HOUSTON -- Outfielder Xavier Paul rewarded manager Dusty Baker's confidence in him during Tuesday night's game against the Astros.
Baker put Paul in left field and in the sixth slot in the lineup for his first start in a Reds uniform, resting regular outfielders Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick. Paul responded with a 3-for-5 night at the plate in Cincinnati's 4-2 comeback victory.
Paul picked up two RBIs, one in the sixth inning on an infield single and the other in the ninth inning on a single through the right side of the infield. He picked up his first Reds hit with a single in the second, followed that with a stolen base and he made a terrific heads-up play to throw out Marwin Gonzalez at third base in the fourth.
Before the game, Baker cited a number of reasons for wanting to get Paul, called up to the Reds on July 18, a start.
He said Paul's productivity at Triple-A this season merited more than pinch-hit duty. After being signed to a Minor League contract by the Reds on July 11, Paul batted .480 (12-for-25) for Triple-A Louisville. In 213 at-bats with Triple-A Syracuse, a Nationals affiliate, earlier in the season, Paul hit .315/.376/.512.
"He was hitting the ball great in Triple-A when he was playing every day," Baker said.
The manager also factored Monday night's long game -- it lasted 3 hours and 56 minutes -- into his decision to rest Heisey and Ludwick.
"Ludwick's played consecutive games and a long game, Heisey's played consecutive days," Baker said. "Like I said, we've got to keep these guys fresh and strong."
The fact that Paul is from Slidell, La., 350 miles from Houston, also played into Baker's decision to start the 27-year-old. Paul said he had some family members at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday.
Paul, whose previous start came on Sept. 28, 2011, with the Pirates, entered Monday 0-for-3 with the Reds in three pinch-hit plate appearances. He batted .254/.293/.349 in 232 at-bats for the Pirates in 2011.
Sprained ankle not expected to sideline Latos
HOUSTON -- After spraining his left ankle during Monday's 8-3 win over the Astros, Reds starter Mat Latos should be ready to pitch his regularly scheduled bullpen session and make his next start. He still had the ankle taped on Tuesday but participated fully in pregame stretching.
"He should be fine," manager Dusty Baker said. "He looks like a racehorse with the tape on his ankle. Other than that, he said it didn't swell much, which is good."
Latos injured the ankle after delivering a pitch to the Astros' Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth inning on Monday. He came up limping but threw a few warmup pitches and finished the inning before making way for pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo.
After the game, Latos said his high pitch count -- he was at 95 pitches through five -- was the reason he left the game, not the ankle. He did notice the sprain after it happened, though.
"I felt it the rest of the inning, especially the last couple of pitches," Latos said Monday. ""But it's fine now."
The Reds' starters have all stayed relatively healthy this season. The Marlins are the only other team in the Majors to have used just five starting pitchers this season, but they traded starter Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers on Monday. Sanchez's former spot in the Marlins' rotation comes up Saturday, so if Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto make their scheduled starts in the next three games, the Reds will become the only team in the Majors with their original rotation intact.
Manager Dusty Baker said Tuesday that he wants the Trade Deadline to come and go so his players feel more comfortable.
"It's always tough this time of year around trade time because everybody's wondering," Baker said. "I call somebody in my office just to talk to them and they think that I'm informing them that they're traded."
That being said, Baker would welcome moves that improve the team.
Entering Tuesday, the Reds are 6-2 without first baseman Joey Votto, who is on the disabled list after surgery to repair the torn medial meniscus in his left knee. Votto is expected to miss 2-3 more weeks, but he could return sooner.
Clark Goble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.