Injured Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton strode toward the bullpen on Saturday afternoon hours before the second game of the series against the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park.
On a day he was scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Louisville, this was out of the ordinary. Louisville was 90 minutes away and Broxton was in a Reds uniform.
Turns out Broxton was pitching a simulated game. He threw 15 pitches and felt good. He’s so close to returning the Reds shipped Curtis Partch to Louisville on Saturday and recalled Pedro Villarreal with the knowledge that Broxton should be ready to replace Villarreal any day now.
“I’m close,” Broxton said. “It’s always nice to face batters, but I’ve got to get out there and get work, too. I felt good the other day when I threw in that real game. I felt good today. We’ll see about tomorrow, and we’ll go from there.”
Broxton has been on the disabled list since June 15 with a right elbow strain. He pitched a scoreless inning Wednesday in Louisville.
The Reds wanted him to pitch two days in a row and didn’t want him to have to travel with the Bats, so he threw the simulated game Saturday and will pitch in Indianapolis with Louisville today.
“His command was better than it was last time,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I heard he looked really good under game conditions. It’s very tough for a veteran to throw simulated games because there’s no adrenaline and emotion. As long as he feels good, that’s a plus.”
Frustrated fans: Partch moved back to Louisville one day after walking the first three batters he faced and giving up five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. Baker would have pulled him sooner, but he wanted to save his bullpen after Bronson Arroyo left the game in the fourth.
“What’s really hard is to sit there and watch a young man get scalded like that,” Baker said. “I can understand (the fans’) frustration. They come from hundreds of miles to see us play. It might be their only game, and they want to see us win. We’ve done pretty well in that regard at home.”
Partch was 0-1 with a 5.89 ERA in 11 appearances and 18 1/3 innings. Nine of the 12 earned runs he gave up came in two outings.
This is Villarreal’s third stint with the Reds. He was called up for two days to make an emergency start on June 6 and was called up for one day on June 15 after Broxton went on the disabled list.
Star power: Reds players acted like star-struck kids when a YouTube sensation named Kent Murphy paid a visit to the clubhouse Saturday.
Murphy makes humorous, R-rated baseball instructional videos in which he advises players on how to get hit by a pitch, charge the mound and handle hecklers, among other things. Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, Zack Cozart and Jack Hannahan all gathered around Murphy, who then stayed and watched batting practice.
Around the minors: All six of the Reds’ minor league teams are under .500. Triple-A Louisville (56-59) has the best record. Single-A Dayton is 22-19 in the second half and 50-60 overall, through Friday.
The Reds’ top prospect, Billy Hamilton, is hitting .251 in Louisville with 64 stolen bases.
Four players in the system are hitting above .300: Kevin Garcia (.383) and Cory Thompson (.320), of the Arizona League Reds; and Ty Washington (.314) and Ronald Bueno (.304), of Billings (rookie league).