Sunday, February 11, 2001

Relief pitching outlook

        Here's one area that should cause the Reds little or no concern.

        With 57 saves in the last two years and an All-Star appearance last season, Danny Graves is poised to join the game's elite closers. Should manager Bob Boone decide to use Graves only in the ninth inning, which Jack McKeon didn't start doing until late last season, the right-hander could maintain peak effectiveness longer. Graves posted a 1.99 ERA before the All-Star break and 3.41 afterward.

        Scott Sullivan is among the majors' best setup relievers, which the Reds recognized by giving him a three-year contract. If the starting pitching is as shaky as suspected, Sullivan could lead the majors in relief innings for a record fourth consecutive season.

        Promising rookie John Riedling and resurgent ex-closer Mark Wohlers can help bridge the gap from the starters to Graves. Some thought Riedling was impressive enough late last season to allow Cincinnati to trade Sullivan, but that didn't happen. Ignore Wohlers' 4.50 ERA last year; a better number to consider is his .192 opponents' batting average, indicating he's regaining his overpowering stuff.

        Dennys Reyes or Scott Williamson also will make an impact here if they don't start. Chris Reitsma, obtained in the Dante Bichette trade, will get a long look, though some think he could be better as a starter. Jim Brower, who also can start or relieve, is another candidate.


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