CINCINNATI -- With ground-ball pitcher Jake Westbrook taking the mound for the Cardinals on Saturday, Reds manager Dusty Baker decided to go with the left-handed-hitting Jack Hannahan at third base in place of Todd Frazier. While the matchup was a main reason for Baker's lineup choice, Frazier's recent skid at the plate also played a factor.
"We've got to play Hannahan some time to keep him sharp," Baker said. "And hopefully Frazier after this day off, he'll get his stuff back again because it's been tough. He's been going kind of crazy, and it's tough to watch him struggle like that."
Frazier entered Saturday in a career-high 0-for-24 slump, which covered seven games and marked the longest such skid by a Reds player since Drew Stubbs went 0-for-32 in late June and early July last season.
Based on personal experience from his own playing days, Baker expressed how difficult it his to be stuck in a slump, and his first piece of advice for Frazier was to ignore his sinking average and increasing number of hitless at-bats. He also said sitting back and waiting for the skid to end won't help.
"I suggest getting more aggressive," Baker said. "Most of the time, when you're not hitting, you got a quick shoulder or a quick hip and you're not hitting the ball away from you. Guys that are hitting, they're hitting the ball away from them because ... they're staying close."
Baker also said it's important to remember that everyone who plays baseball will face some cold streaks, but they don't last forever. Before beginning his current slide, Frazier enjoyed an eight-game hitting streak in which he batted .406 (13-for-32) with six doubles and seven RBIs.
"The beauty of this game is you start over the next day," Baker said. "You've got to be strong mentally and actually go on the attack."
Reds send down Partch, call up Villarreal
CINCINNATI -- Looking to avoid burning his entire bullpen in a 13-3 loss Friday, Reds manager Dusty Baker said he "sacrificed" reliever Curtis Partch by continuing to pitch him while the Cardinals beat him up for five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Baker's choice to leave Partch in the game worked to an extent, as the Reds still had two relievers available by the end of a game that was all but decided after five innings.
However, it wasn't quite enough, and Partch was sacrificed again on Saturday when the Reds optioned the 26-year-old right-hander to Triple-A Louisville and replaced him with right-hander Pedro Villarreal.
"We needed an arm after last night," Baker said. "We're lucky we didn't go through more."
Before Friday's rough night, Partch had been pitching well for the Reds. In his previous five outings, which covered 8 2/3 innings, Partch amassed a 1.04 ERA while striking out seven batters and walking four. For the season, he owned a 5.89 ERA in 11 appearances (18 1/3 innings).
Although this marks Villarreal's third stint in the Majors this season, he's only made one appearance. Making an emergency start for the injured Johnny Cueto on June 5 against the Rockies, Villarreal allowed six runs on 10 hits and two walks in just 3 2/3 innings.
After making 15 of his first 16 appearances for Louisville this season as a starter, Villarreal has come out of the bullpen in his last nine outings. He'll be immediately available for the Reds, as he last pitched on Thursday, when he struck out one batter in a scoreless 10-pitch inning.
With Jonathan Broxton expected to return soon, Baker said Villarreal's third stint with the Reds will likely be a short one.
Healing Broxton likely a few days from return
CINCINNATI -- Injured reliever Jonathan Broxton hopes to be days away from returning to the Reds' bullpen after a lengthy disabled list stint because of a flexor mass strain in his right elbow.
As he inches closer to his comeback, the 29-year-old right-hander was back at Great American Ball Park on Saturday, but he was limited to throwing a 15-pitch simulated outing instead of enjoying the real deal.
"It's always nice to face batters, but I got to get out there and get work in, too," Broxton said. "It's kind of the only way we can do it, throwing a live game today."
Broxton came out of the simulated game feeling good, and Reds manager Dusty Baker was pleased with what he saw.
"He looked pretty good," Baker said. "His command was better than it was last time. I heard he looked real good under game conditions."
On Wednesday, Broxton appeared for Triple-A Louisville, allowing three hits and notching two strikeouts in one inning. To avoid traveling with the Bats, Broxton returned to Cincinnati for his simulated game. He'll rejoin Louisville in Indianapolis on Sunday to pitch for the second day in a row, which is one of his final tests before coming of the DL.
Barring a setback, Broxton is expected to be back with the Reds next week for the first time since hitting the disabled list in mid-June.
"I felt good the other day when I threw in a real game, and I felt good today," Broxton said. "So we'll see about tomorrow and we'll go from there."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.