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R. Iglesias on '20: 'I know what I'm capable of'

With 34 saves -- but 12 losses -- righty aims 'to do a better job'
@m_sheldon
October 11, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Reds right-hander Raisel Iglesias was one of the best closers in the Major Leagues in 2017-18, even if he was often performing under the radar with a team out of contention for the postseason. His ’19 can only be viewed as a step backward. Iglesias saw his ERA

CINCINNATI -- Reds right-hander Raisel Iglesias was one of the best closers in the Major Leagues in 2017-18, even if he was often performing under the radar with a team out of contention for the postseason. His ’19 can only be viewed as a step backward.

Iglesias saw his ERA jump to 4.16 in ’19 from a career-best 2.38 in ’18, and he posted a 3-12 record. Those 12 losses established a record for most ever by a Reds reliever.

“Obviously, 12 losses this season, I feel really responsible for that,” Iglesias said via translator Julio Morillo after blowing a save and taking his final loss of the season on Sept. 27 vs. the Pirates. “I think if we would’ve won those games, we’re probably playing for a Wild Card or something right now.”

Cincinnati finished fourth in the National League Central with a 75-87 record; the Brewers claimed the second NL Wild Card spot with 89 wins.

“[I am] frustrated, but I haven’t lost confidence in myself,” Iglesias said. “I know what I’m capable of doing.”

What went right?

Iglesias, 29, had a career-high 34 saves in 40 attempts and posted a 0.98 ERA with six walks and 54 strikeouts in the games when he recorded the save. He had a 3.59 ERA overall when pitching in save situations. Iglesias also established a career high with 68 appearances and he threw more than one inning 11 times.

What went wrong?

When Iglesias signed a new three-year, $24.1 million deal in November that replaced his previous contract, the club’s front office and new manager David Bell noted that Iglesias would not be used exclusively to close games. As the team’s best reliever, the plan was to use Iglesias in any number of high-leverage situations, regardless of the inning. It didn’t work out, as Iglesias had four losses by the end of April. His ERA in non-save situations was 5.18, with six home runs allowed. He voiced his displeasure with how he was used, and he eventually resumed a more traditional closer’s role.

“We lost a lot of games early when we were asking Raisel to pitch in different situations,” Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. “And I think that probably contributed to him not wanting to be in those situations and preferring where he’d had more success. ... I think it was a tougher adjustment for him than he expected.”

Iglesias has since expressed interest in trying again to fill a role of being used whenever it’s most important.

“First of all, I will just try to be healthy during the offseason and come into next year with a good mentality of pitching really good in those situations when the game is tied or close,” he said. “Even when we’re losing by one run when I come into pitch, I have to be able to do a better job.”

Best moment?

Take away the late loss in Pittsburgh, and Iglesias finished very strong with a 1.69 ERA over 11 September appearances with seven saves. In his first nine games last month, he retired 26 of 29 batters. From Sept. 13-21, he converted a season-high five consecutive saves.

2020 outlook

The Reds are expected to make bullpen upgrades to provide Bell with more options to supplement Iglesias and set-up men Michael Lorenzen and Amir Garrett. But Iglesias returning to the success he had in 2017-18 is the key. The club is optimistic that the right-hander can get there again, based partly on his efforts over most of September.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.