Iglesias taking aim at spot in Reds' rotation

Iglesias taking aim at spot in Reds' rotation

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- In part because he didn't pitch last season after defecting from Cuba and then waiting to get into the United States, Raisel Iglesias is a bit of an X-factor in how he fits into the Reds' plans.

With a great Spring Training, the right-handed Iglesias could pitch himself into one of the two open spots in Cincinnati's rotation. His experience as a reliever in Cuba could make him a fit in the bullpen. Or, he could end up spending time getting more experience in the Minors.

"I've been preparing myself and conditioning myself for a spot in the rotation, to be a starter," Iglesias said via translator Tomas Vera. "I'm here to help the team, so I will do whatever the team asks me to do."

Iglesias is competing for a rotation spot with Tony Cingrani, Anthony DeSclafani, Jason Marquis, Dylan Axelrod, David Holmberg and Paul Maholm.

When the Reds scouted Iglesias, they were the lone club that viewed him as a starting pitcher, with other teams projecting him to be a big league reliever. The Reds like his command of three different pitches -- a fastball, slider and curveball -- and he's added a sinker and changeup as well. He also seems to be polished and mature.

What Iglesias is lacking are innings from last year, which has the club trying to be cautious with how quick it pushes him.

One thing that is no mystery about Iglesias is that he's thoroughly enjoying himself and being with the Reds.

"It's always nice to work with guys who are genuinely happy and genuinely competitive," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think he really is grateful for this opportunity to come to the United States and play and be part of the Reds family."

After arriving in the United States last summer, Iglesias came to the Reds' Arizona complex to work out and get ready. He pitched in the club's instructional league and eventually moved to the Arizona Fall League, where he worked seven games with seven scoreless innings, one hit, three walks and seven strikeouts.

Reds introduce Iglesias

It was decided by the club not to have Iglesias pitch in winter ball in Puerto Rico, so the AFL games proved valuable.

"I learned a lot and I studied how the umpires are here and how they work the count and how they positioned themselves," Iglesias said. "That helped me, and it was something that I needed to see. Also, being more than eight months without facing batters, it was a really important tournament for me."

Back in June, Iglesias signed a seven-year contract worth $32 million after his residency was established in Haiti and he was declared a free agent. On the surface, the 25-year-old appears to be less guarded and more outgoing than the club's other Cuban pitcher, closer Aroldis Chapman, who arrived to camp for the first time five years ago with a 100-plus-mph fastball and significantly more hoopla.

"This being my first professional-baseball Spring Training, I feel a lot of emotions," Iglesias said. "I feel really happy they have given me the opportunity to compete for one of the spots in the rotation."

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.