Affeldt not fazed by Fogg signing
Left-hander will make team, either as starter or reliever
ARASOTA, Fla. -- Pitcher Jeremy Affeldt didn't feel his chances of making the Reds' rotation got any Fogg-ier.On Thursday, the Reds signed Fogg to a one-year, $1 million contract and expect him to challenge for a rotation spot. A reliever with the Rockies last season, and a teammate of Fogg's, Affeldt encouraged the right-hander to join Cincinnati. Now the two will be competing for the same piece of real estate in the starting five, along with several other pitchers. They include Matt Belisle, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Matt Maloney. Only one or two spots are available now. "I don't view it any different as I did yesterday or the day before," Affeldt said. "They have spots open and they asked me to come in and compete for a spot. That's what I'm going to do. When I was a starter, I was competing for a spot every year. It doesn't change my approach." While Affeldt is always an attractive option for their bullpen, the Reds aren't wavering on giving him a chance to start. "We made a promise and I'm keeping my word," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We're hoping it works, because we need a lefty in there. I'd like to have a lefty. If not, we still have a quite a few candidates. If it doesn't work, he's still one of the best left-handed relievers around. It's kind of a no-lose situation for us and him." Originally a starter with the Royals organization, Affeldt was continually shuffled around several roles in the Majors -- from starter to closer to middle relief. In 2006, he was traded from Kansas City to Colorado, where he was used exclusively from the bullpen as a situational lefty. Last season, the 28-year-old Affeldt was 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 59 innings over 75 appearances. He had a 1.69 ERA over seven postseason games. On Jan. 23, Cincinnati signed Affeldt to a one-year contract with a base salary of $3 million, plus incentives. But he wasn't signed to be a reliever. The front office felt that Affeldt could start again.
Except for Affeldt and Maloney, all of the other starters in camp are right-handed. Having a lefty to break up the group of right-handers could help the Reds in some series."After seeing righty, righty, righty, I kind of get tuned in," Baker said. "When you see a lefty every now and then, all of a sudden you need a different theory about hitting lefties and righties." "It's definitely a plus for me they're in need of that," Affeldt said. Since signing, Affeldt has been long tossing to prepare his arm and build strength. It's still a work in progress at camp. "As a reliever, I had to carry quality control for an inning, or one batter," Affeldt said. "Now it's a matter of doing it for six, seven innings. It's building stamina and lowering your pitch count per inning, so you don't get tired." That and the development of a third pitch will most affect Affeldt's chances of securing a starting spot. This spring, he has been working on a changeup with pitching coach Dick Pole. Affeldt's primary pitches as a reliever were the fastball and curveball. "It's coming along well. I'm keeping it down," Affeldt said of his changeup. "If I miss, I'm missing low. I haven't seen the hitters' reaction too much. I told them what was coming [Thursday]. Most times if they're looking for a changeup, they're looking for it to be elevated. Most of the changeups were down below the zone or down in the zone." Affeldt's next batting practice session against hitters is on Saturday. It will be an early test for the changeup. "We'll see how they react to it then," he said. "It's not going to be my No. 2 pitch. But I'd like my No. 3 pitch to be a pitch I feel I can throw in any situation, if dictated. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting there." Regardless of his performance in camp, Affeldt will be on the final 25-man roster, one way or another. Obviously, he'd like to start. What if he has to work from the bullpen? "I could live with it," Affeldt said. "The biggest disappointment for me, if they opted not to start me is to get upset and then not pitch well. That doesn't do them or me any favors. I'm here to win. I want to try and win. I think I can be effective late in the game. Personally, I can be effective early in the game as well. That's what my whole focus is, until they tell me otherwise -- to start and win a spot in the rotation. I definitely think it's achievable."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.