CINCINNATI -- Reds lefty reliever Sean Marshall finally cleared an important hurdle in his quest to return to the active roster.
On Tuesday afternoon, Marshall threw 22 pitches in a live batting practice session and came away with no issues. He has been on the disabled list since May 24 because of a sprained left shoulder. There have been setbacks along the way, including tendinitis suffered in July.
This time, it was all good, and Marshall said he felt strong.
"I felt like all the work I've put in so far is paying off," Marshall said. "I am trying to keep climbing up, keep getting better and stronger and see what the next step is."
Marshall threw his two-seam fastball, sliders and curveballs. He alternated facing Henry Rodriguez and Corky Miller. Rodriguez batted both left-handed and right-handed.
"I took it as a real game situation," Marshall said. "I envisioned myself warming up with people in the crowd and it put me at game speed."
Reds manager Dusty Baker was watching the session from behind the cage and was satisfied with the results.
"He threw the ball pretty good," Baker said. "It was coming out of his hand pretty good. He had a good look on his face. A lot of times the face tells you if he feels pain or anything. He had a good day."
Although Marshall appears to be close to returning, it is unclear what the Reds' timetable for activating him is. After Tuesday, there are 16 games left in the season. As the team has gotten good contributions from others in his place, including fellow lefty Manny Parra, Marshall felt ready to jump in and accept any role he is given.
"I feel as close to game ready now than I have in a long time," Marshall said. "So I'm pushing forward. Whenever they're ready to say I'm back in there, I'll be very excited."
Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who faced hitters in live BP on Sunday, will have another session on Wednesday morning.
"Anything [Marshall] can give us, him and Cueto, at this point would be a big plus," Baker said.
Cingrani leaves game with back spasms
CINCINNATI -- In what could be a tough setback in the stretch run, the Reds had to cut short starting pitcher Tony Cingrani's outing in Tuesday's 9-1 loss to the Cubs due to back spasms.
Cingrani was visited at the mound by a trainer and pitching coach Bryan Price following a 1-0 pitch with two outs in the second inning to the Cubs' Edwin Jackson at Great American Ball Park. After a few moments, Cingrani was taken out of the game.
On Aug. 20 vs. Arizona, Cingrani was lifted after 3 2/3 innings because of a lower back strain. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list and missed two starts before returning on Thursday to throw 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts in a 6-2 win over the Cardinals.
"It was the same injury," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He warmed up great, didn't feel anything and then in between the first and second [innings], he said it was back. That was devastating at that point to lose him and to have to go to my bullpen that early. Thank God we have an off-day on Thursday."
During his 1 2/3 innings, Cingrani labored. He issued a leadoff single to Starlin Castro and walked Darwin Barney in the first inning before getting Anthony Rizzo to ground into a double play and striking out Donnie Murphy.
In the second, Junior Lake hit a leadoff double off the wall in left-center and with one out, Welington Castillo tattooed a two-run home run to the left field upper deck before Ryan Sweeney flied out to left field. Then came the final pitch to Jackson. Cingrani threw 37 pitches and allowed two runs on three hits and a walk with one strikeout.
"I don't know what happened to Cingrani," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "I don't think the ball was coming out of his hand like it did earlier in the year, that's for sure."
The Reds noticed the same thing. Cingrani, who often throws 94-96 mph, appeared to have lower velocity vs. the Cubs. He was throwing mostly 88-91 mph fastballs and topped out at 92 mph.
"We had our eye on the [radar]," Baker said. "It kept going down and down and down. I told Bryan to go check on him and prepare to get [Greg] Reynolds in the game. We had our eye on the board, and all of a sudden it looked like the ball wasn't reaching. So we got him out of there in time, hopefully it's not too sore or too bad."
The right-handed Reynolds, who replaced Cingrani in the rotation while he was on the DL, finished the Jackson at-bat but gave up four runs (three earned) in his 1 2/3 innings.
It's been a solid rookie season for Cingrani, who stepped up twice when ace Johnny Cueto went on the disabled list. He is 7-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 23 games, including 18 starts.
Now as the Reds wait and see on Cingrani's back, expect adjustments to the rotation. The team has flexibility with off-days each of the next three Thursdays before the end of the regular season.
"We tweaked that before the game to have our best pitching for the real big series," Baker said. "We sort of came up with a plan. We'll let you know."
Baker and Price can only hope going forward that Cingrani can be healthy enough to be part of that plan.
Cozart finding his groove at the plate
CINCINNATI -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart has gotten hot down the stretch this season, and his recent offensive tear had manager Dusty Baker considering moving him up in the batting order.
"It makes you tempted as a manager to move him, but he's certainly done so well in that spot," Baker said on Tuesday. "So I'll just leave him down there."
Cozart struggled earlier this season in the second spot but has thrived hitting either seventh or eighth. He hit seventh in Tuesday's 9-1 loss to the Cubs and went 1-for-4 with a double and a run. He also made a diving play at short.
Cozart has a career-high 14-game hitting streak, including a pair of doubles during Monday's 2-0 loss to Chicago. During the streak, he is batting .373 (22-for-59) and is hitting .347 (33-for-95) in his last 26 games.
Baker often likes to say that water seeks its own level for hitters, and believes that axiom applies to Cozart, too.
"He appears to be a lot more confident and a lot more aggressive," Baker said. "Life is pretty good when you're getting hits. Life is miserable when you're not. I told him before, that two hits a day for a week can cure almost any baseball ill that you have. He's been doing that for two weeks now."
• The ninth annual CBTS Marty Brennaman Golf Classic, held Sunday and Monday at the Belterra Casino and Resort, raised a total of $250,000 for the Reds Community Fund. About 45 celebrities and 200 golfers participated.
Proceeds from the event support the baseball and softball-themed outreach programs of the Reds Community Fund. Since its inception in 2005, the Marty Brennaman Golf Classic has raised more than $1.975 million.