Heath Hembree gave up a game-winning home run in the ninth inning last night and the Cincinnati Reds failed to make up ground on the Milwaukee Brewers. With the trade deadline additions to the bullpen, David Bell no longer needs to rely on Hembree late in games.
I’m not out to heap blame onto Hembree or Bell. Mychal Givens, the Reds’ newest acquisition, loaded the bases in the eighth inning, and were it not for an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play, Cincinnati may have been trailing heading into the bottom half of the inning.
At the end of the day, if you’re part of a major league ball club, the expectation is that perform up to your potential. We’ve seen Hembree heavily relied upon late in games during the month of July, but with Givens, Luis Cessa, and Michael Lorenzen in the fold, Hembree’s usage should be shifted to the sixth or seventh inning.
Reds reliever Heath Hembree doesn’t need to be counted on late in games.
When the Cincinnati Reds bullpen consisted of Ashton Goudeau, Josh Osich, Cionel Perez, and Edgar Garcia, you could see why David Bell would turn to either Brad Brach or Heath Hembree late in games.
The Reds have been without high-leverage relievers Lucas Sims and Tejay Antone for over a month, though it sounds as if Sims is ready to return any day now. Bell has also struggled to find consistency from left-handers Amir Garrett and Seann Doolittle, both of whom were to be counted on as potential closers this season.
The 32-year-old Hembree is having a solid season overall, but has struggled of late. On the season, Hembree has appeared in 40 games, and while his 5.48 ERA and 4.75 FIP aren’t overly impressive, the right-hander does have a 40.1% strikeout-rate according to FanGraphs.
In three of Hembree’s last four outings, however, the veteran hurler has failed to complete s full inning. Hembree has faced 17 batters during that span, allowing only two hits, but he’s walked five batters. His xFIP during those four contests is 6.94.
David Bell has better relievers than Heath Hembree in the Reds’ bullpen.
I’m not advocating for Heath Hembree to lose his spot in the bullpen when either Lucas Sims or Tejay Antone returns. I honestly think there are relievers still on the roster that have fared far worse this season than the former fifth-round pick. But, Hembree no longer needs to be used in high-leverage situations.
If David Bell is looking for a true closer, Michael Lorenzen seems up for the task. The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run to cross home plate since his return and his velocity has topped out in the upper-90s. I mentioned Sims earlier, and the former Atlanta Braves’ prospect already has seven saves on the season.
When the Cincinnati Reds bullpen was in shambles earlier this season, Heath Hembree may have been one of David Bell’s best options late in games. But after the trio of relievers the front office added last week, plus Lorenzen’s return from injury, there’s no reason to set Hembree up to fail. Bell trusts his players, and while that’s admirable, sometimes that trust is misplaced.