HOUSTON -- Joey Votto was not in Cincinnati's starting lineup on Monday for the first time this season, with Ramon Hernandez replacing Votto at first base.

Reds manager Dusty Baker felt Monday was as good a day as any in giving the reigning National League MVP a day off against Houston right-hander Aneury Rodriguez. Following a three-game series in Houston, the Reds have an off-day on Thursday, then play on 20 straight days.

"I thought of all the days ... it would be today," said Baker. "You got [Astros starter Brett] Myers tomorrow and Wandy [Rodriguez] the next day. Then we got the Cardinals, the Cubs, Pirates, Cleveland, the Phillies, Atlanta, Milwaukee. A tough stretch. Through a process of elimination, today was the day."

Votto, whose streak of reaching base safely to start a season ended at 33 games on Sunday after he went 0-for-4, entered Monday leading the NL in runs (27) and walks (29) and was among the league leaders in almost every other category.

Miguel Cairo was a candidate to replace Votto on Monday at first base. But Cairo played all nine innings on Sunday in Chicago and has been bothered by a sore right knee.

"Plus, Hernandez is a pretty good first baseman, and Hernandez is one of our hottest hitters right now," said Baker. "Last night, he was asking who's playing first today? He likes playing first and he works at it. He works every day. Shortstop, first base. "

Primarily a catcher, Hernandez entered the game hitting .303 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. His five-game hitting streak was the longest active streak on the team.

During the Reds' 6-1 victory, Hernandez went 1-for-5 with a two-run homer in the fourth inning.

Rolen joins club, takes batting practice

HOUSTON -- Scott Rolen, who said he felt good, took batting practice on Monday and, earlier in the day, took some swings in the cage. The third baseman joined the team in Houston as he continues to recover from a strained left shoulder. Rolen also took some soft toss.

"It's nice to see him," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "He's been doing a lot of treatment and stuff."

Entering Monday, the Reds were 7-6 in games Rolen missed. There is no timetable when Rolen will return to the Reds lineup.

"Not right now," said Rolen, who was eligible to come off the disabled list on May 6. "I haven't really talked to anybody. Just kind of [working through] a program to see where I end up."

Baker said it has yet to be determined if Rolen will play in a rehab assignment before joining the team.

"It depends on his stroke, depends on his swing," said Baker.

Janish eager to play at home in Houston

HOUSTON -- Historically, infielder Paul Janish has had a number of ankle sprains from playing high-school basketball in Houston and playing college baseball at Rice, so he is used to dealing with the situation.

Janish was out of the Reds starting lineup on Monday for the third consecutive game with a sprained right ankle that occurred last Friday at Chicago while rounding third base.

"It's just tender," said Janish. "It's been a couple of days, but it feels a lot better right now. I feel if I had to play, I could, and I told them that. But right now we're erring on the side of caution. I'm hoping I get on the field in the next couple of days while we're in Houston."

Reds manager Dusty Baker would like to see Janish play sometime in the three-game series, but only if Janish is healthy.

"We'll see," said Baker. "You know how I like to play guys at home. But if there's a risk of possible setting them back, probably not."

Janish was born in Houston, graduated from Cypress Creek High School, and resides in Houston. He was a member of Rice's 2003 national championship baseball team. So there's more incentive to get back on the field this series at Minute Maid Park.

"I have a more vested interest since this is home," said Janish. "But at the same time, we do have a lot of season left, so we don't want to do anything crazy. There's no doubt there's some emotion involved in terms of getting on the field in Houston."

Bruce warming up at the plate in May

HOUSTON -- Entering Monday's game against the Astros, Jay Bruce had hit three of Cincinnati's last six home runs and four of its last eight. After a slow April, Cincinnati's right fielder is tearing up the ball in May.

"I'm just trying to take consistent at-bats and swings at quality pitches, and it's worked out so far this month," said Bruce.

In his previous 10 games, Bruce was 12-for-36 for a .333 batting average and eight RBIs. He entered Monday batting .258 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs.

Bruce isn't sure why he historically hits better as the season progresses.

"I've seen myself get better throughout the season, and I don't know why that is because I feel the same," said Bruce. "Things start happening. It's all about execution and having a plan and sticking to it. And I've done that for the most part."

Bruce went hitless in the 6-1 victory over the Astros on Monday, lowering his average to .250.