CINCINNATI -- The Reds were without any spare infielders on Thursday as Wilson Valdez was out with a stiff neck. Valdez, who replaced the injured Brandon Phillips to start Wednesday's game at second base, left in the fifth inning with neck discomfort.
Miguel Cairo replaced Valdez, leaving only Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey and Dioner Navarro on the bench against the Padres. Pitcher Mike Leake was also available to pinch-hit.
Phillips was likely unavailable because of a strained left calf, but his injury hasn't been considered serious enough to warrant a trip to the disabled list. Scott Rolen, who normally gets day games off following a night game, made the start at third base since backups Todd Frazier and Cairo were already playing other spots.
"Yeah, we're real short. We were short [Wednesday]," Reds manager Dusty Baker.
There was little improvement to report from Valdez.
"Not much," Baker said. "It'd be a better chance if we had a night game tonight vs. a day game after night. It hurts him to slide, that's when you get jarred. That's when it goes up and down your vertebrae."
Votto improving, but won't play this weekend
CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto is making progress in his efforts to return from knee surgery, but he will not be available in this weekend's pivotal series against the Pirates.
"Oh, hell no," Reds manager Dusty Baker said when asked on Thursday. "What weekend? You've still got to run. He just started playing a little first base."
Votto, who has not played since July 15 and had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee July 17, was on the field in shorts Thursday morning taking ground balls hit by third-base coach Mark Berry. Votto was not wearing a knee brace and looked to be moving around pretty well.
Votto did some hitting for the first time on Wednesday.
"I've still got it," Votto joked in passing.
There remains no known target date for Votto's return. The original prognosis following his operation was three to four weeks.
Marshall thriving, enjoying role as setup man
CINCINNATI -- Since he was replaced as closer by Aroldis Chapman, Reds lefty reliever Sean Marshall has been one of the bullpen's most effective relievers from a setup role.
Marshall has a 1.01 ERA in 32 games since May 20, with 20 hits, five walks and 27 strikeouts over 26 2/3 innings. Opponents have hit .198 in that stretch. Overall, he is 4-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 48 games.
"I feel good," Marshall said. "I feel comfortable, confident and it makes it easier when the rest of the guys in the bullpen are pitching just as well. We've had a pretty good run. This is probably the most fun I've had playing baseball. It makes it more fun when you're winning. It's a great group of guys, especially down in the bullpen."
In the previous two games against the Padres, Marshall has worked two perfect innings for a win on Tuesday, and one perfect inning in Wednesday's Reds win. His curveball has been particularly effective, and he's been able to get his sinker in the strike zone on both sides of the plate.
Marshall has been pleased with his role on the team since moving out of the closer spot.
"I just love pitching in games that are close and in games that I can give the team a chance to win," Marshall said. "Hopefully I have a chance to put up a zero in the inning I pitch and give us a chance to take a lead back. All of us are really happy with how [manager] Dusty [Baker] has managed our bullpen and the moves the front office made to get Jonathan Broxton here. It's a nice complement for guys that are doing pretty well."
Brennaman's haircut to come after Friday's game
CINCINNATI -- Beyond a big series opener between the first-place Reds and second-place Pirates on Friday that will have ramifications on the balance of the National League Central race, there will be much anticipation about something that has nothing to with the game itself.
Reds fans, players and staff will be watching as Reds broadcasting legend Marty Brennaman is expected to have his head shaved on the field following the 7:10 p.m. ET game. The haircut will be carried live on MLB.com.
Brennaman will be paying off on a pledge he made earlier this season that he would cut his longtime poofy-white hairstyle if the Reds broke off a 10-game winning streak. Cincinnati did just that with a victory on Sunday at Colorado, and Brennaman agreed to make good on his declaration and to lose his locks.
There is one caveat, however. Brennaman will only have his hair cut on the field if the Reds Community Fund reaches a fundraising goal of $20,000 for the event. If it's not reached, Brennaman will have his cut privately before the game. According to a Reds spokesman, the Reds Community Fund is close to reaching its pledge goal. To make a donation, go to reds.com/community.
Concussion may play role in Mesoraco's appeal
CINCINNATI -- Catcher Devin Mesoraco, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list for concussions by the Reds on Wednesday, could have an argument in the appeal of his three-game suspension stemming from Monday's ejection and contact with home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild.
In the second inning of Monday's game, Mesoraco was hit hard by Cameron Maybin in a home-plate collision. In the third inning, Mesoraco was arguing balls and strikes and became enraged when contacting Fairchild. A Padres hitter privately said Mesoraco seemed to be acting different behind the plate.
"They could tell I was a little bit weird up there, I guess, compared to what I normally am. It could have something to do with it," Mesoraco said.
Mesoraco is leaving the appeal to his agent and the club, and he would not speculate if the concussion would be part of his defense. He agreed with the club's decision to make the move that it did, especially in light of the fact he's previous suffered two concussions -- one in high school and another in the Minor Leagues.
The Reds pulled Mesoraco from Tuesday's game after six innings after he experienced dizziness.
"In the game [Tuesday], I really felt like I wasn't myself," Mesoraco said. "I really had to focus a whole lot more to do small things, just to catch the ball. It was just kind of weird. I was having a whole lot of trouble doing anything. If I looked up into the lights, I'd have to take a second to regroup. Whenever I ran, I would start to get a pretty good headache, just from a little sprint."