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Herget making play for bullpen spot

Reds' No. 15 prospect trying to earn relief roster role this spring
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The thinly built, 170-pound Jimmy Herget doesn't look like the kind of pitcher that can heave mid-90s mph fastballs at hitters. But not only can the Reds reliever prospect do just that, he can keep hitters guessing about how the ball will get to them so quickly.

The 6-foot-3 Herget also offers multiple arm angles to deliver his pitches -- mostly sidearm, but he can also do a three-quarters style motion. Either way, he starts with a slow windup before his arm quickly accelerates and brings the heat.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The thinly built, 170-pound Jimmy Herget doesn't look like the kind of pitcher that can heave mid-90s mph fastballs at hitters. But not only can the Reds reliever prospect do just that, he can keep hitters guessing about how the ball will get to them so quickly.

The 6-foot-3 Herget also offers multiple arm angles to deliver his pitches -- mostly sidearm, but he can also do a three-quarters style motion. Either way, he starts with a slow windup before his arm quickly accelerates and brings the heat.

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"I think he understands what makes him successful with the variance, the hesitations, the multiple arm slots," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Wednesday.

Herget, 24, is the No. 15 ranked Reds prospect according to MLB Pipeline and also is competing for a big league bullpen spot as a non-roster invitee.

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Pitching sidearm, in the manner he does it, has always felt natural to Herget, even though it looks a little unnatural.

"I've thrown like this since I was in high school. It's pretty much been the same thing, same results. It's become simple to me," said Herget, who grew up in Tampa, Fla. "When I was little younger, maybe 12, I didn't pitch at all. I was an outfielder and I threw like that. They were also trying to get my arm up higher and it never really worked. Then when I got to high school, I started pitching a lot more."

From 2015-17, Herget has amassed 64 saves in 126 Minor League games. Over 52 games split between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville in 2017, the right-hander posted a 2.90 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 25 saves in 31 chances. Opponents batted .226 against him. Herget appeared in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game with a scoreless inning.

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Besides throwing the fastball, Herget can also offer a slider that Baseball America rated as the best in the Reds' organization last season. This spring, the club has charged Herget to develop his changeup and improve his skills against left-handed hitters.

"We're really trying to focus on his effectiveness against left-handed hitters, which to me makes him more Major League valuable for us, as opposed to simply a right-on-right situational reliever," Price said. "He's working hard on it, cross-firing the fastball inside and being able to come more over the top as opposed to trying to do it from the side. The lower arm slot to lefties, unless you're extremely acute with command, I think is typically easier to handle."

Through three appearances this spring, Herget has allowed three unearned runs over three innings. All the runs came vs. Milwaukee on Feb. 27. He's also walked a batter in each of his games.

"I feel like I've been a little erratic at times," Herget said before Wednesday's game. "I've been walking too many guys. Overall, I think it's been good. I've been trying to get my arm strength back for the season and pound the zone."

Herget is among several young relievers trying to earn one of the final spots in the bullpen. There's plenty of company with names like Zack Weiss and Tanner Rainey among the prospects and more experienced pitchers like Jackson Stephens and Kevin Shackelford also competing.

"Treat everything like it's the last outing," said Herget, who was scheduled to face the White Sox on Wednesday but didn't get into the game, a 14-12 loss. "Go out and throw and if I'm lucky enough to get called on, that's awesome. If not, I will go wherever I go and pitch the way I need to pitch."

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 and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Jimmy Herget