CINCINNATI -- After Johnny Cueto and Sean Marshall threw successful bullpen sessions on Thursday, pitching coach Bryan Price said that both could be back in action this month, barring any setbacks.
Marshall would return to his role as a key left-hander in the bullpen, but Cueto's future is only becoming slightly clearer.
"I think initially it will probably be the bullpen," general manager Walt Jocketty said of Cueto's role when he returns. "I don't know if we're going to have time to lengthen him out, because there really isn't a club to send him to [so he can] go out and pitch. But we'll kind of play that by ear right now and just get him into a game at first. I think it will probably be in the bullpen, but we haven't made a final decision."
Cueto hasn't pitched in a game since he lasted just one inning against the Rangers on June 28 before leaving with the strained right lat that landed him on the disabled list for the third time this season. It's been even longer for Marshall, who has been on the DL since May 24 with a sprained throwing shoulder.
On a scale of 1-to-10, head trainer Paul Lessard rated Thursday's bullpens as an eight for Marshall, who threw 30 pitches, and close to a 10 for Cueto, who threw 40. Assuming they check out OK on Friday, both will throw another bullpen on Saturday before more decisions are made.
If the Reds can get Cueto to the point where he's stretched out enough, Price said there's no doubt they would welcome him back as a starter. If not, they'll be sure to get whatever they can out of a guy Price views as one of the best starters in baseabll.
"In any capacity, he can help us," Price said. "It would be nice to get him to the point where he is an option to start, but he also needs the work to be sharp. It's hard to ask a guy who missed three-quarters of the season to go win us a game and get us to the next round of the playoffs. We'll see. If he gets throwing in the next week competitive, who knows? Maybe we will have enough time to get him stretched out to start."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Jeremy Warnemuende is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.