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04/21/08 7:02 PM ET

Reds call up Hairston after hot start

Infielder will provide righty pop to lineup; Castro designated

CINCINNATI -- If the Reds got it right, the case of the missing right-handed offense from their bench has been solved.

The answer on Monday was Jerry Hairston Jr. The veteran infielder was called up from Triple-A Louisville. To make room on the roster, infielder Juan Castro was designated for assignment.

"Hairston has been playing real well," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "It gives us a little more versatility from the stand point that he can play the infield and the outfield and he can run. He's swinging a hot bat right now, so here is."

Monday was an off-day for Louisville. Hairston received a phone call in the morning from Bats manager Rick Sweet.

"I had to go to the airport and get a rental car, because I don't have a car there," Hairston said. "And I just drove up. I was happy, for sure."

Signed by the Reds on March 3 to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training, Hairston didn't make the club out of camp but led the International League with a .421 (24-for-57) average. He also had three home runs and 15 RBIs for Louisville while hitting safely in 12 of his 14 games.

A 10-year Major League veteran, the 31-year-old Hairston was with the Orioles from 1998-2004. After a brief stop with the Cubs in 2005-06 under current Reds manager Dusty Baker, he spent 1 1/2 seasons with the Rangers.

Hairston batted .189 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 2007 but had two trips to the disabled list with neck and back injuries. He is a career .253 hitter.

"I felt good," Hairston said of his stint at Louisville. "I got a chance to play and play healthy for the first time in I don't know how long. I was really debating during the offseason if I wanted to go and play the way I was the last two years -- being so hurt. I said I wouldn't play if I was still hurt. I was able to heal up and feel 100 percent. I'm glad I did it."

Before Hairston's arrival, the Reds had three right-handed hitters -- Ryan Freel, Norris Hopper and Castro -- all of whom were very similar at the plate: they lack pop. Backup catcher Javier Valentin is a switch-hitter who's better from the left side. Cincinnati entered the day hitting .216 vs. left-handed pitchers.

"As much as we like Juan, we felt Hairston was a better fit," Baker said. "He can play a lot of different places, possibly against some left-handed pitchers. He can play anywhere. He gives us a number of options now."

Hairston played five different positions at Louisville. Inside the Reds' clubhouse, he had a first-baseman's glove sitting in his locker.

"My catching equipment is on its way over. ... no, I'm kidding," Hairston said. "You increase your value the more positions you play. The most important thing was for me to go down there and test my back out. My back feels great. I'm 31 and feel like I'm 25 again. The last two years, I felt 70 years old. I didn't feel like a professional athlete. Now I feel healthy and feel good."

Castro was hitless in 10 at-bats this season for Cincinnati and missed most of the second half of last season because of right elbow surgery. However, sending him down wasn't an easy move for Krivsky, who orchestrated Castro's 2005 signing with the Twins as an assistant GM and traded for him when he came to Cincinnati.

"It's a good day for Jerry and a tough day when you have to tell Juan Castro good-bye for now," Krivsky said.

The Reds have 10 days to work out a trade for Castro or place him on waivers before he could be released. Signed to a two-year contract extension in September 2006, the 35-year-old is still owed $1,075,000 for this season and the buyout of his 2009 option.

"It is what it is," Krivsky said of the salary ramifications.

In another transaction, pitcher Matt Belisle was also formally activated from the 15-day disabled list to make the start on Monday vs. the Dodgers. Belisle took the place of reliever David Weathers, who went on the DL Sunday.

Another potentially interesting move awaits the Reds on Wednesday when catcher David Ross' (back spasms) rehab assignment runs out. Ross, who began the season on the DL, took batting practice with the Reds at Great American Ball Park during Louisville's off-day.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.