Cool under pressure, Madson ready to deliver

Cool under pressure, Madson ready to deliver

Cool under pressure, Madson ready to deliver
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Pressure tested, Philly approved.

Not much will rattle new Reds closer Ryan Madson when he emerges from the bullpen in the ninth inning. Whether it's for booing Santa Claus or piling jeers upon current Reds third baseman and ex-Phillie Scott Rolen, Philadelphia has earned its reputation as a tough sports town for players that rubbed it the wrong way.

Having pitched for the Phillies from 2003-11, and leaving as their all-time leader with 473 relief appearances, Madson handled the scrutiny well. That was especially the case last season, when he served as the full-time closer for the first time and saved 32 of 34 games while sporting a 2.37 ERA.

"Just the ninth inning, there's a lot of pressure to handle when you're on a big stage like that -- especially in Philly, where there is no room for error," Madson said on Sunday. "It teaches you how to perform under that type of pressure. Once you get over that, it just becomes the game again. You just deal with the hitter and nothing else. That's what Philly has prepared me for the most."

Madson, 31, is undertaking a different type of pressure in 2012 with Cincinnati -- as a high-profile free-agent pickup. The Reds were already aggressive in making improvements before the right-hander essentially fell in their laps.

Early into the offseason, it appeared Madson would return to Philadelphia with a reported four-year, $40 million deal. It was never formally reached, and he languished on the market most of the winter.

In January, Madson signed a one-year contract that will pay him $6 million this season with some money deferred. There is an $11 million mutual option that carries a $2.5 million buyout. It was considered one of the free-agent steals of the winter. Madson and former Red Francisco Cordero were the only true closers left from what was a packed market. Cordero wound up signing to be a setup man for the Blue Jays, while Madson is essentially entering another contract year to prove himself with a new team.

"I take it as motivation to show people again, to prove that it's real," Madson said. "It's unfortunate it's that way but I'm not complaining. I'm very happy. I'm very privileged to have this opportunity, and I just want to run with it and show people that I will be OK."

Besides only blowing two saves, Madson allowed 54 hits and 16 walks (including eight intentional) over 60 2/3 innings while striking out 62 batters. He finished the season with 17 consecutive scoreless appearances, a stretch that included nine saves. Of his 62 appearances, 53 were scoreless outings.

The Reds are rated by many as one of the top teams to beat in the National League Central, in large part because of Madson's addition, but also new starting pitcher Mat Latos and lefty setup man Sean Marshall, who were both acquired in December trades.

With Madson in charge of closing down games, expectations are even higher as the club's future is heavily tied to his being successful in the final inning.

"I was told by a couple of people that you don't have to do something more," Madson said. "Everybody says, 'Trust your stuff,' and I trust my ability, and I know how to perform in those situations. I don't try to do too much. I will treat it like it's another year."

"Coco did a good job for us. Madson did a good job in Philadelphia," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Closing is newer to him than it was to Coco. Now that we have more reinforcements down there, like Marshall, [Nick] Masset has got some help. [Logan] Ondrusek got some help."

Madson is quick to point out that it's not a one-man show from the bullpen, and he has worked quickly to get to know his fellow relievers. After completing his first Spring Training workout with Reds pitchers and catchers, he was thrilled with his new situation.

"As expected, it's been great," Madson said. "It's been about putting names to faces and getting to know people, especially guys I'm going to be around a lot in the bullpen.

"There are a lot of great guys that have performed well over the last four or five years. That's a good base. We can put something together that I've had in Philly. It's that jell. Back there, we kept our own garden tight. I like to have relationships with everybody, but I like to focus on the bullpen guys. I'm excited about the guys I've met so far. Everybody has the same agenda and same goals. It's nice to feel that instead of hoping it's that way."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.