Reds bullpen starting to find some positives

Reds bullpen starting to find some positives

ATLANTA -- The Reds' bullpen has often been the source of the team's struggles this season. But over the past week, it's started showing signs of improvement.

This recent string of success continued during Wednesday night's 9-8 loss to the Braves at Turner Field, as the Cincinnati bullpen shut out Atlanta for six consecutive innings before Alfredo Simon surrendered three runs in the 13th.

Between the seventh and 11th innings, three different Reds relievers (J.J. Hoover, JC Ramirez and Tony Cingrani) prevented Atlanta from scoring despite putting runners in scoring position. Cingrani's performance was most notable, as he pitched out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the 11th to give the team's offense another chance.

"We put ourselves in a situation where we put all of our cards in and were able to work through it in the [11th] with the five-man infield and catcher [Tucker] Barnhart's play and a great job by Cingrani in that environment," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

"But you can't put yourself in that situation too often and think you're going to come back and win those games or hold on and win those games in this case. We just couldn't pull it out."

Price has been forced to turn to his bullpen often over the past four games, during which only one Cincinnati starting pitcher has lasted more than four innings.

The bullpen has responded to this challenge, though. Over the past seven games, Reds relievers have posted a 3.26 ERA (11 ER/30 1/3 innings).

Cincinnati relievers entered Wednesday's game with a 6.30 ERA, but Cingrani has seen signs of improvement.

"Everybody is just figuring out what they need to do," said Cingrani about the bullpen's growth. "[They're figuring out] their strengths and weaknesses, adding pitches and figuring out how to get guys out their way."

The Reds' bullpen ultimately couldn't get the final outs it needed on Wednesday night to put away the Braves, but Price has been impressed by his relievers' efforts during this recent stretch.

"Guys are showing me not only that they're more effective," Price said. "But they're also showing me some emotional wherewithal to come in there and just say, 'Hey, I'm going to pitch. I'm ready to pitch and will do whatever you need.' That takes some heart."

Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.