MILWAUKEE -- Reds manager Dusty Baker said Thursday that his game plan all along has been to pace his team for a second-half playoff push. The Reds have already started to make their move in the last week.
Cincinnati trailed National League Central leader Pittsburgh by 6 1/2 games last Wednesday but cut the deficit to 3 1/2 games entering play Thursday. The Pirates fell to the second-place Cardinals in extra innings on Thursday afternoon.
"Most of my teams finish strong," Baker said. "I think it's how you take care of yourself, how you condition, how you pace your team during the course of the year for the race. You watch horse racing, you watch a marathon, very rarely there's a team that gets way out front and sustains that."
Reds first baseman Joey Votto credited Cincinnati's current streak to stellar starting pitching. In the last six games, Reds starters are 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA (40 1/3 innings pitched, six earned runs allowed). "I think we've had some fantastic pitching," Votto said. "Some great starts, consistently great starts, and we've been playing good defense. But I think it's mostly because of the starting pitching."
When asked about his team's solid record against under-.500 teams and less than impressive mark against over-.500 teams, Baker noted the only goal by the end of the season is to have more wins than anybody else.
"At the end of the year, all they ask is what's your record," Baker said. "I was always told, you're supposed to beat the bad teams. You're supposed to beat the bad teams and split with the good teams."
Reds have mixed emotions on expanded replay
MILWAUKEE -- Major League Baseball announced on Thursday its plans to expand instant replay in 2014, and the Reds' clubhouse opened up its opinions on the matter before Thursday's series opener against the Brewers at Miller Park.
The proposal -- which would allow one challenge from a manager in the first six innings and two more from the seventh inning on -- will be formally voted on by the owners during meetings in Orlando, Fla., in November, and it would dramatically increase the number of reviewable plays in baseball next season.
Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick sees the rule change as something that may get in the way of the beauty of the game.
"Personally, I'm kind of an old-school approach guy," Ludwick said. "I kind of like the fact that we were one of the last sports that had human error involved, and I think there's something beautiful about that.
"I think the better question would be for the umpires. From my standpoint -- I don't know how they feel -- it's kind of taking away from what they do. They've been doing this for over 100 years, and I think those guys do a good job. Do they make some mistakes? Yes, but like I said, that's human error, and I think that's the beauty of it. But I'm sure we'll all get used to it and we'll move on."
Reds manager Dusty Baker echoed Ludwick's concern for what the rule change means to umpires.
"There's a chance to make umpires look bad on a daily basis," Baker said. "But they're going to do what they're going to do."
Starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo compared the current situation to the January rule change of the fake-to-third, throw-to-first pickoff move. The move -- a part of most pitchers' pickoff repertoire -- was changed to a balk.
"Them just pulling the first-to-third move out was a little strange," Arroyo said. "You could go back to 1919 and watch the White Sox play and realize that they're playing pretty much the exact same game we're playing today, which is on some level really cool, because the history of the game stays intact and stats stay intact as far as comparing guys from different generations."
But Arroyo said he saw the reasoning for expanding replay, too.
"You've also got to think about technology," he said. "Watching a tennis match now where they call balls in and out based on a laser computer system, which is cool because you get to see that kind of cool thing. I think everyone wants a person who genuinely won the game to win the game. It's a mixed emotion for sure."
To Ludwick, only time will tell how the rule change will be accepted across the league.
"Those are all things we're going to have to find out in the future," Ludwick said. "I think you'll have to ask each individual guy how they feel about it. Do I think it could possibly help the game? Yes. Do I think it's going to take away from the history aspect of the game? Yeah, I think it'll take away a little from it."
Arroyo said it could be ancient history before too long.
"Nobody's done the first-to-third move in so long that now we're talking about it on Jeopardy as trivia."
Strength tests upcoming for Cueto, Marshall
MILAWUKEE -- Reds head trainer Paul Lessard said on Thursday that the team is eyeing a strength test for injured pitchers Johnny Cueto and Sean Marshall by the end of its current road trip, which wraps up in Milwaukee on Sunday.
Cueto has been on the disabled list since June 29 with a strained right lat, and Marshall has been on the DL since May 24 with a sprained left shoulder. The results of their strength tests could determine whether they can start throwing programs.
"If all goes well, then they start throwing programs," Lessard said. "Knock on wood, that's what we're hoping to do when we get home."
Lessard said both Cueto and Marshall have responded well to the shoulder programs the Reds have them working on in Cincinnati.
"They've both done very well," he said. "The reports from the physical therapists that they're working with have said that they're working hard and the strengthening has gotten better. That's why we do the tests, to get a numerical reading on their strength."
• Ludwick was in the lineup for the second consecutive day Thursday and third time in four games since returning from a right shoulder injury that kept him out for more than four months.
Baker said his left fielder still has some work to do to get his timing back.
"Physically, he [looks good], but timing-wise, not good," Baker said. "But how can you be when you're 4 1/2 months behind? He'll be good as long as I pace him. We're just glad to have him back."
Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.