Reds looking to use Iglesias in variety of ways
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Raisel Iglesias is no longer viewed by the Reds as their closer. In a previous era, that would sound like a demotion. But this shift is not that.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
It's simply that the term "closer" has become too limiting. Reds manager David Bell doesn't want to hold Iglesias in the bullpen until the eighth or ninth inning, choosing to expand the possibilities.
"He's too important to our team, too important to our bullpen where we want him to have as much personal success and be as comfortable as he possibly can, but the priority is going to be to win games, so sometimes it may be determined that the most important part of the game is earlier than a traditional save situation," Bell said on Friday.
Even if this might be something new to grasp for fans in Cincinnati, some managers around the Major Leagues are starting to throw away the old-school book that assumes a team's best reliever should be held back until the final three outs and a save situation.
Brewers flamethrower Josh Hader has been utilized in a multitude of ways, and fellow lefty reliever Andrew Miller also had that versatility with Cleveland, an aspect that enticed Cardinals to sign Miller to a two-year, $25 million contract in the offseason.
• Reds Spring Training tickets | Schedule | Buy gear
"I don't want to take anything away from those three outs in the ninth inning," Bell said. "I've talked to a lot of pitchers and pitching coaches, there is something different about those three outs and I have to always factor that in. The obvious thing is you look at where they are in their lineup and depending on the opposing team, you may be at 2-3-4 against an amazing lineup in the eighth, and for whatever reason they may not be as strong at the bottom of the order coming up in the ninth. That's just one clear way to look at it. It's going to be different every day and that's what's fun about it."
Iglesias, 29, knew of the plans before he signed a three-year, $24.1 million deal in November.
"I feel very proud because the ninth inning isn't necessarily the most important inning," Iglesias said via translator Julio Morillo. "I feel proud that David is thinking about me to bring me into the game in the most important innings. They have seen me play and pitch. If David thinks that's the best decision, I feel very good about that."
In his past two seasons while on sub.-500 Reds teams, Iglesias quietly became one of the big leagues' best closers with 58 saves over 2017-18. Last season, the right-hander was 2-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 30 saves out of 34 chances.
Over the past three seasons, Iglesias leads Major League relievers with 24 saves in which more than one inning was pitched. All-Star Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers is second with 22. Iglesias also has 10 career two-inning saves.
A former starter before shoulder issues prompted a move to the bullpen, Iglesias' four-seam fastball and sinker both average just over 95 mph, and he confuses hitters with multiple arm angles and a four-pitch mix that also includes a hard slider and changeup.
If Iglesias is not used to finish a game, the job could fall to Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Amir Garrett or Michael Lorenzen.
Iglesias loves high-leverage moments in games, no matter when they are presented.
"I feel that I'm a pitcher to come in those situations," he said. "My energy is high. I feel like my emotions are settled. Those situations, that's what I work in the offseason for, to prepare myself as well in those situations."