CINCINNATI – Joey Votto was back in the starting lineup Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park and Mat Latos will be ready to pitch by the end of the week.
The Reds activated their first baseman from the disabled list and sent Donald Lutz to AAA Louisville Tuesday.
And manager Bryan Price said he plans to start Latos on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Getting back the 2010 MVP and their No. 2 starter could be a big lift for a desperate team in fourth place.
The question is: Is it too late?
The optimistic answer would seem to be: Not for a wild-card.
With Latos and Votto, the Reds would be at full strength for the first time this season. Twelve Reds have been on the disabled list in just the first 10 weeks.
With 100 games left entering Tuesday's with the Dodgers, the fourth-place Reds (29-33) will be hard-pressed to go 61-39 to finish with the 90 victories they almost certainly need to contend for a division title.
They trailed the first-place Brewers by eight games.
But nobody has pulled far ahead in race for the two NL wild-cards and both of them are still within the Reds' reach. They were four games behind the Nationals, 3½ behind the Marlins, 2½ behind the Dodgers, two behind the Cardinals, one-half behind the Pirates.
The Reds just have to hope Votto plays more like than an MVP than the bobblehead who was hitting just .257 with six home runs and 12 RBI when the Reds took him out of the lineup on May 16.
Votto went on the DL May 21 when rest didn't give him any relief.
Manager Bryan Price put Votto back in the No. 3 spot Tuesday and moved Brandon Phillips into cleanup.
Price had said Votto's strained left quad would keep him at less that 100 percent for the rest of the season, but Votto spoke optimistically Tuesday:
"I feel good," Votto said. "I'm looking forward to playing. I hold myself to a high standard. I wouldn't come back unless I felt like I could play to that high standard, so I'm not really concerned about what percentage people think I'm at.
"I'm going to come back and play well."
Latos, 28-11 for the Reds the past two years, hasn't pitched this season following two offseason surgeries. He is expected to replace Tony Cingrani (2-7, 4.68), winless in five starts since his own stint on the DL.
Alfredo Simon, converted from the bullpen in spring training in case Latos wasn't ready to answer the bell, figures to stay in the rotation with his solid 8-3 record and 3.15 ERA.
The Reds are more likely to send Cingrani to Louisville, where he can pitch in the rotation, than to put him in the bullpen.
Latos underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on the first day of spring training and also encountered several setbacks in his recovery from elbow surgery last October.
Latos made his fourth rehab start for Louisville on Monday, allowing one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings against Pawtucket.
"I had really good stuff yesterday. It sucks that I wasted it in a minor league," Latos said.
"I was ready five or six days ago. The stuff's there. My velocity is there. Throwing sliders at 90 mph puts a lot of stress on your arm, so that should tell you something."
Votto played two rehab games for AAA Louisville Sunday and Monday and had two singles in six at-bats.