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08/24/12 7:23 PM ET

Injured Votto takes batting practice with Reds

CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto feels he continues to make progress toward his return from two left knee surgeries. Just how much was to be tested Friday when Votto was slated to join his team for batting practice and perform a full slate of baseball activity.

"I think it will say a lot about my progress," Votto said.

Votto has long been averse to identifying a timetable for his likely return from the disabled list. That hadn't changed.

"I don't know, but I think I've come a long way," Votto said. "I feel like I'm not too far off. I can't put a day on it, but I know I've come a long way and I don't think it's going to be too much longer."

Votto, 28, has not played in a game since July 15, and was batting .342 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs. Ironically, the Reds have played their best baseball without him, and entered the night 26-12 since July 16.

Watching the games at home or from the dugout, Votto has been pleased with what he's seen.

"I don't ever get ahead of myself or think I carry a team or anything along those lines. I think I fit in," Votto said. "This is a great example of how small an impact players can have. You lose a quarterback in the NFL, that team is in trouble. Look at [the Colts]. Or if you lose a big star in the NBA. That's not how baseball works. That's why, in my opinion, it's probably the best team sport."

When he was first out of the lineup last month, Votto seemed to relish the opportunity to refresh himself from the daily grind. That feeling has long since passed.

"I don't want to get hurt again. It's not been fun," Votto said. "As much time as I've been able to spend at home watching the team, watching the games ... I really miss playing. I miss being part of the team and putting the uniform on and feeling the pregame jitters on a daily basis. I wouldn't wish getting hurt on anybody."

Reds have red-hot rookies in Cozart, Frazier

CINCINNATI -- Among the Reds, infielder Todd Frazier is getting the most attention as a National League Rookie of the Year candidate. But shortstop Zack Cozart has also racked up some impressive numbers for his resume.

While Cozart came into Friday batting .253 with 14 home runs and 30 RBIs, he led all NL rookies in total bases (200), hits (122), extra-base hits (47) and multi-hit games (35), was second in runs (65) and doubles (30), and third in homers.

Frazier entered leading rookies with 58 RBIs, a .558 slugging percentage and was second with 18 homers, 179 total bases, 44 extra-base hits, and third with a .293 average.

"It's cool. If I had a vote, I'd vote for Todd, too," Cozart said Friday. "With Joey [Votto] out, he's been huge. Just to be in the conversation and have two guys on the team, young guys, contributing like we have is cool. You can't ask for a better rookie year being on a team that's in first place and competing for a championship. We're excited."

Cozart has been on a tear of late, riding a career-high 11-game hitting streak after hitting a double in the first inning of the series opener against the Cardinals. He hit .349 (15-for-43) over his past 10 games. As the stretch run nears, it's a perfect time be in a hitting groove.

"They always say it's not how you start, but how you finish," Cozart said. "I started out kind of hot, and, obviously, everybody knows I went on a cold streak. I've been hot, cold, hot and cold. Hopefully I can continue this for the rest of the season. It's very important to finish strong."

Reds learning how often they can use Broxton

CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton was not considered available during an 11-inning loss to the Phillies on Thursday. Broxton's status for Friday against the Cardinals was unknown.

"It's put a little strain on him getting up and down, because in Kansas City he'd know for sure he'd close a game out," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He doesn't have that luxury here to do that. Whenever you get a new guy, you have to learn how to use him and what makes him tick or what makes him sore and how to preserve him. So, we're learning."

The Reds acquired Broxton on July 31 for a pair of Minor Leaguers.

Worth noting

Following a four-hour, 24-minute game against the Phillies that the Reds lost, 4-3, in 11 innings on Thursday, the Reds' traveling party did not reach Cincinnati until almost 3 a.m. ET on Friday. The Cardinals got to town before the Reds, in fact.

"You still need sleep, but you just hope and pray you have enough in the tank to get through tonight and feel good physically, emotionally and mentally," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Get a good night's rest, and we have a semi-early game [Saturday] and real early on Sunday, and back on the road again. We knew this would be a tough stretch. Nobody is feeling sorry for you because you got in late. We're just trying to play the freshest team we have."

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.