CINCINNATI • The Cardinals recalled righty Brandon Dickson from Class AAA Memphis on Friday in a move that revealed an impatience for unreliable performance and a plan to reshape the bullpen.
To make room on the roster for Dickson, a starter in the minors, the Cardinals optioned lefty Barret Browning to Memphis. Browning, a rookie, had allowed six earned runs and 12 baserunners in his previous five innings.
"He was having a tough stretch there getting guys out," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's no secret right now we don't have room for anything but what we feel is our best. Right now, Dickson has been throwing better than anybody else in Triple-A. We felt that would give us a little more depth."
And increase Joe Kelly's prominence by taking on 'significant innings," Matheny said.
Kelly was thrust into an emergency role Friday when Lance Lynn could not get an out in the third inning of his start. A quantity of innings was not what Matheny had in mind when he said 'significant innings." He meant game-changing inning. The move was partially inspired by the Cardinals' recent need of a reliever in the sixth inning of a close game. Matheny said it was apparent that Kelly could slide into a late-inning or middle relief role like that if they had another long reliever available. Dickson, whose 3.55 ERA at Memphis ranked fourth in the Pacific Coast League, was promoted to free Kelly for the larger role.
The move leaves the Cards with one lefty in the bullpen, Marc Rzepczynski. Matheny insisted the reduction would have been made even if lefthanded-hitting Joey Votto, a former MVP, was not on the Reds' disabled list.
Kelly, a starter until Jaime Garcia's return last Sunday, could emerge as a Kyle McClellan-type option, a righty with enough pitches to challenge lefties and pitch complete innings. His ability to start or bring heat from the bullpen makes Kelly an option for a variety of roles depending on the Cardinals' need the next time through the rotation.
"That's really what I see Kelly being very flexible and helping us in a number of different situations," Matheny said. "That could change over time as he gets opportunities."
VOTTO GETTING CLOSER
Reds first baseman Votto, who has required two procedures to correct a knee injury since mid-July, took part in batting practice Friday but declined to say when he expects to return to the lineup. Votto, an All-Star and former National League MVP, is likely to slide back into the No. 3 spot in the Reds' order when cleared. Votto leads the Reds with a .342 average and he had 14 homers and 49 RBIs at the time of the first surgery.
"I think that (batting practice) will say a lot about my progress," said Votto, who has not played since July 15. "I've come a long way. I feel like I'm not too far off. I can't really put a day on it. I know I've come a long way. I don't think it's going to be too much longer."
BELTRAN MOVES UP
When the Cardinals left spring training, Matheny marveled at the opportunity he would have to bat switch-hitter Carlos Beltran No. 2 in the order. Other injuries and performance conspired to make Beltran's stay at second short, but he was back there Friday for the first time in more than two months. For the 24th time this season, Beltran hit No. 2, wedged between leadoff Jon Jay and No. 3 Matt Holliday. Matheny made the move because of Beltran's recent funk, a 10-game stretch with a .175 average (seven-for-40), no homers, and four of his league-high 85 RBIs.
"Get Carlos going," Matheny said. "I'm seeing some signs that we're real close. That two hole kind of creates a really fertile ground to get yourself on a roll. We need him on a strong roll."
Chris Carpenter made 50 throws of at least 120 feet as he continued his steady recovery from surgery. Carpenter said he's entered the part of the throwing program where quantity of throws is as important to arm strength as distance. ... MLB Productions is at this series to film an episode of "Caught Looking" for NBC Sports. A few Cardinals will wear microphones, like Adam Wainwright did Friday, during games to provide access. The Reds will retire shortstop Barry Larkin's No. 11 today.