2011 Cincinnati Reds Season Preview: The Pen


The one part of the Reds roster that received the most consternation was the bullpen. And you can even go a bit further in saying that the finger was being directly pointed at closer Francisco Cordero.

So what could 2011 hold for the Reds bullpen? Like the starting staff, the are some young arms out there as well. And we will begin with the pitcher that was at the brunt of a lot of the Reds fans boos, Cordero.

Francisco Cordero

If you look at Codero’s numbers from 2010, a couple of thing really jump out at you. First, the high WHIP. The second the poor SO/BB ratio. They go hand in hand with Cordero. If you can knock CoCo for one thing, it’s the manner in which he pitches. Low and hard away almost every pitch. It’s almost like he’s forgot there’s an inside of the plate. Granted, chances for making a bad pitch are lessened if you’re going outside.

And CoCo will be the closer. Reds manager Dusty Baker put that to bed from day one. Some were wanting to see Aroldis Chapman in the role, but Baker quickly doused any potential of a controversy in naming Cordero as his closer.

But think about this a minute. Cordero will possibly be pitching for a contract. He’ll make $12 million this season and the Reds hold an option for another $12 million for 2012. That option will most likely be declined considering (among others) the $151 million the Reds doled out over the offseason. Plus, he can be bought out for $1 million. In essence, Cordero is in the final year of his contract. You know what they say about those players, too.

Nick Masset

Masset’s role with the team has been as safe as any. The primary setup guy has fourished since coming over from the Chicago White Sox in the Ken Griffey Jr. deal.

But 2010 was little rouger on Masset than 2009. Sounds familiar, huh? Higher ERA and WHIP. Lower SO/BB. The best part of Masset’s 2010 may be that he did manage to raise his SO/9 to an even 10.0. Some have touted Masset as the Reds future closer. His numbers at GABP are pretty darn good (6-2, 3.11 ERA, 1.133 WHIP, .211 BAA) and would deserve at least entertaining the thought.

And add this. If Cordero does struggle this season, it will most likely be Masset that steps into the role.

Aroldis Chapman

At times last season, it appeared that all the buzz surrounding the Cuban was more of a carnival sideshow that an actual pitcher. All people wanted to see was the triple digit heater. It did bring a certain aura back to the ballpark, no question, but there’s more to this guy than that fastball. He possesses one of the game’s most devastating sliders as well.

The debate this offseason (and even a little more forward) has been that the Reds should dubbed Chapman the closer. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Yes, he does have the experience of pitching on the Cuban National team, but he has almost exclusively been a starter. That was the role he was slotted for at the beginning of 2010. That was his role in Cuban baseball.

The Reds envision Chapman as a starter. They are working him into a comfort zone in order for him to become more confident. I do ask this. For those fans that want Chapman as the closer, are you also one of those that said you don’t dish out that much coin on a reliever? It is a catch-22 the Reds are in here especially when you consider what is currently on the starting staff.

Logan Ondrusek

When the team broke camp last season, some eyes were opened by the inclusion of Ondrusek on the roster. He struggled early on and was sent back to Louisville to tighten up a couple of things. The move couldn’t have been more valuable. Aside from the now departed Arthur Rhodes, Ondrusek may have been the best bullpen pitcher for the Reds in 2010.

Just to illustrate how effective Ondusek was last year, during a 20 game stretch from June 16 to August 9, he allowed no runs. Zip. Zero. That was 22+ innings also. His totals bear his early struggles and the blips he had late in the season. Nor many rookies could have pieced together the type of season Ondrusek did.

Yes, you have to be impressed.

Bill Bray

There were moments last season where Bray made me want to launch my remote straight through the set. There were other times when Bray was absolutely unhittable. That pretty much describes Bray’s first season back from Tommy John surgery.

That seems to be commonplace anymore is Tommy John surgery. The Res 40-man has three (Bray, Arredondo, Volquez) that have had the procedure. And yes, if Bray performs according to the norm of successful candidates, 2011 should be the best we’ve seen from Bray since he’s been in a Reds uniform.

And I believe, if he’s “right”, Bray can attain the role that Rhodes has vacated. I do believe he should get that shot.

Jared Burton

Is it me or is Burton kind of being a forgotten man here? All the talk about other bullpen candidates leaves you with a feeling that he’s not in the mix for a roster spot. Funny, just about two years ago, he was being touted as the Reds next closer.

Freakish injuries have sidelined Burton, but those injuries have not taken away from his effectiveness. Last season at Louisville, Burton had a period in the middle of the summer where he was simply masterful. It transferred to the big league field when he was brought back to Cincy at the end of the season.

You simply cannot have a discussion of potential arms in the pen and not include Burton. His seasons in ’07 and ’08n warrant such inclusion. He’s back and he’s healthy again. It’s a win-win.

Dontrelle Willis

Believe it or not, the signing of Willis was probably the most talked about transaction Reds GM Walt Jocketty made. You could say it was the substantial amount of cash that was laid out on the table, but the former Rookie of the Year gleaned just a bit more recognition.

A couple of things have changed since Willis last donned an MLB uniform. He’s no longer a starter. Something between ’05 & ’06 snapped. No one really knows, but Willis lost his effectiveness and has struggled ever since. The other change, that signature high leg kick has been scrapped. The mechanics of the kick may have thrown him a bit off balance and the Reds brass think he’ll be more effective without the kick and in the pen.

The D-Train is a huge wild card. If he makes the team, I would be shocked. He may need more time to adjust to his new role and new mechanics.

Jordan Smith

You have to feel sorry for Smith. He might actually be the forgotten man in all the bullpen chatter. Smith skipped Triple-A when he was called up in mid-June. You get the feeling that since there’s no talk, there’s no chance. No one will doubt his competitive attitude. No one could deny what Smith added to the pen last season either.

Jose Arredondo

Another pitcher that’s gone under the knife for Tommy John. Arredondo did not throw a single pitch last season. His signing with the Reds was so under the radar that some may have even forgotten about him. How can you forget the 2008 he posted with the Angels? You can see how his 2009 went. He wasn’t right and he eventually had the surgery.

Talk all you want about how the positioning for the starting staff and the amount of competition there is. It’s even more competitive for a spot in the Reds pen.