Masset on the Way Back

Masset on the Way Back

Since coming to Cincinnati in a late 2008 trade for Ken Griffey, Nick Massett has at times been one of the premier set-up men in the major leagues. A shoulder injury has robbed nearly all of his 2012 season. He's now making rehab outings in the minors as he works to rejoin a talented Reds bullpen in time for their stretch run.

Louisville put up a single run in four different innings in a 4-2 home win over Charlotte. Three of their runs came from solo home runs by Mike Costanzo, Denis Phipps, and Cody Puckett. Phipps also robbed the Knights of a home run by reaching over the wall for a catch in the third. Costanzo lead the Bats' attack with three hits and Neftali Soto added two.

Nick Masset was scheduled to make another rehab start but was scratched after a rain delay that lasted nearly an hour and a half. Chad Reineke technically made a relief appearance despite throwing the first pitch. He made a "quality non-start" by allowing two runs on eight hits in seven innings. He struck out five versus one walk and picked up his fifth win. J.J. Hoover threw a scoreless ninth for his tenth save. Before this season Masset had been a mainstay in the Reds bullpen since his arrival in 2008. This year he started out on the DL with stiffness in his shoulder. It was not certain how long the injury would keep him out and now it has consumed nearly all of his 2012 season. Finally he started working out in Arizona last month and yesterday would have been his first rehab start at the AAA level.

The 30 year-old Masset was originally signed by the Rangers who picked him in the eighth round of the 2000 draft out of Piniellas Park (FL) H.S. They traded him to the White Sox in 2006 after his major league debut. He came to the Reds late in the 2008 season with an infielder in return for Ken Griffey Jr. In the four seasons since putting on a Reds uniform he's kept a 3.07 ERA/1.261 WHIP and has made over 73 appearances out of their bullpen in each of the three previous seasons. He's a power pitcher and during that span he struck out 228 batters in 240 innings.

Masset tends to be a hot-and-cold pitcher with overall numbers suggesting that he's hot most of the time. He's achieved the low ERA despite a career March/April ernie over five. He tends to get better as the season progresses and is under three for August-October. Last season was an exception when he had a 5.32 ERA over 28 appearances after June 22. Previously there had been some thoughts that he would take over as the Reds closer after the free agent departure of Francisco Cordero. Instead the Reds reached deep in their pocket over the offseason to sign Ryan Madson only to eventually watch him miss the entire season with Tommy John surgery.

Perhaps fatigue may have entered into play. Cincinnati opened their 2011 season with two starting pitchers on the DL. Ineffectiveness eventually sent opening day starter Edinson Volquez and Travis Wood down to AAA and Bronson Arroyo battled through mono and back stiffness in the worst year of his career. During the early part of the season the Reds leaned heavily on their pen and got good results until final couple of months. Masset was not the only Reds reliever to lose effectiveness. Logan Ondrusek had a flat nine in 17 games after August 1. Their workload also increased when control issues sent Aroldis Chapman down to the minors for a tune-up in May.

One thing for sure is that Masset has had plenty of time to rest since then. Thus far he's gotten batters out at the lower minor league levels with three scoreless innings at Arizona and Dayton. When he does make it back to the Reds he will find a bullpen that is quite crowded. That group pulled together after multiple injuries earlier this year to have the best reliever ERA in the majors. Recently they added veteran Jonathan Broxton on the final day before the trade deadline. Assuming Masset does not need another "tune-up month" to get into form Baker will have multiple options to call on in attempt to "shorten games" by bringing in fresh arms, especially after roster expansion at the end of this month.

This season the Reds rotation has gotten the job done. The quintet has combined for a sub-four ERA while averaging over six innings per appearance and providing all of the Reds starts thus far. The ability to shorten their outings without overworking the pen may pay dividends as they make their stretch run to capture another division title. When Masset is on top of his game he's got the stuff that will make any manager want to hand him the ball frequently regardless of other options are available.

Other News from the Farm:

Pensacola took a one-run lead in the fifth inning before losing 7-4 at Huntsville. David Vidal had two hits and drove in two for the Wahoos. Brodie Greene and Andrew Means also added two hits each. Kyle Lotzkar got the start and allowed three runs on five hits and four walks for no decision. Josh Ravin allowed two runs (one earned) in 1+ innings and took the loss.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton resumed piling on his SB stat by adding three last night. He led off the game by reaching on an error and stole second before taking third on a wild pitch. He singled in the sixth and had another "double steal inning" by swiping second and third. He now has 125 SB in 106 games.

Bakersfield tied their game at Modesto off a two-run home run by Juan Duran in the eighth inning. They took a two run lead in the ninth before the Nuts tied it in the bottom of the inning and came back to win 6-5 over the Blaze in ten. Duran, Theo Bowe, Niko Vasquez, and Travis Mattair each had two hits for the Blaze. Josh Smith had a nice start by allowing only one run off four hits in six innings while striking out four without a walk. He took his ERA under four has one of the ten lowest ernies in the Cal League. Pat Doyle blew the save when he allowed two runs in 1+ innings and took the loss.

Dayton hung up six in the seventh inning in an 11-5 win at Great Lakes. Nick O'Shea had three hits and concluded the Dragon scoring with a two-run home run in the eighth. Juan Perez had two hits and contributed a solo homer to the seventh inning rally. Jefry Siera, Joe Terry, Kyle Waldrop, and Junior Arias also had two hits each. James Allen allowed four runs on six hits in five innings and struck out seven. Dan Jenson retired the side in the sixth to pick up the win.

Billings took the lead at home with a five-run fourth inning and won over Great Falls 8-4. They added on two in the seventh from a home run by Carlos Sanchez. Jesse Winker continued his hot hitting with three hits including two doubles to raise his average to .356. Brandon Dailey had two hits to bring him to .363 with the Mustangs. Jonathan Moscot got the start and allowed one run on one hit in two innings. Erik Miller pitched a scoreless fourth for the win. Jimmy Moran entered in the ninth with bases loaded and retired the only batter he faced to end the game and get the save.

The AZL Reds took a four run lead and hung on for a 4-3 win at the AZL Rangers. Humberto Valor had two hits and drove in a run. Jose Williams got the win in his best start of the season by throwing six shutout innings with only one hit and no walks while striking out five. Abel De Los Santos pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.

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