9/24/2013 12:46 A.M. ET
Choo returns in a big way to help Reds clinch
By Jeremy Warnemuende / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- The sore left thumb that kept Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo out of action for two straight games appeared just fine on Monday against the Mets.
The Cincinnati leadoff hitter went 3-for-6 on the night, and none of his hits were bigger than his walk-off single in the 10th inning that gave the Reds a 3-2 win and a spot in the postseason. Facing left-hander Sean Henn, Choo took a 1-0 slider and nearly put it in the seats in left field for the game-winning hit, capping his return in a big way.
"We had a lot of opportunity tonight," Choo said. "A left-handed pitcher on the mound, I just had a little different approach than the right-hander. I followed my approach and that's why something good happened."
For Choo, it was difficult to sit on the bench watching on Saturday and Sunday against the Pirates, and he was excited to be back in action on Monday.
"Especially in this situation, last three games playing one of the best teams in the National League [in the Pirates]," Choo said. "I can't help the team sitting in the dugout."
Choo injured his thumb sliding into first in the ninth inning of Friday night's dramatic 6-5 win over the Pirates. He was available to pinch-hit on Sunday but didn't play. Before making his return on Monday, Choo said the thumb felt fine, and he didn't expect it to be an issue going forward.
"[I'm] not like 100 percent," Choo said. "But already in the last two days I was hitting in the cage and tried throwing the ball in the cage. There were no problems, so why not [play]?"
In 149 games this season, Choo is now batting .285 with a .423 on-base percentage and 54 RBIs. His 109 walks lead all Major League leadoff hitters, and his 21 home runs rank second behind only Oakland's Coco Crisp (22).
Votto ties Reds walk records for game, season
CINCINNATI -- Despite playing all 10 innings of Monday's 3-2 win over the Mets, Joey Votto didn't register a single at-bat.
That's because the Reds' first baseman tied a club record with five walks -- one of which was intentional -- even managing to drive in a run along the way. Monday marked just the third time a Reds player recorded five walks in a single game, and the first time since Johnny Bench did it on July 22, 1979, against the Cubs.
Votto has been a master of getting on base all season, reaching safely 310 times, which is tied for the second most in club history. And with five games to play, he'll almost certainly break the record of 311 set by Pete Rose in 1969.
Before it's all said and done, Votto will likely take sole possession of at least one more franchise record this year, as he's now tied with Joe Morgan for the most walks in a single season with 132. That mark leads the Majors by a wide margin, with teammate Shin-Soo Choo currently in second with 109 free passes.
Cingrani's back feels good after bullpen session
CINCINNATI -- Tony Cingrani took a major step forward in his recovery from lower back soreness on Monday, when he threw a 25-pitch bullpen session without pain or incident. Although that's good news for Cingrani and the club, the Reds are still left with more questions than answers regarding the next step for the 24-year-old left-hander.
Pitching coach Bryan Price said Cingrani will play catch on Tuesday and see how his back feels. Beyond that, the plan is much more uncertain. Price said Cingrani will either throw a longer bullpen session, toss a simulated game or pitch in relief in one of the final six games of the regular season at Great American Ball Park this week. He could also go to Cincinnati's Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., to pitch in the instructional league.
Because the Reds don't want to use Cingrani in a high-stakes situation without knowing if he's fully ready to go, Price said it's difficult to promise an opportunity for him in an actual Major League game.
"Those other things, we're going to have to look at those options," Price said. "Does a simulated game tell us enough? Does pitching in Goodyear for a game or two tell us anything? And then what role does he fill for us? We've got a lot of questions, about the same questions you do."
What Price and the Reds do know is that Cingrani, who has gone 7-4 with a 2.77 ERA in 18 starts during his rookie season, did well in Monday's bullpen session.
"He was around the plate with good effort," Price said. "He wasn't favoring anything, there was no discomfort, so we're real happy with how it went. Now we're just looking for the consistency -- day in, day out pain-free type of environment for Tony."
Cingrani's back first became an issue when he left an Aug. 20 start after just 3 2/3 innings. He missed two turns in the rotation and came back on Sept. 5. On Sept. 10, he made it just 1 2/3 innings before his back acted up again, and he hasn't pitched in a game since.
Prior to Monday, Cingrani had done most of his work off flat ground, as head trainer Paul Lessard said Friday that there was still tenderness when he tried throwing off a mound. Price said it never felt like Cingrani returned to square one in his rehab, though, and the Reds want to make sure that doesn't happen.
Although Price and manager Dusty Baker would love to have Cingrani back as soon as possible, they won't push him, even with the playoffs quickly approaching.
"Tony has had a terrific season for us," Price said. "I think we feel now with [starter Johnny Cueto] and [reliever Sean Marshall] coming back and a bunch of other guys throwing the ball well, I don't think we feel as naked as we may have if Johnny wasn't currently healthy. That being said, having another guy that could potentially start and really have some success late in the season or in the postseason would definitely make us feel a little better."
• Reds pitchers set a franchise record on Sunday when they reached 1,249 strikeouts for the season, surpassing the mark set last season (1,248). Six Cincinnati pitchers have recorded 100 or more punchouts this season, marking the first time any team in Major League history has accomplished that feat in back-to-back years.
"I love the strikeout, but it does take more pitches out of you," Baker said. "The pitches per inning tend to be higher when you're striking out people, but I'll take it."
• Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is excited for the postseason.
"I've been very proud of the team," Phillips said. "I didn't really think we would get where we are right now, to be honest with you, with the injuries we've been having. [Left fielder Ryan Ludwick] being out, [Cueto] being out, [Marshall], [reliever Jonathan Broxton], all those guys. I'm very proud of the way we've been playing, but no excuses now. We have a job to do."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.