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One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2023 season, the Reds enter Friday's action 56-48. That's 1 1/2 games out in the NL Central and good enough to hold down the third and final NL wild-card spot. Their biggest need in front of the trade deadline is rotation help and that remains the case, but they also could alleviate some of the need there with the successful return of two particular young guns: Lefty Hunter Greene and righty Nick Lodolo

Friday, the Reds laid out their hopeful plan with the two youngsters. The target date for a Greene return is Aug. 20 while they are looking for Lodolo to come back before the end of August (via Charlie Goldsmith). 

Greene has been out since June 17 with a hip injury. He threw a side session on Tuesday and his minor-league rehab stint will likely start very soon with the Reds looking at a date a touch over three weeks from now as his return to the majors. Lodolo has been out a bit longer, as he last started May 6 and has been dealing with a lower leg injury. 

The two talented Reds starting pitchers are often tied together due to their promise as a possible duo of aces in the future. Greene was drafted second overall out of high school in 2017 and made his MLB debut April 10, 2022. Lodolo was selected seventh overall out of TCU in 2019 and made his MLB debut three days after Greene. Each has had issues with consistency but has flashed elite-level upside. 

Rookie lefty Andrew Abbott (1.90 ERA) has been a revelation, with the Reds going 8-2 in his 10 starts. Fellow youngster Graham Ashcraft was having a disaster of a sophomore campaign into late June, but has a 2.10 ERA in his last five outings. Still, rotation help will be needed if they're to hold onto their playoff spot. Entering play on Friday, Cincinnati was 27th in baseball in rotation ERA and 23rd in rotation WAR. 

It's possible at some point late in the season Abbott and/or Ashcraft work up into innings pitched ranges the Reds won't love and past them it's tough sledding. That's where the re-additions of Greene and Lodolo could end up paying huge dividends the last few weeks of the pennant race. 

The Reds still could use a steady and effective veteran presence in the rotation, but Greene and Lodolo on the path to recovery is great news in the club's pursuit of what was once a very unlikely playoff berth.