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04/27/12 5:57 PM ET

Reds honor 'Breaking Barriers' contest winner

CINCINNATI -- During an on-field ceremony on Friday to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day, the Reds honored 10-year-old Raeya Ponugoti for being the winner of the 2012 Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life essay contest.

Ponugoti, a fifth-grade student from Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, wrote an essay about dealing with bullying while staying true to her passion for dance. It beat out over 6,500 entrants. Earlier in the day, she and her classmates met with MLB educational programming consultant and Sharon Robinson to learn more about her father Jackie Robinson's story.

The "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life" program was developed by MLB, Sharon Robinson and Scholastic, with the purpose of helping students in grades four through nine deal with barriers and challenges in their lives. Jackie Robinson's achievement of breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947 serves as the basis for the program. The contest's 2011 winner, Meggie Zahneis, is currently a youth correspondent for MLB.com.

Sharon Robinson, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and Reds third baseman Scott Rolen -- an Indiana native -- took part in the on-field ceremony. Also honored was Tony White, president of All Gone Pest Control, for being the 2012 most valuable diverse business partner award winner.

Baker goes against the numbers, plays Bruce

CINCINNATI -- Jay Bruce's lifetime numbers going into Friday against Astros lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez were most definitely not in his favor. The Reds right fielder came in 1-for-26 with 13 strikeouts.

Reds manager Dusty Baker decided to move Bruce from fifth to seventh in the lineup and moved up left fielder Ryan Ludwick.

"I wrestled with not playing him. I've sat him a couple of times against Wandy," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

One reason the manager played Bruce was his recent hitting tear -- including a .393 average (11-for-28) over his last seven games. He hit a two-run home run on Thursday vs. the Giants also.

"Those two guys are going to be playing each other for a long time," Baker said. "They're both relatively young. It's a pride thing. You don't want people to keep having your number. If I don't play him, he'll keep having that number. The only way to break that number is to play and try to figure him out. Hopefully the law of averages is on his side."

Votto taking struggles at the plate in stride

CINCINNATI -- When a player has reached base safely via a hit or walk in all but one of his games this season, most wouldn't think he was struggling.

Then again, most players aren't Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

Votto, who struck out three times in Thursday's loss to the Giants, entered Friday with 22 strikeouts over 86 plate appearances in his 19 games. It took 34 games in 2011 for him to reach his 22nd strikeout.

"Strikeouts come in streaks, just like everything," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It seems like every time he's hitting now, he's got two strikes on him. It's hard to hit like that. You take a close pitch and every pitch is called a strike. Then he'll foul off a pitch. The next thing you know, you're 0-2."

Votto entered with a .273 average, one home run and 10 RBIs but has reached in 18 of 19 games. He led the National League with 18 walks and was fourth with a .430 on-base percentage.

"That's Barry Bonds type of stuff," Baker said. "When Barry was struggling, I'd see him go 0-for-the-week, and be like 0-for-12. One thing the walks do for you, you're seeing so many pitches that you're going to get your timing and vision. The more pitches you see, the better your timing gets."

And for those worrying about Votto's high strikeout rate, take a stroll down memory lane to 2010. According to Reds TV statistician Joel Luckhaupt, Votto had 22 strikeouts and 13 walks in his first 86 plate appearances that season. He went on to win the NL Most Valuable Player Award.

"He knows he's going to hit. We know he's going to hit. And you know he's going to hit," Baker said. "We're just not used to seeing him struggle like this. It's happened to everybody who has played this game."

Bray moves to Triple-A for rehab assignment

CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Bill Bray joined Triple-A Louisville for a rehabilitation assignment on Friday. On Tuesday, Bray was placed on the 15-day disabled list -- retroactive to April 19 -- because of a strained left groin.

Louisville is playing at Norfolk this weekend and Bray is expected to see some action. By rule, the left-hander can rehab for up to 20 days. It was not known how long he'd be pitching in the Minors.

"He missed so much spring training and still wasn't [right]," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We gave him a few days off to let that thing get 100 percent. We're trying to get him some work with the rehab assignment."

Injured early in camp, Bray was limited to 3 2/3 innings over four games. In five regular season games, totaling 2 2/3 innings, he had a 13.50 ERA with five hits, three walks, three strikeouts and two home runs.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.