CINCINNATI — After the 2016 Cincinnati Reds bullpen was the worst since they moved the pitching rubber from 45 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1857, suddenly the 2017 bullpen is not a cesspool of despair.
The current bullpen has the fourth best earned run average at 3.30 in the National League and leads in innings pitched.
Why is that, why the transformation, other than a few different names on the personnel sheet? And why is it working when manager Bryan Price has no stipulated roles other than, “When the call comes, answer and do what ever task is asked.”
How does that work?
“We’ve all bought into the fact that we’re baseball players, guys who like to play the game of baseball and when your name is called upon it is an opportunity to play baseball,” said Bullpen Occupant Deluxe Michael Lorenzen. And he should know.
DURING HIS SHORT CAREER in Cincinnati he has started, he has closed, he has pitched in middle relief, he has pitched in a set-up role. For him the key word is, “Pitched.” It doesn’t matter when or where and that’s the attitude of the entire bullpen.
“We’re always ready,” said Lorenzen. “It hasn’t been tough at all. It has been fun.”
It doesn’t happen unless all the bullpen inhabitants buy in and it seems they all have invested solidly.
“What the relievers are doing, beyond their effectiveness, is their attitude, their willingness to come in at any and all times,” said Price. “It doesn’t matter if we’re behind or if I call on some of these guys who are used to pitching middle innings. It has saved us some games — pitching Drew Storen or Michael Lorenzen or Raisel Iglesias early in the games.
“That’s been the big factor in us winning some of those games we wouldn’t win and the big factor is the bullpen attitude,” Price added. “I’ve even had guys in games that are out of control, blowouts, where the relief guy has come to me and said, ‘Just leave me out there. Don’t burn up another arm to finish this game. I’ll finish it.’”
PRICE DIDN’T TAKE THEM up on the offer, but appreciates that attitude.”
“We’ve bought into it because it is fun to win,” said Lorenzen. “If we’re winning, we’ll do whatever he asks us to do because it is fun that way. Everyone is positive and everyone feels good about themselves. There have not been any issues at all.”
Lorenzen and Iglesias were not part of last season’s bullpen by pigpen. They were injured to start the season and didn’t arrive until mid-season when the bullpen stabilized somewhat. This year, though, there is no weak link.
“Look at the stuff coming out of our bullpen and I mean, 97 and 98 and 99 miles an hour with good secondary stuff like nasty sliders,” said Lorenzen. “We’re coming out and challenging hitters.”
LORENZEN REMEMBER WATCHING the bullpen early last season, the guys who trudged to the mound with great trepidation.
“There was fear of failure, fear of making mistakes coming out of our bullpen,” he said. “They had a fear of going out and making the same mistakes the guy before made. Baseball players are really superstitious and last year it was like, ‘Ah, man, he’s doing bad and I’m going to go out there and do bad, too.’ We don’t have any of that. We’re going to come out there, jut our jaws, and come after you with heavy duty stuff.
“Now you are going to have to earn it against our bullpen,” Lorenzen added. “That’s the difference. A fearless approach. And winning creates that. Nobody wants to show up and lose and we’ve gone through three years of losing. Guy are saying, ‘You know what? It is better when we win, so what do I need to do to win?’”
CLASSIFY THIS UNDER THE category of, “Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be pitchers.”
If you don’t believe that pitching is a hazardous profession, well, here is some proof. And don’t feel sorry for the Cincinnati Reds because they have five pitchers on the disabled list.
In total, the 30 major league teams have 96 pitchers currently on the disabled list. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have eight pitchers residing on the DL. The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays each have six pitchers on the DL.
And is it no surprise that the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles have no pitchers on the DL at this time.
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE takes an interesting approach to watching MLB-TV highlights (and lowlights) after games. He was asked if he closely follows former players player Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman.
“To a general degree I follow them,” said Price. “I don’t read the papers and I only watch the baseball highlights if we win. And I watch the highlights one time through. Some of our guys have that stuff on 24/7. I can’t bear it, can’t bear to watch baseball over and over again for 24/7. It drives me nuts. I don’t know how these other guys do it. It drives me crazy. And if we don’t win I don’t watch it at all.
“However, I do try to stay aware of former players and I couldn’t be happier for what Jay Bruce is doing in New York,” Price added. “I love to see when Cueto and Frazier do well for their clubs, but I don’t hunt it down a great deal. I root for individuals but I don’t care how anybody else does, other than the Reds.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo are so much alike because they just really love to pitch. Bronson loves it and everything that goes with it — the preparation, the competitiveness, the fraternal nature of the game and all the things that go with being professional baseball players.” — Reds Manager Bryan Price.