Simon Hopes for Same, for a Change

One year ago Alfredo Simon's past was one of incredible change and his future was uncertain when the Reds picked him up off of waivers a couple of days before starting their regular season. He was a nice surprise in their 2012 bullpen and now they are hoping for more of the same from the 31 year-old right-hander who recently helped his native Dominican Republic to a WBC championship.

Countdown to opening day: 11 days.

One year ago Alfredo Simon was staring at unemployment before Cincinnati picked him up off waivers two days before their regular season started. When he was given a spot on their active roster many fans were asking why? One reason was because injuries had decimated their bullpen during the preseason. Would-be closer Ryan Madson announced he was going under the knife for Tommy John surgery while other injuries robbed workhorse Nick Masset of his entire season and all but 14 ineffective innings of lefty specialist Bill Bray's. Eventually the "whys" became "wows" when he contributed out of the top bullpen in the league as their long-man.

It's difficult to tell what the Reds saw in the big right-hander that made them want to put him in their uniform. He was then 30 years old and his previous MLB experience had an ERA over five while making 78 appearances for the Orioles. Whatever it was soon materialized on the field when he pitched over sixty innings with the Reds while maintaining a 2.66 ernie. He didn't get off to an impressive start and was tagged for three earned runs in the first three games of his NL debut. Three runs might not be a lot, but it was one sixth of the total earned runs that he would give up over the entire season. Things have changed over the past year and going into 2013 Cincinnati is blessed with great depth in the pen. As other right-handers compete for final spots there is little doubt that Simon will be taking the trip north when they break camp.

Simon had some control issues earlier and during his rookie season in Baltimore his BB rate was four per nine innings. It dropped down around three/nine in 2011 but his ERA remained the same when a lean rotation caused the O's to try him as a starter. Some pitchers with sketchy command and a limited repertoire can still carve out a nice career as a reliever and now Simon is looking like one of them. Being the long-man is a dubious job because every team hopes they won't have a frequent need for one and if someone thrives in the role it's normally a signal to move him to another. The Reds pen is crowded, but Simon may force a move yet.

His current role is one of the lesser dubious items in his bio and to say that he's undergone some changes over his professional career is a gross understatement. In 1999 the Phillies signed him as a free agent named Carlos Cabrera who at the time was thought to be a lanky 6'1" 16 year-old weighing under 200 lb. Later it was found out that he'd used his cousin's identification to represent himself as almost two years younger than his actual age and he's since grown to 6'6"/265#. That deception was not the biggest threat to his career because in 2011 he was put in jail in the Dominican Republic as the main suspect in a fatal shooting. He was subsequently cleared of all charges.

He also bounced around before making his debut with the Orioles. The Phillies included him in a deal with the Giants in 2004 and he was granted free agency two years later. After signing with the Rangers the Orioles obtained him from the Rule 5 draft and then traded him back to Philadelphia who would ultimately return him to Texas. In 2008 he was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers who released a few months later opening up a return to Baltimore. It's difficult to tell which players will become late bloomers and a nomadic period over a time which should have begun the prime of his career would not put anyone atop of the list of candidates.

As Cincinnati prepares for a season with hopes for a championship Simon was already part of one when he pitched a few innings in his native Dominican Republic's WBC title run. That prevented him from getting much action in the Cactus League where he's gotten knocked around in a couple of appearances. Whether he be Alfredo Simon, or Carlos Cabrera pitching in long relief or a as a set-up man, his high-90's fastball with good movement is making a new identity for himself with the Reds who are hoping for a repeat performance in 2013.


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