Hoover wants a shot at replacing Chapman

After strong '15 season, righty hopes to step into closer role

January 8th, 2016

CINCINNATI -- The determination was in J.J. Hoover's eyes and in his voice. Replacing Aroldis Chapman as a closer would be no easy task, but Hoover very much wants that job in 2016.

"I have a lot of interest in it," Hoover told MLB.com. "I'm kind of gunning for that job but will do whatever the team needs. I feel like I should definitely get a crack at it. I feel like I've shown I deserve a shot. I kind of moved into the setup role last year. Since Chapman is gone, he's going to be hard to replace, but I want a shot to prove I can do it."

Chapman was traded to the Yankees on Dec. 28 for four Minor League players, and Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty recently stated that job would be decided at Spring Training. Relievers such as Jumbo Diaz, Michael Lorenzen, Brandon Finnegan and Tony Cingrani also are potential candidates, but it would seem logical that Hoover enters camp with the upper hand.

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Last season, Hoover emerged as the eighth-inning setup man for Chapman and went 8-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 67 appearances. Over 64 1/3 innings, he walked 31, struck out 52 and posted a 1.17 WHIP. Nine of his 12 inherited runners were left stranded.

Hoover, 28, has five career saves since breaking into the big leagues in 2012, including one in '15. He likes the charge a pitcher can get from finishing a game.

"Those last three outs are a little bit harder to get," he said. "I've done it on a select basis, but I'd like an extended look at it, and not just a one-and-done type deal. "The preparation is the same, and it's the same hitters. It's just the ninth inning."

Hoover makes his offseason home in Cincinnati and has been doing his winter workouts at Great American Ball Park under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Sean Marohn.

It's a routine that served Hoover well last winter, when he had to work to rebound from a miserable 2014 season. That year, he went 1-10 with a 4.88 ERA -- including a team-record 10 straight losses -- and endured a demotion to Triple-A.

"I worked with [Marohn], and I attribute a lot of the success I had last year to the offseason we put in the year before," Hoover said.

Hoover is already throwing and is about two weeks away from beginning to work off of a mound again to prepare for camp.

"My arm is feeling really good," he said. "I'm getting arm strength and speed back. It's the standard offseason so far."

It hasn't been quite that for the organization, which has continued its rebuilding process with the trades of Todd Frazier to the White Sox and Chapman to the Yankees.

Hoover, who is arbitration eligible for the first time this winter, anticipates being a senior member of the pitching staff -- regardless of his role.

"It's kind of the direction the team has to go," Hoover said. "We have a bunch of young guys. I'm going to try and help with whatever experience I've got. If they've got questions, I'm an open book and will try to help them as best I can."