CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker has demonstrated a keen eye for knowing when his players need to be rested. Baker gave Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen days off on Thursday and both responded with two hits in Friday's 8-5 loss to the Cardinals.

Back in late May, Baker gave Joey Votto his first day off when he sensed he was dragging. A refreshed Votto then went on a serious tear at the plate.

"You take in consideration the past games you've played," Baker said on Saturday. "You take in consideration the present games and the importance of the series and who you're playing and who you're going to play next. And weather conditions, matchups and a lot of things go into it."

Baker never wants to give a game away by benching a player or two, and players have learned to trust him when he tells them they're sitting.

"Historically, my teams that have been good teams and gone to the playoffs, except my 2010 team, we had an excellent record in September and early October," Baker said. "You try to win every day, naturally, but you monitor their playing time throughout the course of the year, because when they're out of gas, they're out of gas. In this marathon, if you kick at mile 20, you might crawl to the finish. I told our guys it's not hero time yet. It's getting there, though."

Baker indicated that center fielder Drew Stubbs could be rested on Sunday, and that left fielder Ryan Ludwick might be next.

"It depends on how he feels, physically. He's been sore lately," Baker said of Ludwick. "This is the most he's played in a long time. You try to monitor his play. Everybody wants to know why he doesn't play every day, but he's had a history of getting banged up. You try to preserve him until this fall weather gets here."

Navarro relishing opportunity to be in pennant race

CINCINNATI -- With Devin Mesoraco's unexpected demotion to Triple-A, Reds backup catcher Dioner Navarro finds himself back in a pennant race again.

Navarro was called up Tuesday while Mesoraco served a two-game suspension. When the suspension was finished, it was Navarro who got to stay. He started behind the plate Saturday against the Cardinals, catching starter Mike Leake. Mesoraco exclusively caught starters Homer Bailey and Leake, but manager Dusty Baker isn't locked into the same plan with Navarro.

"I don't know. It's kind of what I see and if it's day after night and different stuff," Baker said. "Right now, everybody is dragging a little bit. I think I know what I have in Navarro, but I'm not really sure. This is a guy with a lot of experience. He's a guy that's caught some big-time quality pitchers in Tampa. They've been to the World Series and playoffs, All-Star Game, all kinds of stuff."

Primary catcher Ryan Hanigan has generally worked with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo, and on Wednesday, he caught for Bailey, too.

"I don't know if Hani, physically, should catch four out of five days," Baker said.

The 28-year-old Navarro was signed last winter by Cincinnati and invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player. He batted .319 for Triple-A Louisville this season. In parts of the past two seasons with the Rays and Dodgers, he batted below .200.

"It's been a couple of rough two years for me," Navarro said. "I had an opportunity with this team to go down to Triple-A and play almost every day and produce how I think I am capable of. Now being up here, I'm trying to help this team get to the promised land. I'm really excited about this opportunity and will try to take full advantage of it."

In 2008, for the American League champion Rays, Navarro batted .295 and made the All-Star team.

Navarro, who started one game earlier this month while Mesoraco was on the seven-day disabled list for a concussion, hadn't worked with most of the Reds' staff since camp. He isn't concerned about being on the same page with the pitchers.

"You just have to get to know them a little better and click," he said. "Once you click with somebody, it's like riding a bike. It will stay there."

Votto 'very, very close' to returning, says Baker

CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who has been out since July 16 because of two left knee surgeries to repair damaged cartilage, was back on the field for batting practice on Saturday.

For Votto, who ran the full gamut of baseball activity on Friday, it might not be much longer before he is activated from the disabled list.

"He came out good so far," Baker said of Votto's Friday workout. "He's getting very, very close."

Worth noting

• A camera crew and staff from MLB Productions have been shooting the Reds and Cardinals behind the scenes this weekend for a new series called "Caught Looking." The one-hour program, which focuses on a different series with playoff implications each week, will air this weekend's effort at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday on NBC Sports Network.