Notes: Votto off to a hot start

Notes: Votto off to a hot start

CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto can hit. That much is certain.

Although he's not heralded as a great defensive player, the Reds are pleased with what they've seen from Votto in his two starts at first base.

"The key to success is to be consistent on the plays you're supposed to make," said Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin. "I'm confident he's going to be fine over there. We're told he has some shortcomings [defensively]. He's been working real hard."

Mackanin is still raving about Votto's throw on Wednesday when he doubled up the Mets' Carlos Beltran trying to go from first to third on a groundout.

"He made a great throw there," Mackanin said. "He's shown good instincts."

Offense has never been an issue for Votto.

Entering Saturday's game, he was batting .571 with four hits in seven at-bats, including a home run and three RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday.

Votto, who made his third start at first base and batted seventh on Saturday, said he's worked hard on his defense.

"I try to get in every single day and get my work in," Votto said. "I try to simplify the game. I didn't want to come up here and worry about whether I was going to make the plays and pick up my teammates."

Although his Major League career is just four games old, Votto's potential is clearly evident to Mackanin.

"He seems like a very together kid," Mackanin said. "I'm not going to limit him in any way. Confidence in your ability is an important ingredient. He doesn't show any fear.

"We like him. We'll keep him."

Hamilton rests: Rookie outfielder Josh Hamilton, who's been experiencing tightness in his right hamstring, was not in the lineup Saturday.

"I'd hate to see him hurt himself the last three weeks of the season," said Mackanin. "We'll be real cautious with him."

Hamilton, who's batting .297 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in 87 games, has been on the disabled list twice this season with a sprained right wrist and a bout of gastroenteritis.

Norris Hopper led off Saturday and started in center field in place of Hamilton.

"It's nice to put a .300 hitter in there," said Mackanin. "Hopper's a solid hitter. I feel good with him in there."

Lopez recovering: Reds shortstop Pedro Lopez, who's been on the disabled list since being struck in the left cheekbone by a pitch from Brewers right-hander Matt Wise on July 25, is working his way back to the playing field.

"He's doing well, finally," said Mackanin.

Lopez has begun taking batting practice. He took ground balls for the first time on Friday.

When the Cardinals' Juan Encarnacion suffered a serious eye injury after being struck by a foul ball, Lopez realized how lucky he was.

"It was scary to see," Lopez said. "I was very lucky. Now, I'm ready to play."

Getting offensive: Mackanin has enjoyed an offensive resurgence since being named interim manager on July 1.

"Since I've been here, I've been really pleased with the offense," he said. "I think we stack up with just about anyone. In general, I feel good with the lineup, 1 through 9."

The Reds, who scored 11 runs Friday night, have scored 29 runs in their last four games.

As he praised his hitters, Mackanin gently knocked on his wood desk for assurance.

"The last time I said this about our offense, we went to Washington," said Mackanin of a three-game sweep by the Nationals in early August.

Little Leaguers: West Side Little League of Hamilton, Ohio, located just northwest of Cincinnati, was recognized prior to Saturday's game at Great American Ball Park.

Hamilton represented the Great Lakes Region at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., becoming the eighth Ohio team to reach the tournament.

Hamilton was making its third appearance in the Little League World Series.

Bitter end: The season ended Friday for three Reds affiliates.

Class A Sarasota lost, 4-3, to Clearwater in the deciding game of a best-of-three playoff series. The Reds finished with an 81-59 record, the best record in the three-year history of the franchise and the 15th-best overall mark in the Minor Leagues.

South Bend beat Class A Dayton, 7-5, in the final game of a best-of-three series.

In the final games played at Cobb Field, Rookie League Billings split a doubleheader with Great Falls. The Mustangs have played at Cobb Field since 1959, but a new ballpark will be built in time for next season.

Coming up: The Reds conclude their three-game series against first-place Milwaukee on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. ET. Reds left-hander Phil Dumatrait (0-3, 13.00 ERA) will be opposed by Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets (11-4, 3.36 ERA).

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.