CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker said Friday that Tony Cingrani is officially available to pitch after missing almost three weeks of action with lower back soreness. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old left-hander, that doesn't mean he's likely to make another appearance in 2013.
Cingrani threw two successful bullpen sessions earlier this week with the hopes of coming back before the end of the regular season and in time for the playoffs. As a result, pitching coach Bryan Price said Wednesday that Cingrani could potentially come out of the bullpen during this weekend's pivotal series against the Pirates, but Baker wasn't as optimistic about that happening before the opener on Friday.
"I don't know," Baker said when asked if Cingrani might pitch in one of the final three games of the season. "Probably not. A [bullpen session] is a whole lot different than getting in the game, especially at this time of year. I know we did that with [Johnny Cueto], but Cueto knows himself and his mechanics are so sound. That's a different situation. I just found out [Cingrani] was ready today, but is that game ready?"
Cingrani last pitched in a game on Sept. 10 vs. the Cubs, when he exited his 18th start of the season after giving up two earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings. That brief outing marked his second start since the same back problems put him on the 15-day disabled list in late August and early September.
Not pitching this weekend would make it even more difficult for Cingrani to make the postseason roster, especially with left-handed reliever Sean Marshall back and pitching well after overcoming his own injury.
"Whose place would [Cingrani] take that's more game ready?" Baker questioned. "The rest of the guys, they've been pitching. They've been pitching a lot."
Baker shifts Ludwick to two-hole for opener
CINCINNATI -- For the first time this season, Reds manager Dusty Baker wrote left fielder Ryan Ludwick's name into the second spot of his lineup vs. the Pirates on Friday.
Baker informed Ludwick of the plan on Wednesday. Ludwick, who has been working his way back since a four-month stint on the disabled list after right shoulder surgery, has batted second often in his career -- most recently in 2010 for the Cardinals. That season, he batted .311 with a .389 on-base percentage, seven home runs and 26 RBIs while slotted ahead of No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols.
"It's a familiar spot in the lineup for me. It's a spot I've hit in," Ludwick said. "I'm comfortable there. It's nothing new. I think we have a pretty good manager in there and I obviously haven't hit for a ton of power since I've been back. I've gotten on base a little bit, but the power has been down. It's probably more suited for me."
Ludwick, who has often batted fourth, entered the night hitting .258, but he had only two homers and 12 RBIs in 35 games and 120 at-bats. Brandon Phillips switched from second to fourth in the lineup.
"The fact is I didn't really see him being ready 100 percent," Baker said. "They're walking Joey [Votto] and then I had him between Joey walking a lot and Jay [Bruce] being prone to strike out and him not very hot. Plus, I was taking him out of the game late in the game for defense, and that would leave a huge hole in the lineup late in the game or if we went into extra innings and had to use a pinch-hitter. And the guys I was using as his replacement were kind of second hitters anyway -- [Chris] Heisey and [Derrick] Robinson."
Ludwick realized there would be differences at times between batting cleanup and second.
"Obviously, in that two-hole, there are going to be times where you're trying to move a runner, probably, or get a guy over, more than the four-hole," Ludwick said.
Jocketty: Hamilton's postseason status TBD
CINCINNATI -- Since his Sept. 3 callup, Reds rookie center fielder and basestealing extraordinaire Billy Hamilton has done nothing to eliminate the belief he should be on the postseason roster next week.
But neither Hamilton nor any other roster bubble candidates are formally locks -- not just yet.
"We have not finalized that. We really haven't," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said on Friday. "We probably won't talk about that until Sunday or Monday."
Hamilton entered Friday with 13 steals in 14 attempts, with his one failed attempt coming Wednesday vs. the Mets. With only 18 at-bats in 12 games, Hamilton was batting .389 with nine runs scored. He's made three starts but has been utilized mainly as a pinch-runner in games where the Reds have been looking for a tying or winning run.
"It's one thing we had to be careful of, to make sure he didn't get overwhelmed," Jocketty said. "He's been very good. He's got great instincts for the game. He's a great athlete."
As for the rest of the playoff roster, the Reds only know they will play in the National League Wild Card game on Tuesday. The roster can be adjusted if they advance to the NL Division Series.
"We take it one step at a time," Jocketty said. "We look at the playoff game for Tuesday first, but you look ahead, somewhat. You focus on what we need to do for Tuesday, because we can change it again. We've got a pretty good idea of what we want to do."
Cincinnati seemingly would not include many pitchers from the starting rotation on the Wild Card roster. Mat Latos is considered to be the likely starter in the game.
"The one-game series will obviously be different than in the NLDS," Jocketty said.
Ludwick clarifies comments about fans
CINCINNATI -- Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick on Friday clarified comments he made to a pair of local columnists after Wednesday's game that appeared to call out fans for not showing up more at Great American Ball Park during a pennant race.
Ludwick insisted he had nothing bad to say about Reds fans, but has still gotten a lot of negative pushback from some fans and talk radio.
"They don't understand where I'm coming from," Ludwick said. "I have four grandparents that are in the ground 40 miles from this stadium that grew up in Georgetown, Ohio. My mom and dad were born there. My Dad went to school in Columbus. I grew up a Reds fan. I grew up an Ickey Woods-Boomer Esiason [Bengals]fan. I had better deals to go elsewhere the first and second time. The reason I signed here, the reason I came here, is because this is a place that's dear to my heart."
Ludwick noted the first big league game he attended was between the Reds and Dodgers at Riverfront Stadium in 1989. He closely followed the club during the 1990 World Series run and proceeded to list most of the players on the club, including personal favorite Eric Davis.
"I've heard things where they're saying, 'He's blaming the fans for losses,' which isn't what I was doing," Ludwick said. "That never came out of my mouth. I'm just looking for intensity.
"I was a fan before I was a player here. I was a fan from when I was at a young age. I was merely trying to get everybody on board and rally just like I would when I come in here and yell and try to fire up a player. I know they're not players. You're dealing with peoples' emotions, and people can get sensitive. I apologize to those that possibly took it the wrong way. I want a World Series from a fan's standpoint and a player's standpoint for Cincinnati."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.