CINCINNATI -- Playing for his hometown team was cool for outfielder Jason Ellison. Sitting the bench most the time and rarely playing wasn't. Ellison is an Issaquah, Wash., resident who was dealt from the Giants to the Mariners before this season. He learned quickly the American League reserve players can get scant playing time. "It was pretty limited over there this year," said Ellison, whom the Mariners designated for assignment on Friday. The Reds claimed him off of waivers on Wednesday. The 29-year-old joined Cincinnati on Thursday.
In 63 games with Seattle, Ellison batted .283 without a home run or RBI. He is a career .258 hitter with a .304 on-base percentage and can play all three outfield spots. The Mariners called with the news that he was picked up by another team. Despite playing little, Ellison was still a little surprised that the Mariners cut him loose. "We were winning. We had good team chemistry," he said. "Everything seemed to be clicking over there. But I understand the circumstances. They have this prized prospect [Adam Jones] tearing it up, and eventually, he had to get his opportunity." Ellison felt going back to the National League, where pinch-hitting and double switches are plentiful, would open up some chances. He pinch-ran for Javier Valentin in the 11th inning of the Reds' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday. "I was just sitting at home, so I was happy to hear the news and I'm happy to be here," Ellison said. "Hopefully I get some opportunity and make the most of it. That's what I'm looking forward to do." How much opportunity it would be remained unclear. There was no real role carved out for Ellison. "Right now, he's just a guy off the bench," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I don't have immediate plans for him. I'm going to try and work everybody in like I have been and try to get him some playing time." Growing up in suburban Seattle, Ellison used to watch former Mariners superstar Ken Griffey Jr. play. Ellison had gotten to know Griffey from playing against him in San Francisco and was quick to say hello when he spotted the Reds right fielder in the clubhouse. "All my friends are pretty excited I'm over here playing with him," Ellison said. "I'm very excited to be here." Dunn rested, ejected: Left fielder Adam Dunn received a rare day off on Thursday when he was rested by Mackanin. Dunn has started 104 of the club's 114 games and missed just two games overall. He struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and was ejected for arguing the strike three call by home plate umpire Paul Emmel. Usually an infielder, Jeff Keppinger started in Dunn's place. Before Thursday, Keppinger had logged just one Major League inning in the outfield -- with the Royals -- but played the outfield frequently the last two seasons in Triple-A. Keppinger was going to start in left field on Sunday at Pittsburgh before that game was rained out. "I was told he was adequate out there," Mackanin said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him out there for the future, and see how good he is." Surgical ward: Injured players Ryan Freel and Juan Castro made their first appearances in the clubhouse Thursday morning since having season-ending surgeries this week. Freel was on crutches with his right leg was immobilized in a brace. He had arthroscopic right knee surgery on Wednesday. Castro's right arm was in a metal black brace following his reconstructive right elbow surgery on Tuesday. Medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek performed both operations. "It's weird to be with this thing," Castro said. "I've never had problems with my arm before. They say it takes about six months for an infielder [to come back]. I hope it heals good and that I'll be able to play again." The plan: The Reds want demoted reliever Todd Coffey to pitch multiple innings with Triple-A Louisville. Coffey, who had allowed 11 earned runs over 9 1/3 innings (10.61 ERA) since the All-Star break and had a 6.04 ERA in 48 games overall, was optioned out for the third time this season after Wednesday's game to make room on the roster for Ellison. "He'll get more innings so he can work on his stuff," Mackanin said. "He knows he has to improve his command. We know he is much better than he's performed so far. We have to get him back on track." Coming up: Matt Belisle (6-8, 5.26 ERA) will start when the Reds open a three-game series against the Padres on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Wilfredo Ledezma (0-2, 5.84 ERA) is scheduled to start for San Diego.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.