Cincinnati Reds: Injuries deplete pitching staff with Opening Day right around the corner

Add Johnny Cueto to list

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – You might say the most notable thing about the Reds' spring training game Thursday was the players who weren't there.

Besides Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto missed his start because of a sore back, and suddenly the biggest question facing the Reds 11 days before Opening Day is:

Can anybody pitch today?

Cueto skipped on the same day Chapman was having surgery for fractures above his left eye and nose after he was struck by a line drive Wednesday night. Two other starters have been limited as well: Mat Latos is recovering from knee surgery at the start of camp, and Homer Bailey was scratched from his last scheduled start because of a sore groin.

There's obviously concern in the bullpen, too, with Chapman expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks.

Late-inning relievers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are behind schedule because of injuries. Broxton made his first appearance since August elbow surgery this week.

Manager Bryan Price wasn't ready to discuss the team's plans for filling the closer role without Chapman so soon after his frightening injury.

"Whatever is going to happen, we're going to have 25 guys here at the end of spring training, and that's going to be the hand that we're dealt," Price said. "And we're going to go out there and we're going to compete and bust our tails to be excellent. Who those 25 guys are at this point in time, I don't know. I don't have any idea. I haven't really thought at all about the layout of the bullpen. That will come in time. At this point in time, the focus is really on Aroldis' health."

If it can't be Broxton or Marshall, Sam LeCure and J.J. Hoover have closed a few times. Manny Parra might also be in the mix.

Price said Cueto would make his next start Tuesday in a minor league game and pitch six innings.

Bailey will throw in the bullpen Friday and is expected to pitch Sunday.

Latos pitched two innings in a minor league game Wednesday. He had some trouble with the mound, but his knee was no problem.

"He came out of it totally fine," Price said.

Latos is expected to pitch again on Monday.

Jeff Francis, who was signed to provide depth for the rotation for just this possibility, took Cueto's spot Thursday and gave up three runs and seven hits in four innings in the Reds' 5-4, 10-inning win over the Rangers.

Francis hasn't had a great spring (4.85 ERA), but the Reds might need him come March 31.

"I'm here to fill a certain role for this team, whatever that is," Francis said. "You never want to see someone get hurt."

Hamilton Goes Big-League Deep

Don't forget this because it could be the answer to a trivia question someday:

Billy Hamilton (.325) led off Thursday's game with a home run against Jeremy Guthrie.

What's so big about that?

It was Hamilton's first home run in 94 at-bats in a major league uniform, counting 75 at-bats in four spring trainings and 19 after a call-up last year.

"It just happened. I didn't try to do that," said Hamilton, who had 13 home runs in five minor-league seasons. "I don't consider myself a slap hitter. I can hit the ball into the gaps. It just happened one time. I still have to get back to my game."

Hamilton also had a pair of singles on Thursday.

Brandon Phillips (.184)  hit his third homer of the spring.

The Reds (10-13 this spring) won when Joey Votto (.256) drew a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning.

Former Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (.146) was 1-for-5 as the Rangers' DH. Choo has been bothered by soreness in his left elbow and hasn't played the outfield since last week.

The Reds reassigned RHP Chien-Ming Wang,  RHP Drew Hayes, LHP Lee Hyde  and INF Argenis Diaz  to minor league camp.

RELATED: BOX SCORE

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