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Reds still plan on Votto returning in September

The Reds still plan to have Joey Votto in the lineup at some point in September, manager Bryan Price said Thursday.

Votto has not played since July 5 because of a distal quadriceps strain and was moved to the 60-day disabled list Saturday, so he would first be eligible to return on Sept. 4.

“That was our goal going into it — to get him back on the field in September,” Price said. “We will maintain that as a goal, without a doubt.”

Votto has shown great improvement in strength testing of the knee and has begun jogging, Price said. He has not returned to baseball activities.

“We’re trying to get to a level where we don’t fear the regression he had last time,” Price said. “We have a higher expectation of where his strength level needs to be. Certainly over the course of this homestand, we’ll get a lot better feel of where he is.”

Roster move: The Reds recalled left-handed pitcher David Holmberg from Triple-A Louisville on Thursday to start the series opener against the Braves. Relief pitcher Pedro Villarreal was also called up. Relievers J.J. Hoover and Carlos Contreras were optioned to Louisville.

Contreras experienced stiffness in his shoulder after his appearance Wednesday.

Hoover fell to 1-10 with a 5.27 ERA with two losses on the road trip. He has lost 10 decisions in a row. He’s now tied for the most losses in a season by a Reds reliever with Harry Gumbert (10-10 in 1947) and Tom Hume (9-10 in 1980).

Struggling relievers: Hoover’s demotion is a sign of how far the bullpen has fallen. The relievers are 0-10 with a 4.69 ERA since the All-Star break. They were 10-14 with a 3.84 ERA in the first half.

Price described the bullpen as the team’s Achilles’ heel as of late. But one player’s struggles mean an opportunity for another.

“I don’t look back and say, ‘Oh, there were these grand failures in how we’ve utilized our roster,’” Price said. “We’ve given guys opportunities to play. Guys who haven’t performed as well have created opportunities for other guys to play. Injuries have created opportunities for guys to play. There’s been a lot of opportunity here to play baseball for the Reds.”

Selig in town: Commissioner Bud Selig will be in Cincinnati today to participate in the opening of the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy. It’s a $7 million complex with four baseball fields and a 33,000-square-foot indoor training center.

Looking ahead: Mat Latos (4-3, 3.10) starts the second game of the series at 7:10 tonight against the Braves. Mike Leake (9-11, 3.65) and Alfredo Simon (12-8, 3.35) follow Saturday and Sunday.

Latos allowed three runs in five innings in his last start against the Rockies. He’s 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his last four starts.

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