CINCINNATI -- Medication and rest appears to have helped Reds third baseman Scott Rolen and his back. Rolen, who had not been in the lineup since Sept. 4, entered as a pinch-hitter in the 13th inning of the Reds' 4-3, 14-inning win over the Pirates on Monday. He grounded into a forceout.
Rolen was on the field to take batting practice on Monday.
"He's better. There's a chance he can play real soon," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the game. "[Todd] Frazier has done a good job, all the guys have done a good job. But I mean, Scotty is our leader on the field. It's just a little different when your leader is not out there."
How critical is Rolen's leadership behind the scenes? According to Baker, very.
"Most teams, especially most good teams, have a leader," Baker said. "Leaders are not appointed by anybody, they're just sort of anointed by the players on the team on how they gravitate towards him, how they go to him for advice. They emulate how he plays, how he goes about his business as a professional.
"I've never appointed a captain, never, because you might appoint the guy that nobody else wants to follow, but the guy that you think is the captain. If there was a captain, it'd be Scotty, because everybody goes to Scott."
Rolen, 37, was dealing with two disc protrusions in his lower back and opted for anti-inflammatory medication over an epidural injection to get relief.
In 79 games this season, before Monday, Rolen was batting .244 with six home runs and 33 RBIs. But he's batted .314 in the second half, and his defense has been at its usual high standard.
"I think his defense is overlooked because you just take advantage of what he does. He makes it look so easy," Baker said.
Chapman's latest outing has Reds worried
CINCINNATI -- Seeing lower-than-normal velocity and erratic control, the Reds had concerns about closer Aroldis Chapman during Monday's 4-3 win over the Pirates in 14 innings.
In the top of the 10th of a 3-3 game, Chapman walked his first two batters on nine pitches. He got a strikeout and a great running catch in right field from Jay Bruce on Jose Tabata's sharply hit liner that saved a run. Chapman's two-out walk to pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez loaded the bases and prompted his departure in the middle of an inning for the first time this season.
Sam LeCure got Michael McKenry to ground out to third base to end the threat.
Chapman's top speed in his 22-pitch appearance (seven of which were strikes) was 97 mph, but several of his pitches were 93-94 mph. And that had the Reds worried.
"Yeah, because his velocity was down," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He didn't have any pain. He might be a little tired. We might have to rest him for a while here. He was analyzed by a doctor. The doctor said his shoulder is fatigued. We've got to take care of him."
It was the second poor outing in a row for Chapman. He gave up four hits in the ninth inning, including Matt Dominguez's three-run home run, in Friday's 5-3 loss to the Astros. It snapped Chapman's single-season club-record 27 consecutive saves streak.
Chapman is 5-5 with a 1.60 ERA in 64 games. His 35 saves are tied for the National League lead.
Votto's surgically repaired knee passing tests
CINCINNATI -- During Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Astros, Reds first baseman Joey Votto was able to run hard and score from first base on Jay Bruce's fourth-inning triple.
"I felt good," Votto said following the game.
Votto, who turned 29 on Monday, was back on the field for early batting practice and showed no signs of favoring his surgically repaired left knee. He returned to the lineup Sept. 4 and, entering Monday night, had reached base safely in 10 of his 16 plate appearances.
"He's doing pretty good," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Monday. "Yesterday was a great indicator when he went from first to home. He was breathing pretty good, but he said he needed it. He needed to make that run. That was a good sign."
Masset undergoes surgery with eyes on next year
CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Nick Masset, who has spent the entire season on the disabled list, had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn capsule inside his right shoulder.
An exact recovery time wasn't known after the procedure, which was performed on Friday by Dr. Tim Kremchek. Masset spent all season trying to return after the Spring Training injury, but he had a setback during his Minor League rehab assignment last month.
"They did it now so he would be ready for next year," head trainer Paul Lessard said. "It wasn't getting better."
Villarreal takes rocky road to big league debut
CINCINNATI -- Right-handed pitcher Pedro Villarreal's professional career got off to the lousiest start possible in 2008. Shortly after being drafted in the seventh round, Villarreal needed Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow.
"It happened two weeks after I signed, and it was a big setback," Villarreal said. "It's always hard to have a year of rehab, but coming back was definitely worth it, especially now."
On Sept. 4, the Reds called up the 24-year-old Villarreal for the first time from Triple-A Louisville. He made his big league debut out of the bullpen the following day and threw a perfect inning with one strikeout. His parents, Hope and Wally, and an aunt were able to fly into Cincinnati from Dallas in time for the big moment.
"It's always nice to see what it's like up here, and it gives you motivation for next year," Villarreal said. "I will take it into the offseason, work harder and make sure I have a chance to make the team next year."
Villarreal posted a combined 4-14 record and 4.36 ERA with Louisville and Double-A Pensacola this season. He walked 38 and struck out 107 over 148 2/3 innings, however.
"I felt like I had a good year. The record didn't show it," Villarreal said. "I had to pitch and get through some tough situations down there. I know it's different down there than up here. I felt like I learned a lot down there and had a productive year overall."
Class A Dayton's Vasquez, Walczak suspended
CINCINNATI -- Third baseman Ernest Vasquez and right-handed pitcher James Walczak, who were both at Class A Dayton this season, have each been suspended for 50 games without pay after testing positive for an Amphetamine.
The suspensions were announced by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball as a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
The suspensions of Vasquez and Walczak will be effective at the start of next season.