CINCINNATI -- Reds outfielder Skip Schumaker's overall offensive numbers won't blow anyone's doors off, but what he's done between the margins of statistics this season has the club thrilled with his winter acquisition.
Schumaker, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI on Friday, entered Saturday batting .256 with a .287 on-base percentage. But his addition to a left field platoon with Ryan Ludwick has seemed to help the lineup. Schumaker, who missed the season's first month with a dislocated left shoulder, came in batting .371 (13-for-35) over his previous 12 games.
"He's kind of a great, accomplished situational baseball player," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He knows how to work a starter's pitch count. He knows how to take advantage of good pitches to hit early in the count, when they're there. He's moved runners for us. I've used him to squeeze. He's not only been a solid defender, but a guy that can play some late-game defense for us. [He's a] very instinctive baserunner."
In November, Schumaker was signed to a two-year, $5 million contract that came with a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
Among the Reds position players, Schumaker is third on the club with an average of 3.98 pitches per plate appearance. In the field during the eighth inning of Friday's 4-2 victory, he robbed Carlos Gomez with a diving catch near the left-field line.
The Reds came into the day 20-10 in the 30 games Schumaker started. He was in the lineup again on Saturday and playing left field.
"One of the things that was noticeable to me and the other guys here with the Reds when Skip was with the other clubs, he brings an element of winning. He does the little things. Of course, the little things are the big things," Price said. "They're important, but can easily go unseen over the course of a box score, but play a huge role in the success of a team. I don't think there's anybody that wouldn't think he hasn't been a huge part of our success since he's come off the DL."
Bruce starts pair of impressive relays to catch runners
CINCINNATI -- In Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Brewers at Great American Ball Park, the Reds' league-leading defense was on display in the sixth and seventh innings, when Jay Bruce began two relays that ended in outs at home plate.
With Aramis Ramirez at first and two outs in the sixth, Khris Davis hit a double off the wall in right field. Bruce tracked it down and fired to shortstop Zack Cozart as Ramirez rounded third and headed for the plate. Cozart made the relay throw to nail Ramirez and end the inning, preserving a one-run deficit.
Then in the following frame, the same scenario unfolded. With Mark Reynolds on first and two down, Scooter Gennett hit a sharp one-hopper past Joey Votto at first and down the right-field line. Bruce fielded it and threw to second baseman Brandon Phillips, who made a perfect relay throw to Devin Mesoraco at home plate to get Reynolds trying to score.
It marked the second time this season a Reds outfielder began two relays that resulted in outs at home in the same game. Billy Hamilton accomplished the feat against the Phillies on June 7. The two relays started by Hamilton on June 7 also occurred in the sixth and seventh innings, were both on doubles, and both also resulted in the third out of the inning.
Hamilton fielded a double by Philadelphia's Domonic Brown in the sixth inning of that game and began a relay that got Marlon Byrd at the plate. Then in the seventh, Hamilton fielded a Chase Utley double and started a chain that cut down Carlos Ruiz at home.
Three of Bruce's four assists this season have come against the Brewers and his last game with multiple assists came on July 8, 2013, also against the Brewers. Bruce and Hamilton are tied for most outfield assists (four) on the Reds this season.
"They were both with two outs, so you know the third-base coach is going to send him in that situation," Mesoraco said. "I felt like they weren't super fast guys at third base, so I definitely thought we had a chance going into it."
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke didn't regret sending his runners in those situations.
"You have to do it. It's going to be tough to score runs, going to be tough to put together a lot of hits in a row off of Bailey, and I think when you get the opportunity, you make them have to make a great play. And they did …They're not like they're blowing us up easy. They're close."
"I just try and do my job," Bruce said. "I'm just happy to assist there, and our infielders are some of, if not the best, in the league defensively overall. We take a lot of pride in our defense, and we were able to keep runs off the board."
Marshall on the road to recovery following surgery
CINCINNATI -- Left-handed reliever Sean Marshall has started on the road to recovery following season-ending surgery to clean out his left shoulder.
As part of the procedure he underwent on June 24, doctors extracted stem cells from his tailbone and injected them into the shoulder to facilitate the healing process.
"It was something different," Marshall said of the procedure. "It was a fairly uncomfortable process, but it was part of the necessary steps to draw the stem cells out. They did the platelet-rich plasma and drew that out of my blood, spun it, did whatever they do with the machines and they said it went great."
Marshall said he was sore for the first couple of days following the surgery, but that is to be expected and the soreness is mostly gone now. He is wearing a sling over his left shoulder and arm that will come off in about four weeks. At that time he will begin to gradually build shoulder and arm strength up until he begins throwing in the offseason, with a target of returning next season.
"We started therapy the day after," Marshall said. "[It involves] a lot of stretches to get the range of motion back. We do some exercises where we swing and do light resistance for the scab, mostly pretty easy, it goes by pretty quick. We'll increase it to some isometric exercises and then some weight-bearing exercises after that."
Marshall pitched 14 innings this season, allowing 12 earned runs (7.71 ERA) on 23 hits, walking 12 and striking out 14.
Marshall was nervous heading into the procedure, but is glad it's behind him and he can begin the process of getting back to the mound.
"I think it was a good step, a positive step and it's what I had to do," he said. "So I embraced it and I'll work hard and put the time in and get back to who I was."
Mesoraco gets start after Pena scratched late
CINCINNATI -- The Reds originally had a lineup that put catcher Brayan Pena behind the plate to work with pitcher Homer Bailey. It was subsequently changed and Pena was replaced by regular catcher Devin Mesoraco.
"Just made a switch," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Price described Pena as a "little banged up." He last caught on Wednesday vs. the Padres and did not play on Friday vs. the Brewers.
"Pena is a useable piece today. It's nothing extreme," Price said. "It just made more sense to have the guy that's closer to 100 percent behind the plate."
Pena appeared in Saturday's game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the 1-0 loss and flied out to left field.
• Triple-A Louisville lefty pitcher David Holmberg was pulled from Friday's game vs. Indianapolis after 3 2/3 scoreless innings with three hits, one walk and four strikeouts. There was no injury involved, Reds manager Bryan Price said, so it appears that Holmberg could be a possibility to pitch one of the games during Tuesday's doubleheader vs. the Cubs.
"He is a candidate, for sure," Price said.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.