08/10/12 8:07 PM ET
Baker opts to give struggling Bruce a rest
By Brian Hedger / Special to MLB.com
Bruce, who was out of the Reds' lineup for Friday's 10-8 win over the Cubs, is hitless in his last 12 at-bats after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday.
"It's pretty apparent that I've not been helping the ballclub out too much lately," Bruce said after the game, "and he wants to give me a couple days to clear my head and get my work in [in the batting cage on Saturday] and be ready."
Over his last 10 games, Bruce is just 7-for-33 (.212) with 13 strikeouts, no home runs and four RBIs.
"He's struggling," Baker said prior to the game. "I haven't talked to him yet, but I mean, he hasn't looked much like Bruce the last week. I'll probably give him today and [Saturday] off, and hopefully get your head together."
Baker didn't sugarcoat his comments about Bruce, making it clear the Reds need his bat to come around while locked in such a tight race in the National League Central with the Pirates, who started Friday trailing Cincinnati by just 2 1/2 games.
"If you've been watching [our games], you've seen it, too," Baker said of Bruce. "He's just not swinging well. He's feeling for the ball. He's not attacking. It looks like he's messed up right now."
Baker hopes taking a step back from playing for a couple days lets Bruce see the game from a different perspective and allow his mind to clear a little.
"That's kind of a last resort," Baker said. "As much as we need him, he hasn't been hitting. It's not like we've been hitting with him, so I'll try somebody else and give him a couple days just to kind of clear the [mind]."
Bruce, who was replaced in right field by Xavier Paul on Friday, was available to pinch-hit.
Back soreness continues to hamper Rolen
CHICAGO -- The back soreness that's bothering veteran third baseman Scott Rolen kept him out a third straight game on Friday afternoon.
Rolen, who missed the series finale in Milwaukee on Wednesday and Thursday's opener of a four-game set against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, is "day to day" for now. However, Reds manager Dusty Baker didn't sound that optimistic prior to Friday's game that Rolen would return anytime soon.
"I haven't heard anything better [since Thursday]," Baker said. "Usually when that thing grabs you like that, you don't get better overnight or right away. It doesn't look pleasant."
Losing Rolen's bat from the lineup is significant for the Reds, who are currently struggling to plate runners in scoring position. Prior to missing the last game in Milwaukee, Rolen was hitting .367 (18-for-49) with two home runs and nine RBIs in his last 15 games.
Rolen is also hitting a robust .358 since the All-Star break. Todd Frazier started at third in Rolen's place on Thursday, and Wilson Valdez started at the hot corner on Friday, with Frazier moving over to play first.
Despite solid stretches, Leake lacking wins
CHICAGO -- Dusty Baker settled for another quality start out of Mike Leake on Thursday night, but he was pulling harder for a win in a 5-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Leake wound up taking a no-decision after allowing three earned runs over six innings, with Starlin Castro's clutch two-out, two-run double in the sixth negating his chance for a victory. Still, it was the right-hander's 12th quality start of the season, despite a 4-7 record.
"You'd like all your starters to get some victories, because that's what they're out there to get, not just for us, but for themselves too," Baker said. "You pitch well and you don't care about quality starts, you want a quality win ... or any win."
Leake hasn't picked up a victory since July 24 in Houston, and his ERA is 4.52, but Baker said you can't judge his performance solely on his numbers.
"He started out struggling big time, and then he went through a six- to eight-week period there where he was pitching great and just didn't get a lot of victories to show for it," Baker said. "Sometimes, if all you see is their won-loss record and it doesn't show how many runs they got in run support, it doesn't show anything. Then you look at the ERA, sometimes, and that's not a good indicator because you have one or two bad games and big-inning games and the ERA shoots up and you never get it down, or it takes a [a lot] of excellent work to get it down."
Still, Baker said he's tried to help Leake improve in the wins category whenever possible by leaving him in tied or close games, rather than having a quick hook. Leake is most concerned with pitching well overall.
"You always want to get a win, but [Thursday's outing] kept us in the game," he said. "Wins are second on the list. You'll have those games where you'll [get wins]."
Reds prospect Billy Hamilton swiped two more bases for Double-A Pensacola on Thursday night, bringing his season total to 133. Hamilton is now just 12 steals away from tying the professional baseball record of 145 set by Vince Coleman in 1983.
Baker said that Hamilton's speed might be tempting when it comes time to make September callups.
"Possibly," Baker said, when asked if Hamilton's wheels could be an asset for the Reds in the stretch run of the season. "Speed's always an asset. Speed kills."
Right-hander Nick Masset (shoulder) is slated to make his third rehab appearance on Friday night when he pitches for Triple-A Louisville against Gwinnett. Masset has been on the disabled list since late March.
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.