GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- During one of the early workouts at camp last week, Reds manager David Bell noticed that closer Raisel Iglesias was one of the pitchers who stood out during his bullpen session.
“Last year, he definitely was ready by Opening Day, but it was a little bit of a slower process I think,” Bell said. “One thing he set out to do was to come in a little bit more ready.”
Iglesias began his offseason throwing program in November, which is earlier than he has done before.
“I feel like I’m more prepared,” Iglesias said via interpreter Jorge Merlos.
Iglesias had some things to like about his 2019 season, including his 34 saves and 68 appearances that were career highs. But a whole lot went awry as well as he went 3-12 with a 4.16 ERA, almost two runs above his 2.38 ERA from ‘18.
The 12 losses also established a franchise record for relievers. Iglesias' 12 homers allowed tied the career high he also had in ’18. What stood out most was the divide between his performances in save situations vs. non-save situations -- a 3.59 ERA compared to 5.18.
“It’s no secret that when I’m in the game, there’s an adrenaline to pitching in the ninth inning,” Iglesias said. “It’s no secret for any pitcher, for that matter. There’s a difference in adrenaline when you’re saving a game and when you’re not saving a game.”
At the beginning of last season, Bell tried experimenting by using Iglesias in high-leverage situations -- regardless of the inning. Iglesias seemed frustrated as a result, an issue that only worsened with his results.
“I’m surprised he didn’t get frustrated more,” Bell said. “It was something completely different for him. Even though he wanted to do it, he really wanted to do the right thing and do whatever he could to help us win games. But it was something he had never done before. It’s not easy.”
Bell and Iglesias have yet to discuss if the club would try using him again in less-traditional ways for a closer.
“The bottom line, just like we were sitting here last year, he is one of our best pitchers,” Bell said. “He is going to pitch in the most important parts of the game. I’m just going to be more aware of how important that routine is and what he’s done for a long time.”
The Reds' bullpen is deeper heading into this season with the addition of Pedro Strop and the possibility of other veterans like Nate Jones or Tyler Thornburg, if they can make the club.
Iglesias, 30, proclaimed that he was open to any way Bell wants to use him.
“I will try to be as comfortable as I can to pitch any inning, whatever inning that is,” Iglesias said. “I think I will pitch my inning, whatever is told to me. I think with the addition of Strop and the other relievers we have, I don’t have to be stressed out about having to pitch two innings or even more. We should be fine.”
Cactus League opener cancelled
Persistent showers forced the Reds and Indians to cancel their Cactus League opener on Saturday. The game will not be made up.
Because he split up his lineup on alternating days, the lineup that Bell set for Cleveland will debut on Monday against the Rangers. That included Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos.
“It would keep them on the same schedule for the first 10 days as far as travel and things like that,” Bell said.
The rainout was the Reds’ seventh in 10 years of their holding Spring Training in Arizona. The previous washout was on March 12, 2019, vs. the Padres.
Listen on Gameday Audio when the Reds host the White Sox at 3:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Goodyear Ballpark, in what will now be Cincinnati's Cactus League opener. The game will feature the debut of Shogo Akiyama, who will be in the leadoff spot and play center field. Aristides Aquino and Jesse Winker will also start in the outfield.
With Bell staying on schedule with alternating his starters, it’s possible that Akiyama will play against his countryman from Japan, Shohei Ohtani, on Tuesday when the Reds travel to Tempe to play the Angels. Vladimir Gutierrez, who was originally scheduled to pitch on Saturday against the Tribe, will start against the White Sox.