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Gray, Miley inch closer to returning to Reds

@m_sheldon
September 19, 2020

CINCINNATI -- The Reds are feeling more optimistic that their two injured starting pitchers -- Sonny Gray and Wade Miley -- could be back during the final week of the regular season. Both have taken positive steps in recent days. Gray has been on the 10-day injured list since Sept.

CINCINNATI -- The Reds are feeling more optimistic that their two injured starting pitchers -- Sonny Gray and Wade Miley -- could be back during the final week of the regular season. Both have taken positive steps in recent days.

Gray has been on the 10-day injured list since Sept. 13 -- retroactive to Sept. 11 -- with a strained back. He’s eligible for activation on Sunday, but that isn’t going to happen.

“He’s thrown off a mound, and the other days he’s just played catch,” manager David Bell said on Saturday afternoon. “He’s getting to a point where he’s not feeling anything. I would say there will be one more side here this weekend. If all goes well, I think the most natural place that he could fit in -- a lot depends on making sure Trevor [Bauer] comes out of [Saturday] -- [is] Tuesday.”

Miley, who has been out with a strained left shoulder since Aug. 28, threw a three-inning sim game at Great American Ball Park on Saturday.

“I think I got up and down three times and threw 50 game pitches and probably 35 in the ‘pen,” Miley said. “I feel good right now. I felt really good out there, so it’s kind of nice to be able to face some hitters and get after it again.”

Now he and the Reds will wait to see how he recovers.

“I would throw a bullpen at Prasco and it would go great. Then two days would go by, and I wasn’t bouncing back. I wasn’t recovering,” Miley said. “So we just kind of pulled back a little bit. A couple of days ago, I threw a bullpen, and knock on wood, everything has felt good throughout the recovery process into today. Tomorrow and the next day will be a big step forward.”

Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson are planning on a four-man rotation for the season's final week; they could trim that to a three-man rotation if Cincinnati can reach the postseason.

Postseason seedings

Miley could wind up in the bullpen, and using him as an opener, if needed, hasn't been ruled out.

“He’s a good pitcher. He’s one of our best,” Bell said before Miley threw on Saturday. “He’s left-handed, but it is a different time of year where we’re going with less starters. He has pitched out of the bullpen in the past, so we’ll just have to figure it out. Nothing is real clear as to when he would get activated or what role he would pitch in, but it sure is nice to have him waiting in the wings if everything goes well today.”

Antone gets the job done -- again

Rookie right-hander Tejay Antone has been a breakout prospect this season, with successful outings as both a starter and reliever. He has a 3.86 ERA in four starts and a 1.17 ERA in seven relief appearances. His latest effort from the bullpen was critical during the Reds' 7-1 win over the White Sox on Friday.

Cincinnati's lead was five runs with two outs in the sixth inning when Antone replaced Tyler Mahle with two men on. Antone walked his first batter, Yoán Moncada, to load the bases, but he escaped the jam by striking out Luis Robert on three pitches -- all sliders.

“I’d face Luis Robert a few times in the Minor Leagues,” Antone said on Saturday. “I kind of knew what I had, and I know I have an advantage against right-handers, like pretty heavily. So I just went with my strength. As soon he swung at the first pitch, I was like, ‘I got you.’

“Even though the run differential was a little wide, it could have got out of hand very quickly. It’s been fun. At this point it feels more like baseball to me. It’s just on a little bit bigger stage, so it’s been a fun journey so far.”

Ranked as the Reds’ No. 23 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Antone has appreciated the chance to learn at the big league level for the first time.

“You come in originally kind of like learning, getting your feet wet. I’m just trying to figure out the whole Major League thing -- the on-the-field stuff, the off-the-field stuff,” he said. “Then you kind of get used to it a little bit learning from, becoming friends with these vets that have been here for a long time. Now we’re winning. We’re playing together. We’re doing it, and it’s all starting to click.”

Surgery for Thornburg

Reliever Tyler Thornburg underwent Tommy John surgery on Friday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Thornburg, who had a 3.86 ERA in seven appearances this season, was injured during a Sept. 10 game vs. the Cubs.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.