CINCINNATI -- Two days after they watched free-agent right-hander Jason Isringhausen throw in a bullpen session at Great American Ball Park, the Reds agreed to terms with the reliever on a Minor League contract Thursday.

Isringhausen will meet Triple-A Louisville at Gwinnett and officially sign his contract. It will likely take him at least a couple of weeks for him to get big league-ready. The 37-year-old hasn't pitched in the Majors since June 2009 for the Rays before his right elbow blew out and required Tommy John surgery.

"I thought he threw very well," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Isringhausen's session. "I didn't say it that day because I didn't want too many people on the outside to know. I was very pleasantly surprised."

If Isringhausen comes up, he'd likely be used in a late-inning or setup capacity. The Reds have been seeking bullpen help, but have come up empty on the trade market to this point. Last week, the club signed Russ Springer and sent him to Louisville.

With 293 career saves, Isringhausen is fourth among active pitchers -- one spot ahead of Cincinnati closer Francisco Cordero. Isringhausen pitched for Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and notched 217 saves from 2002-08, when both were with the Cardinals.

"He's looking strong," Baker said. "He's been working out. A lot of times, guys come back stronger because he had time to let his body heal naturally. When you're rehabbing, you're pressing the envelope a little bit trying to speed up the healing process. There's no better healer than natural time."

Hernandez activated, playing first base

CINCINNATI -- The Reds activated catcher Ramon Hernandez from the disabled list Thursday. But in a way to ease him back into the lineup, Hernandez was given a start at first base so Joey Votto could get a rest.

"I feel good. You're always a little itchy to get back," Hernandez said.

Hernandez hadn't played since July 4 because of a sore left knee, the same knee he had surgery on last season, which caused him to miss two months. Unlike last season before he went down, he has felt better since being out.

"Right now, it's nothing," said Hernandez, who has caught bullpen sessions the last few days. "My guess is I will be sore after the game. But you're always playing with something being sore."

The plan is to have Hernandez resume catching in a game Saturday at Houston. Ryan Hanigan caught on Thursday against the Nationals.

Miller sent outright to Louisville

CINCINNATI -- To make room for the activation of Ramon Hernandez, the Reds sent veteran catcher Corky Miller outright to Triple-A Louisville. Miller already cleared waivers.

"It was a very tough decision. He played well," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's valuable to our organization and to us, and he'll be back at some point in time."

Miller, 34, was excellent defensively and had a reputation of calling good games. In his 18 games behind the plate, Reds pitchers had a 3.03 ERA, which was better than Ryan Hanigan (3.57) and Hernandez (4.90).

But Baker was pleased with the hitting progress the 34-year-old Miller made during his most recent big league stint. He batted .246 in 24 games, well above his .188 career average.

"A lot of times you don't think that can happen at that age, but you see it happening and you're happy for him," Baker said.

Rolen misses sixth straight game

CINCINNATI -- Third baseman Scott Rolen was out the lineup for the sixth straight game Thursday, but the Reds are still hoping they don't have to put him on the disabled list.

Manager Dusty Baker said Rolen will travel to Houston for this weekend's series. He's been out since Saturday nursing a sore right hamstring, which he hurt when tagging up on a fly ball Friday. Baker compared Rolen's situation to that of Joey Votto in May, when the first baseman missed six games with a stiff neck, but did not go on the DL.

Baker said he wouldn't want to put Rolen on the DL only to have him recover and be healthy but inactive for a week. He said Rolen is doing more and more work to get back every day.

"We need some guys to pick it up until he gets back," Baker said. "That's what good teams do."

Veteran Miguel Cairo got the start again at third base Thursday. He went 2-for-2 with two walks and two RBIs on Wednesday, raising his average to .309.