CINCINNATI -- When he woke up on Wednesday morning, injured Reds ace Johnny Cueto did not know this would be the day he could finally, at long last, begin a throwing program.
Cueto, who has not thrown since straining his right lat muscle for the third time this season during a June 28 start at Texas, was first expected to get an MRI test on Friday before being cleared to pick up a baseball. But after some second thoughts and a meeting between the medical staff and front office, the green light was given.
By Wednesday afternoon, Cueto played catch on the field and made 40 throws from distances of 60-75 feet.
"I feel good," Cueto said. "I didn't feel bad [before]. I didn't feel nothing. I wanted to throw. They said OK."
Cueto could not contain his smile after returning from the throwing session.
"I'm happy now," Cueto said.
Cueto had been asking to throw for a little while, but because he had repeatedly suffered the same injury, the rehab and strengthening process has been even more deliberate. Head trainer Paul Lessard, medical director Tim Kremchek and general manager Walt Jocketty met on Tuesday night and Wednesday and reassessed.
"Because he has gotten good strength, why not try and start throwing?" Lessard said. "We can use the throwing program as a strengthening tool as well.
"It went very well. The intensity wasn't great. But it was the first day of throwing so he could go through that motion again. … You get bored doing all the exercises and the rest and start champing at the bit. At least now he can see the light at the end of the tunnel instead of driving through the tunnel."
What makes this time on the disabled list different than the previous two with the same injury? Cueto admitted this time he felt fully healed as opposed to the previous times.
"I learned I have to take my time when these things happen," said Cueto, via translator Tomas Vera. "This last two opportunities when I went to the DL, I said I was feeling good and I was. But I was not 100 percent like I am feeling right now. What I learned from this is you have to take your time. You have to do things the way it's supposed to be done in order to get better."
Cueto will throw again on Thursday and continue forward, as long as there are no setbacks.
"We'll go on his symptoms on a daily basis," Lessard said. "Obviously if it bothers him, we will stop. As long as it feels good on a daily basis, we'll keep increasing the distance and the reps and intensity of it."
One thing that's lacking for Cueto is time. There are only 35 games remaining after Wednesday and the Minor League seasons end in early September, possibly leaving Cueto without a place to go on a rehab assignment when the time comes.
"Right now, we're just glad Johnny is throwing again," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We'll get to that when we get to it."
If Cueto can't get stretched out in time to start, would he be willing to work as a reliever down the stretch to help the team?
"I don't know. Maybe," Cueto said in English.
Cingrani doesn't expect to miss start with back issue
CINCINNATI -- Head trainer Paul Lessard said Wednesday that Reds starter Tony Cingrani was feeling much better less than 24 hours after exiting Tuesday's game in the fourth inning with a lower back strain. However, Wednesday was an easy day for Cingrani, who visited a doctor and spent the day getting treatment.
"We'll start bumping it up tomorrow," Lessard said. "He'll throw tomorrow and see how he feels. Ideally, we'll make sure he stays comfortable and loose and is able to throw. If he doesn't feel anything, he'll be able to make his next start."
Cingrani's biggest test will come Friday, when he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session.
"That will be more of a telltale sign than anything," Lessard said.
In the rotation to replace the injured Johnny Cueto, Cingrani has been dealing with the issue in his lower back for a couple weeks, but he didn't disclose that to manager Dusty Baker or trainers until after he gave up a home run, a walk and a double with one out in the fourth inning against the D-backs. Following the game, which Cingrani started by retiring the first 10 batters he faced, the 24-year-old left-hander had no doubts that he would be able to make his next start against the Brewers on Sunday.
Should he not be ready by then, Greg Reynolds, who also pitched for Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday, is a potential replacement. He was previously called up to start the second game of Cincinnati's doubleheader in San Francisco on July 23, when he allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings. In 23 games (21 starts) for Louisville this season, Reynolds is 12-3 with a 2.42 ERA, including a two-hit shutout on June 21.
As the Reds wait to know more about Cingrani's status, Baker was asked if the Reds have many replacement options available.
"Well, not really," Baker said. "We'll just pray that he gets better and it's not too serious, not too bad."
Broxton sustains new injury after exiting in eighth
CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton was unavailable the past two games because of an issue similar to the right elbow strain that kept him on the disabled list for two months. Nine pitches, a walk and a home run after entering in the top of the eighth in Wednesday's 10-7 win over the D-backs, he exited with a new injury in the same arm and is almost certainly headed back to the DL.
"It's in the muscle, flexor mass muscle, and not in the bone like it was before," Broxton said. "I'll get it looked at tomorrow. I didn't feel it until I faced the righty."
Broxton, who said he felt fine throughout warmups, opened the eighth by allowing a solo home run to Gerardo Parra. After the first pitch to Wil Nieves, Broxton said he knew something was wrong when it felt like a knife went through the belly of his forearm, but he tried to battle through the pain. He then walked Nieves on three more pitches before coming out of the game.
"Just that one pitch, it felt like it pulled apart," Broxton said. "Next pitch -- the cutter -- it hurt even worse. After that, I was just trying to get through it, try not to embarrass yourself or get somebody hurt. At that point, all your thinking about is trying to get out of it with no pain. You can't pitch up there like that."
Closer Aroldis Chapman replaced Broxton and picked up the two-inning save. Although he had to look out for his own health, Broxton appeared most disappointed after the game that he put more pressure on Chapman and the rest of the bullpen. Manager Dusty Baker, however, was more concerned about the 29-year-old right-hander, who just returned to the Reds on Aug. 7.
"That was really disheartening to have to go and get Broxton," Baker said. "I went out there. [Pitching coach] Bryan Price said, 'Aw man, he's done.'"
Baker and the Reds will know more after Broxton sees a doctor on Friday, but the Cincinnati skipper was not optimistic following Wednesday night's game.
"He told me it's not something that's going to be OK in a couple of days," Baker said. "Plus, we can't afford to be short in the bullpen. I don't know what we're going to do tomorrow."
Hamilton could add speed in September
CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker has spent time the past couple of days talking with his coaching staff and general manager Walt Jocketty about what moves to make when rosters can expand on Sept. 1. With callups on the horizon, Baker said the Reds have to decide which players will fit and who will be able to fill roles as pinch-hitters and pinch-runners.
The latter certainly could be an opportunity for the club's No. 1 prospect and speedy center fielder Billy Hamilton, but it wouldn't be the only thing expected of the 22-year-old if he were in fact called up.
"I hope he'll be able to do a little more than that," Baker said of Hamilton, who is not currently on the 40-man roster. "Even though it's no time to experiment when going for the pennant."
Through 114 games for Triple-A Louisville entering Wednesday, Hamilton owned a .259/.312/.349 line to go with six homers and 40 RBIs. One year after setting professional baseball's single-season record with 155 steals between Class A Advanced Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, Hamilton had swiped 72 bases on 86 attempts for Louisville.
"It's taken him a little to adjust to some of the pickoffs and some of the baserunning stuff that you need to learn to win. That's what I've been told," Baker said. "Speed is great. Speed kills, but speed also kills you if it's out of control."
Choo irked by high-and-tight pitch from Corbin
CINCINNATI -- Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has been hit by a pitch 23 times this season, one shy of the club record. Choo has also been pitched tight and inside countless times as well, and has never showed even the slightest of disdain toward pitchers about it.
That changed in the sixth inning of Tuesday's 5-2 Reds loss to the Dbacks. On a 1-1 pitch, Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin threw a fastball up and in near Choo's head. Choo had words for Corbin, catcher Wil Nieves and home-plate umpire Jerry Meals.
"I've never said something to a pitcher or a catcher. But last night, it was close to the head. That's a different story," Choo said on Wednesday. "I was protecting myself. If he hit me on purpose or missed below the head, in the back, I don't care. I'll go to first base. But when it's close to the head, it's a different story. I was sensitive last night and protected myself."
Choo struck out in the at-bat during an 0-for-4 night as Corbin tossed a complete game. He didn't believe it was a purpose pitch that buzzed him.
"He said 'I didn't try to hit you,'" Choo said of Corbin. "The catcher said that it wasn't on purpose. I said I don't care. I know he's not trying to hit me. I don't care when it's close to the head."
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.