Baker hoping Reds get some offense back soon

Published 1:39 am Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CINCINNATI (AP) — With his team struggling to score runs and stay above .500, Reds manager Dusty Baker is close to getting some offensive help with the return of several key players.

Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who has been on the disabled list since late April with a chip fracture in his left wrist, began a rehab stint in the minor leagues Sunday.

‘‘It’s a pretty big step right away,’’ Baker said of Encarnacion heading to Triple-A Louisville. ‘‘But at least the (pitchers’) control will be better. You don’t have to worry about getting hit (like you do) some of those other places.’’

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First baseman Joey Votto, on the disabled list since May 30 with stress-related issues, continued his rehab assignment Sunday at Single-A Dayton.

‘‘I felt great out there,’’ Votto said. In two games with the Dragons, Votto had three hits, a home run and three RBI.

Votto, who was hitting .357 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs when he went on the disabled list, said he would talk with Baker, Reds trainer Mark Mann and general manager Walt Jocketty about when to return.

‘‘We’ll have a little conversation and come to a conclusion what I need to do next,’’ he said.

‘‘They know what I’ve been going through. They would be able to say, ’Are you ready to go?’ My answer would be yes.’’

The Reds travel to Toronto, where Votto grew up, to begin a three-game series with the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

‘‘Boy it would be nice to get him back,’’ Baker said. ‘‘You just got to be careful not to rush him.’’

At Votto’s request, the Reds have not released any information beyond the fact he is on the DL for stress-related issues.

Votto said he’ll tell his story when the time is right.

‘‘If I could be open with it, totally comfortable, and I will be, it will answer a lot of questions,’’ he said.

Sunday’s loss to the Chicago White Sox dropped the Reds to 34-34 overall, with a mark of 17-17 at home and 17-17 on the road.

‘‘We’re right in the thick of things,’’ Reds utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. said. ‘‘It’s just the nature of this game. We just have to keep scrapping and get healthy.’’

Hairston has taken over at shortstop with Alex Gonzalez on the disabled list because of bone chips in his right elbow. Gonzalez underwent surgery Monday to remove the chips and is expected to be out four to five weeks, the Reds said.