CHC@CIN: Reds' Nasty Boys throw out first pitch

CINCINNATI -- The Nasty Boys were back in Cincinnati on Monday.

Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers, the trio of relievers that became a staple in the Reds' bullpen and helped Cincinnati to the 1990 World Series championship, were at Great American Ball Park to throw out the first pitch before the Reds opened a five-game series with the Cubs.

"It's a great baseball town and they have great facilities here so it's always a pleasure to come back," Myers said.

The three former All-Star relievers, members of the last Reds club to win a World Series, see a lot of potential in the current roster to compete for another championship, but say health will be key.

"I like them a lot," Dibble said. "I mean, you've got Johnny Cueto, [Mat] Latos, [Mike] Leake, they've got three frontline guys that can go up against anybody. Then you've got one of the best bullpens in the National League, so you start from there. Try to get them enough runs, try to get the starters deep into games.

"But you've gotta have Joey Votto in the middle of that lineup; he just changes the complexion of a game. When he's not in the lineup, as three ex-pitchers, we'd love to face that lineup without Votto in there."

Charlton said when comparing the current bullpen to that of the championship relief corps of the 1990 team, the current club needs another piece.

"They're missing another guy," Charlton said. "They need a third dominant guy. It was pretty nice if Randy had to take a day off, then Dibbs was next in line to close a game. If something happened to both of them, then I was next in line to close a game. … On a daily basis, you rarely ended up running up against a Reds team that didn't have somebody to close the game. They could run into that situation.

"But they have the talent to win it. They have the talent and they have the coaching staff, they've just got to get healthy."

Cueto scheduled to make Sunday start before ASG

Four Reds named to NL All-Star team

CINCINNATI -- Johnny Cueto earned his first All-Star selection, being voted in by the players to join three other representatives from the Reds at the Midsummer Classic on July 15 in Minneapolis. But although he would be a candidate to start the All-Star Game, he may not pitch in it at all if he makes his last two starts before the All-Star break as scheduled.

The right-hander, who is second in the National League with a 1.99 ERA and 130 strikeouts, is slated to start one of the two games in Tuesday's day-night doubleheader against the Cubs at Great American Ball Park, which would put him on track to start again on Sunday against the Pirates.

"If we don't have a weather event that prevents him from being able to pitch, I think it would be unlikely," manager Bryan Price said of Cueto's chances of pitching in the All-Star Game. "I wouldn't be a big fan of him pitching and throwing a game on Sunday and coming back on Tuesday."

The "Sunday Pitcher Rule" in the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association states, "Any starting pitcher elected or selected to the All-Star team who makes a start on the Sunday immediately preceding the All-Star Game shall have the option to participate or not participate in the All-Star Game."

The rule goes on to state that if the pitcher chooses to participate in the All-Star Game, he won't be allowed to pitch more than one inning, and may set a specific pitch count with his manager. If the pitcher chooses not to participate in the All-Star Game, he will be replaced on the club's roster but encouraged to attend the game.

"It doesn't bother me, because [Price and the Reds coaching staff] are the ones that know what I'm going to do, what's going to happen," Cueto said through interpreter Tomas Vera. "Honestly, yes, I'd like to pitch in the All-Star Game. It's my first time, so of course, I would like to pitch."

Chapman available after hamstring tweak

MIL@CIN: Chapman gets Reynolds swinging as Reds win

CINCINNATI -- Closer Aroldis Chapman was unavailable to pitch in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Brewers, in which Jonathan Broxton came on in the ninth for the save. Manager Bryan Price said that Chapman tweaked his right hamstring prior to the game.

Chapman said before Monday's series opener with the Cubs that the hamstring felt better and he would be available to pitch.

Chapman, who went into Monday's game with 17 saves, a 2.55 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings pitched this season, was announced Sunday as one of four Reds All-Star selections and will be heading to the Midsummer Classic for the third time.

"I feel really happy because this was one of my goals during Spring Training," Chapman said through interpreter Tomas Vera of being named an All-Star. "Even more after my accident happened [in which he was hit in the face by a line drive back to the mound in Spring Training], it was a challenge for me to get back to the team; I joined the team and did what I did. It's a challenge, and it made me happy to be [selected to] the All-Star Game."

Reds announce signing of first-round pick Howard

Reds sign first-round pick Nick Howard

CINCINNATI -- The Reds made it official on Monday that they agreed to terms with their first-round selection (19th overall) in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, right-handed pitcher Nick Howard out of the University of Virginia.

As MLB.com reported on June 30, Howard signed for $1,990,500, $100,000 less than the slot value for the 19th overall pick.

"I'm very excited," Howard said at Great American Ball Park on Monday. "It's definitely a very fun time for my family and I, and I'm very excited for the next chapter in my life and I think a week of rest without baseball is enough for me, so I'm ready to get back after it."

The 21-year-old Howard's University of Virginia Cavaliers lost in the College World Series final round to Vanderbilt on June 25. The 6-4, 215-pound right-hander was a closer and utility infielder for Virginia, posting a 2.15 ERA and a school-record 19 saves in 27 games.

Howard's fastball was clocked at 95-97 mph as a closer and 90-93 as a starter, and he also has a slider and a changeup that needs to be developed. He will be developed by the Reds as a starting pitcher.

"I was the Sunday starter in my sophomore year, and as long as I'm out there pitching, having fun, I'll be ready for whatever the organization wants me to do," he said.

The Reds have not yet assigned Howard to a Minor League roster, but he said he's prepared to get started wherever he is sent.

"I keep hearing Dayton's the place to be; I don't know what the stat is but they've sold out a numerous amount of games," Howard said. "I definitely think that's a great place to play, and the rest of the affiliates are definitely great places to play as well."

Top prospect Stephenson throws six scoreless

Stephenson could have impact on Reds' 2014 rotation

The Reds' No. 1 prospect Robert Stephenson threw six scoreless innings Monday, and Double-A Pensacola defeated Mobile, 4-0.

Stephenson, ranked No. 16 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, struck out six batters, walked three and allowed five hits. He threw 95 pitches.

Stephenson worked out of trouble throughout his start. At least one batter reached base in each inning, but he successfully kept the BayBears off the scoreboard. It was his third scoreless outing of the season and first since May 11, when he shut out Birmingham for six innings.

Outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 3 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs to lead the Blue Wahoos offense. He is hitting .232/.333/.391 in 18 games since he was promoted from Class A Advanced Bakersfield.

With the victory, Stephenson improved to 4-6 with a 3.97 ERA in 93 innings this season. He ranks second in the Southern League with 93 strikeouts, trailing only Dodgers' No. 6 prospect Chris Reed.