PITTSBURGH -- On Wednesday, Roger Bernadina started in left field in place of Ryan Ludwick. On Thursday, Chris Heisey started in center field to spell Billy Hamilton.
Reds manager Bryan Price believes it's crucial for both role players to get at-bats.
"Really, these are our two key bench components," Price said on Thursday. "Heisey and Bernadina are our late-game bench bats -- one right-handed and one left-handed. We can't expect them to perform in these big moments late in the game if they don't get some regular at-bats as a starter.
"With our outfield, it's hard to find playing time for the bench players. But I'm just trying to do my best to keep them fresh."
Price has done his best to rest other players as well. Ramon Santiago started at shortstop for Zack Cozart and backup catcher Brayan Pena has gotten starts, even with Devin Mesoraco on a hitting tear.
Only Joey Votto, Todd Frazier and Brandon Phillips have played in all 22 games for Cincinnati.
"I went into the season with a pretty fair understanding of what I wanted to do as far as resting some of our players," Price said. "I feel like it's important that these guys get adequate rest throughout the season. I don't think we'll have anybody who plays 162 games."
Game-changer Hamilton receives a breather
PITTSBURGH -- Reds leadoff hitter and center fielder Billy Hamilton was given a rest from the starting lineup on Thursday as Chris Heisey replaced him for the series finale vs. the Pirates.
Hamilton was his typical thorn in the side for Pittsburgh during Wednesday's 5-2 victory. During his 2-for-4 game, he had a RBI single in the fifth inning. When subsequently stealing second base, catcher Chris Stewart's throwing error allowed Ramon Santiago to score from third base. Hamilton soon scored on a fielder's choice.
Although he has only a .266 on-base percentage following a bad first week of the season, Hamilton is the Reds' leader with nine steals. After coming in as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning of Thursday's 2-1 win, he's been caught three times.
"He has the ability to change the game in a lot of different ways," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "His speed is at a completely different level. There are a lot of guys that are fast, but it's pretty amazing. When he gets on base, he creates havoc. You're always worried about him and focused on him. This is no offense to Billy, but you have Joey [Votto] up, you have Brandon [Phillips] and you have me -- they might want to work on getting the batter out. He just creates that in the back of your head. He puts it back there and makes a lot of stuff happen."
In the top of the ninth inning Wednesday, Hamilton hit a single to center field and looked like he was taking two bases. It caused center fielder Andrew McCutchen to bobble the ball out of his glove for an error that put Hamilton on second.
"I'm playing six steps in the gap, hits one up the middle, and with our grass being as thick as it is, I know I've got to bust it in," McCutchen said. "I was trying to rush and get it in, and I wasn't able to field it cleanly -- a guy with his speed is going to be able to create that type of break."
Reds anticipate Marshall's strength will grow
PITTSBURGH -- Reds lefty reliever Sean Marshall faced two left-handed batters on Wednesday, and none of his six pitches were thrown harder than 81 mph. Marshall got the third out for starter Alfredo Simon in the seventh inning by getting Pedro Alvarez to ground out toward the mound. To begin the eighth, Ike Davis also grounded softy to Marshall for the routine out.
"I thought those first couple of sliders he threw to Alvarez were just off the plate, and then another one to get back into the count and a rollover," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Thursday. "Then he faced Ike Davis and was able to get him out. It was good."
It was Marshall's second appearance since returning from the disabled list on Saturday. He missed all the Reds' Spring Training games with a sore left shoulder. But not throwing any fastballs Wednesday nor having any high-velocity pitches weren't indications that his shoulder is having issues.
"When he was in Triple-A [on a rehab assignment], the numbers that we got on his fastball were 86-91 mph, which is getting closer to where he is," Price said. "And it's cold. I don't know if we have a guy coming out of our bullpen that's shown his typical velocity -- not just our club, but a lot of the clubs we've played. ... He's certainly not in midseason shape at this point, but he's getting there."
There have been no concerns at all about Marshall's shoulder since his return. A similar injury limited him to 16 games last season.
"Now it's just building up the stamina and the strength," Price said. "Probably the only way to do that will be through pitching."