CINCINNATI -- Lefty pitcher Tony Cingrani doesn't know what his role will be and doesn't particularly care if it means he's staying in the big leagues with the Reds.
Cingrani was called up from Triple-A Louisville to start vs. the Cubs on Tuesday in place of injured ace Johnny Cueto. When Cueto successfully returned to face the Brewers in Sunday's 5-1 victory, Cingrani was kept around to back up, just in case.
The Reds plan to keep Cingrani in the bullpen for the time being.
"Whenever they call my name, I'll be right there," Cingrani said on Monday. "I'm happy to be here. Whatever they want me to do. If this is what they need, it's what they need."
Reds manager Dusty Baker did not detail the team's plan for Cingrani's role.
"He's going to stay here," Baker said. "We'll just have to see. I haven't told him exactly yet."
Things became clearer during Monday's 4-1 win over Pittsburgh. Cingrani was summoned to replace Sam LeCure in the eighth inning and face lefty Garrett Jones with a runner on first base. The Pirates countered with right-hander Gaby Sanchez, who struck out. Cingrani walked Russell Martin, but escaped the jam by striking out Pedro Alvarez.
The Reds have been short a left-hander since Sean Marshall went back on the disabled list May 24 with a shoulder injury. Manny Parra was the lone non-closer lefty in the bullpen, until now. The bullpen has taken some lumps over the past week to 10 days, and also saw righty setup man Jonathan Broxton go on the DL.
"[Cingrani] fills what we need. We need a power arm in the bullpen, and a left-hander," Baker said.
Cingrani, who is 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA, 10 walks and 46 strikeouts in seven starts, was a closer for Rice University, and he made three relief appearances last season for Cincinnati as a September callup. He threw on the side three days ago to prepare for a possible start on Sunday. He also warmed up during the game.
"I've been there before. If it was brand new, maybe I wouldn't be [comfortable]," Cingrani said.
When Cueto returned in May from his first DL stint, Cingrani was sent back to Louisville to work on his secondary pitches. That won't be an issue as much in the current relief role, and there wasn't concern that working as a reliever will stunt Cingrani's growth as a starter.
"In the organizations I've been in, this is probably the best kind of role to be in as a young player," Baker said. "We started [Rick] Sutcliffe, Bobby Welch, and we started [Dave Stewart in the bullpen] with the Dodgers. Nolan Ryan started out in the bullpen. Pedro Martinez and his brother [Ramon] both started out in lesser [roles]."
Cueto OK after DL return, but time will tell
CINCINNATI -- The first time that Reds ace Johnny Cueto returned from the disabled list after suffering a strained right lat muscle, he made three successful starts. One of them was an eight-inning outing to beat the Pirates. It was after that game that Cueto returned to the DL with a recurrence of the injury.
On Monday, the day after Cueto successfully returned again with six innings and 88 pitches in a 5-1 win over the Brewers, he appeared to have no ill effects. But it wasn't totally clear, yet.
"We'll see," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Monday. "He's going to have the normal soreness after he pitches. We'll probably tell more tomorrow than today. Today, how do you judge normal soreness? As long as he doesn't hurt."
Cueto is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his seven starts this season. The club is resigned to the notion it will have to watch him closely and hold its breath to make sure he comes out of each start healthy.
"Probably for a while, yeah," Baker said. "At least we know what the situation is and the signs. You're going to be concerned, for the lack of a better word, probably now until the end of the season."
First-round pick Ervin readying for pro debut
CINCINNATI -- Outfielder and the Reds' first-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft Phillip Ervin, who signed his contract on June 10, will begin his pro career at Rookie-level Billings. The Mustangs' season begins on Thursday.
Ervin is one of 16 Draft selections that have already signed. Others included the third-round pick Mark Armstrong, a right-handed pitcher, and Chad Jones, a left-handed pitcher from LSU.
Jones was a NFL prospect as a defensive back and a draft pick of the New York Giants in 2010 before a car accident ended his football career.
For the complete list of currently signed 2013 Reds Draft picks, click here.
• In Sunday's win over Milwaukee, reliever Alfredo Simon recorded the first three-inning save for the Reds since Micah Owings on Sept. 1, 2009, vs. the Pirates.
• NASCAR drivers Kevin Harvick and Bobby Labonte threw out ceremonial first pitches before Monday's game. Both were in Cincinnati to promote the Quaker State 400 race to be held later this month at Kentucky Speedway.