”. And the way the ‘pen has performed, not a single guy down there deserves to hear that line nor deserves to have to fill out a change of address form.

Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds MLB Reds Bullpen

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