Simon, found on scrap heap, getting better for Reds

Reds pitchers had 15 strikeouts Monday against the Braves, the most they’ve had in a nine-inning game this season. They rank third in baseball with 272.

Reliever Alfredo Simon was on pace for 27 strikeouts Monday night against the Braves. Unfortunately, he didn’t start pitching until the sixth inning. Still he struck out all six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings, not bad for a pitcher Reds manager Dusty Baker said they got off the scrap heap.

The 31-year-old Simon was acquired off waivers from the Orioles on April 3, 2012. He was 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 61 innings last season.

“Every pitch was working last night,” Simon said on Tuesday before the second game of the series. “My two-seamer and my slider and my breaking ball were really good. I just tried to attack the hitters, and when they got two strikes, I tried to strike them out.

“I think the most important thing was throwing the first pitch for strikes. They were looking for fastballs, and I threw sliders. If they were looking for sliders, I threw the two-seamer. I just tried to confuse the hitters.”

Simon is 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA. He has appeared in 12 games and thrown 16 2/3 innings, the most of any Reds reliever.

Simon has allowed six of his eight earned runs in three appearances. In his other nine games, his ERA is 1.86.

“He’s getting better,” Baker said. “He’s learning to control his sinker. He’s gotten better since we’ve had him. Eduardo Perez, Tony’s son, told me when we got him — because we didn’t know much about him — that he’d be a valuable part of this club, maybe even be a back-end guy. He had been a closer in Baltimore, but maybe he wasn’t ready to close then.”

Hannahan starts: Jack Hannahan was in the starting lineup for the fourth time Tuesday, filling in for Todd Frazier at third base. The left-handed Hannahan was hitting .308 in 26 at-bats.

Frazier, a right-handed hitter, was 4 for his last 14 with at least one RBI in his last four appearances.

The Braves started right-hander Kris Medlen on the mound. With Hannahan starting, the Reds had five lefties in the lineup.

“I’m giving Hannahan the chance to play,” Baker said. “(Medlen’s) as tough as it gets. His record isn’t indicative, but right-handed hitters are hitting .208 and left-handers are hitting .207 (2012 numbers), so I’ll just take my chance with as many left-handed hitters as I can get.”

Today’s game: Mike Leake (2-1, 4.15 ERA) makes his seventh start of the season at 12:35 p.m. today in the final game of the three-game series. He got the win in his last outing against the Cubs, allowing two earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. He rebounded from his shortest outing of the season April 27 against the Nationals when he allowed three runs in three innings in a 6-3 loss.

Mike Minor (3-2, 3.26 ERA) starts for the Braves. Minor has given up four home runs and nine earned runs in his last two starts.

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