LOS ANGELES -- For the second straight day, the Reds were without first baseman Joey Votto and third baseman Scott Rolen.

"We're operating short," Reds manager Dusty Baker said hours before his club opened a three-game series against the Dodgers on Monday night.

Votto, who has inflammation in his left knee that forced him out in the middle of Saturday's game against the Giants, has shown some improvement.

"Not much better but I feel better," Votto said. "It's improved but not to the point where I think they're comfortable with me starting. Ultimately, it's how I feel and if my knee has reacted positively. But we've got a long season to go. I don't want to risk banging up the knee some more because of it."

Baker and Votto weren't sure if the three-time All-Star first baseman would be available to pinch-hit.

"You certainly don't want to risk losing him for an extended period of time," Baker said.

There was no consideration of placing Votto, one of baseball's best hitters, on the disabled list.

"It's way too early," Baker said. "We'll just give him whatever time we think is necessary. I'm not even thinking DL."

Rolen, who exited Sunday's game in the first inning before he even batted, is still hurting from lower back spasms. On Monday, he moved gingerly through the clubhouse with a wrap on his back and was receiving electronic stimulation to calm it down. He was unlikely to be available off the bench.

"It could be a few days," Rolen said. "I've had similar back spasm issues and they seem to be with me two or three days. Today is normally the worst day and it just locks up on me. I will keep going, do some [abdominal] stuff, stuff I've done in the past to knock it out."

Rolen, who did not believe he needed another DL stint, felt his back betray him just as Zack Cozart led off the game against San Francisco.

"I took a few swings off the tee and it was a little tight," Rolen said. "I took another one, it was a little tighter. Since I was going to hit in a second, I said, 'Let's see what happens here. Something's gotta give.' The last one just locked up into spasms."

Both Votto's and Rolen's contributions were missed in Sunday's 4-3 loss. Neither were available when the Reds had a bases-loaded rally in the top of the ninth with a chance to take the lead. The team's best hitting pitcher, Mike Leake, is available for pinch-hitting duty to pick up some of the slack.

"Unless he's pitching the next day," Baker said. "We've got to give him plenty of time to get loose. I don't want to give him any last-minute calls and he pulls an oblique or leg muscle. Yesterday, his spikes were ready to go."

Top prospect Hamilton may be on the move

LOS ANGELES -- It is looking more and more likely that a promotion to Double-A Pensacola is near for the Reds' top prospect, Billy Hamilton. The shortstop has an astounding 100 stolen bases and a .327 average for Class A Bakersfield.

The Reds haven't addressed any speculation about Hamilton.

"I won't answer that," said Bill Bavasi, the Reds' vice president of scouting, player development and international operations, while visiting Dodger Stadium on Monday.

There is no doubting that Hamilton is well regarded by the organization, which will be sending him to the MLB All-Star Futures game in Kansas City this weekend.

"It's cliché to say he's a special talent because it's way overused, but I don't know how else to explain it," Bavasi said.

Hamilton, who has been caught stealing 21 times, has 47 walks and 61 strikeouts to go with a .416 on-base percentage. The Reds view him as future top-of-the-order guy when he eventually reaches the Majors.

"He has a desire and the instincts to do something not everyone wants to do, and that's be a leadoff hitter," Bavasi said. "A lot of people say the leadoff hitter only bats once a game, but there is still a mentality that goes through the whole game.

"He wants to be a leadoff hitter. He understands the importance of it. He knows what he should do and shouldn't do. He knows he should be on base. That's a special thing to have. He's on his journey. When he takes that next step, he'll have to learn more things because the game will be a little faster and a little tougher."

Worth noting

On Monday, the Reds signed their first-round supplemental pick, outfielder Jeff Gelalich, seventh-round pick and outfielder Beau Amaral and a 10th-rounder in right-handed pitcher Jeremy Kivel.