PITTSBURGH — Cincinnati is experimenting with a new bullpen look in 2017. Reds manager Bryan Price has eschewed traditional roles for a group of receivers that can go multiple innings and pitch anywhere from the sixth inning to the ninth.

It’s a trend that may have gained steam with Cleveland manager Terry Francona’s use of Andrew Miller last season, and Price’s bullpen full of young arms provided fertile ground for a new idea.

“Don’t worry about saves, holds just help us shake hands after the game,” Price said on Monday.

Tony Cingrani led the team in saves in 2016, but so far it’s been Raisel Iglesias with three and Drew Storen with one this year. Iglesias had a 1 2/3 inning save on Tuesday and had a two-inning save earlier this season.

It’s a strategy that sabermetricians have long advocated, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle admitted that he’s curious to see how it works out.

“In a perfect world, it sets up and it makes sense,” he said. “We’ll see how it works out but I like the idea. They’re being creative.” Hurdle said that the Reds’ situation, with a team full of young player that wasn’t expected to compete, is the perfect time to experiment.

“When you have some young guys like that are hungry and just want opportunities to pitch, they don’t have routines they fall into,” Hurdle said. “They don’t have roles where they’ve had success.”

He added that he thought a potential obstacle to further implementation of that type of bullpen would be a level of buy-in from players whose contracts are based on accumulating stats such as saves.

“There’s the human analytics part of it with some of these guys that you work through, as well,” Hurdle said. “When you have a guy like Andrew Miller that became the poster guy and you peel back the layers, he’s also got a contract. He’s also done some things and has already pitched in those other roles.”

The Pirates seem to have settled into some pretty clearly defined roles in the back of the bullpen, with Felipe Rivero, Daniel Hudson and Tony Watson pitching the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of close games. But Hurdle has secured some of the flexibility Price is looking for in the form of Juan Nicasio.

Nicasio can pitch multiple innings, come into the middle of an inning and throw in late-game situations and Hurdle plans on using him as a jack-of-all-trades that can handle the most pressing role for the bullpen on any given night.

“It’s a good things, because [Hurdle] believes in me to do my job,” Nicasio said. “When the manager of the team believes in you in whatever situation, you’re feeling good.”

Nicasio said that his new role has kept him more engaged in the games than usual from the bullpen, because he has to be ready at pretty much any moment to come into the game.

“It’s a little different,” he said “After the fifth inning, I never know what call [to the bullpen] will be me. Maybe the next call is me. Or somebody else. But I have to be ready from the fifth inning on.”

Hurdle didn’t say that he has plans to implement more of that type of role for this team, but he did say it’s something they’re hoping to instill in their young pitchers.

“What we’re trying to do now is grow our pitchers up in those roles with the flexibly and versatility in our organization so that when they get here, there’s no mind for them.” he said. “They’ve already been doing it.”


One of the young players who’s making the transition from a starter’s role to the bullpen is Trevor Williams, and that process hit a hiccup on Tuesday, as he gave up a three-run home run to Scooter Gennett. I asked Williams if it was just one pitch or if he didn’t feel good about his entire two-inning outing.

“It was a lack of execution on the changeup to Gennett,” Williams said. “I should have gone at it more aggressively. I had two guys on and I had the opportunity to get out of the inning with no runs and keep their lead with one.”

Williams said the transition from starter to reliever means he needs to be cognizant of being more aggressive with hitters. On the flip side, it probably won’t take him five days to get back out and get another shot.

“I can have an opportunity to get him out tonight and I’m looking forward to that,” Williams said.



Gregory Polanco was given the night off to rest his shoulder. He is still dealing with some occasional discomfort throwing. … Reds starter Amir Garrett had a 0.87 WHIP against left-handers in the minors in 2017. … Jordy Mercer will lead off. He’s 0-for-8 hitting first this season.

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  1. One roll that seems to be working well is to put Bastardo in to make sure the team can not win the game.

  2. Please, let’s stop with the second guessing (and all by amateurs who live completely outside the team) of Clint Hurdle. Fact is, he’s become one of the better managers in baseball ! Most teams would love to have him at their helm. Hurdle learned by making managerial mistakes before coming to Pittsburgh. He’s been nothing but top rate since coming to the extent that it seems as though he was always here, living in the City.

    We’re lucky to have him. And let’s not forget, it’s very, very, very EARLY in the season.

    • It may be early, and you can’t make the playoffs in April, but you sure can miss the playoffs the first month of the season, especially by getting swept at home by one of the worst pitching staffs in the game

      • I’ll second that. While it is early, I am seeing many things that I am hugely concerned about: Lack of Kang’s bat in the lineup; Cole not appearing to be able to take the next step to being a dominant, top of the rotation starter; Glasnow’s first appearance was worse than pathetic and I fear that he has serious issues between the ears; Marte still being a train wreck on the base paths; Harrison, Cutch, Polanco, and Marte, for all of their speed, I don’t think that any one of them can effectively read a pitcher’s move even if it was published in Playboy magazine; deplorable team defense; a different lineup every night (Mercer leading off one game and hitting eighth the next, etc.). I am not one to throw in the towel this early in the season, and I hope that I am wrong, but there is much to be concerned about with this team. I can definitely see a fire sale happening come July 31st.

  3. You cannot convince me that there is no better option than Antonio Bastardo. I’m 68, fat and lazy but I swear I could out-pitch him tomorrow. OK, maybe early next week. Gotta get in some spring training reps first.

  4. Honest to God though, Bastardo has got to go. Just got to. To continue running him out there is a slap in the face to people who give a damn about how this team does.

    • One of the Cincinnati bullpen concepts that the Pirates would do well to imitate is that they NEVER bring in Bastardo.

  5. Team will be out of contention by May. Not sure what the yinzer escalation point is but folks need to stop supporting this farce.

  6. Hudson and Glasnow have this mysterious aura about their fastball while both struggle to hit 93-94? don’t understand the mystique here?

    • although results were not good, Glasnow was hitting 96-97 consistently in the first inning Monday night….he dialed it back when he couldn’t command his fastball….

    • In addition to BFSMD’s comment, fastballs aren’t just about velocity. They’re about life. I haven’t seen enough of Hudson’s (though it’s largely been tough on hitters so far, so there must be something useful about it), but Glasnow’s for sure has all sorts of life on it, whether he’s throwing it 94 or 98. That sucker dances.

  7. Still can’t beat the Reds…are the Reds this much better or the Pirates this much worse?

    Nova looked like the pre-Pittsburgh version of Nova tonight. Hitting is non existent…

    Bastardo…what can you say…the FO forced him unto the roster, even though he did not earn the spot in the Spring. Three outings, 3 terrible performances.

    Mercer batting leadoff yet again…why? Put Frazier there and leave him there….

    Terrible game tonight to wrap up a terrible series….

  8. Hurdle is a major problem.. he was a good Rah Rah guy at first but he’s a horrible bullpen manager and doesn’t understand when and when not to bunt…these players are babied too much by him ..he never holds them accountable ,always makes excuses …sometimes you need a coach that says “son ,you suck today tighten up or I’ll find someone else!”

  9. 72-90 and the hillbilly prince feels the heat from his West Virginia compound only to deflect the blame.

  10. I hope he’s paying attention to current and future job openings because at this rate, he’ll be gone before the end of May…there is no excuse to get swept by the Reds at home (and get manhandled last year by them and the Brewers)…the offense (strikeouts, RISP, power) and defense have been awful since the start of last year, and the bullpen has regressed…I will forever be greatful to Hurdle as a part of turning things around, but just like in Colorado, he’s reached a plateau with this team and someone else is needed to get them to the next step

  11. Hurdle’s excuse about players feeling comfortable in their roles and needing particular stats for their next contract is laughable. They just moved the franchise’s best player since Bonds to RF because metrics told them he couldn’t play CF any more; they can move Tony Watson and Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero wherever and whenever they want.

    And, frankly, if Hurdle isn’t able to make them accept it, let’s find someone who will. His bullpen management has been anything but creative since he’s been here. If it wasn’t for his mistaken love for the sac bunt, it’d be his biggest tactical error.

    When Bryan Price is being more forward thinking than you, something has to change.

    • Never been a Hurdle fan, the Cutch move was 2 years to late. He can’t make a decision unless some stat geek tells him to. He worries about individuals over team.

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