Lefty Marshall progressing just as Reds need him

Aiming to be 100 percent at spring camp, reliever could be solid option for club

Lefty Marshall progressing just as Reds need him

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' bullpen is just one area on the club that needs to be improved over the offseason. With payroll space limited, Cincinnati is hoping that some of the choices to bring that improvement are already inside the organization.

Could lefty reliever Sean Marshall be healthy enough again to be one of those choices? Marshall has been limited to 31 appearances over the last two seasons because of shoulder injuries and will be coming off June 24 surgery that repaired a torn labrum. Recently, the 32-year-old veteran of nine seasons told MLB.com that he has been making progress.

"My therapy has been going great. It really is. My strength is there," Marshall said on Sept. 23. "I still have a little range of motion work that I've been doing, but every day is better. I definitely feel like I have a new shoulder, so it's good and strong."

Next season will be the final year of the three-year, $16.5 million contract extension Marshall signed on Feb. 27, 2012, not long after his trade from the Cubs to the Reds for three players that included lefty pitcher Travis Wood. Marshall is due to earn $6.5 million in 2015.

The plan is for Marshall to work out all offseason near his home in Chicago and begin a throwing program in early-to-mid November. It will begin slowly with playing catch and escalate to mound work

"We had in mind at the end of June when I had the surgery to be ready to pitch at Spring Training," Marshall said. "Hopefully I will be 100 percent at Spring Training."

The Reds could have used a healthy Marshall this season as several relievers often struggled to bridge the gap between the starters and the final two innings. Cincinnati's bullpen had a 4.11 ERA that was ranked 14th out of 16 National League clubs. Before closer Aroldis Chapman, the only other lefty at manager Bryan Price's disposal for most of the season was Manny Parra, who regressed following a strong 2013.

Marshall was unable to pitch during Spring Training because of shoulder soreness and began the year on the disabled list. After his April 19 activation, he posted a 7.71 ERA in 15 appearances before going on the DL again for the rest of the season on June 14. During the surgery to repair his shoulder, he had stem cells infused to help speed healing. He also has undergone platelet-rich plasma injections -- a therapy that has been used on teammates like Homer Bailey and Joey Votto.

Unlike Tommy John surgery on the elbow, successful returns from shoulder surgeries are less predictable and have mixed track records. Marshall has been doing all he can to improve his odds. He maintained core and leg workouts all summer and recently advanced to an upper body lifting program and felt good.

"The strength is there and stability is there. That's exciting," Marshall said. "My next step will be doing overhead internal rotation, which will end up building arm strength to throw."

During his first season with the Reds in 2012, Marshall led the club with 73 appearances and posted a 2.51 ERA while stranding 25 of 34 inherited baserunners. His effectiveness increased when he moved from closing to an eighth-inning role before Chapman. Left shoulder tendinitis and a shoulder sprain marred most of Marshall's 2013 season.

"It's been definitely tough to be a spectator the majority of the last two years to not be able to be out there and competing," Marshall said. "I know we did the right thing as far as the repair and the PRP and other procedures. As a whole, I should be better than I was before. I'm optimistic for that. I know I missed the guys a lot, and I think they missed me a lot down there. I'm really looking forward to being back."

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.