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8/17/2013 1:28 A.M. ET

Reds' rotation steps up during Cueto's absence

MILWAUKEE -- When Reds ace Johnny Cueto landed on the disabled list on June 29 with a right lat strain, it would have been hard to imagine Cincinnati's starting rotation getting stronger. Reds manager Dusty Baker did not even want to think about it.

"No, I didn't really think about it," Baker said. "Joey Votto went down for 50 games last year, too. Guys pick each other up."

But with Cueto out -- and still no timetable for his return -- the Reds' rotation has been unhittable of late. They entered Friday with a 4-1 record and 1.35 ERA in their past seven games, though Mike Leake turned in a rough performance, allowing four runs on nine hits in five innings of an eventual 7-6 walk-off loss.

Thursday's winner, Tony Cingrani, moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation when Cueto went down and has found a rhythm. Since rejoining into the rotation, Cingrani is 3-2 with a 2.12 ERA in eight starts, spanning 46 2/3 innings.

The left-hander has walked 21 hitters in that span and has struck out 54, while giving up three home runs.

"We miss Johnny," Baker said. "But they've had about the same amount of quality outings. Somebody has to fulfill the rest of those innings."

Parra embraces new role with Reds in return to Miller

MILWAUKEE -- There was a time when Manny Parra took to the Miller Park mound as part of the Brewers' future rotation plans. He returned there Thursday with a newfound role in the Reds' bullpen.

Parra, who was drafted by the Brewers in 2001 and spent the first six years of his career in Milwaukee, pitched at Miller Park for the first time Thursday since signing with the Reds as a free agent in the offseason. He faced two batters in the eighth inning of the Reds' 2-1 win, striking out one and allowing a single.

On Friday, the 30-year-old left-hander spoke about his new career path has in Cincinnati and how a simple change of scenery can make the biggest difference.

"Yeah, it's refreshing," Parra said. "It's just something new again. Sometimes you get caught in a rut and that's kind of the way it was starting to feel for me [in Milwaukee]. It's crazy the way this game is, how you make one small adjustment and see a big, big change."

The Reds played in Milwaukee in mid-July, but Parra did not pitch. He did, however, say all of his hellos to former teammates and friends, which helped him focus on baseball when he did take the mound in his second visit on Thursday.

"I think the first time we came here, everything was weird and I was making sure I said, 'Hello,' to everybody and doing all that," said Parra. "Yesterday, it actually just kind of felt normal."

Parra tweaked his delivery this season with the Reds and has a 3.41 ERA in his first 38 appearances. He started the year as a long reliever, but with an injury to lefty Sean Marshall, his role out of the bullpen has changed.

"I'm coming set a little bit more closed," Parra said of his modified delivery. "Once I start moving, though, it's funny, because a lot of the pieces start to look the same. The only thing is, it's not as deliberate. I'm not as slow. I'm kind of just getting my balance and going. Sometimes there's less time to feel and think when you're doing that, it's more of an athletic movement."

Parra said the addition of a slider has helped him keep hitters off his fastball.

"Just being able to get an offspeed pitch, because I was just getting hammered on my fastball," he said. "My fastball command has never been like a Kyle Lohse or someone who's down and away. For me, I have to have a little bit of room for error there."

"The better he did, the more of an important position we put him in," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "And also, when Marshall went down, he was the man. Early in the year, he was kind of a long man, he was matching up against some right-handers that he probably shouldn't have been facing. Now, we can try to match him up the best we can with lefties and some righties."

Parra said learning from the eight-year veteran Marshall has helped him find comfort in his role out of Cincinnati's bullpen.

"Although we're not the same pitcher, there's things that he does that I can try to come in and do," Parra said. "Especially being in a new role like I am now, where I'm coming in and facing a lot of lefties. Before, it was just kind of a long guy out of the 'pen, there just wasn't really a role for me."

Baker attributes bullpen's success to starting pitching

MILWAUKEE -- The Reds' bullpen has been lights out of late, holding opponents scoreless for 18 consecutive innings until Friday's 7-6 walk-off loss to the Brewers.

Manager Dusty Baker attributes the streak to the dominance of the Reds' starting pitchers.

"It's happened because, No. 1, the starting pitching's been great," Baker said. "And that makes it so that guys aren't over-pitched. We can match up with who we want to versus who is the most rested.

"Knock on wood, we're not walking people. They're doing the job, they're feeling good as a unit. The guys are very confident."

Cincinnati's bullpen had made five striaght consecutive scoreless appearances entering Friday's game against Milwaukee and had not walked a batter in four games. Alfredo Simon walked the first batter he faced after taking over for starter Mike Leake, then allowed an RBI single after recording two outs. Manny Parra and J.J. Hoover bridged the gap to Aroldis Chapman, but the hard-throwing lefty served up a walk-off home run to Jonathan Lucroy for his fifth blown save of the season.

The Reds are still without left-handed reliever Sean Marshall, who is rehabbing back from a left shoulder injury, but Jonathan Broxton returned to the bullpen last week from a nearly two-month stint on the disabled list due to a strain in his right elbow.

"It feels great to get Broxton back, because that was a big piece at the end there," Baker said. "Now we've got not only a setup man, but a potential closer when [Aroldis] Chapman ... we've really monitored Chapman and the guys in the bullpen so they'll be strong down the stretch and healthy."

Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.