Price backs up promise of playing his regulars

Price backs up promise of playing his regulars

CINCINNATI -- With a National League Central race still hanging in the balance into the season's final weekend, Reds manager Bryan Price assured the first-place Cardinals on Friday that his already-eliminated club would not simply lie down in a series vs. the second-place Pirates because some of his regulars were injured.

Price backed that up on Saturday as he employed two players that had been out of action the last couple of days -- catcher Devin Mesoraco and closer Aroldis Chapman.

Mesoraco, who missed the previous two games with a strain in his left rib cage, started vs. Pittsburgh on Friday. He went 1-for-4 with a two-run single in the first inning and a walk during a 10-6 Reds victory that put a wrench in Pittsburgh's chances to overtake St. Louis.

"I feel pretty good. If it was in the middle of the season, there wouldn't be any doubt that I would have played [Friday]," Mesoraco said. "There's no reason for me --- just because we're out of it at this point -- to not play. I'm getting paid. I need to go out there and perform just as if we're still right in the race. That's important."

Price had Mesoraco available to pinch-hit on Friday.

"He could have given us an at-bat [Friday]," Price said. "It was really receiving that was more of the challenge. I wanted to give him the one more day to make sure, because I want him today and I want him [Sunday] to catch. I want him to catch Johnny [Cueto]."

In Sunday's finale, Cueto will be trying for a career-high 20th victory to close out the 2014 season.

Chapman was unavailable on Friday after he labored somewhat through Thursday's ninth-inning save vs. the Brewers with what was diagnosed as left shoulder stiffness.

During a 6-6 game on Saturday, Chapman breezed through a perfect seven-pitch ninth inning with two strikeouts on the final six pitches. In an impressive display for the third out, all three of his pitches against reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen were 101 mph.

"I'm hoping he feels exactly the same way [Sunday]," Price said. "I'd love to have him available again for the last game with Cueto."

On Friday, Price had reached out to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny through the media relations departments to explain why many of his regulars weren't playing vs. the Pirates -- including Chapman, Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton, who is out dealing with symptoms from a concussion.

St. Louis is trying to hold off Pittsburgh for the division title and Price didn't want any doubts about the Reds' intentions.

"I felt it was fair that they understood that. We're not going, 'Hey we're taking a look at our younger guys.' There are guys that cannot play or will not play or are limited in their ability," Price said. "That was just three players. There are others on there that can't play, but I wasn't going to announce to Major League Baseball who is an active player on our roster and who isn't.

"I did want them to know that we're not trying to just play out the season and take a look at our younger players. We're trying to put the best team on the field with what we have to choose from."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.