CIN@ATL: Bruce makes a nice sliding grab in right

CINCINNATI -- Reds right fielder Jay Bruce, expected to be out four weeks after he had May 5 surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee, took a big step on Tuesday.

Bruce did some jogging and took batting practice with the team on the field. He wore a wrap around his knee. A couple of days ago, he rode an exercise bike and used an elliptical machine.

"It's progressing very well," Bruce said. "I'm as happy as I could be with it so far."

Bruce hoped to join the Reds on their next road trip on Friday.

Reds hope for late May, early June return for Latos

Outlook: Latos a lock for 10-plus wins, 180-plus K's

CINCINNATI -- The Reds have been without the services of starter Mat Latos since the beginning of Spring Training, but once again, there is optimism that his return isn't too far away from being a reality.

Latos, who threw his first bullpen session on Sunday since a right flexor mass strain in April set him back, will work off a mound again on Wednesday. A third bullpen session will follow at some point, and he is expected to join the team on its next road trip at Philadelphia and Washington, where he could pitch in a simulated game.

Following a rehab assignment, Latos could be back by the end of month or the first week of June. But manager Bryan Price remained cautious about the timetable.

"I try to stay with the day to day plan. We didn't anticipate the flexor mass strain," Price said on Tuesday. "We always leave it open to be able to adjust it."

Latos had two surgeries since he last pitched in 2013. In October, he had bone chips removed from his right elbow. He had nearly completed his rehab when he tore the meniscus in his left knee the week Spring Training began in February. After one rehab assignment game, the flexor mass strain in his right arm forced a shut down.

"The way we intend to get Mat back in the mix is to have more of a traditional one simulated game and then get him out [on a rehab assignment] and build him up," Price said. "What's transpired that we didn't anticipate is the setbacks. The setback created a 10-day non-throwing window for Mat."

That's forced the Reds to take things slower with Latos, and he had to return to long tossing from a distance of 60 feet before recently reaching 200 feet. On the rehab assignment, he will need to reach 85-90 pitches before he can be activated from the disabled list.

"It's not going to be baby steps, but it will be a little bit less aggressive than the pace we had originally set up for him," Price said. "He's in really good throwing shape now after the long-toss program. I could see him going out and throwing three innings, and that's maybe 50 pitches. Maybe within three outings, he could be stretched out to that 90-pitch target number."

Mesoraco begins rehab assignment

CIN@ATL: Hamilton plates Mesoraco, who exits the game

CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who has been out since April 25 with a left hamstring strain, began a rehab assignment on Tuesday with Triple-A Louisville. He batted fifth and played catcher for the Bats at Norfolk.

"We're looking probably for a two-to-three game commitment with Devin, just to verify that everything is OK," manager Bryan Price said. "We'll take a look at him after the second game to make sure everything is OK and make a reassessment."

If Mesoraco gets through the week without any setbacks, he could possibly rejoin the club on Friday in Philadelphia.

Price weighs in on rash of Tommy John surgeries

COL@CIN: Price discusses winning in walk-off fashion

CINCINNATI -- The right elbow sprain for young Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, and the possibility he might need season-ending Tommy John surgery, has continued a trend across the league this season.

Nearly 20 Major League pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery since the start of Spring Training to repair torn ulnar collateral ligaments, including A.J. Griffin of the A's, Patrick Corbin of the D-backs and Josh Johnson of the Padres. The Reds have not had any cases this year, but they have not been immune to elbow injuries over the years. Fernandez, who is officially sidelined with an elbow sprain, is reported to be seeking a second opinion.

A former Minor League pitcher and a big league pitching coach for 14 seasons before becoming the Reds' manager this year, Bryan Price was at a loss to pinpoint why elbows are blowing out at an alarming rate.

"At some point in time, there is going to be conclusive evidence of whatever it is," Price said on Tuesday. "This is an injury that was not a prominent injury when I played. I'm only basically a generation removed from playing. Pitchers didn't have Tommy John surgery, certainly not at this rate.

"I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's the fact that kids play year-round baseball, even though there are pitch limits and requirements. Playing baseball for nine, 10 or 11 months, as opposed to the three or four months of spring and summer is a lot different, especially when the body isn't fully developed. That's not an accusation. That's just a thought.

"It could be kids competing more in these travel groups, or if they're throwing breaking balls earlier. I really don't know, but I do know it's at an epidemic rate right now."