The Cincinnati Reds have had a bunch of injuries this spring on the pitching staff that have seemed to have opened up a spot or three in the bullpen. Nick Christiani may be one of the favorites due to his strong spring training thus far and his advantage over several other candidates of being on the 40-man roster.
The Reds drafted Christiani in the 13th round of the 2009 draft. The right hander has spent the previous two seasons in Triple-A with the Louisville Bats to go with a call-up towards the end of the 2013 season with the big league squad. He struggled in 2012 from a peripheral standpoint as he walked 3.6 batters per 9 innings pitched and struck out just 4.3 batters per 9 innings.
He rebounded well in 2013 as his walk rate dropped to 2.7 per 9 innings pitched and his strikeout rate jumped up to 7.9 batters per 9 innings. The improvements came from better control and an uptick in velocity as he began to routinely touch 95 MPH with his fastball and his cutter started reaching the lower 90′s, up from the high 80′s in the 2012 season.
During the spring in 2014 Christiani has allowed just one run in 10 innings pitched (0.90 ERA) without walking a batter and having 7 strikeouts. The lone run he allowed came in the first game of the spring for him, since then he has had 9 shutout innings including three straight two inning appearances.
The bullpen is going to include JJ Hoover, Sam LeCure and Manny Parra. If Cueto, Bailey, Leake, Cingrani and Simon make up the starters to begin the season there could be three or four spots up for grabs. Nick Christiani, Pedro Beato, Brett Marshall, Logan Ondrusek, Trevor Bell, Jose Diaz and Jeff Francis are all vying for the open spots and Christiani has about as good of a claim to one of them as anyone else on the list.
This last week of spring training will be big for all of the previously named relievers, but Nick Christiani has been on a roll all March and is carrying over a strong 2013 season in the minor leagues to spring training that may very well get him a big league job.