Sonny Gray one step away from returning to rotation for Cincinnati Reds

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

The Cincinnati Reds got their top reliever back this week.

One of their best starters could be next.

Sonny Gray is scheduled to make a three-inning rehab start for Triple-A Louisville on Thursday.

If that goes well, the team plans to have the right-hander rejoin the Reds rotation five days later when Cincinnati opens a three-game series at home against the Padres.

Gray, who went on the Injured List on June 9 with a right groin strain, threw a bullpen session on Monday in Minnesota, the second of his rehab.

He followed that up by doing infield drills Tuesday.

Gray is 1-4 in 10 starts for the Reds this season, but his 3.42 ERA is the second-best of the starters behind Wade Miley’s 2.85.

The Reds rotation currently consists of rookies Tony Santillan and Vladimir Gutierrez along with veterans Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Wade Miley.

Santillan’s next scheduled turn would be the day they are targeting for Gray’s return.

Santillan’s third start is scheduled for Thursday as the Reds open an 11-game homestand that will begin with four against the Atlanta Braves.

The big righty is 0-1 with a 4.70 ERA after pitching 7 2/3 innings in his first two starts. He has struck out eight and walked five while giving up four runs.

Santillan is Cincinnati’s ninth-ranked prospect according to while Gutierrez is No. 12.

Gray’s return could boost the rotation as the team hopes getting Tejay Antone back helps the struggling bullpen.

Antone’s 1.38 ERA is by far the best of any Reds reliever with more than one appearance this season, and he has the best hits per nine inning rate (3.6), walks per nine innings (3.0) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.3).

Antone’s return from the IL on Tuesday afternoon could have gone better, though.

After missing 10 days with forearm inflammation, he allowed a two-run double by Minnesota’s Alex Kirilloff that scored two runners Antone inherited from Lucas Sims.

That capped a five-run eighth for the Twins and tied the score at seven, but the Reds won 10-7 thanks to Tyler Naquin’s three-run homer in the top of the ninth and a scoreless ninth by embattled lefty Amir Garrett.

“There’s no question we’re just gonna keep getting better,” manager David Bell replied to a question about the bullpen’s 12th blown save of the season. “I know there’s been struggles. All teams are going through that. Sometimes the other team beats ya and sometimes you’ve just got to keep picking each other up. I love the way the guys are approaching — they’re continuing to work through it. They’re staying strong, staying tough and working at ways to get better and will continue to do that.”

Another pitcher, righty Jeff Hoffman, is already on a rehab assignment in Louisville.

That began Tuesday when he pitched two scoreless innings for the Bats, who won 9-5 on a grand slam in the ninth inning by Michael De Leon.

He is working his way back from a right shoulder impingement.

“He’ll build up each time out, add to his work each time,” Bell said. “At this point, the plan is to build him back up as a starter.

“It’s part of making sure his shoulder is in good shape, building back up when he gets back. I think the more we build him up, the better off he’ll be and the better off we will be. I think it’ll just put him in a better position to help us. All indications are he is healthy and he’s back pitching.”

Hoffman last pitched for the Reds on May 26 when he walked five in 1 1/3 innings. He left that game with shoulder soreness.

The 28-year-old is 3-4 with a 4.61 ERA in the majors this season.


Braves at Reds, 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410

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