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5/30/2014 8:49 P.M. ET

Votto improving, but no date set for return

PHOENIX -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto, currently on the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps, took batting practice and ran Friday back in Cincinnati after taking ground balls on Thursday. Votto hit against the club's left-handed batting-practice pitcher, Tim Burman.

Slowly, Votto's injury has improved but he is not expected to be activated Saturday when he is eligible.

"The pain has declined. The strength is increasing. It's not great yet but it's increasing," Reds head trainer Paul Lessard said.

The club still lacks a target date for when Votto might return.

After shutout, Price shakes up lineup

PHOENIX -- In the wake of squeaking out only three hits and sending the minimum 27 batters to bat in a 4-0 loss to the D-backs and Josh Collmenter on Thursday, manager Bryan Price strongly hinted changes would come to his lineup that has struggled all week.

Those changes certainly came on Friday, but with an unexpected twist. Skip Schumaker started in left field for Ryan Ludwick and Ramon Santiago was at shortstop. The surprise was that usual backup outfielder Roger Bernadina got his first career start at first base over both Brayan Pena and Donald Lutz.

"We have a few guys here with some numbers. All three of them are in the lineup," Price said.

Bernadina (7-for-10), Schumaker (19-for-51) and Santiago (2-for-3) have had past success against D-backs starter Bronson Arroyo.

However, Pena is 6-for-10 on the road trip, including two of the hits Thursday. Lutz, who was a hot hitter in the Minors, has only one start since his callup a week ago. Meanwhile, Bernadina came in struggling and batting .146 this season and never previously played first base before in a professional regular season game.

"Nothing needs to be read into it," Price said. "The only thing is Bernadina hasn't played first base since A ball. He's been working out at it the last few days. We've had a catcher over there in Pena, who had very limited first base experience. And we have Lutz, who only played a couple of games at first base before we called him up. We don't have the most seasoned experienced first-base options here without Joey [Votto]. We've been rolling the dice. Brayan has been doing a great job at first base but I think with this matchup that I needed to get Roger in there and give him a shot based on his past successes against Bronson."

The Reds have scored 12 runs over the previous six games entering Friday, without having scored more than three runs in any game. They've also lost five of six. Price warned that opportunities have now been opened to his bench, but on Friday didn't feel there would be a fight for regulars to remain in the lineup long-term.

"In the end, we've had a month where we've averaged three runs per game -- for an entire month," Price said. "That's not going to be enough to win on a consistent basis. I'm not a big message-sender through lineups. I'd rather just have a good conversation with somebody standing in the outfield as opposed to bringing someone into my office to shame them into thinking they will hit better. I don't work that way. I am going to use the roster.

"If we were more productive offensively, I wouldn't feel the necessity to give some of these guys more playing time. But the guys not playing today will be playing again in this series and will play again on a regular basis in the course of the season."

Bernadina gets start at first base

PHOENIX -- In recent days, Reds reserve outfielder Roger Bernadina obtained a first baseman's glove and began taking ground balls at the position for the first time in years. On Friday vs. the D-backs, Bernadina started there for the first time in his career.

"[Manager Bryan Price] asked me if I could play first base and I said 'yeah.' I did it in the past and fielded a couple of ground balls and stuff like that," Bernadina said. "I'll try to do my part to help the team."

Bernadina said he last played first base in rookie ball during extended spring and preseason games, but never logged time there in a regular-season game. The past few days of working out there haven't been uncomfortable to him, he felt.

"It's always different when the game starts, of course. I feel good," Bernadina said. "I just want to carry it into the game and see what happens."

The Reds have had a void at first base since Joey Votto went on the disabled list. Brayan Pena has made the bulk of the starts recently but was given a night off.

Price catches up with old friend Gibson

PHOENIX -- Since the Reds got to town on Thursday, manager Bryan Price has received a warm welcome from local media and D-backs staffers. Price was Arizona's pitching coach from 2006-09 under former skipper Bob Melvin.

The 2007 club won the National League West before being eliminated in the NL Championship Series by the Rockies.

"It was a great year in a lot of many different ways," Price said. "In a lot of ways, it was because so many of the young players were coming up and becoming big names here in the Valley."

Price was on the same coaching staff under Melvin with current D-backs manager Kirk Gibson and the two remain friends.

"He's a very good pitching coach, he's got a great mind, he's got a great sense of humor," Gibson said. "He'll be up against the challenges that every manager is. He hasn't even managed 100 games yet. … I think he has conviction in what he believes in. I think he has a good way of delivering that to his team."

Worth noting

• In his second rehab assignment start for Triple-A Louisville on Friday, Mat Latos pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings with 81 pitches, including 46 for strikes. Latos, who has been on the disabled list all season, allowed three hits and two walks while striking out three. He is expected to get at least one more start for Louisville before a decision is made whether to activate him.

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.