Hoover focused on bouncing back in 2015

Reds reliever has already begun throwing in frigid temperatures at GABP

Hoover focused on bouncing back in 2015

CINCINNATI -- Last Thursday, when Cincinnati experienced frigid temperatures in the single digits and wind chills around zero degrees, it didn't stop Reds reliever J.J. Hoover from getting outside and throwing.

At Great American Ball Park, Hoover and fellow reliever Sam LeCure played catch as usual. LeCure even tweeted a "selfie" of the duo and noted that outside of the shot, Hoover was wearing bikini bottoms. It was something Hoover didn't exactly deny during a conversation this week.

"I might have been," Hoover joked.

Hoover, who lives near the stadium in Northern Kentucky, gets his winter work in no matter what's happening outside.

"I don't get cold," he said. "I'm a very hot-blooded person. There's something about it. I don't mind. I like it."

Hoover, 27, is fully aware that this will be a critical Spring Training for him to regain his role in the Reds' bullpen after a down 2014 season. In 54 games, he was 1-10 with a 4.88 ERA and found himself optioned to Triple-A Louisville in August before he returned to finish the season as a September callup.

All 10 losing decisions came in a row, which set a new franchise record. He also tied a team single-season record for losses among relievers. The other numbers weren't pretty, including 13 home runs and 31 walks allowed over 62 2/3 innings with 75 strikeouts.

"I took what I could," Hoover said of the experience. "I reflected on the season the first week after it was over. I figured out what I wanted to do this offseason and what I wanted to accomplish. I didn't start thinking about this season until [Monday], when I toed the rubber for the first time. I threw my first bullpen. It felt good feeling the cleats sink into the dirt. It kind of got that spark going again for Spring Training and the upcoming season."

In 2013, despite losing his first five decisions, Hoover led the pitching staff with 69 appearances while posting a 2.86 ERA with 26 walks, 67 strikeouts and six home runs allowed in 66 innings.

"I want to get back to being the consistent me," Hoover said. "Last year, I was fighting consistency. I want to get back to using my strengths correctly 100 percent of the time, instead of 70 percent of the time. I think that will give me the ability to beat the hitters again. I know my stuff is still good. It's getting back to what made me a good pitcher -- locating my fastball, getting ahead of guys and putting them away instead of getting into deep counts."

Despite the Reds' bullpen having the second-highest ERA in the National League, there hasn't been a big offseason overhaul of the staff to this point. And even though manager Bryan Price has maintained his support of him, Hoover will be competing for a spot with the likes of Jumbo Diaz and Pedro Villarreal -- both of whom emerged last season.

"Up until last year, I could be called upon at any time to do the job," Hoover said. "Unfortunately, last year didn't go that way. I will get back to that."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.