PITTSBURGH -- The timetable for getting Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in front of hitters again seems to be accelerating even quicker than expected.
Chapman, who is trying to return from being hit in the face by a line drive last month, could likely throw live batting practice to hitters as soon as Wednesday at PNC Park. Originally, the club was targeting this milestone by the end of the road trip in Atlanta.
"It's hopefully the last thing he needs to do before he goes out there and pitches in games [on a rehab assignment]," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Monday.
Chapman threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Sunday in Chicago. The team wanted to make sure he still felt good before committing to his facing hitters on Wednesday. If he isn't ready, then Chapman would have another bullpen session on Wednesday and face hitters on Saturday.
"He's thrown all of his pitches -- fastball, slider, changeup. There's really no concern at this point in time that his arm and body aren't ready to pitch," Price said. "But like anything else -- he threw yesterday. We want to find out how he responds today in his game of catch."
Chapman sustained fractures above his left eye and nose in a horrific March 19 moment where he was struck by a line drive from Royals catcher Salvador Perez. He had surgery to repair the injuries and has made dramatic improvement since the incident.
There's no debating that Chapman is itching to get back to pitching with the Reds.
"He loves being with his teammates. I've never seen him so happy to be a baseball player than I've seen this year," Price said. "He's embraced his job, even to a completely new level. I've enjoyed seeing that process evolve. I would absolutely say he wants to pitch. I think he understands there is process as far as going out and pitching in some rehab games just to make sure he is sharp, to make sure he that he faces hitters again for the first time since that incident and it validates that he's ready to pitch for us here."
Mesoraco wielding red-hot bat at bottom of lineup
PITTSBURGH -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco didn't even try to think about when the last time he had been this hot at the plate. That's because it hadn't previously happened.
"Never ever. Not rec ball, Little League, high school, Minor Leagues," Mesoraco said. "I'll stay with the routine, go out there and keep doing exactly what I've been doing the past week or two. Just keep riding it. It just seems like everything is falling in. Every ground ball I hit is finding a hole. You know at some point you will square up some line drives and it will go right to the shortstop or left fielder."
Mesoraco, who leads the club with 12 RBIs despite missing the first week with a strained left oblique, entered Monday with hits in each of his nine games played, and made it 10 early with a single in the second inning. That's the longest Reds streak to start a season since Barry Larkin opened 1995 with a 12-game hitting streak.
Despite going 3-for-4 in Monday night's 6-5 loss to the Pirates to raise his batting average to .541, Mesoraco remains in the lower third of the Reds' lineup, batting seventh. There are no immediate plans by manager Bryan Price to move him up in the order.
"If there comes a time, be it injury or some real significant long-term struggle, then I could see making some adjustments," Price said. "But right now, I kind of like the flow of the lineup as it is. I like having some weaponry there at the bottom."
Mesoraco hasn't minded batting behind middle-of-the-order hitters Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick.
"It's definitely not like I'm coming up with nobody on base every time up," Mesoraco said. "I like to help the team score runs. If being in the middle of the order would do that, maybe that's something we'll look at. I think right now, I'm very comfortable with where I'm at. I just trying to go out there and have good at-bats."
Reds cautious as Schumaker makes progress
PITTSBURGH -- Injured Reds utility player Skip Schumaker, who hasn't played since dislocating his left shoulder last month in Spring Training, has been taking batting practice with the club on the road trip and making progress.
Schumaker could soon begin a rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues, but the club would like him to get stronger first.
"I think he's over the pain hurdle," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Monday. "When you have an injury like that, where it really hurts him is his ability to maintain his strength because he is so limited in what he can do with his shoulder. We're really focusing on increasing his strength and once he gets to that place, we'll get him back out into games. He's chomping at the bit to play. We're going to be a little bit conservative just to make sure we can get Skip back as close to 100 percent as we can get him this year."
• Entering Monday, the Reds had allowed only one unearned run this season, which was best in the Majors. The team had only seven errors, which was one more than the MLB-leading Astros with six.
• Since April 13, the Reds were leading the Majors with 46 runs, a .313 average, .379 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging percentage. Joey Votto moved into the second spot in the lineup on April 12.