Concern for Reds bullpen mounts after suffering another injury, blowing another game

It wasn't a one-run game, but the Reds lost another heartbreaker on Friday night.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Fernando Cruz (63)
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Fernando Cruz (63) / Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
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The Cincinnati Reds suffered yet another injury to a member of their pitching staff. Justin Wilson, who came out of Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers after facing just one batter, was placed on the 15-day injured list with left shoulder tightness. The Reds recalled rookie pitcher Carson Spiers to fill Wilson's spot on the roster.

But that would appear to be least of David Bell's worries after watching his bullpen collapse once again with two of the team's best relievers on the mound. Fernando Cruz was saddled with the loss on Friday night, and Alexis Diaz struggled during his appearance in the eighth inning. The duo combined to allow four runs on four hits while striking out just one. Diaz allowed a two-run home run that put the game out of reach.

This is the third straight game in which Cruz — who's normally been Bell's stopper — has allowed at least one run. In two of his previous three appearances, Cruz has taken the loss and allowed four runs on five hits while also walking four batters. This isn't the same version of Cruz who so utterly dominant during the month of April.

Concern for Reds bullpen mounts after suffering another injury, blowing another game

From Opening Day through the end of April, Cruz was cruising. The right-hander posted seven holds while striking out nearly 50% of the batters he faced. Opposing batters were only able to muster a .079 batting average against Cruz, and his split-finger fastball was the most un-hittable pitch in major leagues.

Since the calendar flipped to May, the strikeouts have still been there (35.9% K rate), but the walks have gone up tremendously. Opponents are also now hitting .313 against the 34-year-old, and Bell's best late-inning weapon has been neutralized.

Diaz hasn't been much better, nor has he even been able to occupy his normal role as the team's closer. The Reds have lost 16 of their previous 21 games, meaning that Diaz's opportunity for saves has been few and far between. Diaz has made just five appearances in the month of May and his numbers are atrocious.

The Reds closer is 0-1 having faced 24 batters and has allowed eight earned runs on just five hits. Why so many runs? Because Diaz is walking 25% of the batters he's faced. Diaz has a 10.76 FIP during the month of May with twice as many walks as strikeouts.

What may have been unthinkable prior to the start of the 2024 season has become a reality. Both Cruz and Diaz may need a trip to the minor leagues in order to get things straightened out. The pair each have minor-league options remaining, and maybe it's time for the Reds to use them.

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