Hensley working hard to impress in Reds' camp
Right-hander is contending for a spot in the bullpen after a rough end to his '12 season
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Appearing in 60 games for the World Series champion Giants last season, new Reds reliever Clay Hensley will get a ring when they're handed out at the beginning of the regular season.
The moment is something the 33-year-old is looking forward to -- he just wishes he had more to do with winning it.
After posting an ERA of 10.13 in August and 6.75 in September, San Francisco left Hensley off its postseason roster, relegating him to watch the playoff run from the sidelines.
"I was a little disappointed by it, obviously," he said. "Of course you want to pitch in those scenarios, but I had a terrible September, so I really didn't help my case."
Hensley tried to make the most out of his situation though, spending his time aiding the team in any way possible.
"You kind of have to take on another role and support your teammates," he said. "You don't want to be the guy who is a Debbie Downer, you want to be a good teammate, keep your guys up in the clubhouse and still be a part of the team somehow."
Although he didn't let the Giants' decision keep him down, he is still using it as motivation for this spring.
"Without a doubt, I don't want that to happen again," he said. "And I think this club could make a run at it."
Signed by the Reds a day before camp opened, Hensley is in Goodyear as a non-roster invitee trying to win a spot on the Opening Day roster. The likelihood of that happening is relatively low because of other Cincinnati right-handers in the bullpen like Jonathan Broxton, Jose Arredondo, Logan Ondrusek, Alfredo Simon and Sam LeCure, but Hensley isn't looking that far ahead just yet.
"I think I'm just trying to come out, throw the ball well and let the rest work itself out," he said. "If there's a spot here or spot there, I'm just a firm believer in if I pitch well, I'll be able to find a spot somewhere."
Hensley came to the Reds after an offseason of re-analyzing his mechanics. While he used to deliver to the plate with a straight overhead throwing motion, his arm slot is now lowered a bit from that to try to create more movement on his cutter.
"I found a new angle, so I'm just trying to get consistent with it and get in a groove with that delivery," he said. "Just trying to keep it dialed in a little bit. The more I work in games, the more I'll have a better feel for it."
In his first outing of the spring against the Indians, Hensley made a good impression on his new team, tossing 2 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out a batter in the process.
"He's a guy who has a lot of experience and can throw strikes," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I talked to him, and he said last year he got out of sync a little bit, but he's been successful everywhere he's gone. There's a lot of competition for a couple spots, but he's a competitive guy."
Contending for a roster spot isn't a new concept to Hensley, though. As a middle reliever and spot starter throughout his seven-year career, the right-hander has rarely felt assured of a place on his team heading into camp. But that uncertainty has led to a lot of success for him over his career in Spring Training, especially lately.
Over the last three seasons, Hensley has compiled a 1.82 ERA in 39 2/3 spring innings.
"I think I've always had to play for a job, so it's kind of the same thing every year," he said. "Which is fine, I enjoy the competition -- it keeps me on my toes."
Baker thinks some of that early success in camp has to deal with the style in which Hensley pitches.
"Guys who change speed and throw breaking balls early in the spring, they usually look pretty good against the hitters," Baker said. "He's been around long enough where you can tell if you're getting them out the right way or not, though. When you're getting line drives after line drives, that's the wrong way, even if you're getting them out. So far, he's been good."
Hensley was on top of his game again Wednesday against the D-backs, tossing two perfect innings while striking out a pair.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.