HOUSTON -- Since his highly-anticipated promotion to the Reds from Triple-A Louisville on July 26, Yonder Alonso was limited to pinch-hitting duty and entering on double switches. That changed on Monday against the Astros when Alonso made his first big league start in left field. He started three games at first base for the Reds last season.

A smaller left field at Minute Maid Park played a part in manager Dusty Baker's decision to start Alonso. It's only 315 feet to the wall at the foul line and 362 feet in left-center field.

"It's a big difference. That's what I tried to do over the years for Jonny Gomes," Baker said. "There is less ground to cover."

Having less ground to cover in Houston doesn't take away all the issues, however.

"The wall here presents a problem for anybody who hasn't played here. You don't know the caroms," Baker said. "The center fielder has big territory to cover, huge. You need [Drew] Stubbs or a rabbit out there for defense. Especially with Bronson [Arroyo] pitching and a fly-ball pitcher, it's very important that you try to have good outfield defense."

Alonso, who played 62 games in left field for Louisville this season as he converted from previously playing mostly first base, delivered three hits in his first four at-bats but went 0-for-3 in the 4-3 loss on Monday.

Votto on an offensive tear after rest

HOUSTON -- One week ago, Reds manager Dusty Baker made good on a plan to give first baseman Joey Votto some rest. To his credit, Votto certainly hasn't squandered the boost recharged batteries can provide.

Votto came into Monday's series opener against the Astros with a six-game hitting streak and was 10-for-25 (.400) with four home runs, two doubles and nine RBIs since July 25. That production earned him National League Player of the Week honors on Monday.

"I think there is more to it, but it helped," Votto said of the break from the lineup last week, only his second of the season. "It's been a long year and the All-Star break wasn't much of a break. I was just tired and frustrated. Getting a day off helps you get back to neutral."

Before the day off, Votto began the second half in a 7-for-33 (.212) funk with no homers and four RBIs in nine games. Overall, he came into Monday's action batting .319 with 17 homers, 68 RBIs and a league-leading .428 on-base percentage.

"I feel like the difference this past week or couple of weeks is I haven't missed so much," Votto said. "My swing was a little long at times during the season. I feel like I was little overaggressive at times also. I made an adjustment and it's worked immediately. For stretches this season, I would miss -- over and over and over -- pitches that I should have put in play or fouled off and not miss completely."

Votto went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored to extend his hitting streak to seven games in the Reds' 4-3, 10-inning loss on Monday.

Hernandez happy to remain with Reds

HOUSTON -- Relieved like Bill Murray's character finally getting to Feb. 3 in the film "Groundhog Day," Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez was pleased to have made it to Aug. 1 still in a Reds uniform.

Hernandez was one of the main Reds names involved in trade rumors, especially for the catching-starved team his club just played -- the Giants.

"I'm happy to be here," Hernandez said. "We have a good team and a good group of guys. I want to be here. I want to play with this team. We're going through tough times right now and I want to be here for that, too, so I can help us get out of this. We've got a good shot. We still have two months to go and we're going to fight all the way."

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty squashed rumors on Friday by saying he wasn't interested in dealing Hernandez. But the veteran catcher was still worried about being moved.

"It was because you were thinking every day you might get a call to the office, and you don't know," Hernandez said. "It was a distraction, but I was trying to keep my focus and concentration on the game, on what I have to do to help the pitcher and make the right calls and help my team win."

Eight among 2012 Reds HOF nominees

HOUSTON -- It was revealed on Monday that eight former players have been placed on the modern player ballot for possible induction into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2012.

The candidates are pitchers Jeff Brantley, John Franco, Danny Graves and Scott Sullivan, first basemen Sean Casey and Hal Morris and outfielders Paul O'Neill and Reggie Sanders.

Fans can vote at a variety of places including online at RedsMuseum.org. The player receiving the most fan votes will be honored with induction as part of the Reds Hall of Fame's Class of 2012. Fans can vote for up to three players.