SAN FRANCISCO - In recent years, the Reds have had no reason to rush their September call-ups to the majors.
With nothing to play for in the season's final month, the team generally let its reinforcements finish out the Class AAA season with Louisville before bringing them up. That's how it played out last season, when five players were added to the roster Sept. 5 and another the following day.
There's reason to believe that will change this year, with the Reds in the thick of the post- season hunt and in need of extra bodies for the stretch run. They have an off day Aug. 31, giving general manager Wayne Krivsky one last opportunity to scrounge for help outside the organization, before beginning a key series at San Diego on Sept. 1.
Manager Jerry Narron said he expects to have at least one additional player for that series.
"There will definitely be an outfielder here the first chance we get," said Narron.
That outfielder probably will be Chris Denorfia, assuming the balky right knee that forced him to miss some time last week is healthy. If it isn't, Norris Hopper likely would be in line for a return to the Reds. Hopper may be back anyway, as he could serve as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner and defensive replacement down the stretch. Outfielder Brandon Watson may also get a look for the same duties.
The one catch - and something else the Reds haven't had to worry about lately - is that none of the aforementioned outfielders would be eligible for the playoffs if called up after Aug. 31. Only players on the 25-man roster and major league disabled list at the end of that day are eligible, with one exception.
Any player in the organization Aug. 31 can be named to the playoff roster in place of a player on the disabled list at his position. Because all of the Reds currently on the DL are pitchers, they wouldn't be able to add a position player to their playoff roster.
Still, those injuries will give the Reds some flexibility within their organization. With Gary Majewski, Jason Standridge and Eddie Guardado on the 15-day DL and Brandon Claussen, Grant Balfour and Paul Wilson on the 60-day, the Reds would theoretically have six extra pitchers to choose from. They would not be able to use Kent Mercker's spot because he isn't eligible for activation from the 60-day DL before the end of the regular season, whereas Balfour, Claussen and Wilson would.
Of course, they hope Guardado and Majewski will be with them for the stretch run and into the playoffs if they make it that far, so their spots shouldn't be in play. But Claussen and Wilson are done for the season and it's doubtful Balfour would be brought back for the postseason after missing the entire season because of injury. Balfour has made a rehab appearance for Class A Sarasota Friday night, allowing a run in one inning.
If necessary, the Reds could use one of those roster spots for someone like Elizardo Ramirez, Joe Mays, Brian Shackelford or - dare we say it? - Homer Bailey during the playoffs.
A couple of those pitchers are pretty good bets to wind up in Cincinnati in September anyway, along with Standridge. Ramirez and Mays are possibilities to step back into the rotation if Chris Michalak falters.