GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The closer’s job is J.J. Hoover’s.
“I would say that’s fair,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s earned that right with his performance from last year and who we have in camp. We don’t have a definitive closer in camp.”
That is to say the Reds did not bring in a free agent who closed at the big-league level.
“We have guys who have done it in Triple-A,” Price said. “Blake Wood had a really nice year, racked up some saves. Zack Weiss had a terrific year in Double-A, racked up a lot of saves. We have some guys who have pitched in the minor leagues in that role and have done very, very well. However, Hoov since 2012 – with the exception of 2014 – has been a really great performer for us.
"Unless we make some sort of a roster move to get a definitive closer in here, I’d say it’s his job to lose."
Hoover, the 28-year-old right-hander, went 8-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 67 games for the Reds last year. He was really good until he struggled toward the end. Ten of the 24 runs he allowed on the year came in September.
“Every reliever wants to be a closer,” he said. “You want to be in when the games on the line.
Beyond Hoover closing, the Reds bullpen is unsettled. Right-hander Jumbo Diaz and left-hander Tony Cingrani are semi-locks.
The Reds will have to sort out who makes the rotation. The pitchers that don’t will be candidates for the bullpen.
“The thing that's really interesting about our bunch of pitchers is you look at almost every top-level relief pitcher in Major League Baseball and they were almost all originally a starter,” Price said.
“That's the unique challenge we have, because so many of these guys are young, prospect starters. You look at the guys we have in the camp, you look at the three guys we got in the trade with Kansas City and then you bring in Rookie Davis, Sal Romano, (Nick) Travieso, Amir Garrett, (Jon) Moscot -- all these guys that are coming in that we really like are still so undefined as Major League starters.
“When we talk a couple of years from now, these guys will have settled in and be much more defined as who they are as a big leaguer, you know what I mean? That's the one unknown that we have. We see them as prospects and we all think they're going to pitch in the big leagues, but in what role are they going to be best suited? That's what we've got to figure out here in order to put together a great pitching staff.”