By HAL McCOY
In addition to filling out a starting rotation, manager Bryan Price and the Cincinnati Reds hope to find some sand bags to shore up baseball’s worst bullpen — three years running.
To do that, the Reds added a couple of veteran journeymen bullpenners, signing David Hernandez and Jared Hughes to two-year contracts.
Hernandez and Hughes made their spring training debuts Sunday afternoon in Goodyear, Ariz., against the Cleveland Indians.
So far, so good. Well, good for one, a couple of missteps by the other.
Both pitched one inning in a game that ended in a 2-2 tie (yes, they play ties during the exhibition season). The game was called after nine because the Reds ran out of pitching. Half the team was a few miles away in Glendale playing a split-squad game against the Chicago White Sox.
Hernandez pitched the third inning and retired the first two Indians. But Jason Kipnis homered and Jose Ramirez walked before Hernandez annexed the last out — one inning, one run, one hit, one walk.
Hughes followed Hernandez and gave up a leadoff single to Edwin Encarnacion. But utilizing his sinker that retired hitters on ground balls 62 per cent of the time last year, Hughes induced a double play ground ball from Yonder Alonso and then retired Ryan Hanigan — no runs, one hit, no walks, no strikeouts.
Hernandez, a 32-year-old eight-year veteran, is pitching for his fifth major league team and is 31-40 with a 4.00 earned run average. He made 38 appearances last season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1-0, 2.33 ERA) before he was traded to Arizona at the trade deadline and was 2-1 with a 4.88 ERA in 26 bullpen appearances.
Hughes, also a 32-year-old right hander, is in his sixth major league season and the Reds are his third team (Pittsburgh, Milwaukee). He spent one season with Milwaukee, last year, and was 5-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 67 appearances.
Hughes pitched at Long Beach State University, where he was teammates with major leaguers Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki.
Both Hernandez and Hughes are set-up guys and the Reds hope their veteran presence stabilizes the shaky bullpen ahead of closer Raisel Iglesias.
Homer Bailey made his spring debut as the starter Sunday and pitched two scoreless innings — no runs, two hits (one an infield nubber), no walks, three strikeouts.
The Kipnis home run off Hernandez gave the Tribe a 1-0 lead, but the Reds barged ahead, 2-1, in the sixth. Billy Hamilton struck out his first two times, but walked with one out in the sixth.
Nick Senzel has been working out at shortstop, but started at third base Sunday and followed Hamilton’s walk with his first exhibition hit, a bloop single to right.
Hamilton took third on the hit and Senzel took second on the throw to third. Tony Cruz, former back-up catcher to Yadier Molina with the St. Louis Cardinals, drove home two runs with a double to left for a 2-1 Reds lead.
It stayed that way until the ninth when submariner Ben Rowen gave up a run. Francis Mejia singled with one out and scored on Greg Allen’s two-out triple to tie it, 2-2.
The Reds had a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth when minor league shortstop Montrell Marshall ripped a one-out double to right center. But when Alex Blandino lined hard to right field, Marshall was doubled up off second base, ending the game in a tie.
MEANWHILE, in Glendale, the Reds constructed a 4-0 lead after three innings, but Vance Worley and Wandy Peralta couldn’t hold it and the Reds lost, 8-5.
Luis Castillo pitched two scoreless, one-hit innings to start the game, but Worley gave up five runs and six hits in 1 1/3 innings and Peralta was tagged for three runs and three hits in 1 1/3 innings.
The pitching highlight of the day at both venues belonged to Amir Garrett, seeking a spot in the rotation. He pitched the final two innings and gave up no runs, no hits, no walks and struck out four, most of them White Sox minor leaguers.
Eugenio Suarez contributed a two-run home run and a double in the early going.