The Reds decided to stretch out Alfredo Simon as a starter in Spring Training in case of injury or a lack of rotation depth.
And has that decision paid off. Simon had started a handful of games in his career, so it was a sound choice, but nobody could have expected this sort of dominance.
A staple in the Reds’ bullpen the past two seasons, Simon continued his masterful pitching as a fill-in starter for the injured Mat Latos on Friday at blustery Wrigley Field. Simon scattered four hits over six-plus relatively stress-free innings, allowing one unearned run to outduel Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija and lead the Reds to a 4-1 win
Simon lowered his ERA to 0.86 in three starts while setting a career-high scoreless-innings streak of 12. Entering the season, Simon had made 19 career starts and none since 2011.
“Extremely impressed,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I know that he was a waiver-claim guy for us, and I think he pitched in 36 games in 2012 for us out of the bullpen and about 60 last year, but he has been remarkable. He’s wanted more opportunity, we’ve given that to him.
“I think it was a good idea that we brought him into camp in case we had an injury or didn’t have the depth, and our good fortune is that he came in ready to go and had a great spring and is off to a good start.”
Price and the Reds can only hope the win didn’t come at a greater cost. Cincinnati already leads the Majors with eight players opening the season on the disabled list, and Brandon Phillips was removed in the third inning with back spasms. Phillips will be reevaluated Saturday.
“Well, we hope that it’s not so severe that he can’t play tomorrow,” Price said. “But he wanted to play, wanted to stay in, I just felt like it wasn’t a very good idea. That second at-bat, you could see there was some discomfort, so I didn’t see it getting any better. … I just didn’t think it was a great idea, so we got him out of there.”
“I was on the fence on if I wanted him to go back out in the seventh, because he wasn’t real sharp in the sixth, but he managed the inning well,” Price said of Simon. “And I felt like the one thing we wanted to do was give him a shot to go out there and start the inning, see if you could get a couple of quick outs for us, but we knew we had LeCure behind us and that ended up playing out pretty well.”
“It was really cold, but I didn’t really focus on the weather,” said Simon, who walked two and struck out three. “I just tried to throw a lot of fastballs because the wind [was] blowing [in], so I tried to throw the ball down in the zone and make it a ground ball or fly ball.”
Cincinnati has won 16 of its last 17 games at the Friendly Confines and is now 24-6 in its last 30 games against the Cubs dating back to 2012.
“We’ve been in a million different types of games here the last few years, and somehow we’ve ended up on top,” Price said. “But believe me: we don’t take it for granted that we’re coming in here to win all the games.”