No letup in schedule as Reds return from break

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 14: Pitcher Tim Adleman #46 of the Cincinnati Reds hands the ball to manager Bryan Price #38 of the Cincinnati Reds after being pulled in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park on July 14, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Washington shut out Cincinnati 5-0. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 14: Pitcher Tim Adleman #46 of the Cincinnati Reds hands the ball to manager Bryan Price #38 of the Cincinnati Reds after being pulled in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park on July 14, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Washington shut out Cincinnati 5-0. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The rested and perhaps rejuvenated Cincinnati Reds returned from their four-day All-Star break Friday only to find themselves running another gantlet.

The Reds open the so-called “second half” with a four-game series against National League East Division-leading Washington, led by former Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker.

Following the Nationals into Great American Ball Park are the Arizona Diamondbacks, who went into Friday’s game at Atlanta second in the NL West and leading Colorado in the wild-card race by two games.

“I don’t know where the soft place in the schedule is,” manager Bryan Price said.

The Reds went into the All-Star break on a bit of a roll, going 4-2 on a home stand against Central Division-leading Milwaukee and the second-place Chicago Cubs and 4-3 on a road trip through Colorado and Arizona. Three of those wins were the first career major league victories for Jackson Stephens, Sal Romano and Luis Castillo, who is scheduled to start Saturday’s 7:10 p.m. game. And veteran right-hander Homer Bailey has won his last two starts after he was knocked around in his first two appearances following his return from the disabled list.

“We had a great lead-in to the break,” Price said. “It’s exciting to feel like the pitching is falling into place.”

Price helped the Reds squeeze as much rest and recreation as they could out of the break. Previously, teams often had convened for a workout the day before the schedule resumed, but Price chose instead to have an early-afternoon workout Friday and batting practice at the regular time.

“Most guys can paint that oasis of the All-Star break in their minds,” he said. “More and more teams are utilizing that fourth day as a rest day. We had a 1 p.m. workout (Friday) to get the cobwebs out.”

Romano, currently back at Triple-A Louisville, is scheduled to start Tuesday, Price confirmed.

Mesoraco progressing: Catcher Devin Mesoraco, on the disabled list since July 3 with a strained left shoulder, took batting practice Friday and was scheduled to catch a bullpen session Saturday. His next step would depend on how he reacts to the baseball activity, Price said.

“There’s no soreness to speak of,” Price said. “We’ll see how he comes through it before we chart the trail. If he gets through this, then we’ll talk about how much work he needs to do with us before looking at (a rehab assignment). He has to catch and receive and swing at full extension.”

Mesoraco, who suffered the injury reaching across his body to make a backhand catch, also was on the disabled list in April while dealing with right hip problems. He had surgical procedures on both areas last year. He is hitting .234 with six home runs and 14 RBIs in 40 games.

Haddix award: On the field before Friday's game, Mechanicsburg High School's Corey Bogan received the 2017 Harvey Haddix Memorial Sportsmanship Award. The award is named for the former major league left-hander and Springfield-area native who pitched 12 perfect innings for Pittsburgh against Milwaukee in 1959, one year after winning a Gold Glove in his only season with the Reds.

Bogan, who was celebrating his birthday, also threw a ceremonial first pitch to his brother, Matt, the 2014 Haddix Award winner.

Slotting starters: So how did Price decide to deploy his starting pitchers to open the second half? Right-hander Tim Adleman started Friday and Bailey is scheduled Sunday with right-hander Scott Feldman starting Monday in the series finale.

“Well, we wanted a more experienced guy out front,” Price explained. “It didn’t make sense for Homer to go, since he just came back, and Feldman has been having some general knee stiffness. It came down to Adleman and Castillo, and Adleman had more rest.”

Going the distance: According to Statcast, as relayed by the Reds, 17 of Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto's 26 home runs going into Friday's game traveled at least 400 feet, tying him with New York Yankees rookie and Home Run Derby champion Aaron Judge for the most 400-foot bombs in the majors through the All-Star break.

Votto, who was tied for the NL lead in homers before the All-Star Game while ranking eighth in batting average and third in RBIs, was asked before the game if he thought he was having his best season.

“I think I’ve played well,” he said. “I made the All-Star team. I feel like I can play better. I hope I will.”

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