Curtis Partch just moved a step closer to realizing his big-league dream.
The former Merced High and Merced College right-handed hurler turned in one of his best statistical seasons, completing his fifth full year as a minor leaguer in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
The 2012 season started a bit rough, but a switch to the bullpen seemed to revitalize Partch. He finished the season 7-4 with a 4.26 ERA and eight saves in nine opportunities while pitching for Double A Pensacola (Fla.).
The big redhead capped 2012 with an appearance in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game. The Reds took note and added Partch to the team's 40-man roster.
Only players on the 40-man roster may be promoted to the major leagues and it protects players from being picked up by another squad in the Rule 5 Draft.
"It's definitely a nice feeling," Partch said. "One of my goals for the year was to pitch well enough to be added to the 40-man roster, so it was nice to achieve that.
"One of the guys I know in the Reds' front office gave me a heads up the day before the deadline to fill out the roster, so it was pretty exciting."
Partch believes the move to the bullpen helped speed his organizational development along.
He made 48 relief appearances, striking out 79 in 82 1/3 innings pitched.
"I'm just much more comfortable in the 'pen," Partch said. "I wasn't very good waiting to throw. I like going one or two innings every couple days and not having a pitch count to worry about.
"You just go out, give it your all and try to put up a zero.
"I always felt like I had the right tools to be successful, I just needed to find that comfort zone."
Ryan Madson's move to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Aroldis Chapman's possible move to the Cincinnati rotation opens up some opportunities at the back end of the bullpen.
The signing of Jonathan Broxton to a three-year deal gives the Reds a closer for the immediate future, but Partch wouldn't mind being groomed for the role.
"I definitely like being the guy in the ninth," Partch said. "I'm not afraid to be out there with the game on the line.
"That would be fun, but I'll take whatever I can get. Whatever role the team needs me to play, I'm happy to do."