4/18/2014 2:10 P.M. ET
For now, Votto batting second best for Reds
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Since Joey Votto moved up a spot from third to second in the lineup, the Reds' offense has taken off. Cincinnati averaged just 2.8 runs per game over the first 10 games with Votto hitting third, scoring three or fewer runs six times. Over the past five games with Votto hitting second, the Reds have scored 30 runs, including seven or more runs three times.
Votto has taken by far the majority of his at-bats in the No. 3 hole -- he's a career .317 hitter with a .977 OPS in 2,682 at-bats in the spot -- but his ability to get on base makes him an attractive option to hit second.
"It's a lot easier to do when the team isn't scoring runs," Reds manager Bryan Price said of hitting Votto second. "Joey can satisfy a lot of different things in different spots in the order. It's not a curse that he's a high on-base-percentage guy.
"It's certainly a benefit, but I also believe he's more than capable and he's proven that he's a quality No. 3 hitter. That being said, we just weren't getting the productivity that we wanted, the on-base that we wanted."
Price said hitting Votto second allows him to move Brandon Phillips to third, where he can "thrive." It also gives Price the flexibility to break up Votto and Jay Bruce in the lineup in a way other than with Ryan Ludwick hitting third and Todd Frazier fifth.
"Something needed to change, not so much because of the slow start here, but because of our history," Price said. "We've had a fairly similar look to our lineup. Brandon's been our swing guy from anywhere from first [to] second to fourth in the years that I've been here. But it's been productive to this point, we anticipate that continuing. We'll see. Nothing set in stone here, for sure."
Chapman cleared for fielding practice, live BP
CHICAGO -- Aroldis Chapman threw his second bullpen session on Thursday and it had good results, Reds manager Bryan Price said. He has been given the green light to participate in pitcher's fielding practice and pitch in live batting practice.
"Just that he's feeling great and throwing great," Price said. "I know there was a question asked when we're at home about, 'When is he going to be capable of doing [pitcher's fielding practice] and doing anything on the field where he could be in harms way?' And he's been given the green light to do all that. Our concern initially was anything that might come up and bounce and hit him in the face, and if he would be at a higher risk for further injury, and he's been given the clearance on that. So he's a full-go in the regard.
"I have a feeling that by the end of this trip, he'll be at least throwing batting practice -- I'm very optimistic about that."
Chapman is recovering from facial fractures sustained after taking a line drive to face on March 19. His physical rehabilitation is coming along, but what about the mental side of returning from such a scary injury?
"I don't know if we can really answer that question until he goes out and faces hitters in a game situation," Price said. "That could be here in the next 10 to 12, 14 days that we see that, but I guess everybody's different. And there's no way of really knowing until he's back in a very similar environment, pitching to hitters without protection. We'll see how that goes."
Marshall, Reds eye left-hander's 2014 debut
CHICAGO -- Reds left-hander Sean Marshall is close to making his 2014 debut after pitching on back-to-back days for Triple-A Louisville. He missed all of Spring Training because of a sore left shoulder.
"I've been pleased about the way everything's been going," Marshall said. "I threw a bunch of games in Arizona down there, and then extended spring. I was pitching just about every other day down there, so just feeling good bouncing back nice. Had back-to-back appearances in Louisville Tuesday and Wednesday -- those felt good, arm strength was good, ball was spinning well and I felt good. I had yesterday off, and I don't know what the plan is for this weekend."
Manager Bryan Price said Marshall could debut at some point during the Cubs series. It would be quite a coincidence for Marshall to make his season debut at Wrigley Field, having spent his first six years with the Cubs.
"Yeah, I had a lot of good memories here and a lot of fun years pitching in this ballpark," Marshall said. "And whenever I come back here to Chicago, I get to stay in my house. I live here in the offseason, and so it's home for me, so it's nice. The weather's usually chilly, wind's blowing around, so it makes it a little different conditions to play in. But I've seen it before, the guys on this team have seen it before, so we're just going to try to win some games."
• Entering Friday's game, the Reds have won 15 of their last 16 games at Wrigley Field. "The good fortune is that I haven't been playing myself, so I can't answer that question, but we've have some success here," Price said. "It's a new year. They've got new leadership on the field with Rick Renteria. They've got some new pieces as well, so I'm sure they come, just like we do, come in to the season with optimism of having a great year."
• Outfielder Skip Schumaker is with the team in Chicago, the first time this season he's joined the Reds for a road trip. Schumaker, who is recovering from a dislocated shoulder suffered March 21, has started to swing the bat. "He's not quite ready to play in games yet, he's still doing a lot of work on getting his shoulder at full strength and getting all the soreness out," Price said. "He's getting better every day. He went from hitting off the tee to getting in the cages and swinging the bat. He's able to take ground balls, he's going [through] all of his throwing stuff, his running. So it's a real positive step."
• The Reds have played a whopping 877 games at Wrigley Field entering Friday, and their .493 winning percentage is second-best among teams that have played at least 200 games here. Cincinnati is 17-3 at Wrigley since 2012.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.