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05/25/09 8:10 PM ET

Masset raring to get into game vs. Astros

Cincinnati (24-20) vs. Houston (18-25), 7:10 p.m. ET

CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Nick Masset's face has been beaming with the knowledge he should be able to scratch his itch to pitch on Tuesday. That's when he is due to be activated from the 15-day disabled list.

Masset hasn't worked in a game since May 10 against the Cardinals and has been out with a strained left oblique muscle in his side.

"Oh my God, I'm champing at the bit right now to get out there," Masset said on Monday morning. "During my time off, I was trying to do my best to stay on top of it and paying attention to the games and doing everything I can to be physically and mentally ready when I get back out there. I'm really excited. I feel really good. I feel 90-95 percent better. No pain."

As well as Masset has pitched this season, the Reds' bullpen will welcome him back with open arms. The right-hander has evolved into a clutch late-innings performer with a 1.23 ERA through 11 appearances. None of his seven inherited runners this season has scored.

The last time an opponent scored on Masset's watch was seven outings ago on April 24 vs. Atlanta. When the season started, he was expected to be a long reliever and potential spot starter.

Masset threw a 28-pitch bullpen session without issue on Friday and faced teammates in a simulated game on Sunday.

"I pretty much just let it go and had no pain," Masset said. "I felt my location was on pretty good and my pitches were working well."

Oblique injuries are known to nag and linger, which was why the Reds finally put Masset on the DL after eight days of trying get better. There was no concern of a recurrence of the strain on the pitcher's part.

"This thing is basically out of the question once I step on the field," Masset said. "I won't be thinking about it. I'll be thinking about going out there and competing and getting ahead of hitters and getting them out. That's why I made sure this thing was fully ready before I stepped on to the field. I don't want to be distracted by anything."

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Micah Owings (3-5, 4.70 ERA)
In a 12-5 loss to the Phillies on Thursday, Owings gave up five earned runs and six hits over just three innings, walking three and striking out three. The right-hander left trailing, 5-0. He was coming off a 5 2/3-inning emergency relief appearance during a 16-inning loss to the Padres. In two career starts against Houston, Owings is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA. In 10 2/3 innings, he walked one and struck out eight, allowing 11 hits.

HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt (1-2, 4.47 ERA)
Oswalt scattered 10 hits and gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Brewers in his last outing on Thursday. He struck out seven and walked one to earn a no-decision. Oswalt has faced the Reds twice this season and has pitched very well, only giving up one earned run on 11 hits in 13 innings, but he has received a no-decision in both of his starts. In 2008, he was 4-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts versus Cincinnati. Lifetime, he's 23-1 with a 2.35 ERA against the Reds.

Break for Bruce
The Reds' lineup vs. Houston on Monday was already without Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto because of injuries. But manager Dusty Baker also chose to sit a healthy Jay Bruce. The right fielder is in an 0-for-13 skid that sank his average to .228. Although Bruce has come close to hitting a couple of homers lately, he's been chasing a lot of bad pitches out of the strike zone.

"That's [about] concentration," Baker said. "I think he really needs it, even though we can't afford him to be off," Baker said. "We can't afford him not to be off either. I'm giving him a mental day off."

Bruce entered Sunday's game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 6-3, 5.79) vs. Astros (Felipe Paulino, 1-3, 6.90), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Reds (Johnny Cueto, 4-2, 2.37) at Brewers (Braden Looper, 4-3, 4.47), 8:05 p.m. ET

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