CINCINNATI -- In the state of flux that is the Reds' rotation lately, ace Johnny Cueto isn't quite ready to resume starting yet, Jason Marquis won't be starting for the time being and three rookies will be part of the mix.
Cueto, who missed one start with stiffness in his right elbow, has played catch each of the last three days without issues. There had been a chance he might start on Sunday against the Nationals, but that won't happen.
"It looks more likely he'll be starting in that Philadelphia series [next week]," manager Bryan Price said on Friday. "We just want to make sure all of the inflammation is out. He's been more aggressive every time he's thrown. He's felt better every time he's thrown."
The odd man out of the rotation is Marquis, who will move to the bullpen after posting a 6.46 ERA in his nine starts.
Adding Marquis to the bullpen gives Cincinnati eight relievers but leaves Price shorthanded with a four-man bench, but he doesn't feel limited by the situation.
"It's pick your poison," Price said. "Do you feel like you're short in the bullpen or short on the bench? Right now I'd rather have the eight-man bullpen than the five-man bench."
Taking the open spot on Sunday will be Michael Lorenzen, who is coming off a strong seven-inning, one-run start vs. Colorado on Tuesday. Cincinnati will send three consecutive rookies to face the Nationals, with Lorenzen following Anthony DeSclafani (Friday) and Raisel Iglesias (Saturday).
"We have to be cautious with innings on two of the three, but right now they're our best chance to go out there and perform," Price said.
Iglesias and Lorenzen will have their innings limited at points during the season. The Reds certainly didn't expect to have three rookies in their rotation when Spring Training ended, but now have little choice but to go with it.
"Our future's arrived a little early," Price said. "Every time they go out there and take the ball, I'm optimistic they'll pitch a nice ballgame. I also know there's some education to go along the way. They're going to learn some lessons here, for sure."
Catcher Brayan Pena likes the way all three rookies handle themselves.
"I really like the way they go about their business, how emotionally they encourage themselves," Pena said. "They are very similar, all of them like to compete, all of them prepare very well, and one thing all of them have in common is that they believe in what they can do. They believe that they belong in the big leagues."
• Second baseman Brandon Phillips was held out of the lineup for the third straight game because of turf toe on his left foot. Price said that Phillips was feeling better, but he wanted to give him more rest to keep the injury from becoming chronic.
• Catcher Devin Mesoraco will see another specialist soon about the impingement in his left hip before a decision is made on whether he will have season-ending surgery. Mesoraco went on the disabled list on Monday.
• Outfielder Jason Bourgeois, who has been out since Spring Training with a fractured left scapula, took batting practice on the field for the first time on Friday. Bourgeois had been hitting in the indoor cage for a few days without issue.