CINCINNATI -- It seems like the same news coming from Cincinnati each day, but Reds fans can't hear it enough: Joey Votto is progressing.
Votto has been out of the lineup since July 16 with a meniscus tear in his left knee but has begun baseball activities recently -- throwing, catching, hitting and doing some light jogging.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said Votto is "right on schedule," and the All-Star first baseman will travel with the team this week to Milwaukee and Chicago.
"He's progressing. He's going to go on the road trip with us," Baker said. "He's hitting, he's fielding some right on the bag, he's throwing. The real test is going to be running, cutting and sliding. He's not quite at that point yet. But he's on the way."
While Votto has been out with a tear, the Reds have been on a tear, winning 16 of 19 since his absence.
Baker said Votto has been working hard every day since his July 17 surgery, and the former National League MVP has earned himself a day of rest.
"I gave him off [Sunday]," Baker said. "He's been working around the clock trying to get ready. Sometimes you can overwork a guy. Let your body rest. I told him don't come in today, because if he's here, he's going to work. He's probably working where he is anyway."
Cautious Baker keeping Phillips out of lineup
CINCINNATI -- The Reds continue to hold second baseman Brandon Phillips out of the lineup as he recovers from his left calf strain suffered Tuesday.
Reds manager Dusty Baker initially had Phillips in the lineup Saturday, but he made a late scratch and started Wilson Valdez in his place.
"It was a tough decision, with much deliberation from our medical staff and Brandon and Walt [Jocketty, general manager]. We did the best thing for him," Baker said. "We're trying to get him back where he doesn't have to come out on defense, or we don't have to pinch-run for him so he doesn't take a chance on pulling that calf."
Phillips was out of the lineup again Sunday, and while Baker said he couldn't pinpoint an exact return date for his Gold Glove second baseman, he did call Phillips "real, real, real close."
"It's not very pleasant telling him he's not in the lineup, because he loves to play," Baker said. "I'm a manager, not a doctor. Through much discussion, we decided it would be better medically because of the potential repercussions if he did hurt it seriously and how long he could be out."
Entering Sunday, Phillips was batting .296 with 13 home runs and 62 RBIs this season and has been an instrumental part of the Reds' offense in the absence of Joey Votto, hitting .339 with three homers and 13 RBIs since Votto left the lineup.
Baker said Phillips likely would be available to pinch-hit in a two-out, non-double-play situation late in the game, if needed.
Broxton, Reds have mutually beneficial relationship
CINCINNATI -- Jonathan Broxton's arrival in Cincinnati is a classic win-win scenario.
The club added a strong arm to the back end of an already robust bullpen, and Broxton gained 20-plus games in the standings and is in prime position to compete in postseason play.
As of Sunday, Broxton has only been in Cincinnati for five days, but he has already made his presence known, seeing action in three games, recording eight big outs and allowing just one hit.
"It's been a lot of fun since I've been here," Broxton said. "Everybody is upbeat, they're out there playing hard every day, and it's all we can ask for. Everybody plays hard on an everyday basis, and we'll walk away with a victory hopefully at the end of the day."
Broxton walked away to a standing ovation after his first outing with the Reds, when he pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the Padres, including one strikeout.
Broxton came over from a Kansas City club where he was the main closer, recording 23 saves in 35 games this season.
He's yet to record a save in Cincinnati, but he has begun making the transition as the setup man for Reds closer Aroldis Chapman -- a position he said he's growing comfortable with.
"It really doesn't matter if it's the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, whatever. They're all important outs," Broxton said. "I feel fine out there ... and there's a lot of guys that know how to pitch, especially with Chapman at the end. He's something special."
Reds manager Dusty Baker said Broxton will likely have ample opportunities to close out games for the Reds but said the additional arm, more than anything, will provide depth to a Reds bullpen that already leads the Majors with 22 relief victories and a 2.35 bullpen ERA.
"He has a real good command of the strike zone and being a closer, that means he's pretty cool under pressure," Baker said. "I think it's going to preserve some of the other guys even more down the stretch. He brings the potential in a past closer who can close out on occasion, but will also make [reliever Logan] Ondrusek stronger."
Reds experiencing early stages of rivalry with Bucs
CINCINNATI -- The Reds-Pirates series hasn't been a very heated one. The matchup hasn't even been a relevant one in recent years.
The success of both clubs in 2012 has turned that around, and the tempers have been on display in the first two games of the series.
The Pittsburgh dugout was visibly upset after Reds closer Aroldis Chapman hit Andrew McCutchen with a 101-mph fastball in the ninth inning of the Reds' 3-0 win Friday night. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle fumed and was eventually ejected after home-plate umpire Brian Gorman issued a warning to both benches after Josh Harrison took a ball to the thigh from Mike Leake on Saturday.
Reds manager Dusty Baker thoroughly expressed that neither hit was intentional.
"The one with McCutchen, I can understand them being upset. I really can," Baker said. "Even though I told you it was unintentional, I still can understand them being upset. But the hit yesterday? ... That wasn't even a hit. That was a graze. He almost turned into it, and he got all upset. It was a graze. It was an 86 [mph]."
Whether it was built-up frustration or an attempt at payback, the Pirates took things a step further in the eighth inning of the Reds' 5-4 win Saturday after reliever Jared Hughes surrendered what proved to be the game-winning run.
Catcher Dioner Navarro chopped a grounder toward first base. Hughes had a routine tag out but added a little extra shove on Navarro to end the play, answered by a swarm of boos from the Cincinnati crowd.
"Any time you can get another team on their toes or thinking about something, it's really good," said Todd Frazier, who had driven in the go-ahead run one batter prior. "You saw what happened with Hughes kind of putting a little charge into Navarro there, but that just fires us up again."
"That's a bully move. Navarro is this tall," said Baker, motioning about shoulder high. It's like, OK man."
After a long, thoughtful pause, Baker had just one last sentiment.
"Just keep winning. That's all."
Sheen contributes $50,000 to Reds charities
CINCINNATI -- It took the Cincinnati community just four days to raise $50,000 for the Reds Community Fund in an effort to see Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman shave his head on the field of Great American Ball Park after Friday's game.
Their contributions were doubled with the snap of a finger as actor and longtime Reds fan Charlie Sheen matched the initial city's donations to double the dollars and bring the total to $100,000.
Brennaman made a bet with bench coach Chris Speier that if the Reds ever hit a 10-game win streak, he would go bald. The Reds accomplished the feat July 29, in Colorado, and Brennaman stood by his word.
Cincinnati raised more than double the $20,000 required to make Brennaman shave his head on the field Friday night, and Sheen announced his own $50,000 contribution Sunday afternoon on the big screen of Great American Ball Park.
Sheen has been in attendance for all three games against the Pirates this weekend and visited with the players before Saturday's game.
He joked that his next step would be to run for mayor of Cincinnati.
Catcher Dioner Navarro -- filling in for Devin Mesoraco, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list Wednesday with a concussion -- was not in the lineup Sunday, with Homer Bailey on the mound. Mesoraco has caught for Bailey all season, but Ryan Hanigan was behind the plate Sunday.
The Reds' 36 wins at home entering Sunday are the most in the Major Leagues.
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.