First-year Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell will not limit his players to prescribed roles.
Raisel Iglesias saved 30 games last year as a closer on a 95-loss team. This season Bell won’t necessarily save him for the ninth inning if the game is on the line earlier.
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“He is a guy in our bullpen who is going to pitch in the most important spots in the game. I say that because he’s that good,” Bell said. “That’s how we want to use him. A lot of times its going to be in that closing role. I don’t want to limit him. A lot of times he will pitch in the most important part of the game. The priority is to win games.”
Iglesias broke into the Major Leagues as a starter, making the Opening Day start in 2016. He experienced some shoulder fatigue early in his career in Cincinnati. The Reds moved him to the bullpen and put him in the closer’s role later that season. Iglesias thrived in the role since then.
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Over the last three seasons, Iglesias has 24 saves in which he pitched more than one inning. That is the most in the Major Leagues.
The best pitcher in a solid bullpen, the 29-year old who left Cuba in 2013 and established residence in Haiti, will gladly take the ball whenever.
“I feel proud to pitch in situations that are important. My routine has been to throw the eighth and the ninth. I know we have new coaches. I’ll be OK whatever decisions they make,” Iglesias said through interpreter Julio Morillo. “The only thing is to prepare myself for any situation and do my best.”
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The front office has made a commitment to compete this season and resisted inquiries about Iglesias from other teams this winter. They added three starters — Tanner Roark, Alex Wood and Sonny Gray — to take the burden off an over-worked bullpen. Iglesias looks forward to the transition.
“It is not a secret that the front office added really good pieces to this team,” he said.”Personally, I thought we were getting better. We added three really good starting pitchers plus we have a really solid bullpen. I’m excited for what’s coming.”
What’s coming is a new role for the former starter/closer, who will no longer have to wait for the ninth inning with a new management team that is not afraid to use innovative thinking. The Indians have used closer Andrew Miller to get out of jams or fight through the tougher part of opposing lineups. The Milwaukee Brewers used closer Josh Hader at different points of the game.
“One thing that we’re confident is that Iglesias is on the top of our list of pitchers in those situations,” said Bell, who spent the alst three seasons as the bench coach for the St. Louis Cardinals and was involved with bullpen decisions. “We have several options out of our bullpen for who can finish games. We have that depth — Jared Hughes, David Hernandez and Amir Garrett. That’s what makes it possible. A lot will have to do with where we are in the opposing lineup.”
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“I don’t want to take anything away from the importance of those three outs in the ninth inning,” Bell added. “Having never pitched and definitely not pitched in ninth inning but I’ve talked to a lot of pitchers, there is something different with those three outs.”
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