He has a mix of Mario Soto, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo in his delivery and demeanor, the best of three worlds.
Those are three high-level models to emulate, but that’s what Cincinnati Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias does. And he does it well.
THE QUESTION FOR THE immediate future is: What are the Reds going to do with him? Iglesias was the Reds Opening Day starter this season by default because both Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani were on the disabled list And on Tuesday night in St. Louis the 26-year-old Cuban right hander recorded his first major league save, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth in a 7-4 Reds victory.
By doing so, he became the fifth Reds pitcher to start on Opening Day and record a save in the same season, joining Joey Hamilton (2002), Woodie Fryman (1977), Don Gullett (1973) and Jack Billingham (1972). Notice it was done three times under the managership of Sparky “Captain Hook” Anderson, who wasn’t afraid to use his pitchers in any and all situations.
IGLESIAS, A STARTER late season, was shut down late in the year with shoulder fatigue. This season he pitched as a starter the entire month of April and was 1-and-1 with a 3.59 earned run average in five starts and the Reds were 3-and-2 in those games.
The shoulder began barking again and Iglesias landed on the disabled list and stayed there until late June.
When it was time for him to come back, manager Bryan Price decided to place him in the bullpen so the team could better monitor his innings and his pitch-count to protect that expensive shoulder.
Expensive? Well, while Iglesias is barely above rookie status in the majors, the Reds signed him to a seven-year $27 million contract that runs through 2020. He is making $3.2 million this year.
WITH HIS TALENT AND the investment, it is no wonder the team is handling him like Ancient Chinese pottery and dinnerware.
Price, though, is leaving the door open and said at the time he placed Iggy (what teammates call him) in the bullpen, “This doesn’t mean he won’t get a look next spring at being a starter. But for the rest of this season he’ll probably remain in the bullpen.”
And from what he is displaying out of the bullpen, particularly the closer role, is something the Reds should deeply consider. Since returning on June 24, Iglesias has made 14 appearances over 28 2/3 innings and given up one earned run.
Can you say Aroldis Chapman? Iglesias doesn’t throw 105 miles per hour, as does Chapman, but who does? But he can and does reach 97. And he confuses and confounds hitters by delivering his pitches from an assortment of arm angles and an assortment of different speeds — a Bronson Arroyo with more velocity.
WHEN HE WORKED as a starter, he said he enjoyed it and would like to do it permanently. Now, though, with his success in the bullpen and a save on his resume, he says he likes it and wouldn’t mind being a closer. He pitched in relief for the Cuban National team before the Reds signed him.
He is highly entertaining, too. His emotions drip from his body and he works with enthusiasm and it is easy to tell that he is having the time of his life every time he steps on the mound.
What to do with him? He could be an outstanding starter, but the Reds have more candidates for the rotation than the Manchurians. A closer is not important to the Reds right now as they grope to scramble out of last place. But he is definitely a big piece of the team’s future and is under team control when it plans to be competitive again.
Then they will need a closer. Raisel Iglesias could, and should, be that guy.