Garrett, Sims both set sights on Reds’ vacant closer role
When the door closed on reliever Raisel Iglesias, it opened a window for Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett.
Sims is hoping he gets through the window first.
The left-handed Sims and right-handed Garrett almost began frothing at the mouth when they found out the Reds had traded closer Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels and thus opened up the closer role.
“I don’t think it actually changed my goals. I think being in the bullpen, every pitcher should have the goal (to be the closer). You want to be the guy,” said Sims.
“If you’re in the rotation, you want to be an ace. If you’re in the bullpen, you want to be that back end to lock it down.”
Third-year manager David Bell has not made a decision on the closer role or he’s just not about to tell anyone. He has hinted that he is just going to let the situation play out and settle itself.
“The roles, a lot of times, take care of themselves,” said Bell who prefers that he has multiple options and flexibility to use different pitchers against different hitters or in various situations.
Garrett was 1-0 last season with a 2.45 earned run average in 21 games. He was dominating against left-handed hitters by limiting them to a microscopic .043 batting average as they went 1-for-23 with 12 strikeouts.
Right-handed batters were 9-for-39 for a .231 average and 14 strikeouts. He retired the first batter he faced in 18 of his appearances.
Garrett’s challengers come from Sims and newly signed Sean Doolittle to challenge the 28-year-old Garrett for the closer role.
Sims, 26, was 3-0 in 20 games with a 2.45 ERA in 25.2 innings with 34 strikeouts and 11 walks. He does not have a career save and hasn’t been a closer since his junior year of high school.
The 34-year-old Doolittle signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract but he is coming off an injury plagued season that saw him go from the Washington Nationals top closer in their world championship season to just 11 appearances with an 0-2 record and a 5.87 ERA in just 7.2 innings.
Garrett is unfazed by the competition.
“I feel like it’s still mine,” said Garrett. “My teammates are going to do what they’re going to do. I’m going to elevate this team the best I can. I’m going to challenge my team as much as I can, people in the bullpen as much as I can.
“As far as competing, I’m competing with myself, not competing with anybody out there, especially my teammates. I want them to just be elevated to the level that I’m at. I’m going to push them.
“Lucas had a tremendous year last year. He should be on his high horse. He should feel himself a little bit. I encourage that because I see a difference in the pitcher that he was last year and the pitcher he was the year before. If you had a good season, you have to right the way.”
Sims admitted that when he heard about the trade of Iglesias, he saw it as “an opportunity to go out there and do what I’m capable of.”
It has been suggested that Sims and Garrett may share the closer duties since one pitcher is right-handed and the other left-handed.
“I could see that. It’s like that fine line, it’s a friendly competition. We’re the best at what we do, so any kind of competition it is going to be friendly but also fierce. I do like what you said about the two-headed monster. That’s kind of a sick name for it. But I could see that,” said Sims.
“I think we have a lot of guys who have a lot of ability. I can only speak for myself. I feel like I’m in a really good place. I feel like last year I really did some things well, showcased what I’m really capable of, and I think I was able to get better this offseason, too. I’m confident that I can come in and finish ballgames for us.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Garrett has the prefect mentality for a closer. Garrett admits he always talks a lot of “smack” when he is pitching.
“That’s just my competitive nature. I’m not being disrespectful. It’s more so like I’m talking to myself,” said Garrett.
Regardless which one is the closer or if the role is shared, the Reds will need both pitchers to be effective.
For now, the window remains open.