AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Reds expect to have three injured players back by the end of the week, giving them a boost as they try to get back into the thick of the NL Central race.
Cincinnati plans to activate right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton off the disabled list before the final game of its short series against Oakland on Wednesday. Broxton, the team's primary setup man, has been sidelined by a sore right elbow since June 15.
Manager Dusty Baker also expects catcher Ryan Hanigan and left fielder Ryan Ludwick to come off the disabled list by the end of the week. Hanigan has been out since July 11 with an injured left wrist. Ludwick tore cartilage in his right shoulder while sliding into third base on opening day.
Heading into the opener of their two-game interleague series on Tuesday night, the Reds had lost seven of their last nine games, leaving the defending NL Central champions a season-high 6½ games out of first place.
"We've been operating with less than our full team," Baker said. "The guys that have taken their place have done a good job. Now it's time for the big boys to come back."
Ludwick, their cleanup hitter, is only 2 of 28 on a rehab stint in the minors. Under Major League Baseball's rules, his rehab stint has to end on Sunday.
Ludwick couldn't take batting practice for three months after his surgery. Baker has compared his rehab stint to the start of spring training. Ludwick got off to a slow start last season, and then was their top run producer down the stretch with first baseman Joey Votto sidelined after knee surgery.
It'll be tricky for Baker to play Ludwick if he's still struggling to regain his swing. The Reds' pitching has been solid for most of the season, but the offense has been inconsistent.
The Reds don't need another slumping hitter. Ludwick doesn't want to come back and make things worse.
"I talked to him yesterday," Baker said of Ludwick. "He's a little concerned about it.
"So we just have to keep our eye on him and help him along the way. Hopefully he'll be very good at the right time."
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