ATLANTA -- Cincinnati's bullpen has been outstanding despite the absence of dependable lefty Sean Marshall and power righty Jonathan Broxton, who have pitched a total of 34 innings in 40 appearances, as each has battled elbow issues.
While both continue to work hard in their comebacks -- something the team hopes will happen after the All-Star break -- the pen continues to go to work, and is working over the opposition.
The unit came into Friday night's game at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves having not allowed a run in a team-record 10 straight games, a stretch of 28 2/3 innings. They set the record for consecutive shutout appearances Thursday night, hurling four scoreless innings of two-hit ball at the Braves. Reds bullpens had twice previously gone nine straight games without allowing a run -- June 3-14, 1971, a 20 2/3-inning stretch, and May 3-13, 1987, a 28-inning run.
The last time the Reds' bullpen allowed a run was on June 28 at Texas, when Tony Cingrani, pitching in his fourth inning in relief for an injured Johnny Cueto, allowed an RBI single to Jurickson Profar. Cingrani induced a 4-6-3 double play from the next batter, David Murphy, and it's been all zeros from the pen ever since.
Perhaps as remarkable is that of the combined 28 2/3 innings, only 3 2/3 have come from the arm of closer Aroldis Chapman.
"It's what you've got to do. You don't have much choice," said manager Dusty Baker. "We try and mix and match and put them in a position where they'll most likely succeed, put them in the highest position to succeed. Sometimes we don't know until they get in there, especially guys like Manny Parra, he's done a remarkable job, [Alfredo] Simon and Sam [LeCure], all the guys have stepped up. To a man, [Logan] Ondrusek is throwing better, J.J. Hoover, he's been good the last month."
Injuries have not brought the unit down; they have instead brought them together.
"We definitely have each other's backs out there," said Hoover, who has struck out 16 (the most by a member of the pen during the stretch) in 11 1 /3 innings (second-most to Parra's 12 innings), while allowing six hits. "Losing Broxton and Marshall was a huge hit to the 'pen, but luckily we've been able to rally and kind of put a Band-Aid on the bleeding as they recover. I don't think the confidence has changed all year. As a 'pen, we know that we can do the job out there and we're just trying to do our job when we get that call."
"We're a family down there," added Ondrusek, who has thrown blanks in his four appearances covering 3 2/3 innings, including two shutout frames Thursday night against the Braves. "Whenever somebody's doing well, it makes you want to step your game up to do the same, if not better. At that point, if you have seven guys down there doing their best and pushing each other to go a little better, then the results will come."
Marshall tosses encouraging bullpen session Friday
ATLANTA -- Sean Marshall took another step toward getting back into the Reds' bullpen plans, throwing a 50-pitch bullpen on Friday afternoon at Turner Field.
"I used all my pitches to both sides of the plate. It was very good, very encouraging," Marshall said of the session, in which he threw 25 warmup pitches, then 25 to batters.
Marshall has been on the disabled list since May 24th with a left shoulder sprain. It's his second stint on the disabled list with shoulder issues, having gone on the DL in early April.
Reds manager Dusty Baker was pleased by the session, but he measured his enthusiasm.
"Yeah, he is [getting closer]," said Baker. "We'll wait and see tomorrow, because he was getting close before, but it was always the second day after or the third even. He's closer but he still has to go back-to-back. He threw some pretty good breaking balls. He wasn't sharp, midseason form, but he was pretty close. He threw well."
Marshall said he may throw another bullpen on Sunday, but regardless, he promised to keep active during the All-Star break. He has yet to receive specifics from the team, other than to proceed with caution.
"It's been a little bit slower process than the last time I came off the DL," Marshall said. "They've been taking their time with me. Our owner, Bob Castellini, told me, 'Just take your time. Make sure it's right. There's no hurry to come back.' It's good to hear that from the front office, that they're confident in me just taking my time to get ready, and our bullpen's been doing a fantastic job. That's been a good sight to see for us.'
A good sign for him is that there have been no setbacks thus far in his rehab.
"That's been very encouraging for me and I'm sure for the training staff as well, for our coaches," Marshall said. "We're just working hard every day, putting in a lot of time and a lot of effort trying to get myself strong and ready to pitch. My body feels as strong as it's been all year. So hopefully all this work is going to pay off for the home stretch."
Marshall has made 11 appearances in 2013, pitching seven innings and allowing two earned runs (2.57 ERA), and he is holding hitters to a .160 average.
Braves legend Aaron visits Baker, Reds clubhouse
ATLANTA -- For Reds manager Dusty Baker, a trip to Atlanta just wouldn't be the same without getting to see legendary Hank Aaron.
On Friday afternoon, Aaron, the Braves' senior vice president, came to the Reds' clubhouse to visit Baker. Their relationship dates back to 1968 and runs much deeper than simply teammates.
Baker signed with the Braves as a 19-year-old and played the first eight years of his career in Atlanta, leaning on Aaron as a father figure.
"I signed because he promised my mom he would take care of me as if I was his son," Baker recalled. "He helped me make up my mind. It was great just being around him, hanging around him. He was like my dad away from home.
"My best memories were times just being in the South and being with Hank. [We'd] go see Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson, Jesse Jackson, whoever else Hank sort of attracted at that time. I was very, very fortunate to be there and him letting me hang around."
Baker also recalled the fourth inning on April 8, 1974, when Aaron hit career home run No. 715 to become the all-time home run king. He was on deck when it happened. ("I really was no protection [for Aaron]," Baker said, with a laugh).
"I remember was that it was cold, very cold. The stands were packed and Hank told me in the on-deck circle that he was going to get it over with, right now. I didn't doubt him," Baker said. "He hit it over the fence as he said he was going to do. Then I remember they stopped the game and his mom and dad and family, the kids and everybody came down, including [daughter] Gaile ... . Then we resumed play.
"I turned around and I heard a bunch of clanking in the stands and everybody was going home. I was like, 'Wait a minute, I'm about to hit.' But it didn't really matter. It was great just to be there."
Having Aaron in the clubhouse was great for current Reds Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, both of whom stopped in to talk.
"He doesn't talk about hitting much, but he was really open to talking with those guys," said Baker.
Bruce and Votto were honored to have audience with Aaron, and the two hung on his every word.
"Because I'm a fan of the history of baseball, it was an honor to spend some time with Hank Aaron, to ask him baseball and hitting questions, to hear his responses and to just basically shut my mouth and listen to his wisdom," said Votto. "Part of it was very simple, but typically, success usually is pretty simple."
"I just let him talk," said Bruce, who had met Aaron at the 2010 Civil Rights Game, played in Cincinnati. "I asked him a little bit about his approach and stuff like that, but didn't get into too much of specifics. It was some information that is pretty cool to hear from someone as great as Hank Aaron. It was an experience I won't forget."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.