CINCINNATI -- Reds starter Mike Leake has thrown to the same man behind home plate all season long.
That changed Saturday as Dioner Navarro made his Reds debut in the absence of Devin Mesoraco, who went on the seven-day disabled list Wednesday with a concussion.
"I'm just excited, and I'm going to try to take the most out of this opportunity," said Navarro, who was called up from Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday. "I couldn't be more grateful for this organization, and I'm just excited overall. It's been a long, long time."
Navarro hasn't seen Major League action since August 2011, when he was with the Dodgers.
He has spent the entire 2012 season at Louisville, where he was hitting .330 with four home runs and 27 RBIs in 57 games, but he is finally getting his call to duty in the most pivotal series for the Reds this season.
"As a player, these are the types of games you want to play in, especially being in the Minors the whole year," Navarro said. "Now you're coming up to the big leagues, and I think you're trying to prove a point. You're trying to show that you're still capable of playing at this level. I'm really excited and really looking forward to this opportunity."
Navarro, an eight-year veteran, has had stints with the Yankees, Dodgers, Rays and now the Reds.
He was an All-Star selection in 2008 on a Rays team that made a run to the World Series.
"This guy has been in the big leagues before," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "It's not like it's his first game like a rookie. This guy is a former All-Star, and he was in the playoffs with Tampa Bay. This guy is more than ready. He was with us in Spring Training, and he was doing well in Triple-A."
The coaches told Navarro he would be starting Saturday three days ago when he arrived in Cincinnati, and the 28-year-old catcher said he didn't expect any lull between himself and the pitching.
"It's still the same," Navarro said. "I caught with almost all these guys in Spring Training, and I got the opportunity to go to the video room and watch some videos of what they do and what they don't like to do."
If Navarro continues to fill in for Mesoraco, he'll be in the starting lineup again Sunday, when Homer Bailey takes the mound.
"I'm just looking forward to today, and we'll think about tomorrow when it gets here," Navarro said.
Taking BP, Votto nearing return to Reds
CINCINNATI -- The Reds have yet to put a timetable on a return for Joey Votto, but they may have one set by the end of the weekend.
Votto, who has been out of the lineup since July 16 with a meniscus tear in his left knee, has slowly begun to resume baseball activities and took batting practice Friday and Saturday for the first time since his surgery July 17.
Head trainer Paul Lessard said he wasn't at liberty to judge the mechanics of Votto's swing but said the All-Star first baseman was relatively pain free in the cages.
"He was feeling fine, which is what matters to me. He's progressing," said Lessard, who couldn't pinpoint exactly where Votto stood on the road to recovery. "Really the last few days, he's been doing all baseball activities. It's kind of hard to say right now percentage-wise.
The Reds were 15-3 in Votto's absence but are still eager to get his .342 batting average, 14 home runs and 49 RBIs back in the lineup.
"We'll probably meet later on today or tomorrow and set up a program for this coming week," Lessard said. "We're just trying to get through this weekend right now."
Baker makes late decision to scratch Phillips
CINCINNATI -- After initially being slated to start Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was a late scratch from the lineup as a manager's decision.
Phillips left Tuesday's game against the Padres entering the eighth inning with a strain in his left calf, and he didn't play at all Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Reds manager Dusty Baker had Phillips starting until about 20 minutes before opening pitch.
Baker had expressed earlier in the day that he felt Phillips was ready and said it was "hell" trying to keep Phillips out of the lineup Friday night.
"You never really know," Baker said at the 4 p.m. ET manager's interview Saturday. "But [Phillips] knows how to play smart. He did it earlier in the year when he had a worse injury."
Entering Saturday, Phillips was batting .296 with 13 home runs and 62 RBIs this season and has been an instrumental part of the Reds' offense in the absence of Joey Votto. He is hitting .339 with three homers and 13 RBIs since Votto left the lineup.
On Friday, Baker said Phillips would be available to pinch-hit if needed.
Wilson Valdez started in place of Phillips.
Baker: Chapman did not intentionally hit McCutchen
CINCINNATI -- The Pirates' dugout was visibly upset Friday night after Reds closer Aroldis Chapman hit center fielder Andrew McCutchen in the arm with a 101-mph fastball with two outs in the ninth inning of the Reds' 3-0 win.
Both teams were fairly quiet on the issue after the game Friday, but Reds manager Dusty Baker made assurances Saturday that there was no ill intention in the throw.
"It wasn't intentional, they were pitching him inside," Baker said. "He hadn't done anything to us to merit us hitting him intentionally except play. He just plays hard. I'd be upset, too, because it hurts."
Chapman struck out Garrett Jones on three pitches in the following at-bat to secure the win.
Baker said he spoke with Chapman after Friday's game to see what happened on the pitch, and the hard-throwing lefty confirmed that he was just working McCutchen inside.
"I already asked Chapman, and the answer was no," Baker said. "He just said [McCutchen] has been hot and that they were trying to pitch him on the inside. There's not that much difference between a ball and a strike and a hit batsman on the inside. If you're coming inside, those things can happen."
The incident came the same night that Baker called McCutchen the MVP of the season so far, and the Reds skipper continued to reinforce that the Pirates All-Star gave no reason to be plunked.
"He doesn't clown, he doesn't showboat, he doesn't do nothing," Baker said. "He just plays. And he plays hard and he plays great. I'm sorry if they took it like that, but there was definitely no intent. Zero."
The Reds are hosting an equipment collection drive during Sunday's series finale against the Pirates. All fans that bring new or gently used baseball or softball equipment will receive two free tickets to the Sunday, Sept. 9, Reds vs. Astros game.
The Reds have won 21 of their last 24, marking the first time the club has accomplished a stretch that successful since 1900, and just the fourth time in franchise history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.