HOUSTON -- The Reds originally expected first baseman Joey Votto to join the team this weekend after he missed nearly six weeks with a torn medial meniscus in his left knee.

Votto was in the lineup at Class A Dayton again on Friday, though, and Reds manager Dusty Baker doesn't want to rush the slugger back from his rehabilitation.

"I wouldn't rule it out, but I would probably prefer that he didn't, to tell you the truth," said Baker of Votto joining the team in Houston for the series against the Astros. "We need him really ready when he gets here, in all departments."

The Reds return to Cincinnati for a nine-game homestand on Monday.

In Votto's first two appearances at Dayton, he went 1-for-3 (two walks, one strikeout). He went 0-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice fly on Friday before exiting for a pinch-runner. Baker said Votto will have most of the control over when he returns to the Reds. The front office will certainly pay attention to his status, though.

"Joey is a very intelligent, very astute young man that has a pretty good idea of what's going on, especially in his body," Baker said.

The Reds entered Friday's game 30-14 since Votto left the lineup on July 16. Their lead in the National League Central has increased from one game to 8 1/2, a season high.

On Aug. 11, doctors removed a floating piece of cartilage from Votto's knee, which delayed his original return timetable.

Reds plan to recall seven after rosters expand

HOUSTON -- The Reds announced plans on Friday to recall seven players from Triple-A Louisville after rosters can expand to 40 players on Saturday.

Reliever Logan Ondrusek, infielders Didi Gregorius and Henry Rodriguez, and outfielder Denis Phipps will join the Reds on Saturday. Catcher Devin Mesoraco, who was optioned to Louisville on Aug. 23, will be recalled on Sunday. The Reds had to wait 10 days to recall Mesoraco. Right-handed pitchers Todd Redmond and Pedro Villarreal will join the Reds on Tuesday after the conclusion of Louisville's season.

Ondrusek, Redmond and Mesoraco spent time with the Reds already this season. Ondrusek was sent to Louisville when the Reds needed a catcher while Mesoraco served a two-game suspension. The reliever is 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 53 appearances this season.

Redmond made a spot start in the second game of the Reds' doubleheader against the Cubs on Aug. 18. He went 3 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits. He is the only pitcher outside of the current rotation to make a start for the Reds this season.

Mesoraco batted .210 with a .352 slugging percentage in 162 at-bats with the Reds.

Gregorius (who will wear No. 68), Phipps (No. 23), Rodriguez (No. 67) and Villarreal (No. 65) will be joining a Major League roster for the first time.

Gregorius, known as a slick-fielding shortstop, batted .243 with six homers and 23 RBIs at Louisville. Phipps batted .221 in 357 at-bats with Louisville, hitting 15 homers and racking up 45 RBIs. Rodriguez, a second baseman, hit .244 in 51 games for Louisville. In 20 starts, Villarreal posted a 4.61 ERA.

The Reds also reinstated infielder Kristopher Negron from the Louisville disabled list, recalled him from Louisville and placed him on the Reds' 15-day disabled list. Negron hasn't played since July 5 with a right knee injury.

Negron must stay on the disabled list until Sept. 15. The move means the Reds could use Negron in the last two weeks of the season.

Worth noting

• Outfielder Drew Stubbs was out of the lineup on Friday after starting all three games against the D-backs. Stubbs, originally from Texarkana, Texas, and manager Dusty Baker had a "nice, long chat" prior to Friday's game.

"He was starting to play pretty well and then he had a tough couple days," Baker said. "Confidence is a big factor in this game. He'll be back in there. I thought it was time. It's especially tough to take him out in front of his home people here in Texas."

Stubbs entered Friday batting 2-for-23 in his last five games. Chris Heisey started in center field and batted second.

• The Reds have four more scheduled off-days in September, but they still cherished an off-day on Thursday before starting a three-game set with Houston.

"It was very needed," Baker said. "When you stop, that's when your body tells you that you're getting sore. I'm sure most of the guys slept. As you start sleeping, your body tells you that you need more sleep. You have to wake back up and just play."