Is Tony Santillan staying in the bullpen

At the end of June, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Tony Santillan met with Reds manager David Bell, pitching coach Derek Johnson and GM Nick Krall about what the rest of his season would look like.

Santillan, the Reds No. 9 prospect at the time, had filled in the Reds’ starting rotation in June and posted a 3.78 ERA with 20 strikeouts in four starts. But when the rotation got a few starters back from the injured list, Santillan was optioned to Triple-A.

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Before he left for Louisville, the Reds coaching staff and front office told him that he’d be a relief pitcher going forward this season. Santillan had never pitched out of the bullpen before, but he said was on board with the move.

Since the Reds called him back up to MLB, he has been one of their best relief pitchers. Since July 23, Santillan has a 0.44 ERA. In September, Santillan has only allowed three total hits in 11 ⅔ scoreless innings.

Sep 15, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Tony Santillan (64) throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“I didn’t have any expectations of how it was going to be or how it was going to feel,” Santillan said. “It was all new to me, and it was just learning on the fly by watching some of the older guys and seeing how they go about their business. I’m just pounding the zone a little more, getting more success being in the zone.”

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Santillan (64) during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Friday, July 16, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Milwaukee Brewers won, 11-6.

This month, Santillan has earned the opportunity to pitch in more important situations out of the bullpen. In Friday’s 8-7 victory over the Washington Nationals, Santillan pitched a scoreless sixth inning.

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Santillan is averaging nearly two strikeouts per appearance in September, and his fastball-breaking ball combination has immediately translated into the bullpen.

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