Reds: Heath Hembree’s brief success in 2021 has run its course

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Heath Hembree (55) shakes his head in the dugout after being relieved in the ninth inning.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Heath Hembree (55) shakes his head in the dugout after being relieved in the ninth inning. /

It’s safe to assume, after giving up five runs in less than one inning, that Heath Hembree will be handed his walking papers when Tejay Antone returns from the injured list. In fact, Hembree may be shown the door before Antone returns. The Cincinnati Reds reliever’s disastrous performance on Monday is the latest in a long line of poor outings.

Hembree entered in the eighth inning in relief of Wade Miley who pitched seven sparkling innings, struck out seven batters, and allowed just four hits to the Chicago Cubs. Hembree entered the game and allowed three consecutive singles before back-to-back punch outs of Patrick Wisdom and David Bote.

Cubs’ catcher Robinson Chirinos then singled in two runs and Jason Heyward followed that up with an RBI double that chased Hembree from the game. Jeff Hoffman eventually entered and surrendered a bases-clearing double to Ian Happ before induing a ground ball out from Sergio Alcantara.

But, since Hembree was responsible for allowing Chirinos and Heyward to reach base, the right-hander was charged with all five Chicago runs in the eighth inning. Hoffman dispatched of all three batters he faced in the ninth and the Reds won the game by a final score of 14-5.

Reds’ reliever Heath Hembree has run out of magic.

There was a time during the 2021 season when Heath Hembree was among the most trusted relievers that David Bell could turn to. I know, that’s a scary statement to read out loud, but it’s true. When injuries decimated an already porous Cincinnati bullpen, Hembree was one of the only pitchers who could be trusted late in games.

Hembree has eight saves on the season, and the overwhelming majority of those came during the month of July. The former Cleveland Indians’ reliever had seven saves, two holds, and only one blown save during July.

Hembree owned a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings of work while appearing in 14 games. Hembree allowed just one ball to leave the yard during that timeframe and struck out 20 batters while holding the 52 batters he faced to a .152 batting average.

Unfortunately, once the calendar flipped to August, Heath Hembree’s magic seems to have evaporated. Over his last six outings, the 32-year-old has thrown just 4.2 innings, allowed nine hits, and has allowed opposing batters to post a 1.134 OPS-against.

Should Reds fans hold out hope that Heath Hembree will figure it out?

If you’re looking for some silver lining, don’t forget that Heath Hembree began his Cincinnati Reds career with nine consecutive scoreless outings. The right-hander’s first appearance in a Reds’ uniform was on April 23rd, and he didn’t allow a run to cross the plate until May18th.

During those nine games, Hembree allowed just one hit and struck out 11 batters. The following 16 games in which Hembree appeared, he allowed 15 hits, including eight home runs and owned a 9.00 ERA before righting the ship in July.

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Will Heath Hembree be able to right the ship once again? It seems doubtful as now David Bell has Luis Cessa, Justin Wilson, and Mychal Givens in the bullpen, plus Michael Lorenzen. Lucas Sims returned last week and it’s only a matter of time before we Tejay Antone back on the field. It’s a numbers game, and the future does not look very bright for Heath Hembree.