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08/23/12 6:54 PM ET

Votto ramping up activity as return nears

PHILADELPHIA -- While the Reds have been playing the Phillies, injured first baseman Joey Votto has continued progressing with baseball activities.

Votto, out since July 16 after having left knee surgery and a second procedure on Aug. 10 to remove cartilage, started hitting again this week.

"He's been hitting in the cage, running and taking ground balls," Reds head trainer Paul Lessard said.

There remains no set timetable for when Votto could return from the disabled list.

"We'll put eyes on him [Friday] and then we'll sit down and talk," Lessard said.

Reds send rookie Mesoraco to Triple-A

PHILADELPHIA -- In a bit of a surprising move on Thursday, the Reds optioned rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco to Triple-A Louisville after he was reinstated from a two-game suspension.

Right-handed reliever J.J. Hoover was recalled from Louisville to take Mesoraco's place on the roster.

A hyped prospect entering the season, Mesoraco struggled at the plate, batting .210 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. He was the backup behind Ryan Hanigan and primarily caught pitchers Mike Leake and Homer Bailey.

"It's a tough position, like I said in Spring Training, when you have a rookie catcher that's not playing every day and the fact that Hanigan was playing so well," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

By going down to Triple-A, Mesoraco will have the chance to get regular at-bats as Louisville finishes the final two weeks of its season. Mesoraco served his two-game suspension on Tuesday and Wednesday for contacting an umpire during a game on July 30.

Dioner Navarro was called up to replace Mesoraco during the suspension and will remain as Hanigan's backup.

Mesoraco, 24, can still be eligible for the postseason roster despite going down this late in August. Baker felt he could still make the team in October.

"We're hoping that's what the final outcome is," Baker said. "It depends on him and depends on the progress that he makes. We really want to stress that it has nothing to do with his suspension. This has kind of been dabbled about for a while. We could see his confidence has gone down some. We want to get his confidence back, offensively, defensively, throwing and all kind of ways."

Hoover called up for second stint with Reds

PHILADELPHIA -- Right-handed reliever J.J. Hoover was back in the Majors for a second stint on Thursday after being recalled from Triple-A Louisville. The club sent down catcher Devin Mesoraco to make room for Hoover.

Hoover, who was acquired from the Braves for third baseman Juan Francisco on April 1, was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA during a mostly impressive 17 games for the Reds earlier this season. In 30 appearances overall for Louisville, Hoover was 4-0 with a 1.22 ERA with 13 saves in 14 chances.

"I'm happy with how I've pitched," Hoover said. "I've always said you have to get the hitters out, no matter what level you're at. I tried to maintain the same outlook and mindset I've had all year. I'm throwing strikes and not putting guys on base."

Hoover made his big league debut on April 25 and feels he can benefit from the experience of his first promotion.

"It helps a lot," Hoover said. "Now I have an actual relationship with some of the guys that are up here. I've felt like they accepted me as part of the team. I'm by no means established. We still have a long ways for that, but it's a little more comfortable atmosphere the second time."

Phillips, Rolen sit as Baker tweaks lineup vs. Hamels

PHILADELPHIA -- Reds manager Dusty Baker featured a different lineup vs. Phillies lefty Cole Hamels on Thursday, giving Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips the day off.

Todd Frazier started at third base, Miguel Cairo at first base and Wilson Valdez played second.

Baker plans to play Rolen in all three games of the upcoming series against St. Louis at Great American Ball Park.

"I could see him wearing down the last couple of days. I've got to spot him," Baker said. "Hopefully he'll be fresh and Brandon will be fresh. I told Brandon I was going to give him a day off here because he's been playing every day. This way, he can play all the way through the next off-day."

Phillips entered Thursday hitting .309 since the All-Star break and .289 overall with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs this season. He's played every game since missing five games from Aug. 1-5 with a calf strain, and he's 4-for-28 (.143) lifetime vs. Hamels.

"If we're going to pick a day, today's the day," Baker said.

Baker wondered if Phillips might be wearing down a little, as well. He's batting .200 (9-for-45) in his last 11 games. The Reds are currently in a stretch of 34 games over 34 days that will end next Thursday.

"These are dog days. They don't call them dog days for nothing," Baker said. "Think of the streak we're in until Wednesday. Something has got to shake."

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.