News came today that Ryan Madson will have Tommy John surgery and is down for the season. This is a painful loss for the Reds, but it’s mostly an emotional wound. Madson is/was an excellent relief pitcher, but the Reds still have a strong bullpen, even if it isn’t as strong and deep as it was before.
It is important to remember that relief pitchers rarely, if ever, contribute as much to a team as many people believe. They just don’t throw enough innings to have an enormous impact. Madson was among the best, but it was unlikely he was going to be the difference maker for the Reds this year.
So what are the repercussions for the rest of the team? Sean Marshall is probably going to close. He’s easily the best reliever on staff (this was true before the Madson injury, as well) and recently signed an extension with the implication that he would close after this year. The setup role is less certain, but there’s a good chance it reverts to Nick Masset, since he’s held that job the last several years.
Everyone is going to want to know what this means for lefty Aroldis Chapman. Lots of people are already convinced he’s headed to the bullpen, but don’t be so certain. While Reds manager Dusty Baker has been constantly pushing to have Chapman move to the pen, GM Walt Jocketty has indicated that Chapman will start, be it in Triple-A or the majors.
Only with the injury to Madson has Jocketty said Chapman might move to the bullpen. “Maybe” was the word he used, and that should encourage Reds fans.
This is Chapman’s last option year, and if they plan to convert him to starting, this is the time to do it. Inserting him into an already-good bullpen as a Band-Aid would be a short-sighted mistake.