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8/19/2014 12:53 A.M. ET

Reds activate Phillips before opener vs. Cards

ST. LOUIS -- Seeking to stay in the playoff race, the Reds need all of the help they can get right now. One of the key players they've been missing during the second half returned on Monday when second baseman Brandon Phillips was activated from the disabled list before Monday night's 6-5 series-opening loss to the Cardinals.

Phillips went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts.

He played three games in a Minor League rehab assignment. In two games with Triple-A Louisville, he was 0-for-5 with a walk. On Sunday for Class A Dayton, he was 2-for-3 and was hit by a pitch.

"He looks good. Our reports from our Minor League managers and staff have been very positive," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We also realize six weeks ago, he had major surgery on his hand. He'll have a brace that will hopefully prevent the thumb from bending back."

Phillips had been on the DL since having July 11 surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left thumb. He was injured trying to make a diving catch. Price conceded that Phillips wasn't 100 percent healthy, but good enough, as he went from inactive to playing his fourth game in four days on Monday.

"I think the expectations are he will compete and have competitive at-bats," Price said. "He'll influence us in a positive way with his energy and his desire to be here and play. I don't know what to expect. ... It's a large part of why he's hitting sixth today. We want to give him the opportunity to get more at-bats under his belt. He's doing what he's capable of doing, but we've kind of got to get our eyes on him and take a look and see what's going on."

Through a Reds official, Phillips declined to comment about returning.

Without Phillips, the Reds limped with a 12-21 record while also having injured top hitter Joey Votto to the DL. Before his injury, Phillips wasn't having his best year at the plate -- batting .272 with seven home runs, 40 RBIs and a .701 OPS. But Cincinnati is ranked 29th among Major League clubs in batting and is last in on-base percentage and slugging. His return has been highly anticipated by the club and he returned a week ahead of the six-week timetable expected after the surgery.

"With an injury like that, you don't see people coming back this quick," Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. "It goes to show you the resilience of him and the type of player he is. He wants to play. That's the kind of guy we want."

Also activated from the DL was reliever Logan Ondrusek, who last pitched on July 13 before going on the DL July 22 with a strained right shoulder. Ondrusek pitched a two-hit scoreless inning for Triple-A Louisville on Friday.

To make room on the roster for Phillips and Ondrusek, catcher Tucker Barnhart and starting pitcher Dylan Axelrod were optioned to Louisville. Reliever Curtis Partch, the 26th man in the doubleheader at Colorado on Sunday, was also returned to Louisville.

Chapman day to day with sore shoulder

ST. LOUIS -- One night after his worst performance of the season, the Reds did not have the services of closer Aroldis Chapman on Monday night vs. the Cardinals because of a sore left shoulder.

Chapman faced four batters and walked all of them before the Reds dropped a 10-9 heartbreaker to the Rockies in Game 1 of Sunday's doubleheader. He threw 28 pitches.

"He's just a little achy, and it just doesn't make sense at all for us to keep running him out there," Reds manager Bryan Price said after a 6-5 loss to St. Louis in 10 innings. "He was a little achy [Sunday]. I didn't want to say anything, but he was. By the time we knew there might be an issue, the damage was done yesterday.

"Our trainers say it's a day-to-day thing and that he could be ready to go soon. I'm not crossing him off our list for tomorrow by any means."

If the Reds had taken the lead in extra innings, Jonathan Broxton would have been called on to close for Cincinnati. Chapman's issue is the latest bad news for a bullpen that has allowed 17 runs in three losses over the past two days.

Chapman, a three-time National League All-Star, has been one of the Reds' most dependable relievers with a 2.82 ERA and 26 saves in 28 chances. On Friday, his Major League reliever record of 49-straight games with at least one strikeout ended when he notched a save vs. Colorado.

Reds shake off quick turnaround in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Following back-to-back tough losses to the Rockies in Sunday's day-night doubleheader, the Reds did not arrive to their St. Louis hotel until 4 a.m. CT. Sunday's Game 2 was needed after a water main break outside Coors Field postponed Saturday's game.

Reds manager Bryan Price was impressed with his players on Monday afternoon, many of whom came to Busch Stadium early.

"I was surprised at how many guys got to the ballpark early today, considering we got in so late," Price said. "These guys are hungry, and I'm sure want to get the bad taste of that Colorado series out of their mouths."

Reds rookie center fielder Billy Hamilton had no trouble with the overnight flight and quicker-than-usual turnaround.

"I'm the youngest guy on the team. It's easier for me," Hamilton said. "I have a lot of energy. I've always been able to get in late, get up the next morning and be able to play. Two games [Sunday] didn't bother me at all. I have as much energy as if I played one.

"It's a grind, but it's what you signed up for. You've got to do it. I actually woke up earlier today than I do on a normal day. I got a little rest on the plane. I got here to the park and it feels like a normal day. My body feels the same."

Axelrod sent down after impressive debut

ST. LOUIS -- As part of the roster moves to activated Brandon Phillips and Logan Ondrusek from the disabled list, starting Dylan Axelrod was optioned to Triple-A Louisville after a nice Reds debut Sunday night.

Axelrod, who was called up Saturday to replace the injured Homer Bailey, pitched Sunday's Game 2 -- a 10-5 Reds loss to the Rockies. But the right-hander gave up two runs and seven hits over six innings for a no-decision. Because of the doubleheader, Cincinnati needs another starter to come up on Thursday vs. the Braves.

"Knowing we were going to need a fresh arm on Thursday to start and not going to need six starters, that necessitated Dylan going out even though he didn't deserve to go out," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Had we not had the water main break [to postpone Saturday's game], he'd just be part of our regular five man rotation. He did nothing but impress us. I'm sure we'll see him back here."

Price did not announce his plan for Thursday, but Louisville did scratch Monday's scheduled starter, David Holmberg.

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.