Hoover optimistic after honing delivery in 'pen

Right-hander removed as Reds closer after early struggles

Hoover optimistic after honing delivery in 'pen

CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever J.J Hoover returned to the clubhouse from the bullpen Sunday morning feeling optimistic. It's been a rough week, as continued poor results forced manager Bryan Price to remove him from the closer's spot and go to a committee system.

Why was Hoover feeling upbeat amid his struggles? He thought he might have discovered why things were going wrong. It had to do with something in his delivery.

"We just corrected it now. I just got done throwing a side [bullpen]," Hoover said. "I was able to find a little thing that was hard for me to feel, physically. But I made the adjustment, and it looks completely different in the bullpen."

Hoover has been working with Price, pitching coach Mark Riggins and bullpen coach Mack Jenkins to figure things out. Whatever their solution was, or if he was perhaps tipping pitches, Hoover declined to reveal it.

"I'll just keep that to myself. It will affect my pitching," Hoover said.

In eight appearances entering the day, Hoover had a 19.50 ERA with 14 runs (13 earned), 13 hits, four walks and four homers allowed. Given a low leverage situation when he entered in the seventh inning of Sunday's 9-0 loss to the Cubs, Hoover retired his first five batters but could not complete the eighth. With two outs, he gave up Jason Heyward's double and back-to-back walks to load the bases. Ross Ohlendorf got the third out and prevented more damage.

Marte's grand slam

"Sometimes you kind of lose a little bit of your delivery," Hoover said. "It's finding the little error that's in there that's taking away the crispness of everything. Price, Riggins, Jenkins and all these guys that helped me in the bullpen are trying to get my back on track, which has been good. I think we finally got it figured out."

Even while he was pitching and getting roughed up by hitters, Hoover never detected anything was off with his delivery or how the ball came out of his hands.

"I felt like I was making quality pitches," Hoover said. "I wasn't getting any soft contact like I was used to. That's kind of what directed us in finding the problem. We knew the stuff looked to be there, but there was just something that was a tick off. I think we got it."

According to Fangraphs.com, Hoover has allowed hard contact 46.7 percent of the time, compared to 29.1 percent last season when he had a 2.94 ERA with seven homers allowed over 67 games. Opponents are batting .419 against him this season, compared to .190 in 2015.

Hoover understood why Price had to remove him as closer on Wednesday.

"One-hundred percent," he said. "I wasn't getting the job done. I'm going to get out and show I can get the job done again. I don't worry about that."

Worth noting

• Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (strained left oblique) threw four innings and allowed three earned runs, four hits and one walk with five strikeouts and two home runs in his first rehab assignment start for Double-A Pensacola on Saturday. DeSclafani will next pitch on Thursday at Class A Dayton.

"I felt good. I was on a 60-65 pitch limit," DeSclafani told reporters in Florida. "The biggest thing for me is just health, how am I feeling inning to inning and if it's going to get tight in between innings, but everything felt great. I'm really happy with that."

• Center fielder Billy Hamilton entered Sunday's game in the eighth inning, his first action since Wednesday because of a bruised left thumb. Hamilton, who took batting practice in the indoor cage on Sunday morning, was called out on strikes in his lone at-bat in the ninth inning.

• Pitcher Tim Melville, who was designated for assignment on Friday, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Louisville on Sunday.

• The Reds released reliever Ryan Mattheus, who pitched for them last season and was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training before being cut. Mattheus had a 6.43 ERA in six appearances this season for Louisville.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.