Tony Santillan looked quite comfortable as the Reds closer

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Tony Santillan (64) throws a pitch.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Tony Santillan (64) throws a pitch. / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last spring, all we heard about was how Amir Garrett was going to supplant Raisel Iglesias as the Cincinnati Reds closer. That never came to fruition and AG is now pitching for the Kansas City Royals. David Bell had two pitchers he could turn to close out last night's game versus the Atlanta Braves, and he chose Tony Santillan.

Despite 10 different pitchers recording a save for the Reds last season, Santillan was never given the opportunity. I'm not sure that the right-hander will get the ball every time Cincinnati takes a lead into the ninth inning, but last night was a good omen.

Santillan replaced rookie hurler Dauri Moreta and took care of the Braves 1-2-3, recording two strikeouts sandwiched around a Guillermo Heredia groundout to the shortstop Kyle Farmer. Santillan needed just 15 pitches to dispense of the Braves in order and was relentless with his slider.

Will Tony Santillan be the Reds closer in 2022?

Back in November, Blog Red Machine contributor Scott Boyken suggested that Tony Santillan would be a dark horse candidate to be the Cincinnati Reds closer in 2022. Boyken cited Santillan's performance under pressure as a big reason the Redlegs should turn the keys over to the former Top 100 prospect when the game is on the line.

Last season, with runners in scoring position, opposing hitters slashed just .095/.176/.238 while striking out 18 times in 42 plate appearances. Santillan saw four swings and misses last night; two courtesy of his heater and the other two came on that devastating slider.

David Bell could have easily decided to go with the veteran Hunter Strickland in the ninth inning. Heck, after the spring that Buck Farmer had and the Reds nursing a three-run lead, there's no reason Bell would have been wrong to insert the former Detroit Tigers reliever. But instead, Bell went with Santillan.

That was one of my favorite moves from the Reds skipper last night (aside from inserting Brandon Drury into the starting lineup). Bell chose to give Santillan an opportunity to gain his first major league save with a three-run lead. There wasn't a lot of pressure, especially with the bottom of the Braves order coming to bat.

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But that moment might propel Tony Santillan into a bigger role for the Cincinnati Reds this season. Shutting down the Atlanta Braves on the road on Opening Day is nothing to sneeze at. Santillan looked very sharp, and this may be a sign of things to come as the season progresses.