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05/19/08 9:30 PM ET

Baker rests slumping Encarnacion

Reds third baseman hitting .179 in May; Freel gets start vs. LA

LOS ANGELES -- Edwin Encarnacion's offensive production has certainly had its periods of ebb and flow.

To keep another low moment from stretching too long, Reds manager Dusty Baker decided to spell the third baseman from Monday's series-opening lineup vs. the Dodgers.

"I think Edwin needs a break, I could tell," Baker said. "He's starting to use a lot of body and less hands. He's starting to fret, and I see him frustrated after at-bats. Plus, he didn't fight me at all when I told him last night. That's another sign he thinks he needs it but didn't want to come up and say it."

Encarnacion's average has dipped to .248 entering Monday night, with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. But for the month of May, he was batting all of .179 (10-for-56) with just one homer and four RBIs. The 25-year-old was 0-for-4 in Sunday's win over Cleveland.

Last month, Baker timed a break just right for Encarnacion. He was slumping with an .083 average before an April 11 day off. Encarnacion returned the next day and started a team-high 14-game hitting streak.

"I can take it. It's no big deal. I'll come back [Tuesday]," Encarnacion said of the break. "I'm trying to do too much and trying to hit the ball too hard. I'm using more of my body. I need to start using my hands like I was doing before."

Ryan Freel, who is batting .320 this season, started in Encarnacion's place at third base and batted leadoff. More reasoning for resting Encarnacion: Freel came into the night batting .412 (7-for-17) against Dodgers starter Brad Penny.

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