Unheralded 2022 performance will land Fernando Cruz a prominent role in the Reds bullpen

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Fernando Cruz (63).
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Fernando Cruz (63). / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Fernando Cruz was once a highly-regarded prospect in the Kansas City Royals farm system. Selected in the sixth round, Cruz was expected to make an impact for the Royals after being drafted. Of course, that was all the way back in 2007. And, at the time, Cruz was an infielder.

A lot has changed for Cruz over the last 15 years. After converting to a pitcher and spending time in the Chicago Cubs organization, Cruz joined several independent leagues and was part of the Mexican League in 2021.

Good fortune saw Cruz join the Cincinnati Reds last year and he was outright to Triple-A Louisville to begin the season. After a terrific showing in the minor leagues, Cruz's hard work finally paid off and he was called up to The Show in September.

Fernando Cruz will land a prominent role in the Reds bullpen.

Fernando Cruz's path to the major leagues took several unexpected twists and turns, but once he arrived, there was no denying the talent he possessed in his right arm. After going 4-4 with a 2.89 ERA and 23 saves for the Louisville Bats in 2022, the Reds selected Cruz once rosters expanded.

Cruz's rookie season actually saw him work as an opener twice and total 14.2 innings of work in 14 appearance. Cruz did blow the lone save opportunity he was given, but still posted a very respectable 1.84 ERA and struck out 21 batters.

The Reds bullpen has been a cause of consternation among the Cincinnati faithful for years now. It felt as the front office waited far too long in both the 2020 and 2021 seasons before making necessary additions through trades.

Cincinnati also failed to retain some of their best relievers over the years. Archie Bradley was non-tendered, Michael Lorenzen was allowed to enter free agency, and both Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias were traded for what amounted to pennies on the dollar.

Last year's bullpen was decimated by injuries. However, the hope is that Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims, and Tony Santillan will all return at full strength once pitchers and catcher arrive to Goodyear, Arizona in February.

The Cincinnati Reds may have already found their closer, but don't discount the idea of Fernando Cruz seeing time in the eighth inning or even the ninth depending on the workload heaped on the shoulders of Alexis Diaz. Cruz's performance in 2022 will see him take on a bigger role in 2023.

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