GOODYEAR, Arizona -- The Reds' bullpen came together last year when Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen were moved there.
The moves were promoted to keep the players healthy. For the bullpen to be good, Iglesias and Lorenzen have to stay healthy.
They are key to Reds manager Bryan Price’s multi-inning, closer-by-committee plan.
It’s a different spring for Iglesias and Lorenzen. Both spent last spring getting ready as starters.
Michael Lorenzen excelled when he moved to the bullpen last season. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Iglesias, a 27-year-old Cuban right-hander, was last year's Opening Day starter, in fact. He went 1-1 with a 3.49 ERA in five starts before going on the disabled list with impingement in his right shoulder. After coming off the disabled list on June 21, he pitched exclusively as a reliever. He had six saves and a 1.98 ERA over 32 games and 50 innings in the bullpen.
He spent the offseason making sure the shoulder is sound.
“I’ve been training really hard, working on my shoulder, working on my strength,” Iglesias said. “Nobody wants to get hurt. You can’t control that. I know that. But my preparation has been really good.”
The relief role probably fits Iglesias better. That’s what he did in Cuba before the Reds signed him to a seven-year, $27 million contract.
“I think it’s going to help,” he said. “I can go three innings and then rest two days instead of going 110 pitches ... I think that’s going to help me, coming from the bullpen.”
The Reds were aware Iglesias’ shoulder needed work, but, as he said, some injuries are unavoidable.
“We understood the fact that there was a need for an improved range of motion in his shoulder and improved strength,” Price said. “However, that was offseason 2015-2016 when he was focusing on improved range of motion and strength. We couldn’t have foreseen that we were going to have the setbacks we had with him.”
Lorenzen, a 25-year-old right-hander, was destined for the rotation as well until a sore elbow put him on the DL before spring training ended. His rehab was set back by a bout with mono.
He didn’t make his 2016 debut until June 24, but he was excellent in his new role of relief. He went 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA over 35 games and 50 1/3 innings. He struck out 48 and walked only 13.
Lorenzen’s background is in relief as well. He was a closer/center fielder at Cal State-Fullerton before the Reds picked him in the first round in 2013.
Lorenzen is one of the hardest throwers on the team. He’s dialing it back a little this year after pushing it last spring.
“I’m easing into spring training, easing into my throwing program,” Lorenzen said. “Last year, I was little too excited, too excited to throw a ball and come back stronger. This year, I was really slow getting into it.
“Last year, I made it a goal to come back throwing harder. I started too early in my throwing program because I was so eager to come back. This year, I eased my way into. I feel great.”
Again, Lorenzen didn’t do anything wrong last year.
“With Michael, I think (the injury) just happened,” Price said. “You look at (him) and go, ‘What else could he be doing?’ I don’t know if it’s working smarter. He’s an unbelievable worker. All he wants to do is be outstanding. I think maybe sometimes it’s tweaking a program.”
Lorenzen was one of the first arrivals each day last year. This year, he’s getting in a little later. He eats breakfast at home rather than at the ballpark. When he does eat at the park, it’s food he brought in.
“My diet is very strict,” he said. “It’s personal to who I am. I feel great. I feel fresh. My mind feels good. There’s no fatigue in the mind, which is easy when you first show up at spring training. After the first week, your mind will fatigue. I’ve planned it out where the mind stays fresh, the body stays fresh. It’s all come together nicely.”
Both Lorenzen and Iglesias added velocity after moving to the bullpen. Lorezen’s went from an average of 94.0 to 96.2, according to fangraphs.com. Iglesias’ went from 91.7 to 93.0. Both are suited for longer stints than most relievers because of their repertoires. Lorenzen throws a slider, curve and cutter. Iglesias throws a slider and changeup. He also changes arm angles.
If the Reds can keep them healthy, the bullpen will be infinitely better than last year. Iglesias and Lorenzen have done their part. Now it’s up to the baseball gods.
“I don’t think there was anything that needed to change, necessarily,” Price said. “We fully expect they’ll be healthy this year.”