Hoover unable to get on track vs. Cubs

April 23rd, 2016
J.J. Hoover has a 19.50 ERA after Friday night's performance in an 8-1 loss to the Cubs. (AP)John Minchillo/AP

CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Bryan Price had already removed struggling reliever J.J. Hoover as closer on Wednesday to go with a committee system.

After another poor performance by Hoover in the ninth inning during Friday's 8-1 loss to the Cubs, Price was not considering taking more drastic action -- like sending the pitcher down to the Minors. Hoover does have options remaining.

"I'm not thinking about that," Price said. "He has enough of a background of success to, for me, not really be thinking anything like that."

Price thought he had a good situation on Friday for Hoover to get his groove back. Cincinnati trailed, 4-1, heading into the ninth. It was not a high-leverage situation, but it wasn't mop-up work, either. If Hoover could keep the score where it was, the Reds would conceivably be in striking distance in the bottom half.

Such hopes were kaput when Hoover's first batter, Javier Baez, hit a 2-2 breaking ball for a homer. With two outs, the right-hander gave up four straight hits, including three consecutive doubles for three more runs, before Price pulled him and had Ross Ohlendorf to finish the frame.

In eight appearances, Hoover has a 19.50 ERA with 14 runs (13 earned) on 13 hits, four walks and four homers.

"I know he's working hard. He's totally invested," Price said. "He worked his tail off in the offseason. Right now, he's just in a little down cycle, and we'll have to get him straightened out. He's a big part of our bullpen. It's important he's throwing the ball well, and we'll have to do everything we can to get him back on the beam. He'll certainly be working his tail off to get there."

Hoover, 28, has found his way out of quagmires before. In 2013, he lost his first five decisions of the season and started out with a 12.79 ERA in his first nine games. Hoover finished the season with five straight victories and a 2.86 ERA in 69 appearances.

In 2014, Hoover endured a terrible 1-10 season with a 4.88 ERA and spent some time in Triple-A Louisville to get himself right. He rebounded in '15 and elevated himself to a set-up role while posting a 2.94 ERA in 67 games and seven homers allowed for the season. When the Reds traded Aroldis Chapman over the offseason, the club felt like it had a good closer option in Hoover. He was the lone reliever with a known role during Spring Training.

But the whole bullpen has struggled this season, and Hoover's numbers stand out the most. Price was asked if it was possible that he was injured.

"We have a pretty good open line of communication," Price said. "Anybody here can have an achy bicep. That's just baseball. If he had something significant, I would think he would share that with me and the medical staff. I'm not thinking injury at this point in time. I'm just thinking about [his] not really quality-pitch execution. Tonight was that night to get back on the beam, and it just didn't work out, unfortunately. It would have been a nice pick-me-up for JJ to have that inning that leads him back to throwing the ball the way he's capable."