Gray ‘ready to roll’ as he returns to Reds rotation

Reds starter will pitch Tuesday for the first time since Sept. 10

Sonny Gray turned into a cheerleader during his time n the injured list, and he had plenty to cheer from the Cincinnati Reds bench.

Between Sept. 10, when Gray made his last start before going on the injured list a day later, and Sunday afternoon, when the Reds announced Gray would return to the mound Tuesday, the Reds won eight of 10 games. They put themselves back in contention without one of their most important players.

“Tucker (Barnart) would always say, ‘Sonny, you’ve got one job: do your rehab and get the rallies started,'” Gray said. “I just tried to do the same thing every day. Try to sit in the same spot. Make the same exact movements every day. It was a lot of fun doing that. It was a fun little stretch to go through.”

Gray (5-3, 3.94 ERA) was sidelined by back pain and missed one start. He’ll return to the mound at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday for the second game of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park.

“I feel great,” Gray said. “I feel excited. I feel ready to roll man. I’m excited to take the mound. I’m feeling really good. I’m feeling no limitations.”

With Luis Castillo (3-5, 3.03) starting Monday, Gray on Tuesday and Trevor Bauer (4-4, 1.80) on Wednesday, the Reds will throw their three best starters against the Brewers.

The Reds (27-27) and Brewers (26-26) began the series tied for third place in the National League Central, one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals (26-24). All three of those teams are competing for the division’s second playoff berth as well as the two wild-card bids.

“It’s been a fun little ride to watch these guys,” Gray said. “I’ve been excited the whole time throughout the process. Guys have filled in and done an incredible job. It’s awesome to see.”

Gray gave up five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Chicago Cubs in his last start. He didn’t feel great after the start or in the days following it, so instead of Gray trying to fight through the pain and make one more start, the Reds decided to put him on the injured list.

Michael Lorenzen moved into the rotation when Gray was out and allowed three earned runs in 9 2/3 innings in two starts, helping the Reds to two victories.

“He’s done so well,” Lorenzen said. “To come into that first game and go five when no one’s expecting you to and just dominate that game was incredible. Then (Sunday), he just dominated that game from pitch one to the 94th pitch.”

Lorenzen did his part. Bauer has done more than his share for the Reds pitching staff but will do even more this week by starting on three days rest. By taking the ball Wednesday, he will be in a position to pitch on three days rest again when the Reds close the regular season Sunday on the road against the Minnesota Twins.

“There’s unknowns and risks in every decision,” Reds manager David Bell said, “and it’s pretty rare to go on three days rest, though this time of year in the postseason, we’ve seen it quite a bit. Some of that risk is minimized because of where we are in the season. At the most, we would have another month. We’re confident he could make it through on short rest all the way through if that’s what’s needed.”

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