Cincinnati’s Hoffman completes rehab assignment with Dragons

Reds pitcher Jeff Hoffman pitches during the second inning Friday for the Dayton Dragons in his final rehab start. Hoffman expects to rejoin the Reds this week. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Reds pitcher Jeff Hoffman pitches during the second inning Friday for the Dayton Dragons in his final rehab start. Hoffman expects to rejoin the Reds this week. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Right-hander feeling good, expects to rejoin Reds next week

Jeff Hoffman’s final rehab start for the Reds didn’t look great on the scoreboard, but the right-hander said his shoulder felt healthy after throwing 63 pitches in three innings for the Dayton Dragons.

“How I felt was the main thing,” he said. “Today was kind of like a stay fresh because I didn’t want to go a full 10 days in between my two outings.”

Hoffman previously made four starts for Triple-A Louisville, so his 30-day window for rehab appearances has closed. He expects to rejoin the Reds next week. Reports on Friday said the Reds are considering Hoffman as part of a six-man starting rotation. Otherwise, he would pitch out of the bullpen. Hoffman said he hasn’t been told what his role will be.

“I don’t care what I do,” Hoffman said. “As long as I’m out there helping the team, I’m happy.”

Hoffman got his innings in just in time. A rain delay that began in the top of the fourth with Great Lakes leading the Dragons 5-1 turned into a suspended game. The Dragons will finish the nine-inning game Saturday at 4:30 p.m., then play a seven-inning game that will begin no earlier than 7 p.m.

Hoffman allowed three possible future Dodgers to hit solo home runs. Brandon Lewis, who homered over the batter’s eye in center field on Thursday, blasted an 0-2 hanging curveball in the second inning. Joe Vranesh made it back-to-back homers when he hit a fastball down the middle over the concession stand in left. Zac Ching led off the third and he hit another down-the-middle fastball for a homer to left-center.

“I gave up a couple bad fastballs in the middle of the plate, and it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, professional hitters hit fastballs,” Hoffman said. “I would like to get those pitches more to the edge, and it’s a good thing I gave them up here and not against the Mets or Brewers.”

Hoffman’s final line was three innings, five hits, four runs, one walk and five strikeouts. His last two strikeouts came with runners at second and third.

“That felt good,” Hoffman said. “To end it with the two punchouts was cool.”

In five rehab starts, Hoffman had a 3.93 ERA in 18 1/3 innings. He allowed 16 hits, five homers, five walks and struck out 25. Hoffman’s fastball velocity in the first two innings Friday was between 93-96 mph, which is his normal range. In the third he topped out at 92.

“From the last part of the season when I was healthy till now, it’s been a very big difference in the way I feel,” Hoffman said. “The rehab program that I went through was very, very good. I can’t say enough about the work that the rehab guys with the Reds did. It feels good to be back and healthy.”

The Reds put Hoffman, 28, on the injured list on May 27 after he left a game in Washington in the second inning with an impingement in his right shoulder. Hoffman said the front of his shoulder felt pinched and pulled forward. He pitched a few outings with the shoulder not feeling 100 percent, and eventually the shoulder stopped moving the way it should and became too inflamed to continue.

“I was pitching with it and there were no issues,” Hoffman said. “Then velocity kind of went away and that becomes really hard to go out and battle through it when you have no velocity.”

Friday notes: Dragons second baseman Francisco Urbaez doubled to lead off the first to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

The Dragons scored their only run in the second. Quin Cotton singled to the right-field corner and Andy Pages let the ball get past him for an error that allowed Cotton to reach third. Miguel Hernandez followed with a line-drive single to left.

Spencer Stockton relieved Hoffman to start the fourth. He allowed a run and had a runner on first with two outs and a 2-2 count on Justin Yurchak when play was stopped.