CINCINNATI -- The Reds entered Tuesday six and a half games out of first place in the National League Central, marking their largest deficit of the season. Fortunately for manager Dusty Baker and his team, help is on the way.
Baker said reliever Jonathan Broxton will be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday, while catcher Ryan Hanigan and outfielder Ryan Ludwick are "close" and could potentially be back at the end of the week. Although their returns won't guarantee success for the Reds, Baker said it can't hurt to have guys they expected to be key players available again.
"We've been operating with less than our full team," Baker said. "The guys that have taken their place have done a good job overall. But now it's time for the big boys to come in."
Broxton has been on the DL since June 15 with a flexor mass strain in his right elbow. In two rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville, he pitched a total of two scoreless innings, allowing five hits while striking out another five.
Battling a left wrist injury, Hanigan took batting practice out on the field on Tuesday for the first time since going on the the DL on July 11. He's been hitting for more than a week and said the soreness in his wrist is gone for the most part.
As for Ludwick, he's looking to return to the Reds for the first time since Opening Day, when he tore the labrum in his right shoulder. The good news for Ludwick is he hasn't felt anything other than general soreness in his shoulder during his rehab assignment. The bad news is he was 3-for-50 (.060) in nine games between Class A Dayton and Louisville as of Tuesday afternoon.
Baker said the struggles are concerning, but he hopes that once Ludwick comes back to the Majors, he'll be able to turn it up at the plate.
"You want him wide open when he gets here, but he doesn't ever start wide open anyway," said Baker, who added that Ludwick is essentially going through a second Spring Training. "We'll just have to keep an eye on him and try to help him along the way. Hopefully he'll be pretty good at the right time."
Baker said Ludwick, whose rehab assignment eligibility runs out on Sunday, worked harder than any player he's ever seen trying to come back.
"That can get monotonous," Baker said. "Sometimes you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as injuries are concerned. You see the season ticking away, and you see situations you could have been in and hopefully prosper while you're in it. I would do it if I had to, but I don't know what that's like, being away from the team. I was lucky I was never on the disabled list.
"We're proud of him with the way he's worked. He's a big part of our team. The spirit of our team is missing."
Baker, Arroyo react to league-wide suspensions
CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker didn't want to say much regarding the suspensions levied to 13 players on Monday following Major League Baseball's Biogenesis investigation.
"I got a reaction," Baker said. "But it ain't going to do any good."
Twelve players received 50-game suspensions, while the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez was dealt a 211-game ban through the end of the 2014 season. Rodriguez was the only player to appeal his suspension, meaning he can play until a final decision is made. Brewers left fielder and Reds division foe Ryan Braun also previously accepted a 65-game suspension.
Baker did answer a couple questions about the issue, including whether he thought baseball was cleaner than it used to be.
"We thought it was clean the last time, am I right?" Baker said. "The world isn't clean. Baseball is part of the world."
Cincinnati right-hander Bronson Arroyo took a more optimistic approach when asked if the current punishments are appropriate and effective in deterring potential future users of performance-enhancing drugs.
"I think it is," Arroyo said. "I'd be very shocked if a guy sat 50 games and didn't get paid and came back and tried it again. I've seen guys on the disabled list just going absolutely bananas after 20 or 30 days without realizing how long of a stint actually is. Fifty games is a long time, and 100 games is just crazy long. I think it's good enough."
Arroyo said Monday was a good day for baseball in that it shows the league is cracking down on the use of PEDs. However, he said it's never enjoyable to see players suspended and hurting their teams, calling it one of the necessary evils in the game.
The most disappointing part of the suspensions and situation in general, according to Baker, is that players who were already some of the best in baseball found the need to illegally enhance their abilities.
"That's what's kind of sad," Baker said. "All that work that you did for free before you got to this is kind of not appreciated."
After compliment from Bench, Mesoraco in six-hole
CINCINNATI -- During the weekend, former Reds catcher and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench tweeted that current backstop Devin Mesoraco "will bat in the cleanup spot before his career is over." At the time of the tweet, Mesoraco hadn't started a game higher than seventh in the lineup all season, but on Tuesday, he was inserted into the sixth spot behind Jay Bruce.
In 16 games since the All-Star break, Mesoraco entered Tuesday batting .315 (17-for-54) with four homers and 12 RBIs. Reds manager Dusty Baker has been pleased with Mesoraco's play at the plate and behind it, especially with fellow catcher Ryan Hanigan on the disabled list since June 11.
For Mesoraco, he said nothing about how his approach changes moving into the sixth spot, as he hopes to continue swinging the bat well no matter where he's hitting.
"It's one spot," Mesoraco said. "I've been hitting seventh, eighth sometimes. I think that you earn your way up the order with how you perform. I think it's definitely a good feeling that I'm hitting the ball a little better, and swinging the bat that they think I'd be better off a little higher in the lineup. Hopefully I'll go out there and reward them and drive in some runs."
More so than moving up in the lineup, Mesoraco was excited about what Bench had to say regarding his future.
"That was cool," Mesoraco said. "I've spoken to him a couple times, and he's always been very complimentary. When you get that kind of word from him, it's pretty special."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.