Getty Images

While the first-place Cincinnati Reds count as one of the season's pleasant surprises thus far, their battered rotation remains a threat to undo the team's recent strides. 

On that front, the Reds received discouraging news on young rotation linchpin Hunter Greene. Greene has been sidelined since June 17 with hip soreness, and the 23-year-old's return is not imminent. Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Greene is "headed to Arizona to start a core program, followed by a throwing program the team expects to take a total of four to six weeks."

That means Greene probably won't be in line to return to the rotation until August, and that's barring setbacks. Greene is one of multiple Cincy starting pitchers on the injured list right now, including Nick Lodolo, who, as Wittenmeyer notes, is operating on similar timetable. 

As for Greene, the right-hander and former No. 2 overall pick this season has pitched to a 3.93 ERA (121 ERA+) with 100 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. Greene has ace upside, and he figures to resume realizing that potential once he gets healthy. For now, though, he'll still be out for some time. 

Reds GM Nick Krall recently suggested that the team would be active as buyers leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline, and the club badly needs rotation reinforcements. The problem is that many contenders need starting pitching, and the expanded playoffs plus the eminently winnable NL and AL Central divisions mean that not many teams figure to be selling. For Cincy, though, their hopes of making the postseason may in part hinge on Krall's ability to land a starting pitcher that serves as a bridge to what they hope will be better stretch-drive health.