Reds bullpen trying to stay positive as struggles continue

Relievers have second-worst ERA in baseball

The offense has done its part, hitting more home runs and scoring more runs than any team in baseball. Considering the struggles of Luis Castillo and the late start Sonny Gray got because of an injury, the starting pitchers have been better than expected, producing the 11th-best ERA in the game.

Even the fans are producing highlights. One man at Great American Ball Park on Thursday had to settle for a hug with his son after dropping a plate of nachos while tumbling over a row of seats in the quest for a foul ball.

The Cincinnati Reds stand at 9-9 after a 6-1 start because their bullpen has the second-worst ERA (6.00) in baseball ahead of only the Detroit Tigers (6.64). The relievers were at their worst this week in three losses to the Arizona Diamondbacks, giving up late leads Tuesday and Wednesday and then allowing 11 earned runs in the last five innings in a 14-11, 10-inning loss Thursday.

Reds relievers issued 17 walks in a three-game (or fewer) series for just the second time in the modern era, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They also issued 17 free passes in a three-game series vs. the Boston Braves in 1949.

“Unfortunately, it was just a tough series for the boys,” reliever Sean Doolittle said, “because I think we had a very realistic chance of winning all three of those games, and we ended up getting swept.”

The Reds take a season-worst four-game losing streak on the road. They start a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals (8-10) on Friday and then play the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers (14-5), in a three-game series that starts Monday.

“Somebody’s got to step up for you and set the tone, and it can start with the first guy out of the bullpen on a given night,” Doolittle said, “So the next game when were we’re in St. Louis, whoever is the first guy out of the bullpen, coming out throwing strikes, attacking hitters, executing the game plan, putting a zero on that scoreboard, that can be kind of the catalyst that sets the tone for the rest of the game, for the rest of the group. Guys start feeding off that energy.”

Nine pitchers have made multiple relief appearances for the Reds. Only Tejay Antone, who has a 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, has an ERA under 4.00, and even he gave up the game-tying home run in the eighth inning Tuesday in a game the Reds lost 5-4.

The reliever who was supposed to lead the bullpen and lock down the closer role for the first time in his career has struggled the most. Amir Garrett has appeared in six games, allowing nine earned runs in five innings. His ERA stands at 16.20 after he blew a 3-0 lead by giving up a game-tying, three-run home run Wednesday in a game the Reds lost 8-5 in 10 innings.

That wasn’t even Garrett’s worst performance of the season. With the Reds leading 11-0 in the ninth inning on April 7, he allowed the first three batters to reach and then gave up a grand slam.

“Right now is a very tough time for me,” Garrett said Wednesday. “Nothing is clicking right now, but I’m still as confident as ever. Staying positive is the main thing. My teammates are going to need me to turn it around and turn around it quick.”

Even in the two scoreless innings he has thrown, Garrett walked two batters and allowed two hits.

“My slider’s not worth anything right now,” Garrett said. “I’m falling behind in counts. I think it’s me not trusting in my abilities right now. That can be fixed. It can take a day for it to be fixed. All I have to do is get that one clean one out the way, and it’s going to be a domino effect. I’m just continuing to work hard. That’s all I can do. You can’t sulk. I had a little tantrum. That’s over with now. I look forward to tomorrow. This game was made for us to fail a lot, and I’m not going to go down that hole of continuing to fail.”

The Reds have made several moves to address the struggling bullpen.

• They designated Cam Bedrosian for assignment on April 17. He had a 11.12 ERA in six appearances. He signed a minor-league contract with the Reds in February and then made the team by posting a 4.15 ERA in eight appearances in spring training. Bedrosian chose to become a free agent rather than pitching at the Reds’ alternate site in Louisville.

• On Friday, the Reds optioned Cionel Perez to the taxi squad for the road trip to St. Louis. He had a 8.31 ERA in 10 appearances.

• They Reds also added Heath Hembree from the alternate site in Louisville and Ryan Hendrix from the taxi squad on Friday. Hembree, an eight-year veteran who pitched last season with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, signed a minor-league contract in March. Hendrix, a fifth-round pick in 2016, ranked 21st among the top-30 Reds prospects, according to He’ll make his big-league debut when he pitches.

The bullpen has missed the arm of Michael Lorenzen, who won’t return from injury until at least June. Manager David Bell said Thursday the Reds would take a close look at the bullpen situation.

“The starting pitching has been good,” Bell said. “The offense battled back today, and we weren’t able to get it done. So many times our pitching, especially over the last couple of years, has been able to keep us in games and give our offense a chance and today it was kind of the other way around.”


Reds at Cardinals, 2:15 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410

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