Stepping up to setup
Belisle, Standridge could shore up Reds' weak link in bullpen
BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
It looks like Jason Standridge and Matt Belisle are next up on the right-handed setup man audition stage.
"Both have the stuff do it," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "Hopefully, one of them will step up."
Standridge is up to the task.
"I'll pitch whenever they ask me," he said. "But I definitely feel like I'm a guy who can throw strikes and get people out."
Belisle, on the disabled list since May 30 with a strained lower back, rejoins the club today after six sterling appearances on a three-stop rehab assignment. Reliever Mike Burns was sent to Triple-A Louisville Monday to make room for Belisle.
Standridge has been up with the Reds for a week. He made two appearances in the series with the New York Mets.
Both Belisle and Standridge throw hard - 94-95 mph. Both have had success at the big-league level, but not over an extended period. Their ages - Belisle is 26, Standridge is 27 - say chances are they'll get better.
The Reds have 10 blown saves in 27 opportunities. The closer, Todd Coffey, is responsible for only one of the 10.
The Reds have tried a lot of people in the setup role. Coffey started the season there. He was so successful that he was moved to the closer role.
The hope was that David Weathers, the pitcher Coffey replaced as closer, would be able to move into Coffey's role and be effective. Weathers has struggled.
His ERA has gone from 3.86 to 5.40 since he was taken out of the closer's role. He threw a scoreless inning his last time out, but since leaving the June 11 game with shoulder tendonitis, he has given up five earned runs over 21/3 innings.
The Reds also tried to use Rick White and Esteban Yan as setup men. White was designated for assignment; Yan has been reduced to mop-up duty after giving up four runs in his last five appearances.
One of the keys to being successful in the setup role is the ability to come in with runners on and strand them.
Belisle struggled with that early in the year. Three of his five inherited runners scored.
He was pushed back to the long relief role after his early struggles.
But he was pitching very well when he went on the DL with the back problem.
In eight games before going on the DL, he had a 2.25 ERA over eight innings.
Belisle's overall ERA - 3.86 - is second to Coffey among current Reds relievers, not counting Standridge, who has pitched only 12/3 innings.
Before he went on rehab assignments, Belisle wowed pitching coach Tom Hume with a bullpen session.
"That's the best I've seen him throw in a while," Hume said.
Belisle throws up to 95 mph, so given the recent struggles of the bullpen, he's worth a try.
The same can be said of Standridge. He was consistently hitting 94 mph in his two appearances in New York.
He showed last year that - when he's on - he can be very good. He had a 0.53 ERA over his first 15 appearances for the Reds. He didn't allow a run in 121/3 innings in May for Triple-A Louisville.
But he has trouble throwing strikes at times. He has 57 walks and 58 strikeouts in the majors.
"Throwing strikes is my personal key," he said. "I have to get ahead of hitters, so I can be aggressive. When you get behind, you have to try to throw the perfect pitch."
EDWIN TO LOUISVILLE: Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (sprained left ankle) will begin his rehab assignment at Louisville tonight.
TWO MORE SIGN: The Reds signed their fifth- and 10th-round draft picks:
5. Josh Ravin, a right-hander out of Chatsworth High in Reseda, Calif.
10. Josh Roenicke, a right- hander from UCLA.