Notes: Revamped 'pen paying dividends

Reds notes: Revamped 'pen paying dividends

CINCINNATI -- After months of trying, it appears that the pieces of the puzzle known as the Reds bullpen may finally be falling into place.

In the second half of the season, the revamped Reds 'pen is 4-1, with a 3.60 ERA, and has converted four out of five save opportunities.

Two trades executed around the All-Star break seem to be paying early dividends.

Closer Eddie Guardado, acquired from the Mariners, has converted all four of his save opportunities and sports a 1.59 ERA. Setup men Bill Bray and Gary Majewski, acquired from the Nationals, have contributed as well. Bray is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA and four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings, and Gary Majewski is 1-1.

"Overall, everybody in the bullpen has been doing a great job," Bray said. "[We've] picked it up a notch."

The acquisitions have allowed each pitcher to adapt to a specific role within the relief effort, which has helped the Reds keep teams off the scoreboard while their offense goes to work.

"I think a huge part of that was when we got Eddie," Reds manager Jerry Narron said of the role adaptations. "You add [guys] like Bray and Majewski, that's a lot more depth."

On Friday night, the Reds erased a 5-0 deficit to score three runs in the ninth inning and win, 6-5. The 'pen allowed one hit and struck out six batters in four scoreless innings.

"We know what kind of pitchers we have," Reds catcher Javier Valentin said. "They know what kind of roles they have, and they prepare for their opportunity. Maybe that's the reason we've started pitching a lot better."

Bench bliss: One major component of the Reds' ability to come from behind this season has been their outstanding bench.

Cincinnati pinch-hitters lead the National League in batting average (.310), home runs (7), and RBIs (30).

"As a pinch-hitter, you always [enter] a tough situation," frequent pinch-hitter Valentin said. "You have to prepare mentally for any time the manager calls you, and [be able to] give a quality at-bat."

Narron has been able to keep everybody active by regularly rotating the starting lineup and making sure players get enough plate appearances to remain sharp.

Cincinnati's pinch-hitting prowess was on full display on Friday night. Scott Hatteberg drew a walk, DeWayne Wise laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Javier Valentin drew an RBI-walk, all key pinch-hit at-bats in the ninth-inning, comeback win.

"You have to go up there, be [ready], and if you get a good pitch, stay aggressive," Valentin said. "We showed everybody [Friday night] what we can do. Every day, we come to the park prepared for that situation."

"It's huge," Narron said of the dependability of his bench. "We have a pretty good bench every night."

Ross update: A day after running the bases, David Ross reported feeling no soreness in his strained lower abdominal muscle on Saturday.

The Reds catcher has been on the disabled list since July 7, and is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday. He said he felt "better," and will consult with the coaches and training staff to determine exactly when he will return to the active roster.

Down on the Farm: Homer Bailey continued his domination of the Southern League on Friday night.

The Reds' prize right-hander allowed one run on three hits over 6 2/3 innings for Double-A Chattanooga. He left trailing 1-0, however, in a game the Lookouts lost, 3-2, in 13 innings.

After five starts at Double-A, Bailey is 4-0, with a 0.88 ERA, and carries over a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (31:6).

On deck: Left-hander Eric Milton makes his second start of the homestand when he takes the mound for the Reds against the Brewers' Tomo Ohka on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park. First pitch is set for 1:15 p.m. ET.

William S. Hupp is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.