CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker doesn't know exactly what to do to solve the Reds' late-game pitching woes, but he is sure of one thing: Extending closer Aroldis Chapman to pitch two innings is not the solution.
With Thursday's 14-inning loss to the Cubs, Cincinnati has lost six times after leading through seven innings. The eighth inning has been the biggest killer for the Reds, as they've lost only once after taking a lead into the ninth. As a result, Baker said he's heard all kinds of suggestions for what to do to fix the problem.
"Everybody keeps asking me, and you can quit asking me. I'm not going to use Chapman in the eighth, because it's too early," Baker said. "If something happens to Chapman, then you're stuck with the people that everyone wants you to stay away from. The days of the eighth and ninth closers, that's kind of by the wayside."
The Reds again lost an eighth-inning lead on Friday, as Bronson Arroyo allowed a tying homer to Martin Maldonado. But Cincinnati came back to win, 4-3, in 10 innings. Chapman pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts.
Baker has tried various setup men this season, including Jonathan Broxton and Sam LeCure, who have each faltered of late. On Thursday, LeCure surrendered a one-run lead in the eighth inning, and Broxton allowed the winning run in the 14th. But LeCure was good on Friday, as he got a pop out after coming on with the bases loaded in the eighth.
Baker was hesitant to use Broxton in Thursday's loss to the Cubs because the right-hander was experiencing right elbow soreness, and on Friday, the Reds announced that an ultrasound shows Broxton has swelling in his right elbow and is day-to-day.
Chapman, meanwhile, has converted on 17 of 19 save opportunities. However, Baker said extending him is not on the table, as it would limit his availability or, worse yet, potentially hurt him.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but this guy has a big ritual," Baker said of Chapman. "They all got a ritual, but he's like a high-price sports car that takes longer to get loose than my little truck. I can just jump in my truck and be gone. This guy's got 12 cylinders that you have to loosen up and get ready, and it takes time.
"I'm doing the best I can to protect him. Again, I repeat, everybody has to do their jobs, and it doesn't always work like that. But I hate blowing these games late. The guys hate it."
Baker said the Reds have to either hope guys such as Broxton or LeCure, who posted a 1.16 ERA in his first 21 appearances this season, start pitching like they're capable, or they have to go after a reliever on the trade market. That would be difficult, according to Baker, because more teams are in the hunt and aren't as willing to sell with the extra Wild Card Game.
"We just got to figure out a way to get to Chapman," Baker said. "To bridge that gap."
Votto initially gets day off, but pinch-hits
CINCINNATI -- For the first time this season, Reds first baseman Joey Votto was not in the starting lineup, as he was a spectator for Friday's series opener against the Brewers.
Along with starting each of the first 67 games, Votto exited early only four times, and manager Dusty Baker said it was time for a break.
"I've got a pretty good eye on when I think guys are wearing down," Baker said. "Most of the time, it's mental, [a break] from the day-in, day-out daily grind. I told him show up late, don't hit today. I'm trying not to use him unless the game is on the line."
Votto has had a big season thus far, hitting .319 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs entering Friday. He's cooled off a bit of late, as his average was .340 at the end of May, but he's still hit safely in nine of 12 games this month.
Replacing the All-Star first baseman in the field in Friday's 4-3, 10-inning win was Jack Hannahan, who has come in to play first in three of the four games Votto did not complete. Hannahan went 0-for-3, but his sacrifice fly in the sixth gave the Reds a 3-2 lead. Votto pinch-hit in the ninth, and walked in his only at-bat.
Brandon Phillips, who usually bats cleanup, moved up to third and went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and Jay Bruce hit fourth and had the game's biggest hit -- a walk-off homer..
Baker said that Hank Aaron once told him players should get 10-12 days off a year, and he tries to do that with most of his guys.
"Not as much with Joey at first base, because, like I said, it's not as strenuous of a position as center field, catching or shortstop. [But] Joey carries a lot of weight here offensively."
Ludwick throws for first time, still ways away
CINCINNATI -- Recovering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Ryan Ludwick knows he's still about two months away from returning to game action. So when the Reds outfielder was getting ready to throw on the field at Great American Ball Park for the first time since he was injured on Opening Day, he wasn't as excited as one might guess.
"It's just another day," Ludwick said. "Still probably about two months to go. I've been throwing a little bit indoors over at [Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Clinic], and today I'm going to get out on the field and throw the ball around a little bit, which is nice. I can't catch yet, but just to get out there on the field and toss the baseball around, it should be fun."
Ludwick underwent surgery 10 weeks ago this past Wednesday and said he's right on schedule in his recovery. He said doctors inserted anchors in his shoulder and told him it would take three months to fully heal, leaving about two more weeks before he can resume full activity, which includes "swinging the bat, hitting off the tee, catching, doing all that stuff."
"It's been real tough," Ludwick said. "I don't think anyone wants to miss four, four and a half months of the season. It's not fun. I've spent a little bit too much time at the house, watching the guys on TV a little too much when they're on the road. When you play baseball, that's your livelihood. That's what you do."
• Outfielder Chris Heisey, who was supposed to start a rehab assignment for the second time last week before suffering another setback in his recovery from a strained right hamstring, said he was with Class A Dayton the last three days while the Reds were on the road.
"I didn't play, I was just there working out, getting some reps, running the bases, shagging flies, those kind of things," said Heisey, who added his hamstring feels the best it's felt since he went on the disabled list on April 29. "I'm just going out here today, going through the drills and hopefully pass some tests."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.