CINCINNATI -- The Reds entered Tuesday six and a half games out of first place in the National League Central, marking their largest deficit of the season. Fortunately for manager Dusty Baker and his team, help is on the way.
Baker said reliever Jonathan Broxton will be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday, while catcher Ryan Hanigan and outfielder Ryan Ludwick are "close" and could potentially be back at the end of the week. Although their returns won't guarantee success for the Reds, Baker said it can't hurt to have guys they expected to be key players available again.
"We've been operating with less than our full team," Baker said. "The guys that have taken their place have done a good job overall. But now it's time for the big boys to come in."
Broxton has been on the DL since June 15 with a flexor mass strain in his right elbow. In two rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville, he pitched a total of two scoreless innings, allowing five hits while striking out another five.
Battling a left wrist injury, Hanigan took batting practice out on the field on Tuesday for the first time since going on the the DL on July 11. He's been hitting for more than a week and said the soreness in his wrist is gone for the most part.
As for Ludwick, he's looking to return to the Reds for the first time since Opening Day, when he tore the labrum in his right shoulder. The good news for Ludwick is he hasn't felt anything other than general soreness in his shoulder during his rehab assignment. The bad news is he was 3-for-50 (.060) in nine games between Class A Dayton and Louisville as of Tuesday afternoon.
Baker said the struggles are concerning, but he hopes that once Ludwick comes back to the Majors, he'll be able to turn it up at the plate.
"You want him wide open when he gets here, but he doesn't ever start wide open anyway," said Baker, who added that Ludwick is essentially going through a second Spring Training. "We'll just have to keep an eye on him and try to help him along the way. Hopefully he'll be pretty good at the right time."
Baker said Ludwick, whose rehab assignment eligibility runs out on Sunday, worked harder than any player he's ever seen trying to come back.
"That can get monotonous," Baker said. "Sometimes you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as injuries are concerned. You see the season ticking away, and you see situations you could have been in and hopefully prosper while you're in it. I would do it if I had to, but I don't know what that's like, being away from the team. I was lucky I was never on the disabled list.
"We're proud of him with the way he's worked. He's a big part of our team. The spirit of our team is missing."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.