CINCINNATI -- Scott Rolen found out the other day he wasn't as sneaky as he thought.

During a recent game, the injured Reds third baseman tried to test his strained left shoulder with some swings in the cage behind the home dugout.

"I snuck in, looked around -- nobody," Rolen explained on Tuesday. "I went around the back way and had a bat in there, dragged it with me, no batting gloves, nothing, and a ball was already on the tee. [I heard] 'I thought we weren't going to do that.' It was [Dr. Tim] Kremchek of all people. I haven't even swung yet. I told him this place is bugged.

"It was a covert operation, around the middle of the game, so nobody could be around. I had it all set except for the doctor walking in. I took about five unauthorized swings."

And that was basically the extent of the baseball-related activity Rolen has had since he went on the 15-day disabled list April 24. The only approved activities he's done have been cardiovascular and leg workouts and playing catch with teammate Joey Votto.

"I could probably go out there and take ground balls, but it seems to come a little quicker than the other stuff," Rolen said.

Rolen will not come off of the DL on Friday when eligible. His sore shoulder had also caused issues with the muscles around his neck and upper back, but that has been alleviated.

"I'm feeling better. I have more motion in my shoulders," Rolen said. "I can feel this stuff [between his neck and back] letting go a little bit. It's giving me some range of motion and some relief."

At the advice of Kremchek, the Reds' medical director, Rolen started acupuncture and has already had two sessions. He had just returned from one when he walked into the clubhouse.

"I will see where it ends up. It's not going to hurt anything, I know that," Rolen said. "Hopefully, it's helping already. The point is I'm down right now, let's get our hands around it instead of taking the next step and wishing we didn't."

Reds to activate Cueto for Sunday start

CINCINNATI -- The Reds have decided to scratch a planned final rehab assignment start for pitcher Johnny Cueto and will activate the right-hander from the disabled list to start Sunday at Chicago against the Cubs.

"I'm ready. I'm pretty happy. I feel good," Cueto said Tuesday following his team's 10-4 loss to the Astros.

The Reds have not had Cueto in the rotation since Spring Training because of right biceps/triceps irritation. In his four rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville, he had a 6.28 ERA with six walks and 13 strikeouts. His return is coming not long after Homer Bailey, who will be activated from the DL to start against Houston on Thursday.

Cueto will be taking the spot occupied by Mike Leake, who pitched a season-low 3 2/3 innings and allowed a season-high seven runs on Tuesday night. However, the decision to replace Leake was made before the game. The club has decided to keep left-hander Travis Wood in the rotation it appears. Wood, who will start Wednesday against Houston, has struggled in two of his last three starts.

"We'll probably move [Leake] to the bullpen," Reds manager Dusty Baker said postgame. "We were trying to do that anyway. Remember, coming out of Spring Training, he was going to be the long man. He performed well in those other guys' absence. Tonight was the first time he got whacked around in a while. You can't exactly pick your nights when you get whacked around."

In his last assignment start for Louisville on Sunday, Cueto threw 99 pitches over only 4 2/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) with five hits, two walks and six strikeouts. There was talk of making some adjustments and having him pitch on Friday for Class A Dayton.

"I felt good," Cueto said. "It's different at Triple-A, with the hitters. They got a lot of fouls. I threw strikes -- foul, foul, foul. I felt good. I felt ready to go."

Renteria not ready to play third base

CINCINNATI -- Edgar Renteria entered Tuesday with 2,070 games in his 16-season Major League career -- about 99 percent of them at shortstop. After Sunday's game, Reds manager Dusty Baker said he planned to give Renteria his first game at third base on Monday.

But before the game was rained out, Renteria was in the lineup at shortstop -- as he was for Tuesday's game. The 34-year-old has been taking ground balls at third base lately, especially after regular third baseman Scott Rolen went on the disabled list.

"I know I don't feel comfortable there yet," Renteria said on Tuesday. "It's different between playing and taking ground balls. Maybe I will like it when I play there."

Paul Janish, the Reds' regular shortstop, started at third base for the second time this season on Tuesday against the Astros. Baker is giving Rolen's primary fill-in, Miguel Cairo, some rest to recover from being sore from Saturday's game. Renteria expects at some point to get into a game at third base.

"It's a new thing," he said. "In life you have to try a lot of things."

Francisco swinging, taking ground balls

CINCINNATI -- Injured third baseman Juan Francisco, on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf strain, took ground balls during batting practice on Tuesday.

"I feel a lot better," Francisco said before taking the field. "I hit a little bit yesterday and ran."

Out since April 18, Francisco was eligible to be activated on Monday but will likely head out on a rehabilitation assignment in the Minors first. Although strapped for a third baseman without the injured Scott Rolen, Reds manager Dusty Baker isn't rushing Francisco back.

"Anybody that's ever hurt a calf, it's tougher to heal than a hammy or quad," Baker said. "It takes a while. He's working at it. You don't want a setback. I've seen guys do it. They come back, try to do too much as soon as they run, have a setback and they're kind of back to zero."

Worth noting

• In seven games since his rehab assignment was moved to Triple-A Louisville, outfielder Fred Lewis (strained right oblique) is batting .316 (6-for-19) with one home run and three RBIs.

• Double-A Carolina infielder Cody Puckett was named the Southern League's Hitter of the Week after he batted .345 with three homers and 13 RBIs in seven games.