CINCINNATI -- Because of two sprained knuckles on his left hand, Reds rookie center fielder Billy Hamilton has been out of the starting lineup for a week, including Friday night's series opener against the Rockies.
But Hamilton took batting practice and was good enough to pinch-hit and deliver a big moment. Batting for Johnny Cueto in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth, Hamilton lined a leadoff double to right field and scored the go-ahead run before the Reds won a 4-3 game in the ninth.
"He hasn't had a ton of right-handed at-bats, especially since he had his hand banged up again," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
On Friday there was still swelling in Hamilton's hand but also some improvement from the past few days, when he was still unable to grip a bat.
Move to No. 4 spot sparks Votto vs. Rockies
CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto has not been hitting up to his normal standards of late, and he is not the slightest bit concerned.
Votto entered Friday batting .162 (6-for-37) over his previous 10 games since April 26. His overall .263 average entering the night was his lowest this late in a season since he was batting .261 through 50 games and 157 plate appearances on May 24, 2008.
"At the end of the year, you'll probably look up and I'll look about the same," said Votto, who has finished every full season except his first batting above .300. "I'll tell you what. During my career, baseball-reference has been a really good friend to me."
It should be noted that Votto's on-base percentage was still .326 during his recent slump.
After bring hitless his first three at-bats, Votto came through huge Friday night in a 4-3 Reds win. His leadoff homer -- on a 3-0 count vs. lefty Boone Logan -- came in the bottom of the ninth for the walk-off victory. Manager Bryan Price gave Votto the green light to swing.
"If we're down by two there, I don't think you do it," Price said. "Not just because it's a lefty-lefty matchup, but we need baserunners. But a tie ballgame, if there's a chance for him to get a pitch to hit that at-bat other than a mistake, it's going to be 3-0. He's the guy. We know what he can do offensively. He's in the position to do just that in those situations -- to be smart enough and be short enough with his swing to do something like he did tonight."
Price had juggled the lineup again on Friday, moving Votto from the second spot to fourth and catcher Brayan Pena up to No. 2 against the Rockies. The most recent time Price made a change with Votto, from third to second, it produced results for the team's offense.
Like the move to No. 2, Votto was ambivalent about switching to clean-up.
"I don't care, as long as I'm not protection for Johnny Cueto," Votto said, joking before Friday night's game.
Votto appeared optimistic that if he kept playing, his production would get better.
"The objective is to stay on the field and stay healthy and just continue to improve and be a part of some wins in the future," Votto said before the game. "At some point, it will come along. The disappointing part is that my struggles have been coming alongside some close losses, which is probably the most frustrating part. At some point, I will be hitting well during some winning. Hopefully that happens sooner than later."
Price felt that Pena in the second spot could provide Votto with more chances to do damage.
"We're missing a couple of big pieces, run producing pieces in Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco -- they were guys providing us with some RBIs," Price said before the game. "I think Brayan gives you a good at-bat, especially from the left side. He's hit a lot from the left side this year, in particular.
"It would be nice to get some guys on base and put Joey back there behind them. It would give Brandon [Phillips] and Joey an opportunity to drive in some runs. It's not like me to be stagnant, and I think there are some things we can do to get the offense back into gear."
Chapman not activated for opener vs. Rox
CINCINNATI -- Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was not activated from the disabled list on Friday as had been anticipated. Chapman just completed a rehab assignment at Class A Dayton and Triple-A Louisville.
In the two outings for Louisville, Chapman gave up eight earned runs and seven hits over one combined inning. Reds manager Bryan Price said Chapman could be back on Saturday.
"He threw back-to-back days on Tuesday and Wednesday," Price said. "From a practical standpoint, it would be better to go into a new series with a group of fresh arms. I would say his is probably not."
Chapman has been working to return from being struck in the face by a line drive on March 19, an injury that required surgery to repair fractures above the left eye and nose.
Hamstring holds up as Mesoraco runs sprints
CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left hamstring, took a big step forward on Friday when he ran some sprints.
"I ran six, eight sprints at 100 percent with no problems," Mesoraco said. "I think [Saturday] I will run some bases. That's a last step usually. I will get on the bases, make the turn and run back and forth a little bit. It's been good."
Mesoraco is eligible to be activated from the DL on Sunday, and though he has been hitting and throwing for over a week, he wasn't sure if he would return then.
"That's something that people who make those decisions will have to talk about," Mesoraco said. "I'm confident that my hamstring is healthy; that's the only thing that is my concern. I was surprised with how well it started to come back. I'm very happy and thankful that it did come back this quick."
Surgery turning out to be quick fix for Bruce
CINCINNATI -- Reds right fielder Jay Bruce, who had surgery on Monday to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee, has already been without crutches for two days and began his rehab the day of the operation.
"It's amazing that when something like this gets fixed, my pain is gone," Bruce said on Friday. "There is still some general swelling in there, which is to be expected after having surgery. Honestly, I feel great."
Bruce still did not know how he sustained the injury.
"It was gradual," Bruce said. "Who knows how long it was torn? It's something I had been able to deal with. But it got to the point that it wasn't benefitting me or the team, and I had to say something to get it done. It was better sooner than later."
For the third time since Bruce has been out of the lineup, Chris Heisey started in right field on Friday vs. Colorado.
"I told Heisey to make me look bad," Bruce said. "Make them forget that I am hurt."