MLB Insiders: Cincinnati Reds

Paul Maholm

The Pirates open a four-game series in Cincinnati with a day-night doubleheader on Monday.

The two worst teams in the NL Central begin a four-game series Monday when the Cincinnati Reds host a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates will send Daniel McCutchen to the mound to start the first game in his major league debut. He was originally slated to join Team USA for next month's World Cup in Europe.

The 26-year-old right-hander went 13-6 with a 3.47 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis in 24 starts.

The Reds starter in the opener will be Kip Wells (0-3, 5.85 ERA), who will again replace Aaron Harang(notes) - out for the year due to an emergency appendectomy. The right-hander made 26 relief appearances before his first 2009 start Wednesday at Milwaukee in which he yielded three runs over five innings in a 4-3, 10-inning victory.

Wells is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA against Pittsburgh in seven career appearances, including three starts. He pitched for the Pirates from 2002-06.

Paul Maholm (7-7, 4.59) will start the nightcap for Pittsburgh. The Pirates have won five of his last six starts against Cincinnati, with Maholm going 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in that span.

The left-hander allowed one run over seven innings April 11 to earn a 10-2 win at Cincinnati. He's also pitched well in his last two outings, going 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA after giving up one run over seven innings Wednesday in a 4-1, 10-inning loss to Philadelphia.

The Reds are expected to activate Johnny Cueto (8-10, 4.61) off the disabled list to oppose Maholm. Cueto was placed on the 15-day DL on Aug. 20 due to right shoulder inflammation.

The right-hander is 0-6 with a 10.64 ERA over his last eight starts. He's 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA in five career outings against the Pirates, going 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two this year.

When right-hander Homer Bailey was the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2004, the club said his fastball was 98 mph. But when he first reached the majors in 2007 and when he was up in 2008, going 0-6, his fastball never exceeded 94 mph.

Now, in 2009, Bailey is hitting 98 mph regularly, including late in games. How did that happen?

"Last offseason, when I first started to get on the mound, my agent told me, 'Go see Skip Johnson. He is the pitching coach at the University of Texas,'" said Bailey. "I thought, 'I ain't got nothing to lose, because things aren't looking so good.'

"So I went for one bullpen and he was telling me try this and try this. The whole time I'm kind of like, 'All right, Homer, keep doing it. It feels funny and it feels different.' So he told me to come back in a couple of days and throw another bullpen.

"And he gave me some drills to do at home before I went back, and I kept doing them," Bailey continued. "I went back for the next bullpen and the ball just jumped out of my hand and I just stared at it. I threw three pitches and said to myself, 'It's back.'"

NOTES, QUOTES

--C Craig Tatum was 0-for-22 when he hit his first career major-league home run Saturday against the Dodgers. In the same inning, SS Paul Janish hit his first homer of the season and second of his career.

--OF Darnell McDonald, a No. 1 draft pick by the Orioles in 1997, took 12 years to hit his first major-league home run. It came Sunday against Dodgers' LHP Clatyon Kershaw.

BY THE NUMBERS: 109 -- Number of runs the Reds have allowed in the first inning, most in the majors, and they have been outscored 109-62. They've allowed first-inning runs in 53 of their 129 games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "No matter where we are in the standings, we are trying to win every game, because that's important, as well as check out all our younger players and our fringe players." -- Manager Dusty Baker.

ROSTER REPORT

--RHP Johnny Cueto was skipped twice through the rotation because of shoulder stiffness, but will start the second game of a split doubleheader Monday against Pittsburgh. He was 8-4 over his first 16 starts with a 2.69 ERA, but is 0-6 with a 10.64 ERA over his last eight starts.

--CF Drew Stubbs, a No. 1 draft pick in 2006, is getting his first taste of major-league action after he was rated the International League's best baserunner, best defensive players and best outfield arm. He has hit safely in six of his last seven starts, but is hitting only .212 with a homer, three RBI and two stolen bases in his first 11 games.

--1B Joey Votto struck out four times Sunday against the Dodgers and the team struck out 20 times in 12 innings. It was only the third time in his career Votto struck out four times.

MEDICAL WATCH:

OF Laynce Nix (stiff neck) did not play Aug. 28-29. He pinch-hit Aug. 30.

OF Chris Dickerson (sprained left ankle) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 24.

C Ryan Hanigan (concussion) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 24.

RHP Aaron Harang (appendectomy) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 21. He had emergency surgery to remove his appendix on Aug. 22 and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

RHP Johnny Cueto (inflamed right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 20. He will start the second game of a double-header Aug. 31.

CF Willy Taveras (right quadriceps strain) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 19.

C Ramon Hernandez (sore left knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 17. He had surgery July 21.

RF Jay Bruce (fractured right wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list July 12. He will miss six to eight weeks.

INF Danny Richar (torn labrum in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list July 3. He had season-ending surgery July 28.

RHP Edinson Volquez (right elbow tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list June 2, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 25. He suffered more pain a simulated game July 31, and he underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Aug. 3.

RHP Mike Lincoln (bulging neck disk) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He had season-ending disk-replacement surgery July 20.

UT Wilkin Castillo (torn labrum in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 21. He had season-ending surgery July 1 and was moved to the 60-day disabled list July 3.

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