Lehr hopes to be back for Cubs series

Lehr hopes to be back for Cubs series

DENVER -- The "TBA" that had been the Reds probable starter vs. the Rockies on Thursday turned out not to be code for Justin Lehr. Kip Wells will take the spot instead for Cincinnati, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The Reds were holding the spot for Lehr, who missed his last turn in the rotation with a strained right groin. However, the right-hander will throw off a mound on Wednesday, with the possibility he could start in the upcoming weekend series in Chicago.

Lehr said he hasn't been in any pain since he was injured during his last start on Sept. 1 vs. the Pirates.

"I haven't got on a mound yet, but it was the only place where I felt it, or it at least got my attention," said Lehr, who plans to throw 30-40 pitches in his session.

Lehr, a veteran who has toiled most of his career at Triple-A, has been a solid 4-1 with a 4.43 ERA in seven starts for the Reds since his callup. Combined with his Triple-A numbers, he is 17-4 in 2009.

The 32-year-old Lehr is also keenly aware that he can't help his cause to secure a spot with the organization in 2010 if he can't pitch.

"I want to be able to finish my final four or five starts strong," Lehr said. "It's based on performance, but I feel positive that they want to see me make those four or five starts."

A first-time starter in the Majors, Lehr has impressed without possessing dazzling stuff. He's mostly excelled with good control and effectively keeping the ball down.

Although Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey figure to be part of next year's Reds rotation, there will be a vacancy without Edinson Volquez as he recovers from right elbow surgery.

"I don't know what will happen," Lehr said. "A guy in my position, the most I can hope for is to be part of the mix at Spring Training for a job. There's no way they'll just say the fifth-starter's job is yours.

"I just want to come back to the organization. If I'm No. 6 or 7 on the depth chart for a starting spot, that's not bad for me. Most teams don't make it through the season with just five starters. I just don't want to be 10th on the depth chart. If I'm in the top seven competing, I'm just fine with that."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.