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One-pitch Parra

I wrote about Manny Parra before Tuesday’s game because he had been idle for so long, having not pitched since throwing four pitches for balls vs. Toronto on June 20. Sure enough, Parra got into Tuesday’s 8-2 loss when he replaced Mike Leake in the bottom of the sixth.

However, Parra threw just one pitch. It was a strike to Seth Smith. But the at-bat ended when Jake Goebbert was thrown out at second base trying to steal. Parra, the team leader with 34 appearances, was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh.

Reds manager Bryan Price was glad Parra got in at all as a way to get him warmed up and throwing. But he saw it as a test because he had been trying not to use him lately.

“We kind of intentionally kept him out of games for a while,” Price said. “We needed a test drive to see how he came through that.”

Why had Parra been out?

“His shoulder was cranky,” Price said. “We worked through that, he could have pitched, but we felt if we didn’t pitch him, it gave him a better chance to continue without any flare-ups. By the end of that San Francisco series, he was feeling much better.”

Game 84: Reds at Padres

Hamilton 8
Santiago 5
Frazier 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Heisey 7
Pena 2
Cozart 6
Cueto 1

Pinch-running for Votto

One of the things that came during Monday’s 1-0 Reds loss to the Padres was a rarity. In the ninth inning after a leadoff single, Joey Votto was lifted for pinch-runner Chris Heisey.

It’s the latest sign all is not going swimmingly with Votto’s left leg, which had a quadriceps strain above the knee. Votto didn’t want to talk about the injury before the game on Monday, which is his prerogative. But he is maintaining that if he’s playing, consider him 100 percent.

Reds manager Bryan Price has maintained that he knows Votto isn’t at 100 percent.

“It’s an indication he’s not running at full speed,” Price said on Tuesday. “I think that’s apparent. The other part was that Chris Heisey was a better option to steal a base there and that was a consideration in that situation with a guy like Street in there that doesn’t have a lot of innings where he gives up two, three or four hits in an inning. He’s had a nice season. It was one of those risk-reward moments.”

Votto, who lacks a homer since his June 10 activation from the DL, could be a future pinch-runner candidate in my mind if he isn’t able to run at full speed. In the short term, that could be tough at times since the Reds are short one man on the bench.

Starter needed for doubleheader

It’s still a week away but the Reds will have a day-night doubleheader next Tuesday, July 8, vs. the Cubs to make up for a rainout. The Reds will likely call up someone to make one of the starts while Johnny Cueto is lined up to make the other.

Triple-A Louisville’s rotation lines up to have Jair Jurrjens start on that Tuesday.

“We’ve got some things in motion but we haven’t finalized anything yet,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “There are a few considerations down there. We still have time to move people around to get that right guy. But we also want to get more opinion from our Triple-A staff, etc.”

The Bats’ rotation also has Chien-Ming Wang is 8-5 with a 3.48 ERA and like Jurrjens (2-3, 4.46), has big league experience. But neither are on the 40-man roster.

LHP David Holmberg is on the 40-man roster and doing much better since coming off of Louisville’s DL after a shoulder injury. Since June 11, he has a 1.99 ERA. Overall, he is 0-4 with a 5.75 ERA. Holmberg was acquired from the D-backs in the three-way trade that sent Ryan Hanigan to the Rays.

“He’s sharper,” Price said. “His velocity is back up a little bit. I think he’s touching 92. His average fastball was 90 the last game. I think it does speak that he’s feeling a lot better than he did in spring.”

Game 83: Reds at Padres

Hamilton 8
Frazier 5
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Mesoraco 2
Schumaker 7
Cozart 6
Leake 1

Game 82: Reds at Padres

Hamilton 8
Frazier 5
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Mesoraco 2
Ludwick 7
Cozart 6
Latos 1

What they said…

Before this road trip, I wrote on here that a 7-3 road trip could get the Reds away from any lingering thoughts of being Trade Deadline sellers. They are now only one away from win No. 7 after a 4-0 victory over the Giants that provided them with a four-game series sweep. It’s a 6-1 road trip thus far with three games remaining against a Padres team very deep in struggles right now. This team feels as hot as it did when it was racking up wins while Joey Votto was injured in 2012. The vibe is different. There is a greater expectation to win, even when things go wrong like it did on Saturday in the ninth inning before a win in extras.

There is still a long way to go. At 43-38 at the halfway point, the Reds are on pace for 86 wins. That won’t be enough, especially with the Brewers in control with a 6 1/2 game lead in the NL Central. The Reds are now percentage points ahead of the Cardinals to be alone in second place for the first time this season.

I wrote two stories after the game today. Read all about the win and sweep on MLB.com/Reds.com, but here are some quotes that weren’t all used in my work:

“A couple of years ago we were labeled on some West Coast swing as a downfall, I think the last couple of years we’ve kind of shut people up about it. We’re not out of it, as you can see by the way we’re playing and the way we’ve been playing the last five, six series. We’re definitely in it, there’s a lot of hope in the way we’re playing and just slowly trying to gain ground. Unfortunately the other teams are winning, too. We’ll get a chance at some of them when we get back.” — Reds pitcher Homer Bailey, who threw his fourth career shutout.

“I saw him executing good quality pitches with a really strong mix. He used all of his pitches. He had a good slider, threw the curveball for strikes and the split. He had very good fastball location. I thought he and Brayan had a nice little back and forth going, a good communication going and a good flow. When the outs come quickly, it’s not necessarily like Homer to go out there and go into the ninth of a game with 93 pitches. That tells you a lot about his pitch efficiency. He tends to strike guys out which gets his pitch count up a little bit higher. He was extremely efficient and executing good pitches and guys played great defense in some tough conditions with the sun and the wind today.” — Reds manager Bryan Price on Bailey.

“He threw two [no-hitters] already, he’s got that feeling, he knows what it takes. In my case, I was very excited about it, but at the same time I wasn’t thinking about it, I had a job to do, I had a game to call and that’s exactly what I was doing, trying to get him deep in the baseball game and he threw a complete game. That one was very, very happy for all of us.” — Reds catcher Brayan Pena on Bailey.

“This series was indicative of what we need to do to be successful. We can’t always turn a one-run game over to the bullpen or ask a starter to not make any mistakes at all. The ability to create separation completely changes what the opposing team and manager can do. You can’t be as aggressive. You can but you‘ll be restricted on what you do on the bases and how you utilize the talent on your club, takes away the bunt and other things. It’s been great to see. It’s been a lot of fun.” — Price on the offense getting add-on runs late.

“We got them at the right time, I think. That’s a really good team. It’s still a playoff team in my opinion. They’re far from over, over there. They have too good of a team. I’m just happy to get out of here while they were struggling a little bit. Our pitching has been so good. We feel good about ourselves.” — Reds LF Skip Schumaker on the Giants, who have lost 15 of 19 while the Reds have won a season-high five straight, eight of nine and 14 of 18.

Postscript to Saturday night

As the Reds rallied in the top of the 11th inning and before they scored, manager Bryan Price had Logan Ondrusek and Jumbo Diaz warming up in the bullpen. Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton had already been used. Had the Reds stopped scoring after Zack Cozart’s two-run single in what became a 7-3 win, it would have been a save situation.

I was curious if Price planned all along to use Diaz for a save, and use Ondrusek if the game had went to a 12th inning. It would have been Diaz for the save.

“Just because it’s what he does,” Price said of Diaz on Sunday. “He did it in Triple-A and there’s a newness to him. If we didn’t have him, I would have been satisfied with having Logan in that situation as well. Considering it’s what Jumbo has done for a long time, it seemed to make sense to put him back in that environment.”

Diaz had 18 saves in 19 chances with Louisville this season. Once the Reds scored five runs and it wasn’t a save situation, he still pitched and ended the game. He allowed a leadoff walk and two-out RBI single before locking it down.

Game 81: Reds at Giants

Hamilton 8
Frazier 5
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Pena 2
Schumaker 7
Cozart 6
Bailey 1

Votto backs Frazier for ASG

Reds first baseman Joey Votto remembered when he was having a great year in 2010 and wasn’t voted to the National League All-Star team — by fans, players or the league. He wasn’t happy about and was ejected from the game at Chicago after his first at-bat after the rosters were announced. Votto earned a spot via the MLB.com Final Vote online, however.

I was asking Votto on Saturday about third baseman Todd Frazier’s improvement as a hitter and player, and Votto made it a point to support Frazier for the All-Star Game.

“First of all, I’d like to say publicly that Todd 100 percent needs to get into that All-Star Game,” Votto said. “It would be a crying shame if he’s not in the All-Star Game. I was in a very similar position to him in 2010. I wasn’t getting a lot of momentum voting wise. My guess is he’ll get voted in by the players. He’s played fantastic. He’s been the best player on our team this year. He has carried us over stretches and come up with big hits. He’s played excellent defensively at third base. He’s been a steady presence in our lineup all year.

Entering tonight batting .290/.356./.519 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs, Frazier leads NL third basemen in home runs, slugging, stolen bases and extra base hits. He’s well ahead of last year’s pace in most offensive stats after he batted .234/.314/.407 with 19 homers and 73 RBIs for 2013.

“To see him go from last year, which was clearly a frustrating year for him, to in all likelihood get to be an All-Star this year is exactly the type of story you want to tell yourself at the end of the year,” said Votto, a four-time All-Star. “It’s the type of turnaround you work hard for in the off-season. To see the fruits of his labor is fantastic. I’m very happy for him.”

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