Reds recall Villarreal, option Smith to Louisville

The Reds continued maneuvering their bullpen pieces Wednesday when they recalled right-hander Pedro Villarreal from Triple-A Louisville and optioned Josh Smith back to Louisville. The Reds purchased Smith’s contract from the Bats on Monday and had him in uniform for their first two games against the Cubs but he wasn’t used in either as the teams have split their first series of the season at Wrigley Field.

Villarreal, 27, is in his eighth season in the Reds organization since being picked in the seventh round of the draft in 2007. He’s been called up each of the last three seasons, making a total of 15 appearances with one start totaling 21 1/3 innings. Villarreal had pitched in one game this season for Louisville, tossing two scoreless innings.

The Reds’ bullpen is ranked last in the National League with an ERA of 5.26 in the second week of the season and already have three blown saves. The trio of closer Aroldis Chapman, right-hander J.J. Hoover and left-hander Tony Cingrani have allowed a combined one run on seven hits with 17 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings, but Manny Parra, Kevin Gregg, Burke Badenhop and Jumbo Diaz have allowed 14 runs on 20 hits in a combined 12 innings of relief work.

Chapman has worked in six of the first eight games for the Reds this season, while everyone in the bullpen has made at least three appearances. The Reds have an off-day on Thursday before starting a three-game weekend series in St. Louis against the Cardinals.

One reliever who won’t be back in the fold is left-hander Ryan Dennick. He was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday. The Reds had designated Dennick for assignment on Monday, along with right-hander Daniel Corcino, to make room for Smith and catcher Kyle Skipworth on the 40-man roster.