Although the bullpen bottomed out at the start of the current nine-game road trip -- allowing seven runs in 4 1/3 innings during three games in St. Louis last week -- the relievers were impenetrable to start the season. Cincinnati's bullpen went 14 1/3 innings before being scored upon.
"Obviously, with the first two weeks of the season, we've got guys that are going to get the job done," Kirk Saarloos said. "In a 162-game season, if we didn't go through a bad stretch, we'd have a really good bullpen. Every team goes through it. We happened to have it the first month. Who cares? It's a long season. It's better to have it in the first month than the last month, in my opinion."
Add to that the fact that three relievers -- Eddie Guardado, Bill Bray and Jared Burton -- are on the disabled list. Their eventual return figures to make the unit stronger. Narron indicated Sunday he is particularly encouraged by the progress of Guardado and Bray.
The Reds have not recorded a save since April 15, but they have had only two opportunities since. Closer David Weathers hasn't had much work, appearing in only one contest since April 19. With the starters posting the third-best ERA in the National League, the bullpen is well-rested.
"Seems like David Weathers has had too much rest," Narron said. "We have to take a look at maybe using David in the eighth inning a little more. We will see how the games go before we start doing that. We need to take advantage of what we got down there."
Santos strong: The work of reliever Victor Santos has been a surprise to the Reds. After pitching for the Pirates last season, the veteran right-hander was signed as a Minor League free agent Jan. 8. He was the only non-roster player to make the club out of Spring Training for the Reds after he did not allow a run in nine Grapefruit League appearances.
Having not been used regularly out of the bullpen for a long period of time since 2002 with Colorado, Santos has thrived in relief. Through Saturday, he was 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA and opponents were hitting just .231 against him in 12 games (11 1/3 innings).
"Santos really made the club because we knew we could use him multiple innings," Narron said. "He's done such a good job for us pitching one inning, so we pretty much kept him there."
Narron said Santos' versatility makes him valuable. Santos is capable of making a spot start or being used in long relief. Santos has been used in a short role so far this season, and Narron said he is considering giving him a more prominent role, possibly as a setup man.
"He has done a very good job," Narron said.
Belisle settling in: Entering the season as the Reds' fifth starter, Matt Belisle has performed well. He is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA with a 22-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Belisle is coming off his first complete game in the Majors, an 8-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
Narron said the fact the 26-year-old Belisle finally is able to settle into a starting role has made the right-hander more comfortable. Belisle was a starter in the Minor Leagues, but he had been used mostly out of the bullpen the past three seasons with the Reds.
"He was a young guy who came to the big leagues and pitched out of the bullpen -- something he had never done before I don't think in the Minor Leagues, and it's a little different," Narron said. "The thing now, he's got four or five days between starts, and he's on a regular routine. But stuff wise? Shoot, he's got good stuff."
Belisle had two good starts to begin the season and then two subpar outings before rebounding with his gem Saturday. But Belisle maintains he has felt consistent each time out.
"You can feel the same," Belisle said, "but sometimes the results [are] different."
Griffey available off bench:
For the fourth consecutive game, outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. was not in the lineup. He has been diagnosed with pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs). Narron said Griffey would be available for late-inning duty and was hopeful he would be in the lineup Tuesday against the Astros.
Coming up: The Reds make their final stop on their 10-day road trip, heading to Houston after an off-day Monday. Right-hander Bronson Arroyo (0-2, 2.86 ERA) is the scheduled starter in Tuesday's series opener.