2 Reds relievers who have earned their roster spot, 1 still fighting for his

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ian Gibaut
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ian Gibaut / G Fiume/GettyImages
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Every day it seems as though the Cincinnati Reds roster gets smaller and smaller. Earlier this week, the Reds released non-roster invitee Daniel Norris.

While you can begin to see the direction that the Reds are taking with the position players they'll be taking north, the pitching staff isn't as clear cut. More specifically, the bullpen.

While there's a battle going on for the final two spots in the Cincinnati rotation, the only player that has a spot in the bullpen locked up in Alexis Diaz. However, there are two relievers who've earned a spot on the Reds Opening Day roster and one who is still fighting for his.

Reds reliever Ian Gibaut has earned his roster spot.

There are several things working in Ian Gibaut's favor as final cuts are about to be made. First and foremost has been his performance this spring. While Gibaut did participate in the World Baseball Classic as a member of Team Great Britain, he did nothing to hurt his standing as a member of the Reds relief corps in 2023.

Gibaut was picked up off waivers from the Reds last season after spending time with the Cleveland Guardians and Los Angeles Dodgers. The right-hander posted a 4.50 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 36 innings of work.

This spring, Gibaut has eight punch outs in five innings pitched. Gibaut made just one appearance in the WBC, allowing two hits and one run in two innings while striking out two batters.

Ian Gibaut is also out of minor league options, meaning the Cincinnati Reds would have to hope that the Texas native passed through waivers if they were hoping to send him to the minor leagues. Several other players on the Reds pitching staff can be optioned to Triple-A and keeping Gibaut on the 40-man roster will allow them to maintain quality depth in their bullpen.

Reds reliever Alex Young has earned his roster spot.

The Cincinnati Reds need another left-hander to pair with Reiver Sanmartin. After multiple times last season where the team was absent of any left-handed bullpen options, the Reds have made it a point this season to head into the season with at least two southpaws as part of the relief corps.

The Reds brought in Daniel Norris along with Alex Young on minor-league deals and picked up Bennett Sousa after he was DFA'd by the Chicago White Sox. Norris was just released earlier this week, so it's down to Yougn and Sousa.

The one saving grace that Sousa has is his inclusion on the Reds 40-man roster. However, if Cincinnati feels as though Young is the better options, the team could quite simply option Sousa to Triple-A or designate the lefty for assignment once again in order to make room for Young on the roster.

Both Young and Sousa have pitched well this spring. Young has 12 punch outs in eight games while Sousa has five strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work. This decision could go either way, but Young had a fine season in 2022 while Sousa posted an ERA of 8.41.

At the end of the day, Alex Young has outperformed almost every reliever competing for a spot in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen and has earned his spot on the Opening Day roster.

Reds reliever Joel Kuhnel still has work to do.

Let's try to take an objective look at how the Cincinnati Reds bullpen stacks up as it stands right now. Alexis Diaz, Buck Farmer, and Reiver Sanmartin are locks to head north once spring training ends later this week. Fernando Cruz seems like a good bet to be included as well.

Throw in the aforementioned Ian Gibaut and Alex Young, and you're now looking at 75-percent of your relief corps to start the season. With Lucas Sims out of action due to back spasm, it's questionable as to whether or not he'll begin the season on the active roster.

If Sims starts 2023 on the IL, that leaves two open spots in the Reds bullpen. Tejay Antone, Tony Santillan, Vladimir Gutierrez, Justin Dunn, and maybe even Luke Weaver will begin the upcoming season on the Injured List as well.

Is Luis Cessa a starter or a reliever? How about Connor Overton? Those are two questions that must be answered, and if both right-hander's wind up in the bullpen, then things are going to get tough for pitchers like Joel Kuhnel/

The 28-year-old held onto his 40-man roster spot throughout the offseason, so there's obvioulsy something Cincinnati likes about the hard-throwing right-hander. While Kuhnel had an ERA of 6.36, his xERA was 3.78 and his xFIP was 3.52 according to FanGraphs.

Joel Kuhnel is a fringe-candidate to make the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster and has seven strikeouts in eight Cactus League games. His 52.2-percent ground ball-rate in 2022 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when pitching at Great American Ball Park, but one or two more solid showings this spring may be necessary in order to secure his roster spot.

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