9/9/2013 10:20 P.M. ET
Duke becoming key situational lefty for Reds
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Early last month, while things were going very well at Triple-A Louisville, veteran lefty Zach Duke opted to exercise an out clause in his contract and was released. Ten days later, he was re-signed by the organization and returned to Louisville.
"I figured, 'What could it hurt to see what was out there?'" Duke said on Monday. "Nothing was out there, and thankfully they brought me back here. It all worked out the way it was supposed to."
Duke, 30, has been a key second lefty situational reliever to complement Manny Parra in the middle-to-late innings. Entering Monday night, he hadn't allowed a run in five appearances since his Aug. 30 call-up, hadn't allowed a hit in his last four games (1 2/3 innings) and stranded all five inherited runners.
All of Duke's last four outings -- against the Cardinals and Dodgers and in the midst of the Reds' heated National League Central division race -- have been for one or two batters. On Thursday, in a 6-2 win over St. Louis, two runners were on with one out when Duke entered and got Carlos Beltran to ground into an inning- and rally-ending double play in the sixth inning.
"I feel great. I'm very thankful for the opportunities I've had and thankful for the results, for sure. Hopefully I continue to get some situations," Duke said. "I'm a free agent at the end of the year. To be able to contribute in a situation like this, it can mean nothing but good things for me in the future."
Duke began the season with the Nationals and was released June 10 after posting an 8.71 ERA in 12 games (including one start) -- with 31 hits allowed and eight walks in 20 2/3 innings. Three days later, he was signed by the Reds and went 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA, 19 hits, five walks and 34 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings in 26 games for Triple-A Louisville.
What helped with his turnaround? Duke believed being used regularly kept him from rusting out.
"I had the mindset I would be pitching every day and be more than likely to get in the game and not go eight or nine days without getting in a game," Duke said. "It's a lot easier to stay sharp when you get in there consistently."
Reds making plans for Cueto's return
CINCINNATI -- Reds ace Johnny Cueto was scheduled to be examined by the medical staff on Monday, one day after throwing his first simulated game since going on the disabled list June 29. Even while Cueto was getting checked out, the team wants to determine when he might return and pitch in a real game.
"We're already figuring it out," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Everything depends on his body. It depends on our need. You don't want to force it in there. Even though he wants to force coming back, you don't want to end up with him coming back because he thinks he's ready and he ends up hurting his shoulder or something.
"It's just great to have him as a possibility."
Cueto has been on the DL three times this season because of a strained right lat muscle. His 30-pitch simulated game was viewed as a success, as it was pain free, but there will be at least one more before the Reds consider activation -- in what will likely be a bullpen role for the stretch run.
"We'll try to stretch him out to another inning," Baker said. "That was simulating two innings, which was not really a simulation. That's a pretty quick inning -- 15 pitches per inning. We'll stretch him out to 45 [pitches] and hope when he gets back in a game, he doesn't have 25-30 pitch innings, which can happen. He looked pretty good. He's going to have to reassess his health. The doctors are looking at him again today to see if he's the same. As long as he's the same, I'll be happy about it. As long as he's not any worse."
Broxton gives Bailey a saddle for no-hitter
CINCINNATI -- Reds pitcher Homer Bailey has a few mementos from his two no-hitters within 10 months. On Monday, Bailey received one that qualified as out of the ordinary. It was a finely appointed leather saddle, courtesy of reliever and teammate Jonathan Broxton.
Off the field, Bailey likes to ride horses and practice roping, and keeps some equine in nearby Butler County during the season. Embossed on the sides of the saddle are the dates of Bailey's no-no's -- Sept. 28, 2012, (vs. the Pirates) and July 2, 2013 (vs. the Giants).
"I had no idea," Bailey said when asked if Broxton's gift was a surprise. "What's crazy is I just had another one come in. Now I've got three [saddles]."
Broxton was seen in the clubhouse for the first time since having season-ending surgery to repair a flexor mass tendon tear in his right forearm. He was wearing a large brace that covered most of his arm.
Choo sets team mark for hit by pitches
CINCINNATI -- Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo hasn't been afraid of the inside pitches he's received all season. He has the bruises to show for it.
On Monday against the Cubs, Choo was hit by a pitch for a Major League leading 25th time, which is also the Reds franchise record. Catcher Jason LaRue was hit 24 times in 2004.
Batting with one out in the bottom of the third, Choo was plunked in the back by a 3-2 pitch from Cubs lefty Travis Wood. He went to first base without a reaction, as he generally does. Choo reached second on Joey Votto's two-out single, but both runners were left stranded.
• The Reds took their annual team photo on Monday afternoon. Per recent tradition, following the players and coaching staff picture, the entire front office joined in for another picture.
Included in that photograph was Reds season ticket sales manager Chris Herrell, who returned to work after beating a rare form of blood cancer six months after receiving a bone marrow transplant.
During pregame ceremonies, the Reds welcomed doctors and nurses from Jewish Hospital's bone marrow transplant unit and were joined on the field by Herrell.